TV - Time Machine





Introduction: TV - Time Machine

I was always fascinated by black & white TV's but finding one in good conditions is both hard and very expensive. that's when I decided to build my own TV.

While this is not the "real deal", building is was a blast. I joined a local maker community Snoco Makers (Snohomish county Makers in Everett, WA) and they helped me with the wooden cabinet building part.

Electronics here are the easiest part, this is basically a Raspberry Pi 2 playing videos in an infinite loop from a flash drive, a monitor and a PC speaker.

The video looper code is from Adafruit: Link. thanks Adafruit!!

There are thousands of old time videos free for download at

Description below show the process creation step by step. I hope you enjoy.

Step 1: From Cardboard to Wood

I always create a cardboard prototype to test the look and feel of my projects. Here you can see the empty cardboard case and the initial steps of building the wooden one.

Step 2: Buiding the Box

I added some trimming boards to the front and added the division between the screen area and the speaker cloth.

At this stage I was still using the cardboard frame and a generic 3D printed knob, just to see how that would look like.

Step 3: Front Panel

Front panel is basically 1/8" (3mm) plywood which I lasercut. given I got a piece smaller than what I needed I had to improvise to make it larger. Not ideal, for sure, but it worked pretty well.

The nice looking speaker fabric is from Amazon (look for Speaker Grill Cloth Fabric Silver Turquoise Stripe) even though this is not actually Fabric: it is plastic but it works great, you can trim it using a soldering iron...

It is quite transparent as some of the comments note, so I used a basic black felt (got it from Michael's) to darken it. great end result.

Step 4: Painting the TV

I wanted a retro looking so I primed the cabinet with white paint before applying the green one.

Step 5: TV Is Coming Together...

Here you can see the panel in place, retro speaker cloth and the 3D printed knobs as well. I used white PLA and painted after.

Customizable knob SCAD files are available here.

Step 6: Add the Electronics to It

Final step was to add the transparent Acrylic to protect the monitor, this white acrylic cut to give the round edge look to the monitor, and place them together.

I added the speakers, the potentiometer for volume and a rotary switch (not connected to anything in this V1) just to give the Channel button a good feel.

Step 7: TV Parts

This picture shows how simple the internal connections are.

There is a Raspberry Pi 2, which is enough to play videos with quality, a Dell monitor I got from a thrift store and removed it from its frame, a PC speaker also from the Thrift Store.

Step 8: It Works!!

This is a short video showing the TV in action. I can't really keep it on close to me because I'll stop working to watch... :-)



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    34 Discussions

    Absolutely awesome! Would it be possible to run 3 USB's with each having separate vintage Network specific shows on them where the RH switch was a 3-position switch would select one position connected to one USB that had only vintage ABC shows, then switch the 2nd position for vintage CBS shows, then third position to select vintage NBC shows? And could you modify the project where the LH switch turns the sound and picture off? Love this and want to try it too!


    9 months ago

    Hi, W. My wife and I have seen your time machine in-person at SnoCo and are now looking at building one for ourselves. Do you foresee any issues using a Raspberry Pi 3 vs. 2? Also, any insight or recommendations on the speaker PCB? Thanks.

    1 reply

    No issues at all. I tried this video loop program on the Pi Zero, Pi 2 and 3. It works fine on all three of them!! Feel free to use whatever you have at hand. As per the speaker... I got a super cheap one at Value Village. I'm playing super old B&W shows, so the sound is really not good which matches the speakers I have :-) I would go with the cheapest PC speakers you could find. Another solution is to use a LCD TV rather than the Monitor, to save the work of setting up audio... Happy to chat about it in person any Thu night (open house nights at Snoco Makers)

    this is very cool , i have a similar idea making a 1958 predicta tv , good job on your retro tv set !! two thumbs up!

    i love this so much that i sent the link to my son & suggested it for my birthdaypresent!! x^)

    2 replies

    I truly hope he can build you one with the instructions I made available here! If not, I'm sure there should be a nice Maker space around to help you out!

    thank-you! forgot to mention the COLOR; you nailed it with that retro color from my youth! :^D

    Will this work without the loop, playing a rather full thumb drive? I think I can do the rest, but I can't figure out the loop part, and if it'll just play, I'll be happy and can change to different thumbdrives.

    4 replies

    Actually the loop code does exactly that: It will loop ALL videos in the thumbdrive. I have 176 short videos and it will play them all before going back to the first one again! On top of this, nothing prevents you from having several different thumb drives and exchange them.... Have fun!!!

    I ordered the "deluxe" Raspberry Pi 3 set. It comes with a case and 16G preloaded microcard, HDMI cord, a booklet of projects, and maybe between these directions and your directions I can figure it out. I'm not techy, but I'll do great making the cabinet. I really like the idea of making it in cardboard first. I'm going to do that as well.

    I guess the book will say where you put in the code for the loop. I've never put code in anything before. I hope I can do this. Looked like I'll need a wired mouse and a wired keyboard. So I went out and bought that tonight. The raspberry set will be here in a couple days.

    In the meantime I'm downloading old shows. I found a software that will convert my color MP4s and make them black and white. It just wouldn't be right to play color on it.

    I have a new question. The VGA to HDMI you mention, is that only if your monitor doesn't have an HDMI? Could I use a really small flat screen tv in there? A new one would have an HDMI, I believe.

    Thank you in advance.

    Toni, from Adafruit, did an amazing job in documenting and creating a fully automated script to install the video-looping code in the raspberry. The beauty of it is that you don't need to know how to code!! You can get the video-looping working in a no time. You're right: I only needed the adaptor because I was using an old monitor. If your has the HDMI port, you can skip the adaptor.

    Rec'd the Raspberry Pi. Installed the loop but now a problem is there is no way to stop the loop so that I can safely turn it off. They don't recommend that you yank the plug. So how do you resolve putting it in the box when the loops never end and you can't get back to the terminals? To shut it off if yours is working correctly (and mine is not), you need a wired mouse and keyboard. That's not going to work with the cabinet construction and for some reason, once it's on, the wired mouse and keyboard (for me) are seemingly disabled. Yeah, this is one project that really wasn't what I thought it would be. You have to leave it on all the time, and where I live we have a lot of power outages, I'm sure this is one thing that will not be practical if I can't turn it off.

    YOUR IDEA IS STILL GOOD THOUGH! I'm wondering if you can do the same thing by making a youtube play list of a lot of black and white movies and tv shows that are in the public domain and then mount a $50 tablet inside a cabinet and then put some decent speakers in there hooked into the headphone jack and just play a long playlist from YouTube. Then you use the touch screen to pause it or simply turn it off when you don't want to play it. You do need the wifi to use it, but that's one thing in the house that doesn't get turned off unless we have a power outage. So for us, it will work.

    I love this :D its almost exactly what i needed. However is there a way to randomise the order of video playback?

    1 reply

    omxplayer is the software responsible for the actual video playing. Toni, from Adafruit, created some sort of wrapper to it to make our lives easier. I would take a look at its documentation because I believe there should be a way to do the random playing...

    Cool idea,thanks for this :)

    At 58 years old, I get a kick out of you young-ins. Black and White TV sets in the weekly trash are exactly what got me in to electronics way, waaaay back in the late 60s and early 70s. It really warms my heart to see interest in old technology making a comeback with younger generations. I was at an auction last year where a late-teen, early 20s young lady out bid me on a box of vinyl records. Come to find out she only wanted the Led Zeppelin IV album! Too cool!

    Great work on your project! I'll have to keep my eyes open for old B&W TV sets and maybe restore one for myself now.

    4 replies

    that would be great!!! glad I could help. I got some electronic tubes from an old radio, and having them sitting on my desktop is no good for me: now I want to do some project with them....

    Well at 54 years old the thing that got me me was the bottom section - the speaker grill cloth and the two knobs - looked like a Dansette record player if anyone remembers those!

    Memory fails me - the knobs are on the same side, but this is the one we had at home except in black and cream. The amps where lovely little valve affairs. This beauty is on ebay for £199.00.


    That's exactly why I built my own... It was a tradeoff: the real deal is very expensive... :-(