This category includes hacks from our hackerspace, “Hack Local” http://hacklocal.org


It looks like restoring retro TV’s is going to be dijit’s ‘thing’ for fun projects. In building Hack Local and the electronics re-use programs, we have been spending a lot of time at Construction Junction, a local building material re-use center. CJ also has an e-recycling center where they accept all kinds of used/broken/unwanted electronics in various states of disrepair. This place is nothing short of a gold mine for used, retro, unique, and just plain cool stuff. The double bonus is that every item used from Construction Junction is one less item taking up space in a landfill. There are often retro electronics and machines that show up in the aisles of CJ, and this vintage 1950’s era television was one of those jems. The staff suggested turning it into a cool fish tank project, but I would prefer to see this TV restored to its former glory. Stay tuned for the rebuild process!



When I saw this beauty tucked in the back corner of an antique store, under a stack of other items and sporting decades of dust accumulation, I could not resist. After some small talk with the shop owner  about its condition, where it came from, etc., I negotiated a fair price and loaded it up. I immediately began scouring the interwebs for any info on this beauty and was pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of information from antique radio and tv forums. This particular set was marked TS4-J on the chassis, and rolled off the production line in late 1949.

Below are a few examples of great discussions and write-ups on rebuilding these old 7″ sets:





After reading through these posts I was able to determine that most of the original paper/wax capacitors had already been replaced, and judging by their replacements this was done sometime in the late 1960’s. The original ballast tube was still in place which, based on the voltage readings (and the smell of burning cats), I gathered was something that would need to be replaced. Again I found several great write-ups on how to replace the original ballast tube with modern-day parts to make the circuitry more-betterer. I found diagrams and schematics, including a pinout for the ballast circuit that made my job even easier:


TS-4H-Filament stringsvt71-ballast-diagram  vt71-ballast-pinout

With some fresh capacitors and resistors from digikey I was able to wire up a replacement ballast that would mimic the correct voltages and provide a slow start-up the old vacuum and CRT tubes love.

vt71-4     vt71-3

Here you can see the parts that I temporarily wired up and taped to test the circuit. I turned the brightness knob all the way down and slowly applied power. As I did this I wondered how many years, or maybe even decades, had gone by since these components had been powered up. The set slowly came to life and the soft glow of the tubes created a geeky delight.

After confirming the replacement ballast was functioning properly, I then took to mounting the components in a way that would conceal them in the original ballast tube.

vt71-5  vt71-6  vt71-7

vt71-8  vt71-9

The end result was a replacement ballast that provided the appropriate voltages without changing the overall look and feel of this classic motorola set. I was able to play with the adjustment and tuning knobs and watched the picture tube flicker and dance in response. The set would not display an image on the CRT, even with a VCR and a 300ohm RF modulator , so I have some more work ahead to determine if this set is indeed fully functional again.