Philco Predicta Casemod

The Philco Predicta television set, built from 1958-1960, has always been a glorious piece of modern design, but even the contemporary reproductions weren't sufficiently functional to be much more than a fetish object in an already-crowded apartment. As luck would have it, we recently got the opportunity to transform one into a fully-functional experimental computer console. Dragged kicking and screaming into the silicon era, this thing has become a truly functional piece of equipment (ok, and it's still a fetish object, too). The casemod has been performed with the intention of preserving as much as possible of the aesthetic of the original, while still creating an object that could serve as a day-to-day computer. The unit was built for a client, to eventually house an experimental computer they're building, but many of the shots on this page show our testing with a computer we just had sitting around, a 2.8GHz P4 533Mhz FSB SiS 651 Chipset motherboard with 1GB of DDR RAM running Windows 2000. We delivered the completed machine in late July 2004. For other projects we've done here at Onomy Labs, look here.

The Predicta has two pairs of sweet color-matched input devices, one set wireless, the other a compact wired set. The USB game controller is also color-coordinated.

The UXGA display has lasercut masking to vaguely echo the oval shape of the original display. The internal speaker is used for audio, and the volume knob works! It sounds pretty good.
This particular model of Predicta, appropriately named the "Pedestal" (Model 4654), was well-suited to being altered in this fashion. It had the larger screen, and the pedestal offered numerous affordances for mounting components and running wires. The modification really boiled down to three things...detail, detail, and more detail. The experimental computer destined to occupy the processor role in days to come is quite small, and will probably be housed in the head unit itself (there's plenty of room in there, after the picture tube is removed). We're still musing about what to hook up to the other external knobs, but some things are just *begging* to be done (application and/or context switching with the channel selector, for instance).

USB flush-mounts on the panel where the antenna hook-ups were located. Spacious interior, shown off by lasercut cosmetic cover that mimics the original.

Looks fetching from any angle, and the display pivots horizontally. Although it looks like it should, the Predicta display never actually tilted in the other plane.

An early "prototype" model, to see how an LCD looked through the bezel. Note the tint, which required some color-correction. Plastic that's 45 years old also has a fair number of flaws....but it's all part of the charm.

Mounting the raw LCD screen in the right location was one of the more challenging aspects of the job. The old Predicta picture tube was a load-bearing member; once it was gone there was little to work from. T-slot extrusion saved the day, as it often does in our shop.

At any rate, we're fairly pleased with how the piece came out. It recently made its public debut at Sun Labs' Open House at the Computer History Museum in July 2004. The Predicta got a lot of attention. It was running an attract loop for a humerous hypothetical video game called "MBA Action 2004" that depicted a young executive working through various game levels, climbing the corporate ladder and striving to accumulate a healthy golden parachute. There are obviously a few things to be done yet...a 50s-era skin for the OS would be nice, with a layout manager that knows about the rounded corners, and I'm definitely going to put the associated Linksys box into a rabbit-ears antenna enclosure.

A shot from the "Q-bicle Bert" level of the MBA Action 2004 attract loop. Here the hero must vanquish various opponents who pop up in the cubicle farm in order to gain a bigger office and a better salary. Jesse Hernandez worked with us on the game concept and then did the character sketches and animation.

A shot from the "Boardroom Fu" level of the MBA Action 2004 attract loop. Here the hero must fight off various foes who interrupt his crucial Powerpoint presentation. His weaponry includes shooting staples, heavy contracts, and business-card ninja stars.

A shot from the "CEO Action Golf" level of the MBA Action 2004 attract loop. Here the hero dispatches his minions to rid the course of obstacles and distractions. It's a mind game...he's making deals, missing putts, and working on his retirement package.

Call us or email for a test drive.

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