The Great TV Hack of '01
Hacking a $100 TV into an arcade monitor
While we were building the cocktail table we had the idea that a 19
inch TV might be able to be converted into a cheap arcade
monitor. We went to Fry's and found the cheapest 19" TV and bought
it. Then we hacked it all up and got it working as an arcade
monitor for several classic games. Then we went back to Fry's and
bought 5 more (Also known as "three shopping carts worth").
So I finally decided to put this info on a web page because I
get asked how we did this quite often! :-). What follows are bits
and pieces from several emails I wrote to people explaining what we
did. So if it seems a little disjointed, that is why :-)...
You should be afraid of TVs. They generate upwards of 20,000 volts
which can at best knock you flat on your back, and at worst kill
you. Don't mess around with the insides of a TV unless you know what
you are doing. And don't complain to me if you kill yourself (I
suppose that's not really possible :-), but you get the point).
We hooked up the RGB outputs from the game board right to the guns
on the back of the CRT. We needed pull-up resistors on the lines so
the picture was bright enough (the games couldn't drive the guns
directly--way to dim). Then we cut the signals that the TV
normally drove the guns with. Then we fed the composite sync signal
into a composite input on the main chip inside the TV (there was no
RCA composite connector on the back of the TV). That composite input
(luckily) syncs to the raw sync signal and sets up all the scan
We got the repair manuals for the TV from the manufacturer which
included a schematic and that was very helpful.
I made a little bread board that had the pull-up resistors on it and
a rotary switch so we could switch between composite, RGB and normal
TV operation. The board had a standard arcade monitor connector, an
RCA plug (for composite), and power. Its output went to various
parts of the TV to enable all the modes.
More on composite sync:
We found a composite video input on the TV chip and put the mixed
horiz and vert syncs into the composite video input. Since composite
video has the same kind of syncs as the composite sync that comes
out of the arcade board the TV chip was able to sync up to it. Then
the chip set up all the scan rates to the sync signal so that the
RGB that we were force-feeding the guns would be in sync.
The only problem is that a couple of my arcade boards (raiden 2 and
raiden 1) have a weird vertical refresh rate (65 Hz) which is too
far out of range for the TV chip to sync to. So they don't work
:-(. A normal arcade monitor works fine with these (it has analog
adjustments that have a very wide range).
What's great is that the TVs have the same mounts on the corners of
the picture tubes as normal arcade monitors, so it's pretty much a
drop in replacement. Then the only trick is mounting the TV's
PCB. We ended up extracting the TV enclosure plastic where the PCB
normally screwed into. We used a table saw for the extraction. :-) I
wish we took pictures of us sawing a big piece of plastic, it was
crazy! But the PCB mounted just great because thats where it was
meant to mount. We just screwed it in to some big wood blocks we had
on the underside of the cabinets top, right by the monitor.