What Is EMN?

The Erin & Mandy Network, a catch-all term for so many projects and experiments Mandy and I work on together, may have a lot of uses – but the primary definition will always refer to the TV network we built inside our house.

Near the start of the 2020 pandemic, just before lockdown, I saw a video by Probnot’s Tech on YouTube. In this video, he had taken a device called a ChannelPlus 3025 and connected it to a Raspberry Pi in such a way that allowed him to plug his CRT TVs into the wall and gain access to whatever was playing on that Pi. He combined it with a USB drive that contained all his favorite episodes of the Simpsons, and had a special TV channel just for his own use.

I loved that idea. I had been toying around with a CRT and VCR that I originally got just so our guests would be able to watch stuff in the guest room when they visit (but of course the pandemic meant we wouldn’t have guests for a long while) and I wanted to go further beyond. Deeper. Past the bounds of common sense! I wanted to create a multimedia experience that would be unmatched and unparalleled!

Okay, to be honest, I originally just wanted to be able to turn the TV on and see stuff that made me smile. And I wanted to cultivate a specific atmosphere while doing it.

Over a year later, I indeed went further beyond and created the monstrosity of pieces, parts, and wires now known as EMN. For a small timeline breaking down the earliest days, check out this post. The first channel has changed very little outside of having items added to it – it has a single aesthetic and emotional goal of making us smile, of always having something on that we can pay as much or as little attention to as we want, a way to both remember the old and ring in the new, and everything that is added is based on whether it sparks joy and is carefully vetted to create a specific atmosphere when watching. Sometimes that atmosphere is joy, confusion, intrigue, or comfort.

EMN2 came months later when I switched from using a basic RF modulator to the aforementioned ChannelPlus. Using a very large hard drive and some finagling, we were able to basically set up 12 channels in one, switching to each channel lineup on a month-to-month basis. We were able to curate each month’s lineup to fit the mood of the time of year with some added flexibility, and based each lineup on a specific theme and emotion and idea we wanted to cultivate.

Our third channel, Marathons, came about by accident. By taking the old RF modulator I had and connecting it to the ChannelPlus I was able to output a third source. Mandy and I talked it out, and we decided to set up a channel for single types of content with no ads. Our first ideas involved videogame longplays and One Piece, but since each marathon lineup is stored in a separate USB drive we’ve been able to expand it as much as we want, with Dragonball and Grindhouse being two stand-out winners.

Next, there’s EMN Vibes, a channel that came about because we wanted something like Slow TV, a background noise channel to sink into or put on while having a conversation with others. It evolved further to incorporate elements of a YouTube channel Mandy used to love that would splice videogame longplays with music from other sources. It functions with a Pi plugged into the video port and an iPod in the audio port, leading to dreamlike sequences where peaceful game music and remixes we’ve curated play over strange videos, old anime, and longplays from the N64 and before. Sometimes the music can be funny, too, and it’s overall a very odd and experimental and unpredictable music channel.

Finally, EMN Pro, our channel for all kinds of professional wrestling. Pro Wrestling will always mean the world to Mandy and I, with it being how we met in the first place and with it being why we ended up moving in together. It’s a wonderful, exciting channel full of wrestling’s greatest and not-so-greatest moments, and it adds a “live” unpredictable feeling to EMN and honestly brings the whole package together. It’s an artform unlike any other, and I’m so happy to have it be part of EMN.

Here’s my totally-scientific schematic of how the hardware of this whole mess is laid out!

All in all, I joke about EMN being a mess of wires and guts and my mad science project, and sometimes that is absolutely the case considering how many parts of it have come out of “Well, what if I added a corner logo? What if I could play ads at a fixed rate? What if I connected this to this and did THIS?”, but it’s more than just the sum of its parts. There’s an element of nostalgia to being able to turn on the television and find something fresh and new, yet familiar. More than just nostalgia, though, the curation process allows me to understand how to cultivate atmosphere, and in the end it’s been a wonderful distraction from the horrors of the world that has helped broaden my mind and my skillset and create something wholly unique to us.

I well and truly hope that when you see it for yourself, you can feel these emotions as well. Now continue on for some extra information regarding each channel.