An LCD monitor for retro computing

An LCD monitor for retro computing

Purists prefer CRT monitors for a more authentic experience, but if you don’t mind an LCD, here’s a good LCD monitor for retro computing. Look for a Dell 2001fp manufactured in June 2005 or before. For bonus points, try to find one with a soundbar.

With any luck, you should be able to find one for under $60. Sometimes well under $60.

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How to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV

How to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV

Connecting old computers and consoles to not-as-old televisions is frequently a challenge. Sadly, the VIC-20, Commodore’s runaway bestseller from 1982, is no exception to that. Here’s how to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV.

Unfortunately, there are fewer options for connecting a VIC than there are the slightly newer and more common C-64, but I’ll walk you through the options you do have.

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In the city, a $6 antenna is all you need

There are a lot of good plans for DIY antennas on the web that you can make for less than $10 worth of parts, which is good considering the flood of $50 antennas on the market that are little more than hype.

A couple of years ago I made a Gray-Hoverman antenna. I had no complaints about how it worked, but it wasn’t very durable. And in St. Louis it was overkill–it picked up everything tvfool.com said I could get indoors and nothing more. No SIUC PBS station for me. A Gray-Hoverman is probably more useful along the eastern seaboard where the cities and TV stations are closer together.

Rather than fix the Gray-Howerman yet again, or build something else, I bought a basic, traditional-looking RCA ANT111F for $6. Even the simplest DIY antenna, made primarily of a cardboard box with aluminum foil, costs $3-$4 in materials to make and my time is worth more than the difference. If my kids were a bit older, a DIY antenna would be a great science experiment to do with them, but they aren’t.

I did find my reception in the basement, below ground level, was pretty abysmal. The range seemed to be less than five miles, and I could only get about five channels. But on the first floor, with the antenna about seven feet above ground level, my range is 10-12 miles, depending on the strength of the distant signal, and I could get 30 channels. To improve reception in the basement, I connected a longer cable to the antenna (using a cheap keystone jack as a coupler) so I could put it up in the ceiling, closer to ground level. When I did that, I could get 24 channels, though the signal strength wasn’t all that good.

One thing to remember when changing or repositioning an antenna: always scan for new channels afterward.

Advice for upgrading from a CRT to an LCD

Like a lot of people are doing these days, my brother- and sister-in-law replaced a CRT TV with an LCD. I helped my brother-in-law hook it up last weekend, and we got it working, but probably could have done things a little bit differently.

A lot of inexpensive LCDs have a limited number of inputs in order to meet a price point, and that’s what we ran into. The LCD had just as many inputs as the TV it replaced, but with some cable shuffling, we would have been able to make the new TV easier to use.
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Help someone plug a computer into a TV, become a criminal

Digital video is confusing. You get some clear advantages, since signal degradation becomes a thing of the past, but if you’re not someone who works in video for a living, it’s difficult to keep it all straight. And standards are a problem. You can’t just assume that two devices will work together because they’re both “digital.”

One of the problems is physical incompatibility. Some devices have Displayport ports. Some of them have HDMI ports. The solution is easy: get a cable with an HDMI connector on one end and a Displayport connector on the other. Problem solved.

And now the guy who sold it to you is a criminal. (You aren’t necessarily. Possession isn’t illegal, just sale or manufacture. So don’t sell it at your garage sale in 2019.)
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Ye Olde Nintendo 64

I fixed up a Nintendo 64 this past weekend. People of a certain age affectionately refer to it just as “the 64,” though to me, “the 64” refers to a computer with 64K of memory introduced in 1982. I have an inherent bias against almost anything that reminds me of 1997, but in spite of my biases, I found a number of things to like about the system after spending a few hours with it.

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Using s-video gear with Commodore monitors

Commodore and Atari used an early implementation of s-video on their home computers in order to show off their computers’ advanced-for-their-time graphics. Many monitors sold for those computers featured compatibility with this feature, which was called “separated” or “y/c” composite or at the time. JVC called the feature “s-video” when they started using it on their SVHS camcorders starting in 1987, and JVC’s name stuck. Other companies followed suit, and s-video and the mini DIN plug became an industry standard.

Commodore and Atari used a different connector than JVC did, but all it takes to use s-video gear with those old monitors is a cable, which you can make with about $10 worth of parts from Radio Shack. Read more

How to connect an Amiga to a TV

Amiga monitors aren’t always the easiest thing to come by. Of course just about every Amiga sold was also sold with a monitor. But sadly, many of the monitors weren’t as reliable as the computer. So being able to connect an Amiga to a TV helps.

There are several options, and while some are far from ideal, most of them are suitable for playing video games. And these days I’m sure you’re a lot more interested in Shadow of the Beast than you are in Amiga Word Perfect 4.1. Read more

Original Sony Playstations as high-end audio components?

I saw an MSNBC article this week about people using the original Playstations (not the later streamlined version pictured at the top of the article) as high-end CD players.I haven’t had time to try it yet. The model that you want, for a couple of reasons is the SCPH-1001. It’s easy to recognize because it has separate RCA jacks for audio and video. Later models, such as the SCPH-7501, use an odd cable that connects to a proprietary Sony connector on the back of the unit, and has RCA plugs on the other end. These days, that cable sometimes costs more than the unit, and the quality of the cable is open to debate–especially if it’s an aftermarket cable.

An SCPH-1001 unit lets you use high-end audiophile cables if you want the best sound, or whatever you have laying around, if you’re like me.

I’ll have to try it out. I have a couple of Playstations that I almost never use, and the thought never occurred to me to try one out as a CD player.

So, if you’re looking for a cheap but good-sounding CD player, look for a Playstation on, say, eBay or Amazon. If you’ve got a Playstation in the closet that you’ll never use again, if you want to sell it online and get the best possible price for it, make sure you mention the model number in your description–especially if it’s an SCPH-1001–and it may not hurt to play up the audiophile angle a bit.

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