Hacker gets 44-year-old computer to stream YouTube videos

Thorbjörn Jemander managed to render a Youtube video at 30 frames per second on a 1977 Commodore PET 600 computer.

Commodore’s line of PET personal computers debuted in December 1977 with limited graphics capabilities.

The computer screen consists of a monochromatic green display using cathode ray tube technology.

Without a “high resolution graphics” card, the PET’s graphics were limited to a character set hardwired into the device’s ROM.

Programmers could modify the search address of character graphics to point to RAM, which they could use to generate custom graphic shapes.

Jemander used custom hardware and software he called BlixTerm to achieve this.

The Jemander cartridge connects to the expansion port of the PET 600 uses a Raspberry Pi 2 to request a video from YouTube using the yt-dlp software library.

The Raspberry Pi then converts the images into ready-to-use character screens that the PET can display.

Jemander noted that he couldn’t get sound due to hardware limitations.

He also explained that not all videos work and the probability of success is higher when the video contains large moving objects.

Below is Jemander’s YouTube tutorial, where he provides a full technical explanation of the project.

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Shirley K. Rosa