Project: Watch digital TV and hook up other modern devices
Why you'd attempt it: To reuse an old television
Difficulty factor: Simple
If your budget doesn’t stretch to a high-def giant, it’s easy to bring an old television into the digital age. For less than $100 you’ll find a high-def digital set top box that lets you watch all the new digital channels on your old television. It should even downscale the high-def channels to standard-def.
Digital set-top boxes come with a variety of video outputs such as composite, S-Video, component and HDMI. Look for a set-top box that offers the same video connectors as your TV.
If your television is really old, it might not have any of these connectors, just an RF aerial input. One solution is to look for a digital set-top box with a built-in RF modulator. This lets the set-top box send the digital channels to your television through its aerial output. Now you can connect the set-top box's aerial output to your old television's aerial input and then tune the television to the correct channel as you would when connecting a VCR to an old television.
Most set-top boxes feature an RF pass-through, so you can run the aerial connection to another device. But very few high-definition set-top boxes feature an RF modulator for passing through the digital channels. Options include the Altech UEC DT3900RF and the Healing HHT895.
If you can't find a digital set-top box with an RF modulator, you can buy a stand-alone RF modulator for less than $50. Another option is to use an old VCR as the RF modulator, assuming it has composite or S-Video inputs for connecting to the set-top box. Now you can tune your television to the correct channel to watch the VCR via the aerial input, then switch over to the VCR's AV input to watch the set-top box. You can use the same trick to hook up a DVD player, media player or games console.