The short "history" of Pocket-TV
A chronology on the
development of pocket-size Televisions
From the sixties to the end of the nineties
| 1963: Space flight
May 1963, K.C. Kirkbridge dreams in the
magazine Mechanix Illustrated about small TVs, miniature tape recorders and even about
electronic computers in the size of a book. What drives all these reveries: the
technology of the future of course - space travel. The problem: very limited
cargo capacity. In order to be able to carry lots of stuff along, things have to
become smaller (and lighter). Therefore, RCA works on the development of the
pocket TV. Unfortunately all
details are strictly confidential. Or imaginary ...
| 1966: Flat
Prototypes and Micro-Visions
In its 1966 February
edition the magazine Popular Mechanics reports about the breakthrough
in flat screens: not only is it said to be in color, but also to be viewed from
both sides! We have to thank Intertel Corporation in Los Angeles for
these tubes. The Popular Mechanics editor Larry Steckler has really seen
them, so he describes two tubes, one in color the other in black & white, each
with a 6 inch diagonal. The color picture is created by mixing only two basic
colors: red-orange and blue-green. Soon the first portable TVs will be available
using this technology, at a price of between $150 and $200. The full article is
available already now
as pdf-file (1.2 MB).
In the year 1966, an obviously highly motivated engineer at
Motorola dares to tackle the pocket TV idea. A few pieces of information
come out: 1-1/8 inch screen diagonal, 29
transistors, operated by 4 batteries, energy consumption 1.5 Watt (about half of
it to heat the cathode ray tube). Sadly enough the engineer passes away before
he could even convince his employer of the market potential of his invention. A
nicely illustrated article (500 kB) from the
daily paper The Columbus Dispatch describes the background research and
possible uses of the apparatus, but unfortunately does not say when the tiny
Motorola will be available at last.
A inconspicuous ad
from an unknown source reports about the Sinclair
Microvision Pocket TV Receiver, the highlight of the Radio and TV
Exhibition 1966. The size of the rather sharp-edged prototype is 10 * 6.5 *
5 centimetres. The set will be available next year, the article says.
| 1970: National
Panasonic starts off
The National Panasonic TR-001 is the first "mini
television set" ready for mass production, the visible screen's diagonal is about
35 mm. It weighs (including rechargeable battery pack) around 890 grams. The
TR-001 is obviously not a success story, since Panasonic will only resume
producing portable miniature TVs around 10 years later. For the European market
the TR-001EU is launched, the few saved copies are considered as real
| 1977: Sir Clive
Sinclair's entry / View to the future
"In a few years pocket TVs will be as normal as
and pocket calculators". Without the inventor, entrepreneur and visionary Sir
Clive Sinclair we would probably never have had a European-manufactured
miniature TV. The first marketed product of his endeavors of many years is the
Sinclair MTV1, a rather expensive multiple standard TV with conventional
cathode-ray tube (made by AEG Telefunken) for the "premium market". Price: 200
Pounds or US$ 400. Listen to the inventor
talk about his masterpiece in person.
Is a conventional cathode-ray tube the right device for a pocket TV? At
the Internationale Funkausstellung 1977 in Berlin, Hitachi presents for
the first time the Liquid Crystal TV, a rather bulky lab model of a TV
with liquid crystal screen (source: Funkschau).
Travelvision is the name given by National/Panasonic for
its "mini TV" with a 1.5 inch (35 mm) screen diagonal. The beginning of this
production series is the TR-1000 with
conventional cathode-ray tube, followed by five additional models. This
Panasonic TR-1010 can be compared to the Sinclair MTV1 in terms of size and
screen diagonal, however it lacks a multistandard tuner. In 1984, the TR-1030
and the CT-101 (with a color CRT screen!)
close the era of the tradition of "cathode ray tube television sets" by
Panasonic. Later on, large quantities of LCD TVs will follow, all coming with a
so-called active matrix display.
| 1982: The first
Not only at Sinclair's in England, did engineers realize that
with a cathode-ray tube in its conventional form it would be difficult to build
a "pocket-size" TV set with an attractive screen diagonal – a flat tube is in
demand. A flat cathode-ray tube is not a tube with a flat glass surface like
modern computer screens but a cathode-ray tube in an special
flat version where the picture is displayed
on the inner side of the tube. In other words, the screen is parallel to the
electron gun. The Japanese electronics manufacturer SONY is
the first one to market a mass-produced product: the SONY Watchman FD-210.
However, the FD-210 is anything but compact: almost 20 cm high and about 9 cm
| 1983: Sinclair
puts his stakes on flat tubes / Casio comes out with LCD
Now, Sir Clive Sinclair also knows how to deal with flat
cathode-ray tube technology: the Sinclair FTV1 is finally to bring pocket
television into every home. But the ambitious project fails, the FTV1 (alias
TV-80) is a total flop. One of the reasons: as a power supply the FTV1 uses
a special lithium battery which, according to the manufacturer, will last for
about 15 hours of TV watching time. 3 batteries of this type cost about 10
Pounds Sterling in 1983 (about 20 Euro) in other words, a fortune !. Retail
price of the TV set is about 80 Pounds.
In June of the same year, the Japanese manufacturers herald the
end of the cathode-ray tube in pocket TVs. The CASIO TV-10 is
the first portable mass-produced TV with liquid crystal screen. The contrast
of the surprisingly large display (67 mm diagonal) is rather poor, but the base
for market and technology leadership in terms of LCD pocket TVs is set.
| 1984: EPSON
present the first color pocket TV
Only one year later, in August 1984, the long awaited pocket
color screen comes into existence. Dr. Shinji Morozumi is one of the first
pioneers in the research of active matrix liquid crystal displays. This is the
base for the EPSON ET-10 (alias SEIKO T102),
the first mass-produced pocket TV with a color display. The
information sheet of this gadget
discloses a lot of interesting details.
| 1985: Affordable
color from CASIO and CITIZEN
It is about time: in May 1985 the CASIO TV-1000 is launched in Japan,
the first pocket TV with a Color-LCD
from CASIO. It is only equipped with "passive" LCD technology, but consequently
its price is a lot cheaper than the active matrix ET-10 from EPSON.
One month later, the competitors are also successful: the CITIZEN
05TA alias Bookvision courts the consumers' grace in June 1985.
Somewhat more futuristic in design, but also with a passive
and with foldable backlight unit.
| 1986: The smaller,
The miniaturization process proceeds quickly: the CITIZEN 06
TA is to this date the smallest "complete" TV. The LC display is located in
the lid of the apparatus, the actual TV picture being viewed reflected in a
mirror. The unit on the left has the (optional) background lighting attached.
Although the competitive
CASIO TV-21 is even smaller and lighter it
still requires an earphone for sound which also serves a dual purpose as an
| 1987: Gold digger
mentality in Japan
||For CASIO obviously a new era started because in the year 1987 the
Japanese company launches a whole range of new models. Here are two of the
more rare models: the CASIO TV-6100 ("New Age of
Television") and the CASIO TV-800
("Images in Living Color").
| 1990: The "Watchman"
goes color / Designer models are entering the market
Finally, SONY also realizes that customers demand mobile color TVs. In 1990, the Watchman FDL-310 is the first model of this kind
made by SONY. Obviously they did not even try flat
cathode-ray tubes but went into (active matrix-) LCD technology straight
Next to function, design has also become an important purchase motivator.
The Dutch Philips group is at the top end of manufacturers in this
respect. Accordingly, the Philips 3LC2050 is rewarded in the year
after its launch by a "Best of Category" award at the renowned
iF Product Design
Award 1991 in the category Entertainment Electronics.
| 1990: End of the
classic "Watchman" with black and white flat cathode-ray tube
End of an era: despite relatively up-to-date features
(e.g channel search function) the SONY Watchman FD-280 is one of
the last "tube watchmen". The variant with FM/AM radio is marketed as
High-End with all gadgets
In the upper price range, only the sky seems to be
limit for the fantasy of inventors. This is impressively illustrated by
the Philips 4PL040: a bright TFT-Display by Sharp with more than
100 mm diagonal, FM/AM radio, on-screen display, "dimmer button" to save
energy and memory for 69 channels. The loudspeaker not only radiates
upwards but also towards the front. All the controls for the radio (this
also applies to the labelling) are mounted in such a manner that access is
possible with the lid closed. By pressing a button, the image can be
rotated 180 degrees (for roof mounting) and switched to 16:9 or 21:9
aspect ratio. The video input can accept PAL and NTSC signals, both 4.43
MHz (Europe) and 3.58 MHz (USA/Japan).
| 1999: Low-cost
models secure market shares
The active matrix technology is still rather complex
to manufacture. In order to be able to offer pocket TVs with enhanced
picture quality, the industry is still working on passive displays. The
CASIO TV-880 represents this New
Standard for LCD Image Clarity. Costs: 100 Euros.