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Elmo Archaeology: A Brand New 40 Year Old Projector (Part One: First Contact!)

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  • Elmo Archaeology: A Brand New 40 Year Old Projector (Part One: First Contact!)

    Have you ever gotten called out on your own bluff?

    It’s that moment when you’ve made some grand pronouncement, either to yourself, or more foolishly among your friends, that deep down you just know will never happen. “Yeah, well if he tried that on me, he’d quickly regret it!” or “If they ever break up, I’d ask her out in a heartbeat!”. Makes you seem in control of your destiny: man with a plan (-or woman!).

    It’s just begging somebody to ask “-but didn’t you say that…?”.

    Mine wasn’t nearly so daring as either of those: I once said (to myself) “If I ever find a mint Elmo ST-800, I’ll do what it takes to buy it.”

    Now granted, I know this is not the Ferrari Testarossa of Super-8 projectors, but I’m pretty fond of them, basically because it may just be the Honda Civic of Super-8 projectors. It is simple, reliable, repairable if need be and of decent quality. Used within the limits it was meant for, it’s really good! At CineSea, the screen starts at the floor and stops at the ceiling. The machine for that is the GS Xenon and my ST on that job would be blurry and dark. At home, where the screen is less than five feet tall the ST does just fine: the GS Xenon would be a waste of potential.

    The sound on the ST is excellent through an amplifier, exactly as I run all my machines. I know there are only 5 watts through the speaker: I can scare the cats all I want with my external sound system, so I don’t care!

    I’ve had my first ST-800 17 years now. It was pretty feeble when I got it, but I worked with it. I installed a new set of guides 10 years ago and more recently a new motor, sound board and head. Much like my Honda Civic, when I need it, it reports for duty! Sure, it needs a little help here and there: like my ST-1200HD for 1200 foot reels and twin track audio, but most of the time it’s exactly what I need.

    It just seemed a decent, general purpose machine. If I travel somewhere and bring just one, this is what I choose. So I got this feeling: “Man!, If I could find one of these in new condition!”

    So, about three years ago, we were Upstate on vacation. On the way home we stopped in a favorite diner. I’m sitting in the booth, thumbing through the menu, and the GOF on my cell. There was this ad.: “Elmo ST-800M, Mint in Box”. My ship had come in! (-well, one of my ships!). The waitress came back to take our order: “-and what would you like, Sir?”. I almost said to her “MINT IN BOX!!!”.

    I had to do it! I had the Burger Deluxe and with trembling hands I replied to that ad!

    I bought a movie projector in a DINER! (How often does THAT happen?)

    The seller told me that a camera shop had recently closed and they were cleaning it out. The machine was in the back still in the box. As far as they could tell, someone had ordered it and never picked it up.

    Now there was some negotiation, of course. He said the machine looked like the day it was built and that meant more money. I said yes, but since the electrolytic capacitors hadn’t seen voltage since the Carter administration there was a decent chance they were no more capacitors than cans of soup, and I might have to take out every board in the thing and spend months replacing capacitors. So I paid more, but less more than the original more.

    I asked the seller to bring the machine to Fed-Ex and have it professionally packed at my expense. Years ago, I bought another, almost as virginal ST-800 and the seller shipped it packed as if it was going to face a bunny stampede. On arrival, the frame was bent, and that day a parts machine was born.

    In the end that one worked out OK, but once is enough!

    The days past like weeks! I had to see this thing! Was it true? Was I getting a perfect machine fresh from the ancient factory? Was I being conned and about to get a box of rubble? Still, I had to go to work and cut the lawn and talk about everything else to those poor souls that just didn’t get this! (“Don’t you already HAVE a movie projector?”)

    Then came that day and a phone call: “Hello Mr. Klare, there’s a parcel here at Fed-Ex, we were at your house today, but nobody was home.”
    Out to the Civic! (I stopped for red lights and baby carriages and…stuff…)

    I got it home and exposed that Elmo carton: The only one I’ve ever seen in person!

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    (Well…at least the “in Box” part of “Mint in Box”, was true!)

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    Let’s unpack it!...OK, no Rubble! Let’s see what’s in there.

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    I got a genuine Elmo ST-800 dust cover! (Why would anyone cover dust?)

    -what else?

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    Is there any earthly thing more inherently perfect than the Elmo 800 foot reel? It is a work of art: sculpture actually! Every last one I’ve ever seen is as straight as an arrow. It is even musical: you whack an empty one like a tambourine and you get this very satisfying “whannnnngggg” out of it! It’s so good that the Gepe 800 footer is different from the Gepe 200, 300, 400 and 600 footers. The 800 Footer is an Elmo clone!
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    Now what on earth is this?!

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    -Oh! (Always wanted one of these.)

    Now this is a neat thing! I could plug it into the machine, turn the amp up, open the windows and yell at the neighborhood! Until the cops showed up it would be great fun!

    “-and the NEXT time I catch your DOG in my yard....!”

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    I got original equipment Elmo miscellany: a gate brush, a headphone, a DIN to ¼” speaker adapter and the notorious Elmo ST-800 power cord. Never lose one of these! While many projectors of different brands and years use the IEC-401 standard power cord that anyone who has ever owned computers automatically has 75 of them, the ST-800 has this one, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. There is a website: something like “Online Museum of Power Cords” which describes this as “Japanese Calculator”. This is the only reference I’ve ever found to it.

    There was no manual. Any piece of technological equipment that has sat unguarded for more than 5 minutes since the Fall of Rome has never still had its manual!

    Did I forget anything?

    OH! -the Projector!

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    The machine was beautiful: pristine! There were a couple of flakes of emulsion dust around the gate, probably from a test film long ago at the factory. Everything else was spotless. I know the wear spots on these: they were all as their designers imagined them while sitting at their drafting tables.

    There are some folk that might say this relic belongs in a museum of audio-visual history somewhere, on a velvet-draped stand with a couple of pristine Blackhawk boxes under soft light behind glass: an homage to long ago when people showed movies on film in their homes. They are entitled to their opinion, but in this case I disagree. This is a machine with a destiny: to entertain people. It’s like a trumpet or paintbrush or a set of pots and pans: it’s meant to do wonderful things, bring people some happiness. I hoped from the start to make this come true.

    Now, in an ideal world I would tell you that I plugged it in, and it shone forth in glory right away. If I told you that, it of course would be a lie! It’s still a 40 year-old machine and it’s far from an ideal world! (Can’t you tell?)

    I had a journey making this thing do what it was supposed to do. I learned a lot about what these machines were like out of the box along the way. Stay tuned and we’ll go there.

    -I promise it won’t take three years this time!
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Steve Klare; April 13, 2020, 07:31 PM.

  • #2
    You could easily write books, Steve. You do have a talent to tell stories. I will certainly wait for the Part Two ! Congratulations for your new projector.
    Last edited by Dominique De Bast; April 14, 2020, 07:49 AM.


    • #3
      I certainly agree with Dominic. Can't wait for the next chapter!


      • #4
        Thanks, Guys!

        I sensed some kind of article in this pretty much from that moment at the Diner, and I snapped a lot of pictures along the way, but for some reason I have a lot more spare time now.
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        • #5
          Very nice, Steve! I fondly remember my ST-800 as a machine designed to do only a few things, but it did them consistently well.



          • #6

            If you want a paper copy of the instruction manual, click below to a British company I have used for years and can thoroughly recommend:-



            • #7
              Thanks, Maurice!

              I have a reproduction manual and a pretty ratty original one somewhere, too.

              Between my two runners and various wrecks I plunder for parts, I've owned something like five of these machines.

              What's missing is a service manual and some schematic diagrams. I've been looking for these since 2003 and haven't had even a nibble. I could actually fix boards if I knew the components on them and how they are connected, As things stand, most of the time I can only replace them.
              Last edited by Steve Klare; April 14, 2020, 11:14 AM.


              • #8
                Here is a bit of advertising I found last night

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                • #9
                  Part two of Steve's Elmo Archaeology can be found here.