I have commented previously that I’ve been working on re-organizing the basement, which has involved some purging, some movement of movies / Legos / craft materials, reordering desks as much as two years ago, playing with the setup for my work-out gym, etc. It’s been an albatross around my neck since the pandemic started, finishing the basement I mean, and I have even refused to let myself use my new 3D printer until I get all of it done.
Recently, I have been heavily focused on sorting out all the electronic detritus I’ve accumulated in the last 10-20 years. In the last e-waste collection, I took 7 boxes of wires, old phones, old scanners, etc. and a broken toaster oven and dropped them off.
But one of the biggest aspects of the electronic side of things is setting up my TV with everything properly connected, wires run, and internet connections where needed.
That is more complicated than it sounds.
Enter the video side
We have VMedia in our house as our “cable” provider, albeit “cable light” mostly so Andrea and Jacob can watch things like The Flash or Amazing Race Canada when they air. However, I also watch current episodes of shows like Magnum P.I. and Blue Bloods through the CTV app which connects through the VMedia subscription. The box requires internet for service and HDMI as a connector.
I have an older DVD player and it is there for movies as well as some DVD games that don’t work as well when you plug them into Xbox or the PC. It doesn’t require internet but it does have HDMI as the connector.
I also have an Apple TV box…or at least, I bought one. It is in the basement somewhere. Somehow, in moving everything around, I moved it OFF of where it has been sitting for six months annnnnd I don’t know where I put it. It is my main interface for the upstairs computer, I want the same downstairs too, but well, at some point, I’ll find it. I know it needs internet AND an HDMI connection. In theory, I could use it instead of the VMedia box, and I may, haven’t decided yet.
And then I also have the PC/laptop that I frequently am streaming from, so again, an internet connection and an HDMI connection for the TV.
I could, in theory, also connect the TV directly to the internet, but it doesn’t need to; there’s nothing that it would give me that I don’t already have for other connections.
But for a subtotal, that is 4 devices, 3 requiring internet and 4 HDMI connections. If I decide to include a separate laptop, it’s technically 4 requiring internet but the other laptop doesn’t need to connect to the TV.
Enter the game consoles
I have four game consoles for the basement.
The first is an old Playstation 1. I actually own two of them, one that is unmodified and one that is modified. The modified version lets me play games that I copied long ago without having to risk ruining the originals (wink). I bought it while in New York City back in ’98, along with dozens of games. I was REALLY excited to reconnect this one to the TV, to be honest. It’s a great console, and I loved some of the games. One of my favourites is Time Crisis. It’s a GunCon game aka a first person shooter that was a port of an arcade version, but I only ever played it on the PS1. If you had the old Nintendo, think “Duck Hunt” but you’re shooting bad guys as you work your way through a warehouse district. Great game, you can play cooperative two-player, it isn’t heavy on the gore, and it’s relatively easy to play even for non-gamers. So I was excited to get that going again. Until I watched a video last week reviewing different shooting games for the old PS 1 and found out…dun dun dun…the technology ONLY worked on old CRT TVs. It won’t work on the modern stuff. Well, frak. I gave away my old TVs of that type LONG ago. And as much as I love gun games, I am NOT willing to get an old TV to do it. Sigh. On the positive side, it doesn’t require an internet connection, and it uses three-cable composite video for the connection.
Somewhere after the PS1, I picked up a used Nintendo 64. I don’t know why, I don’t remember where, but I have it. Mostly to do Mario Bros games. Including racing. I don’t have that many games for it though. I’ll connect it to be completist, and if I play it some more, I’ll pick up some old cartridges through eBay or whatever. No internet required, and uses three-cable composite video.
For Andrea and I, I think after we moved in together, I picked up a WII. Andrea won the exercise board that went with it, but we already had it, so I think we gave one away. We played from time to time, enjoyed the bowling games, a bit of WII fit, but we weren’t actively using it. However, I think it got left on a little too long once, and I’m not sure it even still works. I’ve connected it, and while it would take an internet connection, none of the websites that it would have connected too still exist. So I’ll settle for the three-cable composite video connection.
I also don’t really remember much about getting the XBox 360. When I bought it, the new XBox was out, but Jacob wasn’t going to be pushing the limit for games anytime soon. We wanted options with more family-friendly choices, Jacob liked it and we played a ton of Disney Infinity, greatly enjoying the ability to play 2-player cooperative on a lot of the games. It will take the internet connection, although I’m not sure much will connect for it anymore, and it does have an HDMI connection for the TV.
So again, for subtotals, that means 4 devices, 1 with internet, 3 with three-cable composite video, and 1 with HDMI.
If you’ve been reading about all the connections I need, you might have noticed something. That’s a LOT of connections and most TVs don’t in fact have that many connections available. Particularly slightly older ones, which my downstairs TV is.
What do I actually have? Well, let’s see.
A right/left audio feed. Umm, that won’t get me too far for video. Plus it’s AUDIO OUT, not in. I can run it to my stereo for cheap-ass audio downstairs, but well, I haven’t committed to that yet. I might run my stereo, but perhaps not. Still up in the air on that one.
S-Video? Oh, riiiiight, that looked like an old round keyboard plug for your keyboard. Yeah, I’m not using that for anything.
Full component video? It’s like composite three-cable, but instead it has five. One of the video game consoles used to have both options as I recall, but danged if I remember which, and all of them are set for three-cable at the moment. Maybe one of my boxes has something else but I ain’t going to look too hard.
A PC-in? Great! Oh, wait, it’s a 15-pin VGA connector. Ummm, yeah, I don’t think so.
DVI in but with just audio? Not sure what that’s about. There’s no DVI pin connector for video.
I have something called Service 1 and 2, and an ethernet connection I won’t be using. Sigh.
A connection for an antenna? Hey, I had one for free cable-over-air, but that is gone too. Oh and one for cable in? Yeah, no.
What does that actually leave me? It leaves me 1 set of three-cable video IN plus two HDMI connections.
Let’s see if I can do the math. I have 3 devices needing three-cable video IN, and only have 1. I have devices requiring at least 5 HDMI connections, and I only have room for 2.
But wait, there’s more. I forgot the side inputs — another S-video (yay?) and another three-cable video cable. So now I have 2 three-cable video setting connections but need 3 — unless the Wii no longer works, and still 5 HDMI with only 2 available.
That definitely seems like a choke point. Luckily there are solutions for this.
Back when I was a young’un, they made very basic toggle switches to let you switch from video game to cable. Don’t tell anyone, but I still had 4 of those little things in my purged TV stuff.
Then they invented more complex devices, basically video hubs with switches. Why? Because most TVs only had ONE connector. You connected all your different video inputs into the hub, and then you could press button A, or button B, or button C to switch the inputs from console 1 to 2 to 3 (or to your VCR, DVD, etc.). Easy peasy, right? Well, not so fast. You had to make sure the cables all ran properly where they needed to go, you needed an extra set on top of all the console connections to run one set to the TV, you needed to be able to switch the TV to VIDEO GAME IN options, and turn the game on so a signal was actually going through the hub to the TV. Still easy, but well, the quality at the final production point — the TV — was not always awesome. There’s a bit of signal degradation. On 8-bit consoles, no big deal. On medium-res graphics running from a decent game console? Maybe a smidge of an issue.
For HDMI, that’s generally “easier” in some ways. They make newer hubs that allow often up to 8 different inputs along with a REMOTE control that lets you switch between 1-8 inputs simply by pressing the button. Hopefully, you have a small index card somewhere near where you’re sitting for you to know that the PC is input #7 and that it’s on. And god help you when there’s a problem and you can’t figure out if the source isn’t sending, the cable in between the source and the hub is wrong, the cable in between the hub and the TV is wrong, or the TV is on the wrong input. Or something else altogether. Sigh. I remember why I didn’t want to spend time on this.
Now, I’ve got the wires. Almost all the boxes are where they are supposed to be. I have more cables to test if something isn’t working. I have a game plan for testing things to ensure they work. Incrementally at least.
I think I know where the HDMI hub is, and I think I have JUST enough feed to get it where it needs to go.
Hmm…I have to also figure out at some point what I did with the new APPLE TV box.
Onward brave soldiers! We can defeat this complex, wired entity! Or electrocute ourselves in the process.