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Meet the Experts Who Bring Old CRT TVs Back to Life

If you’re a gamer of a certain age, you probably remember playing your favorite retro console in front of a boxy TV. But while many gamers keep their old consoles handy or buy them back at garage sales and eBay auctions, CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) TVs are mostly a relic of the past. You can find dozens of examples gathering dust at your local thrift store, dump, or perhaps even your grandmother’s house. Are they worse than they are, or do they deserve a second chance at life? It’s the best way to play the classic game of Watari.

When CRT enthusiast Steve Nutter plugged in an old console to show his young son the games he grew up with, he was completely disappointed with the results. His beloved N64 his games have faded colors, flickering images, and a ridiculous amount of input lag that doesn’t look good on LCD TVs. He turned to the internet for advice and discovered one of Retro’s worst-kept secrets to his game. That said, the original console setup essentially required an old TV.

Luckily, Nutter had an old Toshiba lying around and was able to resurrect it for nostalgic purposes. As an engineer by training, he found himself compelled by the intricate machinery of these displays. He slowly gathered a foundation of knowledge by watching YouTube videos made by hackers and phone “freakers” who enjoyed tinkering with machines. Over time, Nutter’s interest in his CRT grew, and scanning Craigslist led him to bid on eBay auctions, looking for really desirable CRT displays of his like the Sony PVM and his BVM. Then one day his luck changed. A short drive away was his high-end PVM for sale at an affordable price. What he found changed his life almost overnight.

“We found a local vendor who recycles CRTs,” explains Nutter. “When I went to pick it up, I saw 25 PVMs in a warehouse. This was in 2015, and they were being recycled from hospitals and clinics. He explained that he was having trouble finding the right amount, and it was very helpful to him when I said I wanted to buy them all.”

Sony’s Trinitron is one of the most desirable consumer grade CRTs.

When Nutter brought dozens of boxes back to the garage, he quickly realized that most of them had serious problems. Some didn’t even turn on. That’s when he decided to learn how to fix them as best he could, just to recoup some money for a makeshift investment.

“When I started, I was sitting in a room surrounded by PVM and thinking, ‘Who would want to buy all this?’ I thought I made a big mistake. But once I started working on them, suddenly everyone wanted them.

What makes a high-end CRT like the PVM or Trinitron better than the Zenith of your childhood? As Nutter says, it’s all about the use case. PVM and BVM are professional grade monitors designed for broadcasting in workplace environments such as hospitals and TV studios. These boxes are designed to do things that consumer TVs cannot, especially when it comes to color adjustment and scanline customization.Over the years, knowledgeable sources such as digital foundry Modern games show that top-of-the-line CRTs are great, but they also have some drawbacks. However, Nutter admits that some of his PVM sellers can take advantage of less knowledgeable customers by charging inflated prices for worn sets.

“There’s definitely an element of hype,” says Nutter. “But a well-tuned PVM is the culmination of 100 years of analog video technology working together. People pay for them…people come to me with damaged PVMs they spent hundreds of dollars shipping across the country.”

Today, Nutter is a full-time CRT repairman, specializing in high-end or exotic boxes from PVMs to forgotten Asian models. But he also spends his time tinkering with a more mundane consumer model. His clients mail, drive, and hand-deliver his CRT to his garage in Virginia and repair an average of one TV per weekday. (His current backlog extends him through 2023.)

He photographs the repair process so his clients know exactly what he’s done. He explains that he has done so much work on the CRT set that he doesn’t write down everything he does and why he does it exactly. Of course, he also posts the resulting document on his Patreon. So he hopes subscribers can learn from his mistakes.

Nutter isn’t the only CRT expert looking to help you learn the dark arts of tube repair. Andy King is the owner of his CRT Database, his free web resource aimed at gathering as much information about these boxes as possible. This site has guides on how to mod many of the more popular CRT brands from Sanyo to Toshiba.Also the function guide It’s useful for retro gamers because you can adjust the CRT’s color settings. King compares the experience of buying a PVM to getting the keys to the Ferrari he dreamed of driving as a kid.

“When we were kids, nobody used broadcast monitors to play games,” says King. “We used to have an old-fashioned bedroom TV…precise when he was a kid. PVM isn’t a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for a one-on-one nostalgic recreation of those games.” By finding the best technology you can play with.”

Desirable CRTs are often the centerpiece of retro setups, but they also work well with modern games. However, you may need to modify it to make it work.
Desirable CRTs are often the centerpiece of retro setups, but they also work well with modern games. However, you may need to modify it to make it work.

Both Nutter and King describe themselves as completely self-taught. After all, there is no course that will teach you how to comprehensively fix these old machines. Nutter says he started his journey with a scan of his copy of his old PVM manual, which contains dozens of pages of troubleshooting advice. From there, he could learn the basics of his CRT repair from old books and old personal web pages. Nutter explains that most of his job is to completely disassemble each box, pull out all the circuit boards, and replace the burned out capacitors on each board.

“The average CRT someone brought me needs some new capacitors and possibly a good cleaning,” Nutter explains. “There’s also the overall adjustment side. This is where you balance color and deflection. This is how the geometry will look on screen. The average job is going through all these steps and getting the result It’s about filming, that’s basically it.”

King explains that CRTs that won’t turn on are often the most difficult to repair. Sometimes he can fix it in an hour, but it can take months to fix a nasty problem, especially if you don’t have a lot of documentation.

Nutter’s primary focus is retro gaming, but the usefulness of his expertise extends beyond that area. For example, there are numerous video installations of his art designed to be displayed on a cathode-ray tube in the 20th century, such as Namjoon’s Paik work. This means the museum will have to hire repairers like Nutter and King to keep the exhibits up and running for years to come. Nutter has held seminars on the topic at the Houston-based museum, and has clients who provide his CRTs as part of his designs for period dramas such as Stranger Things and music his videos. .

Nutter said there are several repairmen who specialize in repairing these art exhibits, but most are retired. But that doesn’t stop Mr. Nutter from calling one of his former Sony techs from the ’90s, especially on tough problems. “You can sit there for a whole week trying to fix the problem, or you can call him and he’ll tell you what to do in 10 minutes,” he laughs. while saying. “They didn’t share this information with anyone on their top of the line machine. It’s amazing what he knows.”

Overall, Nutter and King acknowledge the hype and FOMO surrounding high-end CRTs such as PVMs and BVMs, but they both agree on one thing. – At least not immediately.

“You can get the best out of a CRT from a set you find on the side of the road,” says Nutter. “With the right console and the right cable, it looks great. Zero lag, bright images, playing the game on the hardware it was designed for. That’s all you need. If you want PVM, it’s all you need.” Just know what you’re into.”

The products featured here have been independently selected by the editors. GameSpot may receive a portion of the proceeds from purchases featured on our site. Meet the Experts Who Bring Old CRT TVs Back to Life

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