Tag Archives: 1980s electronics

Spartus AVT Audio Visual Time Alarm Clock – Model No. 1410 (1982)

Here’s a neat little electronic find from this past weekend. I normally don’t go in for old alarm clocks when I’m out thrifting, because really, they’re a dime-a-dozen, and while some may be interesting to look at, rarely do they have that extra ‘oomph’ to push them into the “ah gotsta buy dis” category for me.

Our subject today, however, is a big time exception to all that. That’s why we’re here right now, after all! Plus, I can find very little info on it out there in internet-land, and thus it’s my duty to inform, educate, and annoy entertain on the subject.

Behold: it’s the Spartus AVT Audio Visual Time alarm clock, model number 1410, from, near as I can tell, 1982 (there’s no date listed, but what info I’ve found online tells me it originally came out in ’82). Spartus made more than a few alarm clocks back in the day, often with something cool to make them stand out, either feature-wise or aesthetic-wise, and this piece here ably hits both of those marks.

Indeed, I was enamored by the AVT as soon as my eyes fell upon it, and despite a failed attempt at putting it back and going on without it, I just couldn’t resist – despite the relatively-hefty $6 price tag. (A 35% off coupon helped ease that blow, however.)

That cool brushed metal (aluminum?) face plate, the woodgrain sides, it’s almost like a meeting of 1970s and 1980s sensibilities, even though it’s probably not and I’m a dolt for even mentioning it. It looks cool, okay?

And since red is my favorite color, the red LED display is enormously appealing to yours truly. Don’t let the picture above fool you; my phone’s flash makes it look dimmer than it is (it was either a pic with flash and sharp focus, or none and, uh, not), but the red LED is pretty bright. It’s actually so bright that when it’s turned up all the way, there’s an audible buzzing! (Hope that’s not a bad sign of anything!)

So that’s all well and good, but there was a more substantial factor in the AVT coming home with me, and the clue is in the name: the “Visual” and “Time” portions are self-explanatory, but it’s the “Audio” bit that figuratively raised my eyebrows. That’s right, this thing talks!

I always like it when a vintage piece of technology tries to go the extra mile and stand out with a quirky gimmick, and if the AVT doesn’t qualify, what does?

I could attempt to explain it in words, but since this is for informational purposes, I’d think a short demonstrative video of the AVT in “action” should fall under fair use okay…

THE FUTURE IS NOW!

And it doesn’t just tell you the time, either! It can also audibly inform you of the date, what time your alarm is set for, and maybe some other things I ain’t even figured out yet! I’m not sure if you can tell from my sad video demonstration here, but the volume is pretty crisp and clear, especially considering this was early-1980s technology.

(Also, hope you enjoyed my shaky camerawork and puke-green carpet!)

Underneath a smoked-plastic cover resides all of your clock-settin’ options – literally at your fingertips! I had to really press to get the hour/minutes to register, but since this is over 30 years old and (I presume) well-used, I’m not complaining. The volume toggle is self-explanatory, and the dimmer is handy; there’s only the two settings, but even on the lower one, it’s nice and easily-discernible.

On the bottom of the unit is  a handy instructional sticker, though as per my usual MO, I didn’t really bother paying attention to it when it came time for testing. Typical me.

Also, notice the battery compartment here. (If you scroll back to the previous picture, you’ll also see the “battery test” button on the panel.) The AVT can use a single 9 volt battery for backup purposes should the electricity cut out. It’s not mandatory to have one, but probably a good idea if you were to keep this in use all the time. There was actually a battery still in this thing when I found it, though perhaps amazingly, it had not leaked or corroded in the slightest. Maybe the original owner continued using this clock until only recently?

I couldn’t find much about the AVT online. Google gave me a couple old newspaper advertisement scans, but I couldn’t really see them unless I registered to the respective sites, which I wasn’t prepared to do. Nothing turned up on eBay either; oh sure, tons and tons of vintage Spartus alarm clocks, many of them very cool, but I scrolled through ’em all and there wasn’t a single listing for the AVT – current or completed!

I only found two real pieces of online information regarding the unit: this page regarding the original trademark and its filing date and all that. But more importantly, I found this page on the official Farm Magazine website, which has actually preserved their original 1982 entry for the AVT! Cool! This is wildly important, not only because of a better description of the features present, but also because it presents the original suggested retail price of $37.25.

Usually I’d make an exaggerated inflation joke here, but I actually looked it up: in today’s dollars, this thing would be over 90 bucks! Whoa! So would an alarm clock that cost $37.25 back then be considered “high end?” Maybe the price was too prohibitive and that’s why I can’t find any for sale online right now?

Here’s a final “straight ahead” shot of the clock. My flash gave a cool reflective effect off the metal face plate, though it also made the two ‘main’ buttons hard to discern. On the left is your typical snooze button that also doubles as your calendar; press it and it tells you the month and day. And on the right, you’ve got the “time” button, which I’ve already shown you in action.

My only disappointment, and this is really pretty mild, is that they weren’t somehow able to fit an AM/FM radio into this unit. BUT, that might have ruined the compact, elegant, relatively-simple design the AVT displays, so it’s actually not a big deal.

As I said at the start of this article, I’m not much of an alarm clock collector. But you know what? The Spartus AVT certainly threatens to make me one! Forget the lack of radio; I love everything about this one. The design, the color scheme, the fact it talks to me, all of it.

Suddenly, $6 doesn’t seem like that high of a price tag anymore…

Sylvania Hi-Fi Stereo VHS VCR Model No. VC3645GY01 (1985)

sylvania vcr 8 Hey, remember when I used to write about interesting VCRs and whatnot that I had come across? It’s sure been awhile! The reason being that while I have picked up several really good ones in recent months, I just couldn’t get sufficiently fired up enough to write about them. That changes now, because after a fairly long dry spell, I finally, finally came across a ridiculously cool VCR out in the wild that absolutely needs a place of honor (ha!) on my silly blog. Behold: a Sylvania Hi-Fi VHS VCR, model number VC3645GY01, from 1985! And it only set me back $5 last weekend! Cool winnins!

From the picture above, it may not look that interesting. I mean, sure, it has that classy black and silver, heavy duty 1980s design going for it, and it’s a 4-head, Hi-Fi stereo model, but is that really enough to get me to write about it? Plenty of other VCRs from the time period had the same characteristics, after all. Keep reading chief, you’ll see, the real horsepower of this beast is under the hood, so to speak.

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Outside appearances belie the advantages of this deck, because this thing is positively loaded with features. It all comes courtesy of an everlastingly cool fold-down door. Nope, a regular pull-down door just won’t do for the Sylvania; by pressing the appropriately-named “door” button, all the features drop down to your fingertips.

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Just look at ’em all! Besides the standard play-stop-rewind-fast-forward-pause-record options, you’ve got the ability to record in all three speeds, and even cooler, the ability to do freakin’ audio dubbing! You can adjust the audio levels, and/or fiddle around with the audio level meter display. I love the old-school tracking control knob, and even though I’ll never actually use it, the (relatively) easy-set clock/timer feature had to have been a blessing back in ’85.

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And look at that! Even more features! Sharpness control (which is a feature I absolutely love on a lot of these old VCRs), a regular TV or cable TV swich, you can even select normal or thin tape! Since I never really do any audio dubbing, I’m guessing that option was for that particular feature of the VCR?

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Something that’s really cool and which I wasn’t expecting at all is seen in the left picture above: That 1:37 isn’t the tape counter (indeed, this unit uses the old-school, 0000 tape counters, as opposed to the exact hours/minutes/seconds counters of later VCRs). Rather, that seems to indicate how much time is left on the tape. Swanky! That sort of thing was in vogue later on, but I was a surprised to see it used in a 1985 model.

The picture on the right demonstrates the slow-motion feature in action. You know, I’ve got that option on a lot of my VCRs (both VHS and Beta), and while it’s not something I ever really use at all, I still get a kick out of it being included. Go figure.

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And as if all that wasn’t enough, it’s even got an LED audio level meter, in an attractive red-and-blue color scheme to boot!

However, there are some sad failins afoot with this deck: it doesn’t quite work correctly. It seems like until it gets “warmed up,” it won’t really run a tape all that well, and when it finally does get warmed up, you get sound (really terrific sound, in fact), but no picture. Maybe the heads are shot, maybe they just need a good cleaning, I don’t know. I’m actually not too upset about this factor, though. The genuine coolness of this VCR was easily worth the $5 I plunked down for it, and besides, odds are it can be repaired in the future, if need be.

(From how I understand it, Sylvania VCRs were always just re-badged Panasonic machines anyway, which I kinda suspected in the first-place, so some parts swapping probably isn’t out of the question, if it came to that.)

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And yet more features on the back of the unit! You’ll probably have to click on either pic to enlarge them enough to see, but there’s an audio filter switch, camera remote input, right and left microphone inputs, and what really kinda surprised me, a Pay-TV knob. I’ve got a lot of old VCRs lying around, and while there may very well be a similar knob on one of those as well, I just can’t recall seeing a Pay-TV knob on any of them. And truth be told, I’m really not sure how exactly that would work. I’m guessing to record Pay-Per-View and whatnot? Or maybe used in conjunction with those old ‘special channel’ boxes? I have no idea.

And that’s all in addition to the necessary stereo RCA jack inputs and outputs.

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See, model number VC3645GY01, manufactured in late-1985. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

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I can’t even begin to guess how much this model cost back in 1985, and internet searches really aren’t revealing a whole lot of info about it or even any pictures of it, but this sure looks like it was a pretty high-end model back in the day, and high-end models weren’t exactly cheap at the time. It’s funny, a VCR that was undoubtedly several hundred dollars (at least!) back in the 1980s only cost me $5 last week, but hey, that’s the nature of electronics; it doesn’t take long for them to become obsolete. Well, obsolete to the general public, anyway. Me? I get fired up finding things like this just as much as I probably would have had I found it new in the stores back in ’85!

It’s not quite the best VCR I’ve found while out thrifting, but it’s up there, even if it’s not working correctly at the moment. No matter, because I was thrilled to come across this unit. Indeed, I wish I had more finds like it! It’s a welcome addition to my ever-growing mountain of ancient VCRs.