Tag Archives: portable

Sony FX-412 Portable TV/Radio/Cassette Player (February 1979)

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Look, y’all know I loves me some portable TVs. I’ve babbled about them before, and I’m about to babble about them yet again. When it comes to old electronics, these specimens are a severe weakness of mine. If I’m at some thrift shop somewhere, and one of these ancient wonders of ostensible convenience happens to be in the vicinity, there’s a better-than-good chance it’s coming home with me (provided it’s priced at somewhere around reasonable, because even I have my limits). I love portable/handheld/whatever TVs.

In this regard, fate has been good to me as of late. Little itty bitty Panasonic Travelvision from 1982? Became mine for $5 at a thrift store. A new-in-the-box Realistic handheld TV from 1989? Also became mine for $5, this time at a yard sale (I was gonna buy it anyway, but I felt especially obligated after using the box to smack away an attacking bumblebee that was intent on killing me for no reason). And just last week, I found an ’89 Sony Mega Watchman for $4, and even with a bit-too-corroded battery compartment, I still couldn’t resist.

But when it comes to sheer coolness, none of those can compare to this beast of a machine: the Sony FX-412! It’s a TV! It’s an AM/FM radio! It’s a cassette player and recorder! And it’s from February 1979! 36 gol derned years old! And how much did it set me back? Three big bucks, that’s how much! Cool winnins!

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The design of the unit is decidedly heavy-duty, and despite the early-1979 date on it (which obviously means it’s 1978 technology, at least), I initially mistook it for something from the 1980s. Given the look and size of the machine, I could easily see it being released as-is in 1983/1984 and not seeming too out of place.

It’s certainly a bulky fella, and it’s made all the more unwieldy with a big carrying-handle that doubles as a stand, but given all that it does, it’s really not too far off, size-wise, from similar units that would be released in the following decade. It’s big, but not unacceptably huge. Perfect for camping, bedroom desks, or a shelf in the garage.

And that silver finish? I don’t care what anyone says, it still looks darn classy!

I have no idea how much the FX-412 cost originally, but given the number of features, portable size, and solid construction, I’m guessing it probably wasn’t cheap.

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On the back: a jack for an external antenna, plus knobs for the vertical hold, brightness, and whatnot. This is all to be expected.  I was hoping for an RF input, so I could hook up my Atari 7800 and play Double Dragon on it, if for no other reason than it would make a sweet post-closing-picture, but no go. There’s probably a way to get it running via the external antenna jack, but I’m not feeling adventurous enough today to even try figuring that out.

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See, manufactured in February 1979. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. My pictures may say otherwise, but this is actually a pretty clean unit. The lint is just leftover from what I used to give the FX-412 a quick wipe down. The super high-resolution of my cellphone camera actually makes things look worse than they really are. To the naked eye, this is a nice-lookin’ machine!

Aside from the expected scratches and whatnot that come with age, the FX-412 is really in pretty good condition. The only exceptions? Part of the antenna has been lost to time, and the AFC/LIGHT switch appears to be broken. Not ideal, but I can live with it, especially for only $3.

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On the right side: the TV and radio tuning knobs, which, obviously, do just as you would expect them to. Really, what else can I say about them? They’re how you change the channels, man!

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On the left side: inputs for a remote microphone and DC adapter. Since this isn’t just a cassette player but also a cassette recorder, the option for a mic is basically a prerequisite. As for the DC adapter, this TV didn’t come with one, and while I briefly considered finding a replacement, either here or abroad, the memories of the time I fried an Atari jaguar eventually had me deciding against it.

(That’s not a joke, either; years and years ago, I found an Atari Jaguar for waaaaay cheap at a thrift store, but it didn’t have an adapter with it. Well, I dug through the series of adapters I had lying around at home, and the one that caused a popping sound and smoke to emit from the console let me know that I had chosen unwisely. Needless to say, I wasn’t all that pleased with the results. However, I later found another, connections-complete Jag, also for pretty cheap, and that’s the one in my collection to this day. Say what you want about the rest of the Jag’s library, but man, Wolfenstein 3D is unbelievably good on there.)

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In lieu of tempting fate by plugging in a non-official Sony FX-412 adapter, I opted for the required six big giant D batteries when it came to testing. Pleasant surprise: the battery compartment was very clean, which, when it comes to things like this, isn’t always the case. Indeed, only the gooey, steadily shredding adhesive on the inside of the battery compartment-door marred the otherwise clean appearance of the space. Heck, that ain’t nothin’.

I have no idea what the battery life of the FX-412 is, but prior experience with portable TVs tells me it’s probably a battery-sucker. I’ve related this story before, but years ago, I took my portable Bentley TV with me camping. As I recall, it had brand-new batteries in it, and the only time I really used it was to watch Terminator 2 on Big Chuck & Lil’ John. By the end of the broadcast, the batteries were so drained that sound was non-existent. So, what, three hours of life, maybe?

Granted, that was a cheap Bentley TV that they used to give out free with RVs and such. This TV, however, is a heavy-duty Sony. I really wouldn’t be surprised if it had significantly better battery life. Or not, I don’t know.

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While being in reasonably good shape for something 36 years old, the broken antenna and AFC switch left me just a bit apprehensive. But as it turned out, the TV and radio both work fine. The functionality of the radio is a given, though of course I’m not pulling in any actual channels on the TV portion; since the option for an external antenna is there, and I have indeed seen people (online) get life out of older TVs such as this here in the digital age. I’m not going to go that far, because honestly, it’s not like I’d be using this thing all that often even if everything wasn’t digital nowadays. But it’s sure nice to know that I could.

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Honestly, the only real doubts I had for the unit were as to whether the cassette player would work or not. Of the many, many TVs and radios I’ve garnered over the years, the vast majority have worked just fine. Cassette players though, those can be kinda spotty. Age, moving parts, and audio heads (that may or may not be shot), they don’t always work together harmoniously here in 2015.

So, out came my trusty cassette copy of Bruce Springsteen’s The River, and in it went. Play was pressed, and…

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Believe it or not, the cassette player also works! Once again, Bruce fails to, erm, fail me. It sounds a little (just a little) wobbly, but at 36 years old (and being a portable machine to boot), I didn’t expect hi-fidelity anyway. I could easily listen to the whole album on this thing and be satisfied (and who knows when the cassette player was last actually run; a little playtime may be all it needs to get itself back in shape).

I can’t tell you how much I love the fact the FX-412 actually has an audio meter, and it also still works. I tried to get a picture of the meter in action to demonstrate that the cassette was indeed playing. You shoulda seen the lil’ guy jumpin’ around to “The Ties That Bind,” fella was groovin’!

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Just for fun: here’s the FX-412 next to the 1989 Mega Watchman I mentioned at the start of this post. The Watchman is bulky in its own special way, though it lacks the capability of playing/recording cassettes. Aside from the same manufacturer and same portable-entertainment-center-motif, there’s not a whole lot all that’s comparable between the two. But, it is interesting (to me, at least) to see how far Sony progressed in the 10 years since the FX-412 was released. Granted, this Watchman was just one in a whole line of similar TVs, so what am I even going on about again?

I like portable Sony TVs, is what I’m trying to say.

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This is one of coolest electronics finds I’ve had in quite awhile. Besides being a sucker for portable TVs in general, I have a strong affinity for Sony products. So yeah, this is a winner. There’s a few imperfections, sure, and it’s more of a display piece than anything for me, but for only $3, I’ll happily add it to my collection. The Sony FX-412 is shining example of just why I keep such regular tabs on my local ‘haunts.’ Finds like this don’t come everyday, but when they do, they certainly make the “dry” trips worth the return visits.

Nintendo GameCube AM/FM Stereo Cassette Player.

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Found this odd little number at Goodwill the other night. I usually don’t go for portable cassette players this ‘modern.’ I prefer the more heavy-duty models of the 1980’s, even if they are, generally, considerably bulkier. But, this one was just too strange (to me) to pass up, especially since it was only $2; less, actually, since it was customer appreciation day, which knocked an additional 35% off. Cool winnins!

It’s a portable AM/FM radio and cassette player. Nothing too unusual about that, except it’s branded with the Nintendo GameCube logo. It just seems like such an odd combo to me. I can understand Nintendo throwing the GameCube logo on clothing, keychains, mugs, or what have you. That’s just the nature of the promotional beast. But a cassette player? Honestly, and I can’t place my finger on why exactly, but it just seems a little ‘off’ to me. A portable radio and cassette player just isn’t something I’d have ever thought I’d find the GameCube logo on.

Then again, a quick search shows that there were portable cassette players with Game Boy Color and Nintendo 64 insignias made prior, so maybe it’s only unusual in my sad little world.

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At any rate, it sure looks GameCube-y. I mean, they got the colors down right, not that that’s really an amazing feat or anything, but it’s fitting all the same. If they just had to make a cassette player adorned with GameCube propaganda, I suppose this was the best we could’ve hoped for. Actually, no it’s not: a cube or at least rectangular player made to look vaguely like the real GameCube would have been pretty sweet, especially if they included the handle. I should be getting a million dollars a week for these ideas.

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You got yer headphone jack, yer AM/FM switch, yer tunin’ knob, and yer tape/radio switch. You have to manually open and close the case to insert and/or remove a cassette. Obviously, it’s a pretty bare bones set-up, not that I’d expect a high-end audiophile unit anyway. It works, but truth be told, this thing plays and feels pretty cheap. Maybe the headphones I used weren’t up to the task, but audio quality on both cassette and radio was pretty spotty. Something tells me my GameCube radio thing couldn’t have cost more than $15-$20 originally.

Now initially, I was a little puzzled as to why Nintendo would want to hook-up with the cassette player format. I don’t know when this thing was released (there’s no date anywhere on it), but the GameCube hit the U.S. in late 2001. But even if this were released that year, cassette tapes were still pretty far along in their path down the mainstream pipe, right? But, the more I thought about it, I guess it makes some kind of sense. Cassettes may not have been priority number one for new, mainstream releases, but it stands to reason that people still had stacks of tapes lying around; the format wasn’t that obsolete. I mean, they’re still making new VCRs, and the VHS format has been dead for, what, about 10 years now? And yet, they still make new blank tapes (they still make new blank cassettes too, come to think of it), so there’s some kind of demand. The day they stop making new VCRs will be a sad one for your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter (it will also make my, erm, job somewhat harder to perform), so, yeah, I’m glad they were still supporting those that held dearly to the cassette format.

Also, there’s no manufacturer noted anywhere on this. Did Nintendo make it themselves? Somehow I doubt it, but I don’t know. If by chance they didn’t, well, why not get the GameCube logo on it if someone else was footin’ the bill? And if this came later in the 2000’s, when the ol’ Cube was slipping behind the Xbox and waaaaaay behind the Playstation 2 in sales, a little extra promotion sure couldn’t have hurt.

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See, AM/FM radio and cassette. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. Also, it takes two AA batteries. So, yeah. The handy belt clips allows you to, say it with me, clip it to your belt.

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I guess it has now become mandatory to include a picture of my cassette copy of The River every time I talk about a cassette player, so there it is. I suppose if I really wanted to blow minds left and right, I could go walking down the street listening to a 1980 tape on a weird GameCube-branded cassette player made some 20 years later. Maybe it would elicit cries of approval. Or protest. Of course, knowing my luck, I’d probably get jumped. I couldn’t really blame the muggers, though; who wouldn’t want a set-up like that?

Follow your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter on Twitter! @neovideohunter

Sony Mega Watchman Model No. FD-555 (August 1991)

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Lookit this cool beast! It’s Sony’s Mega Watchman FD-555! This is early-1990’s technology at its best. Not only do we have a TV and AM/FM radio, but also a cassette player. The large speakers and the presence of a surround sound button make it clear: this ain’t no regular radio! This sucker is a legit boom box! And if it’s not, it certainly aspires to be!

This guy is kinda sorta similar to the Panasonic Desktop TV/Clock Radio I reviewed back in September. I had this Watchman loooong before I had the Panasonic, but I think I like the Panasonic more: it’s older, it has a cool mirrored clock thing, and fake woodgrain, all aspects that fill me with glee. The Panasonic gives the impression of something a businessperson, college student, or high school kid would keep on his/her desk and turn on during late night whatever sessions. This Sony Watchman, on the other hand, feels like something that should be used in the garage while someone works on a car, which is unfortunate in my case, because me working on a car is recipe for total carnage and/or bloody tragedy. On the other hand, being from the sweet spot of the early-90’s, 1991, this Mega Watchman also seems like it’s well-suited to being carried down the street, blaring the latest smash hit single on cassette tape, while you and your backwards-hat-wearing hoodlum friends look for shenanigans to cause. And when you were done creating a ruckus, you could watch Blossom.

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The flash on my camera illuminates every lil’ thing I thought I had cleaned off. Aside from dust in some of the crevices and sticker residue that refuses to leave the top of the cassette player, this thing is actually pretty clean, honest! I love the sleek look and black coloring, and the presence of the old “It’s a Sony” logo is always the mark of something I want to hug.

Oddly enough, there’s no clock anywhere on it. A digital clock somewhere seems like it couldn’t have been too hard to add, but I guess the ability to tell time had to be sacrificed in order for you to listen to the Too Legit To Quit cassette whenever you wanted.

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The back. I forgot to take a picture with the handle extended, but I’m sure you can imagine how that works. There’s a  few various ports, including one for an external antenna, as well as vertical hold controls. The cord can be unplugged from the unit and eight size-D batteries (a bottom-compartment, which I also forgot to take a picture of) used instead, which is helpful, because otherwise, the whole “portable” motif would fly right into the toilet. There’s also a port for a DC adapter, which seems a bit superfluous since you already have a plug and the ability to take batteries, but I guess they wanted their bases covered.

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August 1991; I was all of five years old! The early-90’s are at the tail-end of my personal preferred electronics-picking period. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll buy anything if I find it interesting (and cheap enough), but I generally want the things from the early-1990’s (1990-1993) on down, and particularly the stuff from the 1980’s or before.

That said, with the rounded curves, big ol’ speakers and revolutionary surround sound technology, this is certainly a nice example of early-90’s electronics, and it probably wasn’t cheap, either. I’m not saying it would set you back too much, provided you weren’t only relying on allowance or grass-cutting funds, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a budget item, either.

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The TV (and radio) both work perfectly. Since everything is digital now, it goes without saying that I’m not actually picking up any TV channels. I suppose if you took advantage of the external antenna jack, you might be able to rig this thing to play real television, but I really have no idea, and while I like my Sony Watchman, I’m not that interested in going to extreme lengths to make it “go.”

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I’ve had this unit for years, and while I tested the radio and TV functions when I got it (at least I guess I did, it’s been awhile), I had no idea if the cassette player worked until today when I decided to do this review. Now, the old GE clock-radio by my bed has a cassette player, and for quite awhile I liked to fall asleep to certain tapes. Unfortunately, the player died, leaving me at the mercy of the radio. That being as it is, provided this Watchman’s cassette player works (he typed as if he didn’t know the outcome already), I could conceivably haul this thing upstairs and once again fall asleep to The Ghost Of Tom Joad. I probably won’t, but I could.

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I grabbed a few cassettes laying around for testing purposes. The first one I put in was Billy Joel’s The Stranger, not so much because I had a burning desire to listen to an album I also own on other, better formats, but rather because if the Watchman ate the tape, I wouldn’t be upset. Sorry Billy, I like you, but when it comes to Mega Watchman-testin’, you’re expendable.

To my everlasting joy, the cassette player works! Like a champ! I’m not all that surprised though, Sony has always put out a quality product; it’s one of my more trusted brands when it comes to old electronics like this. However, the sound of the cassette was insanely muffled. Had the tape been played into the ground, or was the cassette player itself at fault? Further testing was required.

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Next up: Bruce Springsteen’s The River, which is in my top ten all-time favorite albums. This put my fears to rest, because the sound quality was much better. A little spotty, someone obviously played the tape quite a bit (as well they should), but the difference in sound quality was very evident. This means I can old school party to “Sherry Darling” whenever I like!

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Still not satisfied, I decided on one last test: The Michael Stanley Band’s You Can’t Fight Fashion. This is an XDR (Expanded Dynanic Range) cassette, and man, the sound quality was terrific, this Watchman is capable of producing some great sound output! One of the benefits of being a Northeast Ohioan is that we’ve got our hometown hero, Michael Stanley, and Fashion is right up there with Heartland as one of my favorite MSB albums.

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So, how about the surround sound? Upon pressing the button, I expected to have the sound blast me in the face not unlike that old Maxell advertisement, but much to my chagrin, it only made things slightly louder. I have no knowledge of the inner workings of something of this nature, so I’m just guessing that when it’s not on, the speakers are simply not used to their fullest. When it is on, they are. How’s that for deductive reasonin’! I know, I know, “duh!”

Don’t get me wrong, though. This unit has very nice sound for the portable nature & time it came out, and I guess it can be room-filling if you turn the surround sound on and crank the volume & tone dials waaay up, but don’t go in expecting a high end set-up, okay?

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There it is, my Sony Mega Watchman FD-555, from August 1991. It’s a very cool piece of old school electronics. Sure, it doesn’t come off all that impressive nowadays, but back then, this was assuredly “to the max.” I’m seriously thinking about throwing some batteries in it, grabbing my cassette copy of Don Johnson’s Heartbeat, and going rockin’ down the street with “Love Roulette” blasting at top-volume.

Panasonic Desktop TV & FM/AM Radio, Model No. TRF-438P (1984)

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Alright, I guess I’m going to find something awesome every time I go to Goodwill. Bad for saving money, good for my blog. Even without a blog, I would have bought this thing right quick. A quick trip to  the aforementioned Goodwill tonight, with the vague goal of finding a new used book, resulted not only in new reading material, but also this: A Panasonic desktop television, with FM and AM radio, manufactured 29 years ago in Sepetember 1984. Yeah, I couldn’t not grab this thing. There was really no other option but to practically trip over myself running to the checkout counter with it, violently shoving every poor chump without the good sense to step aside out of my way. Needless to say, victory was mine.

(I didn’t really violently shove people out of the way, but should anyone have tried taking my desktop TV thing away from me, they might’ve had a mean sucker punch waitin’ for ’em.)

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I’ve found a few TV/radio combo units in my time, including a big ol’ Sony Watchman I think I’ll have to drag out and review soon. I’ve even come across the little handheld units, but I’m thinking this is the coolest one, by far. A lot of that has to do with the fact it’s from the 1980’s, right in the sweet spot, 1984.

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The front panel is quite possibly the world’s most-susceptible-to-fingerprints-surface, but nevertheless, this is a sleek lookin’ beast. Works well, too. Majic 105.7 FM comes in clear as day, even without the antenna extended. The clock shows up on the TV screen, both with the TV on or off. It can be slightly dimmed or turned off completely. Expected but helpful.

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Since everything’s digital now, naturally I’m not picking up any channels. Now supposedly, since they’re not digital (yet), you can pick up WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-35 with just an old-school antenna, but I know from experience that the signal doesn’t come in around here, not through that method. That’s why I spent the early part of the 2000’s Son Of Ghoul-less (thanks, rabbit ears). Still, you better believe the idea of watching Son Of Ghoul on this thing is coming dangerously close to making me do some kind of bizarre touchdown dance. Let’s wait until I actually make it happen, though. Since there is an external antenna jack, and a couple other methods of inputs, it may actually be possible to hook a digital converter box up to this. I don’t know, because frankly, I have no experience with digital converter boxes. Never had one, never had the need for one.

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At first, I was a little confused as to why the TV screen was set so far back into the unit (to be completely honest, upon first glance, I thought someone had actually removed the TV screen entirely, but I soon figured it out; it doesn’t take your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter long to get his bearings). Turns out that there’s a mirror in there, reflecting the clock, basically superimposing it over the TV screen. That may be a sketchy way of describing it, I know, but I did my best to show in the pics how it works. The left picture shows the time and how it’s not actually on the TV screen as you’d first think of it (an obvious necessity, since the TV has to be off to have the radio on, and vice versa, and it’s nice to have the time present during all of that). I tried to show the angular mirror set-up in the right picture. Man this thing is cool.

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All the helpful features you’ve come to expect from your clock/radio-type devices are at your finger tips. The mere press of a button turns your Panasonic desktop entertainment system on or off! Revolutionary! In all seriousness, I was a bit surprised it uses this style of on/off buttons, and not the more expected on/off switch.

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See, I wasn’t lying! September 1984! Being a name brand and having a built-in television, I would guess this probably cost a few bucks back then. Not saying it was a $1000 set-up or anything, but I doubt it was only $30, either. It’s a very solidly built unit that still works like a charm. I’ve had good luck with Panasonic products in the past, and this continues the trend. Them folks put out some good stuff, yo.

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Costing a mere $4, this is my third Goodwill score in just over a week. Gotta be careful, because your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter is many things, but rolling in dough he is not. No matter, because I now have a cool desktop TV/radio, and I love it so, so much.

RCA AU-097Y Portable TV (1975)

Haven’t done an “old electronics” post in awhile.

I’m a sucker for old TVs. Considering they’re generally bulky and tend to take up a lot of room, this is perhaps not always a good thing. But, I can’t help it, I love vintage TVs, in all their UHF-VHF-knobs-vertical hold-black & white-retracting antenna-glory. It’s actually a facet of my chosen hobby that goes back even further than my hunting of old videotapes. I’ve had an affection for old TVs since probably before I was 10 years old. Even if I’m not quite “gotta have this one NOW!” as I once was, I still tend to flip-out, figuratively speaking, when I come across a particularly cool set. And boy, is the subject of this post cool

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It’s an RCA portable TV, manufactured in October, 1975! Model #AU-097Y. It’s all about the looks with this one, and man, the only word to describe this thing is groovy. Believe me, I don’t use the word “groovy” lightly, either. Everything about the design of this one screams “1975.” Apparently, these were produced in a number of colors (a quick online search reveals red and yellow models), but the white casing of this one, to me, is perfect. I can just imagine this sitting in someone’s shag-carpeted apartment, the viewer patiently waiting for M*A*S*H to come on.

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The set is in exceptionally good shape. Don’t let that ‘line’ across the screen seen in the pics way up above fool you, it appears to be nothing more than a scuff that would probably come off with a good cleaning. Aside from a few minor marks that you’d expect from a TV set that will be 38 years old in October, this thing is really in much better shape than I would have ever thought.

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It works! Of course, I can’t pick up any channels, but it seems to run without a hitch. And look at that, the appropriate jacks; you could even hook up the Pong system of your choice!

I found this TV at a garage sale about 2 summers ago. I was able to buy both it and a much newer handheld TV for, I think, $10 total. The handheld TV was more of a “just for the helluva it” buy, but this 1975 set I was going home with no matter what. I may not be able to watch actual TV on it, not without a hassle at least, but this set is so cool that it commands attention just by being on display.