Saturday, November 7, 2015

Vectrex CRT Replacement

NOTE: Handling a CRT of any size is a potentially dangerous proposition. Not only are CRTs driven by very high voltages and capable of storing a high voltage charge for long periods of time (even after being turned-off and/or disconnected), but they are also glass tubes containing a powerful vacuum and therefore pose the risk of serious injury associated with implosion. Any attempt to replicate the actions described below is done completely at your own riskTHIS MEANS YOU!

Twenty years or so ago I was fairly deep into arcade collecting, including the "elite" world of collecting vector arcade games. Vector games are a breed apart, using a display technology that is in many ways more closely related to oscilloscopes than to televisions. When I first started arcade collecting, I had never heard of the Vectrex. But it wasn't long before I heard talk from the other vector arcade collectors regarding the Vectrex. Soon I was not only aware of the Vectrex but I was desperate to have one...

In the days before eBay, it was often very difficult (or just extremely lucky) to find any sort of rare item. This was even more true for an item with any age on it. While this was a long time ago, the Vectrex still was more than a dozen years old! Plus, those that I knew who had a Vectrex just weren't interested in parting with it. Finally I came across someone who had two non-working Vectrex machines, which I acquired in hopes of making at least one working machine.

Some of my friends may have seen that back in December of 2013 (after a long hiatus) I succeeded at that goal by swapping the logic boards between the two broken Vectrex machines. Around that time, I also determined that the CRT in the (still) non-working machine had a broken neck. The resulting lack of vacuum in the CRT rendered it completely useless. I had done some research into possible donor CRTs that might be available, but I mostly put the project aside until one day not too long ago I stumbled upon an interesting video on YouTube...


I had long ago heard that no one was making CRTs any longer, and it had not occurred to me to search for a NOS supplier. In my excitement, I ordered a tube and waited for it to arrive. In less than a week I was in possession of a brand new (or at least NOS) CRT that was a perfect match for my Vectrex. Or was it?

Original CRT w/ Mounting Ears

Replacement CRT -- No Ears!

(Not) All Ears

A closer look at the video might have prevented my dilemma. You see, the original CRT is constructed in such a way that the steel band around the edge (which is supposed to limit the possible effects of an implosion) holds in place four mounting lugs for securing the CRT in place. The new CRT has the anti-implosion band but it lacks the mounting lugs. In retrospect, had I realized that this would be the situation then I might not have ordered the replacement CRT at all. In this case, I am glad my excitement was enough to put me in this predicament. :-)

Strap Up!

Inspriation struck when I thought of the strapping material that plumber's use for hanging pipes and a number of other utilitarian purposes. Although I considered using the traditional metal variety, the modern plastic version seemed like it would be easier to fit to the purpose. Plus, I thought that it might be a bit less likely to present an electric shock hazard to anyone that might be poking around inside the Vectrex (e.g. me)...

The Vectrex in question still has the logic board problems that led me to the original logic board swap. So, in order to test the CRT replacement I connected a working logic board to the newly serviced monitor section of the Vectrex in question and I was able to play a rousing game of Minestorm. Overall, the machine is still in the non-working category, but at least the vector monitor is saved!

So, the point is that if you have a Vectrex and the CRT is busted or just worn-out, there is no need to despair. At least for now there are still workable NOS replacements that can save the day. With that said, do make sure that you handle the CRT and other high voltage electronics properly. Otherwise, the dead Vectrex will be the least of your family's worries!


  1. Where did you end up finding a NOS tube? I don't need one, but would like to have a replacement if they are sourcable. I assume it's not specifically a Samsung CRT as I was unable to find one online.

  2. Hello my friend, is it possible to have the contact to get the same CRT ? thank you

    1. I found this screen and it does work, but the output on these is a bit dimmer. It requires a bit more B+ voltage.

      So, if you're desperate you can get this CRT, but it's not a perfect drop-in replacement.