Flat-screen televisions, with their increasingly thin bezels, are designed to put the picture front and centre. Go back a few decades, however, and a number of TVs were made to look futuristic – some even sported space age designs resembling astronaut helmets or flying saucers sat upon elaborate stands. They were quirky and hugely fun.

Maker Ryan Cochran’s project evokes such memories of the past. “I have a passion for vintage modern design and early NASA aesthetics and I wanted to make something which would merge the two into an art piece that could fit on my shelf,” he recalls. “The first thing I could think of was a small television.” And so the idea for the Atomic TV came into being.

Atomic TV: Made of wood

Made of wood and using spare tech parts left over from a couple of past projects, it’s a television that’s as compelling to look at when it’s turned off as when it’s playing videos on a loop. “My main concern was fit and finish,” he says. “I didn’t want this thing to look amateurish at all. I wanted it to look like a professionally built prototype from 1968.”

Raspberry Pi 4 sits neatly inside the project’s bespoke housing, secured using 3mm standoffs

Before he began planning the look of the project, Ryan wanted to make sure everything would connect. “The parts sort of drove the direction of the project so the first thing I did was mock everything up without a cabinet to make sure everything worked together,” he says.

This posed some problems. “The display is 12 volts and I would have preferred to simplify things by using one of the 5 volts displays on the market, but I had what I had so I figured a way to make it work,” Ryan explains, discovering the existence a dual 5V-12V power supply.

Powered by Raspberry Pi 4

With a Raspberry Pi 4 computer, the LCD display, a driver board, and a pair of USB speakers borrowed from his son all firmly in hand, he worked on a way of controlling the volume and connected everything up.

“Power comes in and goes to an on/off switch,” he begins. “From there it goes to the dual voltage power supply with the 12V running the display and the 5V running Raspberry Pi 4 and the small amp for the speakers. Raspberry Pi runs Adafruit’s Video Looper script and pulls videos from a USB thumb drive. It’s really simply and there are no physical controls other than on/off switch and volume.”

The bulk of the work came with the making of the project’s housing. “I wanted to nod the cap to Tom Sachs, an artist who does a lot of work I admire and my main concern was fit and finish,” Ryan reveals. 

The speakers are plugged into the USB port and sound is drawn via the 3.5mm jack

He filmed the process from start to end, showing the intricate work involved, including a base created from a cake stand and a red-and-white panel for the controls. To ensure the components wouldn’t overheat, a fan was also included.

“The television runs 24/7 and it spends 99 percent of its time on mute,” says Ryan. “It’s literally just moving art that sits on my shelf playing my favourite films and video clips and, every now and then, I’ll look over, notice a scene I love, and turn up the volume to watch for a few minutes. It’s a great way to relax your brain and escape reality every now and then.”

From The MagPi store

Subscribe