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What is a CRT TV?

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In the early days of TV, cathode-ray tube (CRT) TVs, also called picture tubes, were the most common TV sets. However, in recent years, other technologies have become more popular, including plasma, LCD/LED, and OLED TVs, which make the best TVs at the moment. Because of this loss in popularity, many consumers spanning various ages may wonder what is a CRT TV.

A cathode-ray tube is a glass tube that contains three electron guns located around the neck of the screen. These electron guns fire electrons at phosphors on the inside walls of the CRT, producing images in a similar way to retro games. This kind of TV has become less popular due to its bulky size and heavy weight, as well as the fact that it has been overtaken in terms of quality by newer technologies.

Keep reading to learn more about CRT TVs. 


  • CRT TV stands for cathode-ray tube television, which refers to the method used to create the image.
  • Cathode-ray tube TVs weighed more than modern TVs, and they were more expensive and bulky.
  • Cathode-ray tube TVs should be reused or recycled and cannot be put on the curb in the trash.

The Technology Behind CRT TVs

CRT TV sets used a specialized vacuum-sealed tube through which electron beams striking a phosphorescent surface produced images. Electricity initially heated a tungsten coil, which in turn heated a cathode. When the cathode was heated, it emitted electrons modulated and focused by electrodes.

Each TV contained one or more electron guns whose beams were manipulated to display images on the phosphorescent screen. Electrons steered these beams using deflection coils or plates, while anodes accelerated them toward the screen. A phosphorescent screen then generates light as the electrons hit it. The intensity of each of these three electron beams, each one in red, green, and blue (RGB) in turn, was controlled to produce the image on the screen, using the video signal as a reference. Modern CRT TVs contained beams that were bent by magnetic deflection using a deflection yoke.

How Is the Image Made?

The images on the screen of a CRT device can represent electrical waveforms, pictures, radar targets, shows, movies, or other phenomena. The entire front area of the tube is repeatedly and systematically scanned in a fixed pattern called a raster pattern. The CRT was only the glass video display component of the TV. However, most of the weight of a CRT comes from the thick glass screen, which comprises 65% of the total weight of a CRT.

The CRT was also the first display device to utilize a vacuum tube, which took up almost 25% of its total weight. This breakthrough meant that television images could be created with greater accuracy and clarity, thus ushering in a new era of display technology. This display technology allowed for the development of modern games and other applications that are now commonplace.

Disadvantages of CRT TVs

CRT TVs lost popularity with the introduction of liquid crystal display (LCD,) plasma, and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs. Each of these options provides cheaper and lighter TV sets and is less bulky. Additionally, the largest size of CRT TV was about 40 or 45 inches, a size that is now considered small. Digital TVs, on the other hand, are smaller than the average CRT TVs. You can always confirm what a digital tv is and if you own one. Additionally, CRT TVs used a lot more power than current TV offerings. You can learn more about this with our article on the power consumption of LED TV vs CRT.

Why Are Gamers Interested in CRT TVs?

Some “retro gamers” have started investing in CRT TVs because they want to experience older games as they were initially intended. Some technology that uses older enhancement methods, such as active shutter 3D systems, work best on the machines for which. they were designed. 

Taking the time to dispose of these screens responsibly ensures that each component is recycled or disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way. This can help retro gaming enthusiasts keep their retro collections running for many years to come. 

Although these systems are still in use, the versions designed to work with older games may use older technology. For example, you would use the recommended glasses when viewing 3D movies that required red and cyan 3D glasses.

However, in modern displays, plasma displays, and game consoles, the technology has been modernized to the point that CRT became obsolete. Additionally, modern displays often come with advanced features to enhance the gaming experience, such as higher refresh rates and higher resolutions.

How Should You Recycle Your CRT TV?

Cathode-ray tube TVs contain lead in the funnel glass. Because of this lead, they are considered hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA.) The responsible way to manage CRTS is to repair and reuse them. Although these methods are preferred, consumers may also recycle CRTs with proper electronics recyclers. Many cities and towns have pick-up or drop-off options for electronics. Usually, this occurs on a specific day or days. You can find this information and companies equipped to recycle these electronics on your town or county’s website. Otherwise, many states have a list of these companies on their government website. Make sure the program you choose is E-Steward certified if you don’t go through a local municipality.

If you want to upgrade to a more modern TV, you may want to review what a 4K ultra TV is. Alternatively, you can check out the top dumb TVs if you aren’t concerned with the latest and greatest technologies.

Insider Tip

Make sure the program you choose is E-Steward certified if you don’t go through a local municipality.


How do I dispose of a tube TV?

CRT TVs can be reused, repaired, or recycled. If you recycle your TV, check for electronics pick-up or drop-off with your town, county, or state. Additionally, E-Steward certified programs are capable of handling CRT TVs, which are considered hazardous waste.

How can I replace my old TV?

To replace your old TV, find a program to recycle it. Then, you can purchase a new TV to replace the old one.

Are There Any Advantages to CRTs?

CRT TVs offer decent picture quality that can be used in a variety of lighting and at greater viewing angles. However, since many manufacturers no longer make CRT TVs, the models available will be relatively old and may require repair.

STAT: Most of the weight of a CRT comes from the thick glass screen, which comprises 65% of the total weight of a CRT. (source)

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