The TiVo LCD Project

Flash of the past alert! It was way back in 2003 that I did a small modding project involving my favourite gadget of all time the TiVo and a small character LCD and created a mini How-To for it. I thought I lost the article forever when I accidentally deleted the web pages in one of my (many) server moves. Not so! A certain BobBlueUK knew his way around The Wayback Machine (unlike me) and digged up the original archived copy!

So in all its glory, here it is again :D

Ever wanted to find out what the TiVo is doing? Look no further :) On this page I will describe a way for you to display the program information on a small LCD display. It is only to be taken as a proof of concept, I’ll leave the actual mounting and cosmetics up to someone else.


  1. A warranty voided TiVo
  2. A serial LCD. Mine is a 2×20 LCD pre-fitted with a BPK driver board from Milford Instruments, part number 6-121 @ £30.00
  3. A bit of cable with 3 wires (like cat5)
  4. A 3.5mm stereo jack plug with plastic barrel and strain relief sleeve from Maplin Electronics, part number HF98G @ £0.79
  5. A Futaba Servo Connector from Maplin Electronics, part number GZ94C @ £1.49
  6. 2x 4-Pin 5.08mm (0.2in.) Spacing Polarised Power Connectors (one male, one female) from Maplin Electronics, part numbers JW64U and JW65V @ £0.79 each. These things are better known as molex connectors
  7. A patient SWMBO

TiVo LCD Project


The most tricky part of this project is opening up the TiVo, so best invite Stuart Booth over who can do it blindfolded using only his nose to guide him ;-) If he’s not available you will have no choice but to do it yourself, so get a Torx T10 screwdriver and remove the 3 screws at the back of the TiVo. THIS WILL VOID YOUR WARRANTY, but I guess you did that already when you installed the Turbonet card and added a nice big hard disk, right? ;-)

TiVo LCD ProjectWith the TiVo opened, you need to put the 2 molex connectors (item 6) to work by making up a splitter which is put in between the hard disk and the power supply. BE VERY CAREFUL AROUND THE POWER SUPPLY! That thing is lethal as it maintains the charge even after it has been switched off for several hours/days. Anyway, the thing you have to bear in mind is that you need to connect all wires on the molex connectors, and on to the +5V and GND (Ground) add two wires which you need to feed to the outside of the TiVo. I used the same space as where my cat5 cable is going out of the TiVo (the one connected to the Turbonet card), just underneath the fan.

Then it is soldering time… Take the 3.5mm stereo jack and connect a wire to the tip of the connector. That was soldering time :-)

TiVo LCD ProjectNow take all 3 wires (and make sure you have them appropriate coloured, like red for +5V, black for ground and any other colour for the TX (transmit), and connect them to the Servo connector, making sure that you do them in the same order as there are pins on the LCD. My LCD has 3 pins, labelled +5V, GND and Recv (receive), which makes it pretty obvious which wire goes where. Your mileage may vary of course.

Time to test it methinks :-) Close the TiVo and hook it up in your AV setup and power it up again. The LCD display should now be powered, and depending on what model/type you are using it might display something (like garbage or a version number) or in my case, a blank screen with just the backlight on.

Pat yourself on the back, the hard work has been done. Now it is back to the good old computer and open up a telnet and ftp session to the TiVo as you need to install a small .tcl script written by a TiVo community user called Demark. He posted it to this thread and all I had to do was modify it slightly to output the lines correctly. You can find my copy here.

TiVo LCD Project

Install the .tcl file in /var/hack and run it with the ‘&’ to detach it from your shell, otherwise you will reboot your TiVo when you try to interrupt it. To stop the script you simply do a ‘touch /tmp/vfd.stop’ and within a minute the script will stop. Make sure you remove the /tmp/vfd.stop file before you start it again though.

It is quite possible that I’ve skimmed over something which I think is trivial to do, but proves a real nightmare for you, so if you got any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Good luck modding!