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Turn a Vintage TV Into a Digital Photo Frame

Turn a Vintage TV Into a Digital Photo Frame


In the mid '00s, when LCD panels reached commodity prices, digital photo frames exploded in popularity. With everyone taking pictures on their fancy new digital cameras, those displays were a great way to show off family vacation photos. But the fad died after a few years, because even the finest Sharper Image digital photo frames looked a bit tacky.

That's unfortunate, because the idea was good. That's why Democracity built their own digital photo frame in a far more pleasing package: a vintage portable TV.

The TV in question is a model TV4-203uw Sony Micro TV from the mid '60s. It has a great look to it and conjures images of your grandfather watching baseball games while fishing from a sepia-toned dock.

Like most portable TVs manufactured before LCDs came along, it had a monochrome CRT display. Instead of trying to convert a video feed into an analog signal that the TV would accept, Democracity replaced the CRT with a 4" TFT LCD. The bezel masks off a portion of the LCD, leaving a 4:3 aspect ratio viewing area that matches the aesthetic of the enclosure.

A Raspberry Pi 4 Model B single-board computer supplies the LCD with a video feed via HDMI. At startup, the Pi automatically opens the Chromium browser and goes to to display a slideshow.

That slideshow pulls scanned vintage photos of Democracity's family from their Google Drive. None of the TV's buttons or knobs are functional, so Democracity was able to strip out most of the original electronic components. That left plenty of room inside of the enclosure for the Raspberry Pi.

Those steps are dependent on the model TV you use, but the process is straightforward. The result is a very stylish way to show off your most prized digital photos.

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