Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Turn Your Old Tube Television Into A Smart TV

My new TV.
The Toshiba Childcrusher 100 XL

I'd like you to meet my new bedroom TV.

It's not fancy and it's not a flat screen, but I'm ecstatically pleased to save it from the landfill.

Like millions of tube sets around the world, it was banished into storage almost 10 years ago. I told myself that perhaps it would be useful at some point in the future, when the truth was that I just couldn't bear the thought of recycling a perfectly good 5 year old TV. And so it sat inside an old entertainment unit, patiently gathering dust

It was my Netflix addiction that encouraged me (Okay, us. It's not the sort of thing you can lug around the house by yourself) to drag it up from the dark, moldy depths. For years, I was unable to use it with streaming services -- my Apple TV is too pretentious and upmarket to offer analog output connections, and the idea of watching VHS tapes in the evening seemed a bit too quaint, even for a retro junkie like me.

But then Roku stepped in to save the day. Their little Roku 1 streaming box (which I have) and the brand new $50 Roku Express Plus offer old-fashioned composite video output in addition to a new-fangled HDMI connection.

Roku Express+
Yeah, the remote is bigger than the Roku.

Now you can stream content to almost any old tube TV made in the last two or three decades. The picture might not be quite as clear as you're used to with a newer TV, but it'll do as a second or third set. Roku even includes cables in the box.

Minutes after my Roku arrived, I cheerfully connected it to the TV and waited for evening like a young child on Christmas Eve. As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, I eagerly hopped onto the bed and started streaming Stranger Things. Because what could be more appropriate than a sci-fi / monster / conspiracy show set in the early eighties?

The Roku Express Plus sells for $49.99 at Amazon and other major retailers.

A Vintage Introduction to the Mellotron

The Mellotron is a tape sample playback keyboard from the 1960s that made an appearance on multiple Beatles albums, among others. Each key triggers a magnetic tape strip that runs for a maximum of 8 seconds, making it into a tremendously complicated version of a modern digital sampler. This British Pathé film is a wonderfully daft time capsule from 1965 that's definitely worth watching. 

The Mellotron - 1965 [YouTube]

Kodak's Brand New Super 8 Movie Camera

image from graphics.kodak.com

The Super 8 format is now 51 years old. It seemed destined for the scrap heap of forgotten formats, simply because there have been no new mass-produced cameras since the early 1980s. However, Kodak has other plans. 

Big Yellow shocked everyone at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by unveiling the prototype of a brand new Super 8 movie camera. It uses the same 50 foot cartridge, but features decidedly modern features like precise digital speed control, a 3.5-inch LCD display and even a built-in digital audio recorder for capturing sound (Super 8 cartridges have been silent since the late 1990s, when Kodak stopped adding the magnetic stripe on the edge of the film). 

image from graphics.kodak.com

The target price for this crazy analog anachronism is "somewhere between $450 and $700," and the company is hoping to release the first camera in the lineup sometime later this year. This is great news for professionals and serious amateur filmmakers who want an affordable and reliable way to use film in their projects. Perhaps the most important feature is the digital "crystal sync" speed control that will keep the film running at exactly 9, 12, 18, 24 or 25 frames per second. This is critical to enable sound synchronization for shooting music videos or dialog. It's a common enough feature on professional Super 16 mm and 35 mm cameras, but nearly all vintage Super 8 boxes from the 1960s and 1970s relied on "close enough" analog speed control which drifted slightly. 

A second important feature is the "Max 8" film gate that provides a modern 16:9 frame size. This is achieved by enlarging the film opening slightly into the area that was once taken up by the magnetic audio stripe running along the side of the film. It's an important difference for a generation of videomakers who have grown up in the wonderful world of HD widescreen. 

image from graphics.kodak.com

Kodak offers three colour negative films that have to be scanned to digital before they can be viewed. Negative offers wider dynamic range and a more professional look than traditional reversal projection films (Kodak also offers Tri-X, a black & white projection film that can be developed in a home lab and viewed on a vintage projector). The company's plan is to offer a one stop film shop that includes the film, processing and digital scanning in a single bundle. 

I'm excited. Not only will this camera introduce a new generation to the beauty of film, it will also keep the Super 8 format alive for those who have been enjoying it for decades. It's not cheap, it's not instant, but it is analog and unique. And perhaps that's the secret to success in the digital age. 

Kodak Super 8 Camera [2016] 

Reviving Forgotten Radios

Great Big Story shot this fantastic short about Allen Chiang and his quest to restore as many pre-1970 vintage radios as he can. Even though classic terrestrial radio is considered a quaint anomaly these days, there's something charming and unpredictable about these old sets. I suspect he enjoys the challenge of working without service manuals and complete schematics, too...

Giving Voice to Forgotten Radios [Great Big Story]

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