In the kitchen of the house that I grew up in, we had this little black CRT that I would watch my cartoons on while scarfing down a bowl of cereal every morning before school. In order to recreate that nostalgic feeling, I’ve got to have a little tele in the corner of my kitchen to use while I eat, cook and clean.
Unfortunately, we don’t get analog cable anymore in Florida (or the US entirely?) nor would I even want to watch traditional television nowadays. Instead, we have the beautiful simplicity of the Google Chromecast streaming device. I unabashedly love these things. I have one on both HDTVs in my house and use it for my daily consumption of YouTube, Netflix and whatever else I come across. You can even play games on it!
I’ve used a Raspberry Pi with its native composite output and a basic RF modulator in the past, but the output options on a Chromecast device are very limited. Instead, I needed to find a device that could downscale the HDMI signal to composite before the modulator. I ended up going with this inexpensive product, the Mini HDMI2AV. This product is ubiquitous around the e-commerce scene on eBay, Amazon, AliExpress, etc. I don’t think the performance is stellar, but the whole point is that we’re losing signal integrity so I didn’t think it mattered. By the way, I couldn’t find something that could go straight from HDMI to RF, because I just don’t think those exist, sadly.
I first tested all these parts out of the box, and I was actually stunned by how good it looked! There was definitely some blurring of the image, but the colors just pop in a way that a standard LCD can’t. More importantly, the text is mostly legible… mostly.
The next step was to cram all these devices and their power supplies into the remaining space in the CRT chassis. This proved more difficult than I expected, but after enough perseverance, I successfully secured the back in place. To ensure that all devices weren’t running 24/7 and wasting power, I added in a heavy duty switch that disconnects the AC power routed to the Chromecast and video converters. I routed the final RF cable through a hole in the back to plug into the standard cable input. With enough probing, it would probably be possible to connect the video signal within the chassis, but I didn’t think it was worth it in my case.
All in all, this quick late night project was great to preserve the look of this old CRT while giving it convenient modern features. My only recommendation if you’d like to take on a similar experiment is to get a slightly larger TV with enough space in the back to make the job easier and provide better airflow. In this configuration, the Chromecast heats up more than it normally would, and I’ve had it perform a hard restart once or twice out of the blue because of overheating.