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 induces miniaturization

May 1963 cover

In 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 first pocket TV. Unfortunately all details are strictly confidential. Or imaginary ...

 1966: Flat Dreams, Prototypes and Micro-Visions
Popular Mechanics, february 1966

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).

Motorola TV Prototyp aus dem Jahr 1966

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.

Sinclair Microvision 1966

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
... take a look inside!

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 rarities.

 1977: Sir Clive Sinclair's entry / View to the future 
(click for more information)

"In a few years pocket TVs will be as normal as transistor radios 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.

Source: German magazine Funkschau 1977

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).

 1981: Panasonic is back
Panasonic TR-1010

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 SONY "Watchman"
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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 wide.

 1983: Sinclair puts his stakes on flat tubes / Casio comes out with LCD
(click for more information)

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.

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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
(click for more information)

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
(click to supersize) 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.
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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 Color-LCD and with foldable backlight unit.

 1986: The smaller, the better
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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 antenna.

 1987: Gold digger mentality in Japan
(click for more information) (click for more information) 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
(click to supersize) 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 Color cathode-ray tubes but went into (active matrix-) LCD technology straight away.
(click to supersize) 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
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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 FD-285.

 1995: High-End with all gadgets
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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
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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.

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