Cathode ray tube televisions totally revolutionized the world of home entertainment when they first debuted back in 1934, and they were the norm right up until "flat panel" technology replaced CRT for good in the early 2000s.
But even though CRT has gone the way of the VCR there are still millions of sets out there, many of them in full working order, and if CRT enthusiasts like Chi-Tien Liu and Ian Primus keep up their good work the CRT TV will never go extinct.
Chi-Tien Liu fixes up discarded CRT TVs and rents them out to museums and filmmakers, keeping these "relics" of TV history alive so they won't become lost in the mists of time:
The first floor of CTL Electronics — whose clientele includes the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, and other museums across the country — is lined with a rich mix of vintage TVs, from tiny boxes to big, looming screens. In his bedroom upstairs, Lui has a 1930s mechanical television, an early image transmission system that passed light through a spinning metal disc. In his workshop, there’s a grid of old screens that once sat inside the Palladium, an iconic New York nightclub that closed in 1997. “They used to have 16 of these, rotating in the club — everybody danced underneath,” Lui recalls. “When they went out of business I took all the equipment back. And right now, I’m restoring them.”
And even though people think he's crazy IT professional Ian Primus goes around picking up CRT TVs from whoever wants to get rid of them, in part because he sees them as the best TV for retro gaming:
Primus says he doesn’t just hoard old TVs; he uses them constantly in his daily life. “I don’t have an LCD computer monitor, and I don’t have an LCD TV. Everything is CRTs,” he says. “I know I’m crazy.” Most new devices exclusively support current TVs, including one of Primus’ newer tech purchases — Nintendo’s NES Classic — which, ironically for such a retro-looking device, only features a modern HDMI adapter. But it’s still possible to use adapters with many of them. As long as that’s true, Primus says he’ll probably stick with CRTs.
“I’m not going to try to be one of those guys who says, ‘Yeah the picture on a CRT is better than the LCD,’” he says. But he likes the deep blacks and high color contrast and the sturdiness of old hardware. Primus, like Lui, is also helping keep CRTs available to the people who can’t do without them. In his case, that’s the retro gaming community.