Victorian Flatscreen: A Steampunk Adventure

Inspired by the Steampunk Workshop, I undertook the grand adventure of modding my flat monitor in the Victorian industrialist style. My rationale was not merely that steampunk is the cool meme du jour, but also because the monitor was a distinctly beige oddity in a vast wood-paneled family library full of gilt-edged books on Milton, Dante, Plato and other luminaries of earlier eras.

I did one of my graduate degrees in English, and another in philosophy — so although I do have a few shelves of computerese books, most of my rather extensive library is focused more on literary pursuits and Victorian-era poetry. This being the case, it only made sense to create a difference-engine type environment for the computing activities I undertake in such a rarified bookish-infused air. When all of your decorations could have been in any home from the 1700s up to the early 1900s (with the exception of electric lights instead of gas lamps), it only makes sense to ensure that your computer fits the same era. I guess I should get going on building a genuine gas lamp to illuminate my late night scholarly pursuits…

But let’s talk about the act of modding the monitor. Here were the steps I followed:

  1. Dissasembly: Take apart the entire monitor, starting with the base. Unscrew the case carefully, as the screen is quite fragile.
  2. Disguise: Spraypainted existing pieces of monitor black and bronze (a la Jake’s mod)
  3. Decoration: Took galvinized wood connectors from ye old hardware store — which look rather mechanical in derivation, even though they do not have the cogs and wheels one might prefer — and spraypainted them bronze. These have the added benefit of being highly durable. Here’s a representative sampling of similar pieces
  4. Device: Fit (now “brassified”) machine-like casings together with nice tight brass screws to create an alternative case It’s actually hard to find good brass screws, sohere’s a listing for good brass pieces
  5. More Dissasembly: Sawed apart old case, so that new brass case piecings can fit over the top, and allow access to the monitor contorls
  6. Test: It goes without saying that one must constantly test fit and check the fittings of the various pieces. The testing phase is usually the most difficult for me… thus, I post it here as a caution to others who may follow.
  7. Connect: Screw new brass case to the outside of the old case, throwing away pieces no longer necessary. (Admittedly, I also used one of those new-fangled glue guns to help me connect all the pieces I wanted connected)
  8. Base: Mod the base by covering with screen that has been spraypainted bronze, and so that the “new” black base shows through the screen
  9. Details: The (beige) controls now being visible, I also created a bronze screen over the top of them to conceal. Worked well.
  10. Re-AssemblyCarefully screwed together the old pieces of the case and the new brass case. Carefully put the screen back in the now-modified case, attaching withbrass screws, of course. Connected the power, turned on the monitor and voila!

Nota Bene: I had a wonderful old vacuum-tube Zenith wireless (radio) that I had recently disassembled, and I had hoped to use the vacuum tubes and many of the other components on the base. However, after I fit the newly brass ‘n black monitor together, I found that they seemed an unnecessary adornment. In short, I didn’t need them… unless I could actually get the vacuum tubes wired, so that they’d light up, on command. Functional vacuum tubes (or hell, tesla coils!) would be really damn cool.

I’ll post a few more photos of my in-process workshop routine and the final outcome of the project, but for now, here’s the final output. Of course, I’m working on aalternative Seattle steam-punk novel, and now I have the work environment to inspire me on a day-to-day basis. As I start to finish up chapters, I’ll post my steampunk meanderings over in my writings section.

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