The "Gramaphone-ITX-HD"
By Tony Greenberg, New York, USA
Posted on September 17, 2004
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I'd had enough waiting. I was a fiend and I just couldn't take it anymore. I knew I had these 2 addictions but I didn't care. I wanted the ultimate fix and I wanted to combine them both at the same time. That's right... Time shifting and HDTV! I knew it could be done. I had heard that Tivo, The Poster Boy for all things PVR had created one of these intoxicating machines and was actually selling it legally. (Although I'm sure it is soon to be illegal since anything this good is usually banned by the powers that be). Problem was I'm not a satellite subscriber (I live in an apt in Manhattan) and I didn't want to spend $1000 either. So what were my other options? After doing some research, I found that aside from a few very high priced media servers/souped up pc's the only way to capture HDTV and play it back on my TV would be to buy a new video card. However that wasn't enough. I needed an entire system that was based on recording high def as the sole function of the PC. I needed it quite and I needed it sleek so I set out to construct my own device from scratch.

Thus the Gramophone-ITX-HD was born.


Here are the Mini-ITX components all assembled. I was originally going to use a PCI-riser card to place the HDTV tuner sideways, but the card ended up clearing the case by 2 centimeters.

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The story goes like this. I was on a mission to collect the right parts for my ultimate drug delivery system. I was a Modern Day Link searching the 4 corners of the Hyrule internet for the HD-PVR Triforce. I set out along my journey and had met many people along the way. I learned that I was not alone. I found that there was a name for people like me. And soon I learned their language. We were called HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer) enthusiasts. There are other epithets bandied about as well although HTPC enthusiasts seemed to fit the bill. I had enlisted the advice of other junkies who had found themselves on the same journey. I had listened to their advice and avoided many pitfalls. After speaking to these sages and wise men, I learned and realized a couple of things...

  1. I was only going to be able to record OTA HD material.
  2. My best bet was to use a video card with an onboard MPEG-2 decoder. Thus taking the burden off the onboard processor.
  3. I wanted to use the Mini-ITX form factor. These Motherboards are perfect for this type of system. They are sleek and powerful yet small and quiet. Plus there are power supplies that fit right onto this board saving me precious space.
  4. I wanted to be able to record material onto a DVD.
  5. And Most Importantly... I needed it to pass the ultimate and most crucial test of all...THE WAF.

That's right... the Wife Acceptance Factor, for without this my project would have been doomed from the beginning. After I had collected these parts and had assembled them I needed to protect them. I had finally found the best parts to suit my needs, but it beckoned some shiny sheath to shield them. There were many fine suitors that had come my way. There are many shiny metal cases and high end receiver clones befitting an HTPC out there. But they would have added to the cost. $170 on the average. They all seemed fine but they lacked something.. Class. I wanted to build the classiest system in all of HTPC Land. I was looking around the room to perhaps draw inspiration from my decor when it hit me. My case was already there! There on top of my stereo rack, was my Gramophone beckoning to be restored and upgraded. Accustomed to sitting in First Class during its heyday, it now sat idly as a novelty item on top of my High end stereo equipment.

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Now I know what you're saying: No Tony, don't do it. Don't destroy a beautiful working antique gramophone. Besides, “Why, and better yet how, would you fit a 250 Gig hard drive, HDTV video card (MDP-120), DVD-recordable disk drive (Panasonic UJ-825) as well as the Epia MII 10000 motherboard and a power supply and all the cables, case fans etc...into your beautiful Gramophone machine? I'll tell you how. You see...when you are an addict, you tend to cohort with some...shall we say... unscrupulous individuals. It was in some of the darkest corners of my searching that I happened upon the group of individuals known as The Modders. You know who you are. Cutting, drilling, salvaging, jamming and rearranging all in the pursuit of creating from something that used to be, into something far more unique and purposeful. One of these individuals had sent me on a quest. A quest to find the great and holy Dremel. Ahh behold the mighty Dremel, A device known as much for its power as it is for its speed.
With Dremel in hand, I set out to turn my antique Gramophone into my brand new HD-PVR Mini-ITX HTPC. The results are as follows:

Here we see the inside of the gramophone, which contains the primitive crank and gears to turn the record. You can see the dimensions based on the record. No electric motors here.

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Then I took out the guts...

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Lining up the back plate and routing the hole. My technique with the dremel needs a little work... OK a lot of work