Get Plugged In: Connecting your Computer to a Television

Okay…. So without a doubt one of the number 1 questions in any training is "How do I connect my computer to my television?"  Hats off to Hall Davidson for the explanation listed below.

The best way to go from computer to TV is with a scan converter. There are heavy explanations in "Digital Nuts and Bolts" handout on the website

The cheapest way is to go the drawer where you put the cables from the box when you bought the computer, take out the octopus-looking one with a skinny silver end on one side (a triple mini plug) and three fatter white, red, and black ones (RCA males) on the other. Plug the skinny end into the computer by the hole with the picture of a TV on it. Plug the other three ends into your TV (if you’re lucky enough to have a TV called a "monitor", which means it has the right holes in the back to do this. If not, plug them into your VCR (virtually all VCR’s have these holes). Hit "input" on your VCR to activate these holes (jacks) and see your computer. Make sure your TV is watching your VCR (insert a tape and hit play to check). To do this, you have to have a computer with a built-in device called a scan converter. Nearly all Macs have one. Many PC’s (called "multimedia") have one, too. Few people know when they have one (something like people who don’t know they have unitedstreaming!)

The next cheapest way is to buy a two-dollar RCA (male)-to-RCA (male) cable or six dollar SVHS cable and connect the computer and TV (or VCR). See above.

The last way is to buy a scan converter. They cost between $50 and $150. Get the cheapest one. You don’t really need the extras, but keep a receipt just in case. Then go from the monitor output on your computer (the many-holed jack in the back or on the side).

Last Gasp Cheap Trick: If you don’t have a monitor output on your computer (many one-piece Macs don’t), then point an old and broken camcorder at the computer screen and connect the camcorder to the TV or VCR (see above). A new camcorder will work, too. But there are an amazing number of camcorders in the closets of parents that no longer record (broken motor, jammed tapes, etc.) but that will work as cameras just fine. Send out a request, then put those "broken" camcorders to work. . Even if you do have monitor output on your computer but don’t want to shell out for a scan converter, try this technique.

Please post a comment and let us know how you are getting plugged in at your site.  Do you know any good deals on projectors, scan converters, etc? 


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  1. Craig Cuddihy said:

    Here in the Clark County School District, LV, we have purchased a number of WIRELESS Scan Converters. These units transmit audio and video wirelessly to the TV. Practically eliminating wiring issues. They also allow for a direct wire connection, and have a zoom feature if you ever need to display smaller text. An LCD projector is the best way to go, however these units are an excellent low cost substitution. The manufacturer’s website is:

  2. Michelle said:

    This is great! I have encountered many schools that have a scan converter to convert their monitors to their televisions. However, the biggest problem they are having is SOUND! What is the best solution for getting the sound to the television because some scan converters don’t have the audio input? We need help!

  3. Jeff Peach said:

    The easiest way to get sound from the computer to the TV is by using the headphone jack. You can get 25 foot cables with phono jacks from Radio Shack and an adapter that will go from 1/8th inch to the two phono jack connectors. Connect the 1/8 inch jack to the headphones on the computer the the other end of the red/white phono to either the VCR audio in or directly to the TV audio in. Hope this helps.

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