Retro-Future TV Conversion




Introduction: Retro-Future TV Conversion

About: I love the design and ambition of vintage technology, and the usability and potential of new - my passion is bringing the two together.

This is an early colour portable TV that I've upcycled with a more modern (but similarly nearly obsolete) LCD TV panel. It's pretty slim and wall-mounted, and I've converted the original TV controls, retaining the original button-pushing rotary-tuning vintage experience. I've also added an adjustable webcam to give it more functions and a futuristic look.

Step 1: Two Old TVs

I picked up this old Sanyo CTP 3104 TV at a car boot sale in July for £4 - initially I was put off by its sheer size and slightly odd design, but looking closer at the case I noticed that the case had a join about 5cm from the front, so I was taken by the idea of using just the front section and making a slim wall-mounted flat screen conversion.

It must have been one of the first generation of colour portable TVs, as it had rotary tuning and no preset channel buttons, needing a huge case to hold all the electronics. It dismantled really cleanly however, and I was impressed with the efficiency of manufacturing - little touches like using consistent screw sizes throughout.

I decided to take my time with it and make the parts separately so they would screw together, rather than going wild with the hot-glue as I have in the past.

I already had a Bush flat screen TV which also cost me £4 at a sale as it was the old-style silver colour and had no remote or hdmi input and a broken dvd player (also it was lying on the floor in the rain) - enough to be classified as junk by most people! I'd clumsily sprayed it black and wallmounted it a while back (see pic) but it was ripe for a better use. It came apart pretty well, I discarded the case and integrated DVD player, leaving just the flat panel and circuits. I should probably say at some point that I'm always really careful when working with dismantled electronics, and it's best to be super-wary when working on things obtained second hand.

To my amazement the flat panel was a perfect fit for the hole left by the old CRT, which made this build a lot easier.

Step 2: Fit to Screen

Although the panel was just the right size it didn't fit flush with the screen surround, some corner mounts were in the way due to the original screen being curved rather than having sharp corners. I chopped these out and sanded them with a multi-tool to make the screen fit snugly. The screen was then secured in place with small brackets I made from some shelf fixings.

Step 3: Original Controls

I love the mechanical controls used in old technology, and for this project I wanted to keep the user experience as faithful as possible to the original. The main control buttons on the old TV were for power (locking push switch), tuning (potentiometer), contrast and volume (sliders).

The flat TV on the other hand had a series of pcb-mounted microswitches controlling AV source, volume, power etc so I had to find some way to link the two together.

I started by looking closely at the microswitch circuit board, which connects to the main TV circuit via 6 wires. At first this threw me, how could 8 switches on the board be controlled by only 6 wires? I soon figured out that different combinations of the same wires translated into different functions. I traced the switch circuit from the wire connectors to the microswitches and managed to map out which combinations I needed for the TV controls.

Firstly I dealt with the rotary tuning - how to use the turning of the dial to mimic the momentary push-switch action that the TV circuit was expecting to change the AV source. I managed this by using a single-pole 12 way rotary switch, with alternate terminals connected to the same cable (see pic). This means that as the dial is turned the switch moves between open and closed states, just as the original microswitch could be pressed repeatedly to cycle through the AV sources.

The power switch was straightforward, I just replaced the bulky locking switch with a push switch, keeping it in the same housing to make assembly easier.

The volume control was fun to figure out and is one of my favourite parts of the build - I retained the existing slider assembly, but mounted a lever microswitch at either end (see pic), so sliding back and forth clicks switches for the volume up/down switch respectively. The switch circuit was connected to the main circuit, tested and put aside ready for later assembly.

Step 4: Hidden Controls & Webcam

The TV had a small flip-open panel on the right, containing rotary controls for brightness, colour etc. I didn't need these in the new build, but still wanted to use the flip-open panel in some way.

I drilled out three of the holes a little wider and fitted some composite video couplers, connecting them to the SCART input of the TV circuit. This means that I now have a handy front-mounted composite video/audio input, which has already proved useful for quickly testing equipment. I fitted push-switches into the remaining holes for future use, I'm sure I'll think of something for them to do!

The circular space above the tuning dial was just blanked off (maybe a more expensive model had something in there) so I thought I'd add in a webcam for extra futuristic functionality - I wanted it to be posable and liked the idea of it being stalk-mounted, kind of like a dalek. Incredibly I got this microsoft lifecam for 50p from a rummage box at a sale - junked because its base was missing. I made the stalk assembly from a ballpoint pen, glueing the cut-down body of the pen to the webcam and the nib end of the pen securely to a ball & socket joint mounted on the TV, salvaged from another 50p webcam. The two pen pieces screw together to make a firm but easily moveable joint.

Step 5: Painting and Assembly

I cut a hole in the metal faceplate for the webcam stalk and then it was ready for painting - I went with white for that "2001" kind of look, also the contrast with the black controls is pretty nice. I used "direct to plastic" spray paint and got a good finish, but took a while sanding and cleaning the parts first to ensure it would stick properly.

I managed to re-use the original flat TV's vesa wall mounting bracket which was really handy - I mounted a threaded rod inside the top of the TV case which was then cable-tied to the bracket to make it both secure and easy to lift on & off the wall.

Despite my best efforts I couldn't fit all of the bits & pieces plus the wall mounting bracket inside the thin front section of the TV case, so I needed to cut a 2cm sliver from the back section to make it fit flush with the wall. I also used part of the back to make a holder for the TV circuit, to keep everything securely in place.

Finally I mounted the small circuit board containing the power LED and IR sensor in the vent at the base of the TV case, facing down, which gives a nice green/red glow. With all the parts put together it was time to get it on the wall!

Step 6: On the Wall

And done! It works better than expected as a secondary PC monitor, but in daily use it usually just shows the feed from the garden cctv camera. Recently though I've been enjoying some period Atari games on there with one of those battery-powered all-in-one joysticks - it makes the classic games look right at home, and working the old-style controls to switch "channels" just adds to the charm.

I considered wiring one of the spare TV buttons to a KVM unit, to switch the PC over to this monitor when pressed, as well as using something like flutter to harness webcam gestures to control media playback, but in the end decided less is sometimes more - and more importantly my next project is just begging to be dismantled now that this one is complete!

If you like this project and want to see more you can check out my website for in-progress project updates at, join in on Twitter @OldTechNewSpec or subscribe to the growing YouTube channel at - give some of your Old Tech a New Spec!



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26 Discussions

I would have rather kept the telly as-is. I typically don't like retro-mods, as they usually have no respect for the technology, destroying it for the sole sake of aesthetic. Almost like techno-fur.

Rather, my preferred method is to bring the old technology in to a modern setting, and have it work in harmony with newer tech. That way, the aesthetic is still there, while also maintaining and respecting the technology behind the aesthetic, without the side effect of being stuck in the dark ages. A cheap HDMI-to-analogue adapter can bring an old telly in to the modern age, allowing a Blu-Ray player to work in harmony with the telly (even if the telly isn't HD). Even something as simple as an aux cable can turn an '80s ghettoblaster in to an iPod dock. I actually used to use an early '50s console radio as a tube amp for my entertainment setup, just with an audio cable plugged in to the phono jack (and it was glorious). Meanwhile, the TV I have a Wii U hooked up to normally was made the same year Richard Nixon resigned. The possibilities are endless.

I did something similar but i used the CRT from a camcorder viewfinder. quarter in image for size. eventually the tube will be a head mount display.


Fantastic upcycle, I love it!

Use the rest of the TV to make an Oscilloscope
just be aware of the very high voltage floating around if you attempt this!

1 reply

Really interesting instructable, thanks for the link. I did seriously consider making a cat bed from the back of the TV, but wish I'd kept all of the bits now!

that's brilliant. The idea the concept the results......voted! and following you!

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Thanks! Appreciate the vote!

Nice build,looks kinda like its stuck in the wall.Paint yourself some cracks,and it will look like it busted through the wall,just messing with you,I wouldnt change a thing,again nice job.

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Thanks! The other wall does have a (now patched) hole where the giant rear of an old 21" Nokia CRT monitor used to poke about 2 ft through into the shed!

I bought a sports car light,where it looks like the front of the car has come through the wall,the head lights are pretty bright LEDs.Only as old as I feel bro.

Thanks - even the desk itself was rescued from a skip by my dad 30 years ago and restored!

For what it's worth a lot of old stuff is worth keeping, they used to build things to last.

Great project! Amazing idea...I've gotta do this for my house!

Really well done, nice retro feel (using the original switches/knobs adds much to that) and a practical way to reuse/recycle!

I've been meaning to make something similar myself, actually using the whole TV box as a flat panel tv/monitor & micro/mini ATX PC enclosure. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to salvage a 60's bright orange TV just thrown away near my house and put off the construction for now...... As soon as I find another CRT tv I'm either making this or ....what you did!

Thank you for a great instructable!

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Love the orange ones! You're right about having everything built in, currently doing something similar with a raspberry pi tucked inside - will be a few weeks yet though!

SAD... I have been sitting on a perfectly working old 80's TV with knobs (worked until they switched to digital broadcasts) and have been wanting to figure out how I can get it working again...have the analog control on the front operate a digital tuner.

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I guess you could keep the original insides, connect a digibox to the aerial input with a modulator and then wire the digibox channel up/down to a rotary switch!