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Unused electronics are the bane of the modern life. Perfectly functional gadgets sit quietly in a corner of the store room, doing nothing. Old LCD monitors are a perfect example of that. Whether you bought a new one or switched to a laptop, what do you do with it now? Turns out, a lot.
Computer monitors are quite versatile, if you know how to use them right. For example, you can boost your productivity with a dual-monitor setup. But if that’s not your style, there are plenty of other options.
From making it into a super-tiny computer or dashboard to turning it into a mirror, here are three of the coolest ways to repurpose a monitor.
Turn It Into a Dashboard or $50 PC
The Raspberry Pi is an incredible device. The more you find out about the Pi, the more you think it can do anything. But at its core, don’t forget that the Pi is a tiny, low-cost, full-fledged computer. And that means your old monitor can be turned into a PC for less than $50.
Attach your old monitor to a Pi and it can be put in your kitchen as a recipe and video source. Make a Pi-based retro video game console as a treat for your kid (or the kid in you).
Perhaps the best implementation of marrying a Raspberry Pi and an old monitor is the PiClock. When one developer had free time on a Saturday afternoon, he built the wonderful gadget you see above. And like any good developer with a Pi, he made the whole thing open-source, so anyone can build their own.
The PiClock displays the time through a simple clock, the weather forecast in your area, and also a radar map. Because who doesn’t need to check a radar map at all times?
There’s a step-by-step guide for everything you need, but it’s really nothing more than the monitor, the Pi, and the power supply. A keyboard and mouse will be needed for setup, as well as an active Wi-Fi connection, but then you’re done.
When you’re using an old LCD, it might not have an HDMI port. But don’t worry, there are easy ways to connect the Pi to any monitor.
Hack It Into a “Your-Eyes-Only” Monitor
Sometimes, you’re working on something private in an open office, or browsing certain *cough* sites *cough* at home. You can’t have your colleagues or kids see what’s on the screen. To keep snooping eyes at bay, make a “your-eyes-only” monitor from an old one.
To anyone else, it is going to look like a blank white monitor with nothing on it. But wearing a special pair of spectacles, you’ll be able to see things on it like a regular monitor. It’s magic! Here’s what it looks like and the process:
Basically, you will be cutting out the polarizing film of the monitor. This film will then be put on a simple pair of glasses. Now your screen appears white, but the glasses can “see” the content. It’s one of the best ways to keep prying eyes out of your PC.
The reason you should use an old monitor is that things can go wrong. You will be disassembling and then reassembling the monitor, along with cutting out the anti-glare and polarizing films. You’ll also need to separate the polarizing film from the anti-glare one. It’s a tough process, but dimovi’s guide at Instructables is thorough and precise. Just remember, while others can’t see what’s on your screen, they can still see where your hands are.
Turn It Into a Mirror (or a Smart Mirror)
If you have a broken old LCD monitor, it can be re-purposed into a usable mirror; but if you have a working old LCD monitor, adding a Raspberry Pi can turn it into a smart magic mirror!
The simpler of the two is the plain mirror. Instructables user MrAdventure put together a simple guide for it. Just get a screwdriver and open up your monitor. Strip out all the parts, you just need the screen. As he puts it poetically:
The LCD has several layers. Find the shiny part and make it point outwards, the better to see your beautiful face with! Now screw it back together in a few places so the frame holds all the guts in.
You can then put the screen back into the monitor case if you want a desk mirror. Otherwise, just hang this thing on a wall.
If you’ve got a little more time and are up for a more intense DIY project, then try the MirrorMirror smart mirror project. Blogger Dylan Pierce documented every step of his project to make a gorgeous smart mirror with a wooden frame.
You’ll need some additional material for this one, including a Raspberry Pi, a double-sided mirror, 2×4 wooden bars, cables and woodworking tools. If you do it right, you’ll end up with a beautiful smart mirror like the one above. Girlfriend not included, nerds.
A Few Other Ways to Repurpose
If none of these are up your alley or fit your requirements, then there are other things you can do, weirdo. Here, have a gander:
- Turn that monitor into a TV: It’s an obvious one, but heck, why not? Here’s a simple Instructable to do it.
- Your CRT monitor is meant for art or decoration: If you still have an old CRT monitor around, then here you go grandpa, Buzzfeed has a few thoughts.
- Make it a dedicated screen for Nintendo Wii: The Nintendo Wii can connect to a VGA monitor, so if you don’t have a Wii, buy one. In fact, buy a used one, they’re pretty cheap on Craigslist.
Got Any Other Ideas?
Naturally, there will be other things you can do with an old computer monitor that we haven’t thought of here. If you’ve got ideas, we’ve got ears. Let’s talk in the comments.
And for more on this, have a look at the differences between LCD and LED.
This article was originally written by Tim Lenahan and published on July 27th, 2010.