Tag Archives: vintage electronics

Magnavox 19C503 TV (April 1985)

During my recent cleaning/organizing/searching/digging jaunts, some rewards of which were detailed in my last post, I also gained the opportunity to liberate some of the electronics I’ve had stacked, buried, etc., as well. Oh I knew well enough where and what they were beforehand; it’s just that they were buried under enough random crap that mustering up the energy to dig ’em out from whatever I had piled on top of ’em wasn’t going to happen on the spur of the moment. (In other words, I couldn’t work up enough enthusiasm.)

Still, since I wound up moving, shifting and/or replacing the precarious mounds of stuff that had accumulated over the years, there was no time like the present to unearth some of these specimens. And so, now I present to you a vintage TV so cool, I honestly should have written about it sooner. (Hindsight and all that jazz.)

Get a load of this:

It’s the Magnavox 19C503 color TV, manufactured in April of 1985, and just as it assuredly was 35 (!) years ago, it continues to be “hip,” “radical,” “boss,” “with it,” “the living end,” and any other number of trendy and up-to-date positive adjectives you can think to throw at it.

Where did I get this dandy example of 1980s electronic craft? A few years ago, Goodwill had a whole bunch of CRT (that’s “Cathode Ray Tube” to you, pal) TVs laid out for cheap buck bills. We’re talking literally $1-$3 apiece here. Whether it was one massive donation, a serious backlog of stock or what, I do not know, but it was obvious that they had a lot of old television sets and they wanted ’em gone right quick. This was well, well after the switch to digital, and TVs like these weren’t really showing up with any sort of frequency anymore anyway (I’m not sure they even accept CRT TVs as donations nowadays – at least not in my parts), so in retrospect this ended being a last hurrah of sorts.

I’ll never forget that while I was there perusing all this (and I do believe I already had this 19C503 loaded up in my cart), there was some dude there borderline flipping out over these bargains, as was made clear by his excited cellphone conversation. He even turned to me, mentioned the prices and uttered “you just can’t beat it” like we were sharing a moment or something.

ANYWAY, the 19C503: at first glance it doesn’t look too far off from any number of other TVs from around that period. Faux woodgrain sides, digital buttons, a screen size that measures about 18 or 19 inches diagonally; it’s not super heavy, but bulky enough that moving it around is hassle. It’s not a low-end television, and certainly not a portable, but also probably not what would have been considered a top-tier model, either.

Oh, and also, I can’t find much of anything about it online, either. Searches bring up service manual listings, but no real descriptive info, and certainly no pictures. Not that I saw anyway, and I sure looked. I’m not naive enough to believe I’ve got a super rare item or internet exclusive here, but, well…?

You know what attracted me first and foremost to this TV? Those cool diagonal power & channel buttons, that’s what! They just look neat, and even if it’s merely a cosmetic touch, the design absolutely screams “1980s!” to me. It’s not a big enough deal to make me drop $50 (or $20, or maybe even $10) on it, but $1, $2 or $3 (I honestly can’t remember exactly)? Oh there’s no way it wasn’t going home with me at that price. Aesthetically pleasing and a cool example of vintage electronics, that’s about all it takes!

(The slidey volume control is nice too, I just don’t have much to say about it.)

Of course, does the bulk and fairly big footprint it makes justify that price? The answer resides with the individual, but hey, I can live with it. I am living with it.

The flash on my camera makes it hard to see, but the moniker “DIGITAL CONTROL SYSTEM” is stamped on the door of the picture adjustment compartment. Highfalutin! That makes it sound like it should reside on the Enterprise or something. I like to imagine Picard watching Jeopardy! on this TV.

Kapow!

Of course the DIGITAL CONTROL SYSTEM door drops down to provide more options to enhance your television viewing experience. Not a ton of options, mind you; just the expected sharpness/brightness/picture/tint/color knobs you’re looking at here. While I wish there was more to make me feel like I was really controlling a battle station, I guess technically you don’t need much else.

Also, as per the sticker seen inside the door, automatic fine tuning is enabled when you turn the channel and then turn it right back. Handy!

Obviously it’s kind of a spartan set-up where options are concerned, and that continues on to the back of the TV…

No, I’m not taking a picture of the whole back, just the “essentials.” That’s not good enough for you? Nothing I ever do is right.

There’s not a whole lot here. Besides the model and serial number stickers, there’s the option to give this TV stereo capability, provided you, uh, had a stereo to hook it up to. Also, an RF jack, but except for the red audio jack for the stereo, no AVs to speak of, which further leads me to believe this was more of a “middle tier” television.

Oh, and a power cord; it’s got one of those, too. That’s how you give it juice to turn on, man!

(I clearly don’t have a whole lot else I can say here.)

See, manufactured April 1985. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. And as you can see, it’s a fine American product, assembled in Greeneville, TN, US of A; apparently they had (have?) a plant there.

(I clearly don’t have a whole lot else I can say here.)

We’ll get to the functionality of this TV momentarily, but let me just jump ahead here and say that I like it, a lot. I liked it in the first place obviously, but now I’m wanting to make it a “gaming TV.” Not that I don’t have those already, but this one, I’d like to just tuck it away with one old school console always hooked up to it, at the ready for whenever a particular whim of vintage video gaming strikes me.

Only problem there was that after a bit of usage, the “old TV smell” this thing began to emit started to get to me. It’s a common phenomenon, I briefly talked about it before (in this old post), and *I* attribute it to the decades of dust, dirt and I-don’t-want-to-know-what-else that has accumulated within it being ‘activated’ once the set really starts to warm up. An expert will probably come along and tell me I’m wrong – in which case, what’s the solution? (To the TV smell, not me being wrong, I mean.)

Since I don’t want this thing stinking up the room I tentatively plan to house it in, I decided to go the extra mile and clean the insides of this baby out.

Now, I admit, this is something I should be doing with most or even all of the old electronics I bring home. Besides just being good care for the unit itself, it would also eliminate the possibility of insidious bugs inadvertently being brought into my home. I’ve thus far been lucky on that front (to the best of my knowledge anyway), and while the period where this thing would’ve been housing something particularly nefarious has probably long passed, I still wanted to attempt to eliminate the possible cause of that smell as best I could.

A trip outside with some compressed air revealed that it actually wasn’t too bad inside, though there was certainly enough dust and whatnot to warrant the effort. And, since I can’t find any pictures of the outside of this TV online, and since I had the back off anyway, what say we take a quick look at the inner workings of this beast while we’re here. It’ll be fun?

(DISCLAIMER: I don’t know much about the inner workings of CRT TVs, but I *do* know enough to know that tubes can hold a charge for looong after the TV is last plugged in/powered up, and that’s in addition to whatever other dangers may be present. In other words, please do NOT go messing around with the mechanics of old televisions – or any vintage electronics for that matter- if you don’t absolutely and positively know what you’re doing. Stay safe and leave it to the professionals! In my case here, I wasn’t exactly goofing around in there anyway, but even so, I was very cautious to not mess with any of the ‘important’ stuff.)

Plastered in the very back of the, uh, back was this handy diagram detailing…well, I really have no idea what it’s detailing, but it’s safe bet that it’s pertinent info for those with actual knowledge of the subject. (Quite a leap in my guesswork, huh?)

See that C 3-8-5 scrawled on the side there? What’s it mean? March 8, 1985? Or something else?

Rest assured, that grime you’re seeing on the bottom vent there was duly cleaned off with turpentine.

There are the main guts. There’s the speaker to the left, and the screen, and…and…and I really have no idea what I’m looking at otherwise, okay? The diagram probably pertains to all of this, but as previously mentioned, I don’t know what I’m looking at there, either. I know enough to know I shouldn’t go poking around in any of it though. Deciding this would be the ideal location to play tiddlywinks wouldn’t end well for me.

I was initially a little concerned that blowing compressed air directly at any of this would cause something to break/falter/etc., but it actually all looked pretty solid. I was able to get as much dust out as I could, and even a piece of styrofoam that probably shouldn’t have been in there was removed.

(Hopefully someone will chime in and let me know if something looks like it’s gone bad and will cause permanent damage to whatever.)

One more ‘guts’ shot, though this is really just some of the stickers on the inside, erm, side. I hope I didn’t void the warranty by opening this! I imagine the warning sticker lets me know, in strict legalese, that I shouldn’t go licking any of the electronics. That wouldn’t end well for me, either.

(DISCLAIMER AGAIN: Seriously folks, do NOT mess around with the mechanics of old televisions – or any vintage electronics for that matter- if you don’t fully know what you’re doing. PLEASE stay safe and leave it to the professionals!)

Okay, so even before I decided to clean out the inside of the TV, I knew I had to test this as best as I could. Hooking up a VCR would be more of a hassle than I was willing to tolerate, and I don’t have a digital converter box so real TV viewing was out. Naturally that left me with only the option to retro game, which should come as no surprise, since I already told you my intentions for this TV. Why aren’t you paying attention to my words?!

When I first got it, I’m not sure I realized the TV was from 1985. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention and just missed the sticker on the back, or maybe I had just forgotten in the few years since I picked the 19C503 up. Either way, I had a vague “early 1980s” definition floating around my head. As such, in regards to what I wanted to keep hooked up to it on a consistent basis, I was thinking along the lines of something hailing from around 1982/1983. Not necessarily something introduced in those years, just a console that was big enough to have a decent library by then.

Of course, now that I know the TV is from ’85, the easy answer is to hook a Nintendo Entertainment System up to it and let it ride. But, I don’t know, the woodgrain sides and general look of the unit still screams “early 80s American console” rather than “mid-80s” to me. Luckily, I have a console that fits both criteria…

Yes, it’s the INTV System III! And if it just looks like an Intellivision to you, that’s because that’s exactly what it is.

Y’see, thanks to the 1980s video game crash, Mattel wound up dropping the Intellivision line, but the rights were then purchased by a group eventually deeming itself INTV, and with that continued support came new games in production, and therefore new consoles were also needed. Thus the INTV System III was bornin 1985!

Really, it’s just a normal Intellivision, except with a new nameplate and the gold & fake woodgrain color scheme changed to silver & black. Otherwise, same design, same games, and same uncomfortable controllers that hailed from 1979 (or 1980 nationwide, as per Wikipedia).

This was given to me as a birthday gift a few years ago (pre or post 19C503? I ain’t remember!). I already had an original Intellivision, but it was stored away, and I had been wanting a good ‘playing’ console anyway, so that’s what the INTV System III became. Being able to get so reacquainted with it, it eventually shot up to be included in my personal top 10 favorite systems. It doesn’t make top 5, but top 10, definitely.

It was my initial intention to pair the INTV System III up with the 19C503 anyway, so what better way to, you know, test out the TV first?

Does it work? Why sure it does! The picture above sez so! And yes, the display on this TV is still very, very nice. I mean, the picture is really good! And the sound? Nice and clear and loud. Also, dig the inviting bright red channel number the TV displays – why, that’s also worthy of the Enterprise!

What you’re seeing played is the Intellivison staple Star Strike, a game that attempted to emulate the final Death Star battle in Star Wars at home. (Hey, who didn’t want to pilot an X-Wing and blow that thing up?) The idea is to bomb several ports in a scaling, Death Star-esque trench while avoiding/destroying enemy ships; hit all the ports and y’all win. Get killed before doing so or not hitting all the ports before the timer reaches zero, and the earth gets blowed up.

For a 1982 game, the graphics are undoubtedly impressive; Star Strike looks terrific, plain and simple. However, I’ve never been a big fan of the gameplay itself; not that it’s bad, but there’s just never been enough to it for me. Still, it sure looks great!

Anyway, things look and sound quite fine on the 19C503 – but it didn’t exactly start out that way. The TV powered right up, but it took a moment for sound to kick in, even though the only thing being displayed was static. And when I hooked the INTV up, at first all I got was a black & white picture – something worthy of dismayed mental “OH NO!”

I undoubtedly tested the TV at the Goodwill, but of course it probably hadn’t been used, really used, regularly in years. After it warmed up a little, the sound kicked in, and after a game was started, it only took minute or so for the color to pop right back. I guess it just took a bit for the TV’s synapses to fire back up!

(Though after all that, the sound of static, when turning the channels, at first it’ll be low before quickly going to full volume, and it happens every time. I actually don’t think it’s a fault on the TV; because it’s so consistent and because there haven’t been any other audio problems, I think it’s acting normally. Maybe it’s that automatic fine tuning, even though there’s nothing to actually tune in?)

After it got going, the only real fault on the TV’s part was the aforementioned smell,and after the cleaning, I’m still getting a little of it, but it’s much better. Maybe more usage is all it needs?

Indeed, after everything got up and running, my only real disappointment had nothing to do with the TV, but rather, the INTV. I was getting some noticeable video interference whenever certain sound effects played, but it turns out that’s normal. It’s a little annoying, but doesn’t render anything unplayable. My only worry there is that during all this last night, the interference got even more noticeable than it was earlier in the evening, and that definitely concerns me. Is my INTV System III on its way out? I hope not, but it’s not like I’ll be pitching it if it does; it’s too neato!

Plus, it’s not like it has to stay hooked to the 19C503; I’d like to keep it there, sure, but should it go kaput, I could always replace it, or find a 4-switch woodgrain Atari 2600 somewhere (the one that seems most fitting to this TV to me, for some reason).

But for now, the TV seems to be fine; it looks good, it sounds good, it’s got a terrific mid-80s aesthetic to its design, and once the old TV smell (hopefully) works its way out, it’ll be ready to be put in a place of honor. Not bad for only a few bucks at Goodwill!

Panasonic PV-1500 VHS VCR (Circa-1979)

Sometimes (sometimes) it’s a little surprising being the Northeast Ohio Video Hunter. Flattering, but surprising. How so? Because when it comes to the vintage electronics posts, specifically VCRs as per our subject today, some of the feedback I receive can be (figuratively) eyebrow-raising. Mostly it’s in the form of viewership; for the most part I tend to get more views with the articles on old electronics than I do any other post. Sometimes though, people get the impression that I know more about all this stuff than I really do, and they’ll come to me with questions, either in the comment sections or in private emails.

I really am flattered by that, but I’m by no means an expert where VCRs are concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I know the basics about them, I can usually tell when one is ‘good’ or there’s something unique or special regarding it, but it doesn’t take much online searching to find the real experts; folks that discuss pinch rollers and diodes and such. You know, the kind of technical stuff that makes my head swim.

I never meant to make people think I’m so kind of authority (ha!) on the subject, but rather, the unspoken idea behind my VCR articles was supposed to be from the viewpoint of a “regular guy.” An every man describing what he comes across from his POV, which is of course the exact reality. And it’s about to happen again.

So yeah, here’s another VCR article. Ladies and gentleman, rest your eyes upon the behemoth Panasonic PV-1500!

Via estate sale, I brought home the Panasonic PV-1500 not this past summer, but rather the summer before. No joke, this beast was the culminating find in a pretty good day of yard saleing (sailing?), over a year ago. I think the guy wanted $15 for it but took $8, if I recall correctly. So I paid up, flexed my negligible muscular abilities and hauled it home, and it’s been sitting off to the side in my basement floor ever since. Indeed, the pic above is from when it first entered my abode; subsequent pics, taken just the other day, will feature an obviously different locale, both because this thing is mammoth and I only want to mess with it so much, and because, frankly, this picture remained the best “all encompassing” shot of the thing. Don’t worry, we’ll take a closer look at all the particulars.

I don’t have an exact date for this VCR. The only mention I saw online was in this 1979 Popular Science scan, hence the “circa” of my title. Unfortunately, even the vintage VHS gallery currently skips from the PV-1300 to the PV-1600 in their listings. Stylistically the PV-1500 looks nearly identical to the PV-1600, except the latter features recording/playback in SP, LP and EP, whereas the former only features SP and LP. Being older, that, uh, makes sense.

As we saw in this terrible old article regarding a big huge Quasar VCR, I love these humongous early examples of home video technology. Not only are they absolute throwbacks to a totally bygone era (“gee, no kidding!”), but you, or at least I, don’t come across them very often – for obvious reasons. The difference of only a few years rendered decks like this wildly obsolete in size and looks and (most) abilities, and even nowadays these earlier machines don’t have much practical use, even as far as this incredibly niche hobby is concerned. This is about as far away from my beloved Panasonic AG-1970 as it gets!

That’s not to say VCRs like this should be tossed (again, as far as this niche hobby is concerned nowadays; the general public stopped caring about any and all VHS loooooong ago). Huge, impractical and lacking in certain abilities though it may be, as a historical piece of late-70s/early-80s tech, if nothing else it sure looks neat. Provided you’ve got the space for it, anyway; the footprint on these ain’t exactly dainty.

Manufacturers really went the extra mile with their products back then. Not only is this VCR built like a tank (with the size to match; I’m considering climbing in it and rolling down the street and wow that has to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever written on this blog), but it came with a protective dust cover. As per warnings found on said dust cover, you can’t have it on when the thing is playing or the timer is set or apparently at any other time except when the machine is sitting idle. This is understandable, since I imagine the amount of heat this units generates when powered up is comparable to a dern blast furnace.

Speaking of powered up, when I first considered writing an article on this VCR last week, I did indeed lug it out, plug it in, turn it on and test it as best I could. Not that I had any illusions of this magically working like new (these old machines may have been well built, but c’mon, this is still a roughly 40 year old electronic we’re talking about), but even so, the whirring/grinding noise it made when I ran a tape – one I didn’t care about – was borderline stomach-churning, and made all the more unsettling by the fact it wouldn’t stop even when I finally got the tape out (and when I powered off then on, the grinding would start right back up again).

Also, messing with some of the switches didn’t seem to produce any effect (i.e., they weren’t registering), I couldn’t get the clock to display even a flashing 12:00, and to top it all off, the decades of accumulated dust/grime/I don’t know produced a smell that was not particularly pleasant (and also not unlike what I briefly described in my RCA TV/Atari Xenophobe post).

All of which is to say that unlike my usual M.O., you’re not getting any pictures of this deck powered on, playing a tape, or what have you. As such, for me, it has been rendered most definitively a display piece. A very large display piece. A display piece that constantly threatens to absolutely obliterate one of my feet should it drop when my muscles give out while trying to carry it.

Whether correctly working or not (and trust me, it’s the latter, not the former), the channel selectors on the front panel absolutely made this worth the eight bucks or however much I dropped on it.

Indeed, if you recall this old Toshiba Betamax post (the odds are you won’t), you’ll remember that that machine featured the same set-up, and that I was quite enamored with it. Why? Because it’s so absolutely, undeniably Northeast Ohio.

I don’t know what 2 stood for, but 3 = WKYC (NBC), 5 = WEWS (Cleveland’s ABC), 8 = WJKW (CBS), 43 = WUAB (independent station), 25 = WVIZ (Cleveland PBS), 61 = WCLQ (another indie, and points to this being used in the early 1980s, as that station signed on in ’81), 45 = WNEO (Alliance/Youngstown PBS), 23 = WAKR (Akron’s ABC), 17 = WJAN or WDLI, depending on if it’s before 1983 or after (religious indie), and 9 = no idea.

Also, look close and you can see the remote control (they were corded back then!) and microphone inputs at the very bottom of the unit.

Here’s how you’d tune the aforementioned channels in. I guess once they were entered into the presets it wasn’t a big deal, but man oh man, getting there practically required a master’s degree in engineering or sumpin’. Seriously, this pretty much makes my head swim just looking at it.

Also, your obligatory tracking knob as well as a tuner/camera toggle are located on this panel.

In the same wheelhouse, located just above the channel presets is the VCR timer station and clock-settin’ switches. While somewhat less complicated than the requirements, erm, required for tuning the channels, it’s still something that looks like a far bigger pain than you’d expect. Seriously, it’s the kind of thing that would have had me staying up till all hours just to “easy” record something. (I.e., simply press the record button at the specific time whatever I wanted was set to begin.)

Like most everything else about this VCR, these are functions that would be (thankfully) simplified just a few short years later. Suddenly I get all the “I can’t get the clock to stop flashin’ 12:00!” jokes.

Also, I’ve never liked the old school ‘number counters’ found on older decks. Gimme good ol’ hours and minutes any day!

This is a top-loading VCR, and as such, tapes are loaded (say it with me) on the top of the unit, via raising/lowering drawer. When the powered up, a light illuminates the inside of the drawer, a feature that does indeed still work on this machine.

Another hallmark of these early-gen VCRs: cassette player-styled buttons for play, stop, etc.

And, an option that would continue for some years after VCRs began being downsized and simplified but was largely absent as the 1990s dawned on lower-end consumer models is the audio dub feature, which as you can see was present here.

Like I said before, I couldn’t get the clock to come on, no matter what I slammed my paws on. As such, this picture here is little different than if I had the machine plugged in. So why are you getting so upset?

The power light is self-explanatory, but the one labeled “dew” stands for a dew indicator. Basically, if there was moisture in the machine, the light would come on and the machine would refuse to function until said moisture had dissipated or was otherwise removed. Pretty smart move, especially since water and electricity don’t mix and the last thing you need is one of these VCRs exploding like that one planet in Star Wars.

Also, toggles for power, and TV/VTR (VTR standing for Video Tape Recorder). And as you can see, only two recording speeds were available: SP and LP. People like to mention how the earliest VCRs had a two-hour SP VHS recording time over Betamax’s mere single hour, but you know, I’ve got an RCA VBT-200 from 1977, apparently the first VHS VCR released in the U.S., and unless it’s a later revision but with the same model number, mine features the same SP/LP option. Heck, the earliest blank VHS tapes also indicated 2 or 4 hour recording times.

All of which goes to say that for as much as I love Beta, VHS had an even bigger advantage in recording times from the very start than is usually stated. Did you want better picture quality or way more recording time? I really do love Betamax, but there’s a reason VHS won the war.

I’ve mentioned before that I feel for these VCR posts to be “complete,” I have to take a look at the inputs/outputs/etc. on the back of the machines, but in truth, I never really have all that much to say about them. I mean, what can I say? Stuff is kinda self-explanatory.

I do like seeing the input/outputs for both UHF and VHS, that’s a nice throwback, and I especially like that AV cables are supported. Had it looked like this VCR even remotely still functioned correctly, I’d have taken advantage of them and hopefully posted a screencap of something playing, but twas not to be.

“Remote Pause” I’m assuming refers to an option separate from the corded remote input found on the front? Something to pause a recording as it, uh, records, I’m guessing?

See, PV-1500. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

The PV-1500 complies with the FCC, as you’d hope, but the real interesting thing here is the disclaimer about recording. Ah, the days before the 1984 court case put that issue to bed!

I like the warning about not getting water all over the VCR. You’d think such a warning is merely covering all the bases, but let’s face it, there were probably some folks out there who needed that reminder. The very same folks who would have (presumably) been wrestling with the channel-tuning and clock-setting features, which is kinda mind blowing.


You know, over the years I’ve collected a lot of VCRs. Some for actual use, some merely for the sake of collecting. And one thing I’ve come to realize is that Panasonics are probably my favorites.  Generally well-built, sometimes feature-packed, and very often just plain cool-lookin’, as far as I’m concerned Panasonic put out some of the best machines in that (in my opinion) 1985-1990 sweet spot of consumer VCRs. Heck, years later I’m still enamored by the slick and swanky PV-1730. Certainly in this day and age some models will probably need some work, at least belt replacements, to get them up and running correctly, but that’s just the nature of old electronics.

Anyway, this PV-1500 hails from a bit before all that, in the relatively more-lawless early days of the format. Innovations and downsizing and such were still forthcoming, but for the time, this was a revolutionary (and undoubtedly expensive!) piece of technology. I’d like to think that in this age of high-def and streaming services and whatnot, that can still be appreciated.

(I don’t know how else to end this article; I’m kinda spent. It’s a cool old VCR, okay?)

Panasonic AG-1970 S-VHS VCR (Circa-1993)

I’m gearing up for October, cause you know, Halloween and all that. The goal is to have one ‘spooky’ post per week, but we’ll see. ANYWAY, this, this is just too amazing to not get an update out of. Besides, I should probably write something for September, huh?

After a long dry spell, my electronic finds have picked up as of late, as a couple of my recent postings demonstrate. This one, however, handily tops ’em all. Indeed, while this may not be my favorite, this is far and away the most high-end VCR in my not-inconsiderable collection. Behold: The Panasonic AG-1970 S-VHS VCR! That’s it up above, man! I have other S-VHS VCRs (in fact, my first was nearly four years ago), but none can hold a candle to this monster. With it, I have, however tenuously, stepped into the professional world of VCRs.

Truth be told, I didn’t find this myself. Rather, my good friend Jesse (who y’all met here) came across it at a local thrift store, and gave me a buzz. He picked it up on the evening of August 18th, and the tag on it stated it had been put on the 16th. My last visit there had been on the 15th. I could have very easily missed out on this had the wrong person waltzed in over those intervening days, but luckily Jesse was the right person, and he very kindly picked it up for me. The wait was actually beneficial too; the AG-1970 was originally priced at $20, then marked down to $10, and Jesse used a 20% discount coupon on top that. Grand total? $8 + tax. You can not beat that; S-VHS decks almost never show up in-person around here, and when they do, they’re not the mega-high-end ones like this (such as the example linked above). The least I could do was give Jesse a straight $10 for his troubles.

This store generally prices their VCRs between $5 and $10, and lately, they’ve been hitting $5 pretty consistently. The fact the AG-1970 was initially priced so high shows that just from outside appearances alone, this thing is (or was) special. Even at the high of $20, that’s not a bad price, but $8? Why, that’s a veritable bargain buck bill!

Here’s the thing: I’m now heading into what is basically foreign territory for me. I’m the first to admit it. I know my way around regular VHS VCRs okay, but here, much of this is all new to me. So, here more than ever, I invite people with the know-how to hit up the comments section, please!

A closer look the front-panel. My pictures actually make things look worse than they are; my AG-1970 is a little dusty, a little dirty, but for the most part it’s in really nice shape. You’re just gonna have to take my word on this. I probably should have wiped it down with something before starting this post, but meh, let’s say it’s in “as found” condition, okay?

This was a “Prosumer” unit. That is, it was commercially available to you and I and Johnny-runs-his-mouth over there, but we couldn’t have just walked into any brick-and-mortar electronics store to get it; no no, from how I understand it, these were available at stores specifically specializing in higher-end electronics. I couldn’t find much info regarding the pricing, but one blurb I saw mentioned it retailing for a whopping $1900! “Pro Line” indeed!

(Also, look close; in this pic, my AG-1970 sits atop my cool Magnavox VCR with the door-flap audio level thing!)

“It’s like a battle station!” – My brother, upon my showing him the contents of the cool fold-down door. The flash on my camera makes this look grimier than it really is.

Open the front panel, and that’s where the magic of the machine is evident. This wasn’t just a VCR for recording and playing a videotape in the best quality (then) possible, this was a legit editing station! With feature upon feature (some of which, I’m first to admit, I don’t know the exact function of), this was the kind of machine you’d want for actual video projects. Even though this was a consumer model, I can see it being viewed as more of an industrial unit by schools, businesses, and the like.

No doubt about it, this thing was a beast. There’s quite a few options for audio preferences, as well as the expected video toggles; I was a little surprised to see the switch for SP or SLP recording, but no LP. When you’re shelling out nearly two grand for a model of this nature, why not give any and all recording outputs possible?

I like the sliding tabs for picture sharpness and headphone jack volume, and the dual sliding tabs for the Hi-Fi audio recording levels.

There’s also a switch labeled “TBC.” No, it’s not a misspelling of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia Motto (alliteration); rather it stands for “Time Base Correction.” This is important: TBC can drastically correct / stabilize the picture of a videotape. Wikipedia has a decent write-up on the feature. Because I’m an admitted neophyte in this area, evidently another, external TBC is needed to get the absolute best picture quality, but honestly, that’s probably heading into a zone I’d never notice much of a difference in. I like a good VHS picture, but I’m not really a full-fledged videophile.

Speaking of which, I duly went about researching this deck upon acquirement. This research took me into legit videophile forums; I mean, there were guys debating aspects of these VCRs that pretty much made my head swim. That’s not a slam on anyone; I’m endlessly impressed with these guys that (seemingly) so effortlessly know all the ins and outs of S-VHS. Anyway, the general consensus seems to be that the AG-1970 was good for its time, but the succeeding AG-1980 is the better unit from an abilities and picture-quality standpoint, though the AG-1970 seems to be more reliably-built.

Hey, you throw an AG-1980 at me for $10, I’ll snap it up with extreme fervor. But until then, I’m going to be happy with my AG-1970.

More coolness as we head to the right. Excuse the glare; the display panel is apparently housed in the most reflective surface in the universe. I dig the cool vertical audio level readouts.

The picture doesn’t show it very well, but the display is actually a bit on the dim side. It’s definitely readable, and if you had the lights out, you could probably see what’s going on from where you sat. But, it really should be brighter than it is; I hope it’s not a power supply issue.

Also: Jog shuttle! I’m a sucker for these things; even when a deck doesn’t really need one, it’s still improved by its presence, as far as I’m concerned. ‘Course, the AG-1970 does need the jog, not only because of the functions it provides but also because it’s the AG-1970 and anything less than a jog shuttle would not be fitting for a machine of this stature.

Okay, so right about here is where I’d have a screenshot of something playing on the AG-1970; show the machine in action. I can’t do that though, and here’s why: The VCR certainly appears to work perfectly, and every function I tested appeared to do its appropriate thing, at least as far as the display, uh, displayed. However, I can’t be sure, because I couldn’t get a picture to show up! Not that I think the machine is broken or anything like that; the counter is telling me that something is being read here.

Y’see, what I’m doing it plugging it into the front jacks of the VCR I have hooked up to the PC; that’s normally how I do my testing with new old decks. BUT, because this Prosumer stuff is all totally new to me, for all I know that could just be all wrong. You experts are gonna have to (nicely) let me know, because I don’t have the manual or the expertise to know what, if anything, I’m doing wrong.

But you know what? Let’s say there’s something wrong with a capacitor or whatever, and that’s why I’m not getting a picture. I almost don’t care, because at $8, the AG-1970 was still a monumental bargain. I can always get it repaired if need be; in fact, I’d rather have it gone over from top to bottom, make sure it’s in full working order, before I start regularly using it.

The back of the unit. Plugs and whatnot, obviously. Actually, I’m a little surprised there’s not more of ’em. There’s the expected antenna jacks, and AV jacks, and the channel selector switch. All pretty par for the course.

The really nice feature is the S-Video outputs and inputs though; was there a higher mode of output than that back in the early-1990s? Was composite video around yet? Super Nintendo had S-Video; that’s gotta count for somethin’!

You’ll notice in the title for the post, I listed the date as “circa-1993.” Near as I can tell from my research, that’s around the time this machine was out. There’s no date on the back of this deck, so yeah, circa-1993.

Final proof this thing was mighty high-end? A big, thick, detachable power cord.

Whether it works correctly or not almost (almost) doesn’t matter; just having the Panasonic AG-1970 S-VHS VCR is enough for me. Look at it up there! Just look at it! It’s not just an S-VHS VCR, it’s a professional S-VHS VCR! It’s heavy duty! It’s feature-packed! It’s built like a tank! And it supposedly has really, really nice picture quality! This thing is my new good friend!

Thanks once again to my pal Jesse for grabbing this VCR for me! It’s a fine addition to my collection! (And fodder for my dumb blog is always nice, too.)

Kodak PCD-250 Photo CD Player (October 1992)

You know, as of late I’ve been neglecting the whole “old electronics” portion of this blog quite a bit. This was brought into a particularly sharp focus recently by a spate of comments on my older posts regarding the subject. The answer was clear: People like reading about this stuff, but even before that I had noticed that those posts tend to get decent viewership.

So, I knew I needed to write about something electronic-related again. The timing of this realization turned out to be fortuitous, because look what I brought home from the State Road Goodwill just last night: From October 1992, it’s a Kodak Photo CD player! A Photo CD player! Just look at it up there! It’s the PCD-250, and as an artifact of 1990s technology, it’s tough to beat…

…Which is good, because beyond longingly gazing at it, I can’t find much other practical use for the beast.

(As such, this isn’t going to be a super long post.)

You can click on any of these pics for a larger view, which will hopefully alleviate the symptoms of my inability to find a decent viewing angle to snap these shots. (Hey, I did the best I could.) Above is a closer, full-on view of the control panel. Nothing too out of the ordinary; you’ve got your starts, stops, opens, closes, shuffles, and so on. Without closer inspection, one may very well think it’s an ordinary CD or even DVD player. Indeed, Goodwill had this notated as just a CD player on their price tag. That was technically correct, especially in this day and age, but back when it first released, there was a bit more to it than that.

Just what is a Photo CD system, and why am I so enamored by it? Wikipedia has a wonderfully detailed write-up on the line, but the short of it is that in the time before digital cameras and DVDs and what have you, the Kodak Photo CD system allowed you to view your photos, your very own homemade photographs, on television. Think of it as an evolution and/or offshoot of the vacation slides people used to bore their friends and family with.

A DVD-era mindset would say that you could burn a CD loaded with pictures for play on one of these things, but that mindset would be dead wrong. Remember, this is early-1990s technology; burning a CD on your computer wasn’t exactly as matter-of-fact then as it is now. (Or was, what with CDs seemingly being on their way out – much to my chagrin.)

So how did you get your sad snapshots from the camera to disc to player? Kodak had Photo CD centers, and much like you dropping off film to be developed (remember when you had to do that? I do!), you’d take your precious cargo to one to be transferred to CD, and from there, you could view digital slides of all the stupid things you thought were worth archiving digitally – including those embarrassing early-1990s fashions that would soon come back to haunt you somethin’ fierce.

It’s the kind of technology that’s so commonplace nowadays, I wouldn’t think twice about burning a bunch of my idiotic photos to disc and watching them on my DVD player (if I had that much time to waste on my hands, and luckily I’m not quite there…yet). But for 1992, this was a neat piece of tech. Unfortunately, the transitory nature of electronics, and the introduction of affordable digital cameras and PC photo formats, and so on and so forth, it all eventually doomed the line, and while it limped along for several years, it was never quite a rousing success.

Kodak Photo CD players used their own compact disc format, and while I initially figured maybe burning some JPEGs or something to CD and throwing it in would be enough to properly test the machine, a quick online search told me I was severely mistaken. Apparently there are ways to mimic the format and burn to CD, but a cursory glance at such prospects left my head swimming just enough to where I abandoned the idea. (Besides, I don’t know if that’s technically legal or not.) So, for all intents and purposes, the Photo CD aspect of this unit, the main reason it was put into production, is barred to me.

Still, the thing powered up, and aside from the CD-drawer not quite closing all the way without a little help from the user, it appeared to be fully-functional. I have no reason to doubt the Photo CD portion still runs correctly, but near as I can tell, I have no way of proving it. And to make matters worse, upon plugging in and powering on, nothing shows up on-screen, so no neato screencaps for y’all, either.

About the only thing I can do with the machine is play audio CDs. Luckily, I had a spare copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Human Touch lying around, and what better way to test a 1992 piece of technology than with a 1992 album? So in it went!

Above: You can see the player gives a readout of the total CD running length, as you’d expect, and it does run audio pretty well. Human Touch sounded really nice while playing here; there was an odd, I don’t know, kinda ‘thumping’ sound on what seemed to me to be higher notes, but for all I know that was just a result of the chords I was using. I could have listened to the whole album this way and not been bothered, so obviously it was a pretty minor issue. Maybe the lens just needs a cleaning, I don’t know. I suppose it doesn’t really matter though, does it?

(On a side note: Human Touch isn’t one of Springsteen’s more well-regarded albums, especially when compared to Lucky Town which released on the exact same day. But personally, I’ve never found it that bad. There are some weak moments for sure, and the sound belies the labored late-1980s/early-1990s production time, but I maintain that had he merely pruned it of two, three, or maybe even four of the lesser tracks, there would be a more positive lasting image of the album. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s The River Part II or anything, but nevertheless, methinks there’s enough good stuff on Human Touch to merit a purchase. I’ve always liked it as a whole, and as an artifact of 1992, well, to me it’s wildly appropriate to play on a Kodak Photo CD system, okay?)

Around the back of the machine, you’ve got some standard inputs and outputs. RF out, antenna in, your red-white-yellow jacks, a channels 3 or 4 selector, and the part I found most interesting, an S-Video jack.

S-Video was around, obviously, but I don’t think it had quite become an industry standard yet, so to see it implemented by Kodak was a nice touch. Hey Photo CD system, you’re on the same page as Super Nintendo! Well done!

Next: Hooray for poorly-lighted and too-blurry photos! This isn’t the kind of thing I’d want playing on my Photo CD system!

Still, there’s your proof: October 1992. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

Geez man, October 1992; I was all of six-years-old! I didn’t even have my Super Nintendo yet! (That would come at Christmas ’92.) Maybe one of the coolest things about picking up old technology like this nowadays isn’t so much what it can or can’t do, but rather it’s the ability to look back and realize this was what was cutting-edge then! Sure, it’s been hugely, hugely supplanted in the years since, but like I said before, that’s just the transitory nature of the beast.

So there you have it, the newest addition to my big giant stack of electronics: A Kodak Photo CD system from October 1992. I can’t really do much with it, except play audio CDs (and I’ve got plenty of other devices that can handle that), but as a piece of early-90s tech, I still like having it. I can’t promise I’ll ever do much more with it, and I’m a little disappointed I can’t (easily) play photos on it, even if for no other reason than to be as arbitrary as possible, but for only $5 I say it was still worth adding to my pile of junk electronics collection.

Panasonic Omnivision Hi-Fi VHS VCR PV-1730 (February 26, 1985)

See, I didn’t take April off. Just most of it.

I’ve been a busy Video Hunter this past month, and the sad fact of the matter is I’ve had neither the time nor, to be quite honest, the inclination to put together a ‘big’ article. The reasons for this are several, though I won’t bother to go in to them. Still, I wanted to get something up before April ended, lest y’all think I abandoned the site and, by extension, you. Never let it be said that I don’t care, because I do, I do care!

Anyway, this isn’t going to be a long post, and truth be told, you can consider it more of a stop-gap entry than anything. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the subject, because I most certainly do. Dig this: From early 1985 (February 26, as per the back), it’s one of Panasonic’s famous Omnivision VHS VCRs, and boy, is this one technologically advanced – well, it was 32 years ago, anyway. Behold the PV-1730! A slick, feature-packed Hi-Fi stereo deck that had the capability to blow your face off – well, it did 32 years ago, anyway.

The best way I can describe this VCR is “heavy duty.” It just feels like a real product, a high-tech, ostensibly end-all be-all addition to the home entertainment center. And that silver casing that flies in the face of the predominantly-black styles of so, so many other VCRs? Looks sharp, man. Is it wrong that I can see this machine being used as decoration in some episode of Miami Vice? Maybe it was.

However, this deck doesn’t quite work correctly, though it mostly does; it powers up, it registers whatever button I slam my paws against, it fast-forwards, it rewinds. The only problem is it doesn’t like to play. Not consistently, anyway. Sometimes I can get it to go and it will run for a period before stopping, but other times it will play for only a moment or two before it takes a powder. I have several ideas as to what the problem is, but it’s not like this is going to be my daily driver; honestly, I picked this machine up simply because of the supreme mid-1980s-ness it exudes. I didn’t even bother taking a screencaps of something playing on it, because it just doesn’t matter.

(So why even bring it home? I love the the era of electronics it so deftly defines, and besides, even if it doesn’t work 100% right now, I always grab these with an eye towards getting them repaired at some unknown point in the future. But really, it all comes to down to the looks and features – even if none of them really mean anything in this day and age. It’s this same mentality that got me my swanky Sylvania VCR.)

Luckily, I got the thing to play for most of my picture-taking session. The display is pretty nice and bright, and while I hate the old school “counter” system, this machine rectifies that with giving the exact minutes and seconds too, which makes it my friend.

You can barely see it, but there’s a sticker stating this was one of Panasonic’s “Tech 4” models, always a welcome sight to yours truly. Indeed, one of the best VCRs I ever found was a 1986 Omnivision “Tech 4” that works flawlessly and may have even more features than this deck. I keep that one on a figurative pedestal because I’m weird.

See that panel at the bottom? It opens up, and oh what it harbors just beneath the hood…

BOOM.

Here’s your station for “One-Touch Recording,” along with the ability to set the OTR timer, as you’d expect. Also, not one but two tracking-control knobs, nifty left and right audio controls, a switch for recording in all three speeds, and Dolby noise reduction.

Now see, I didn’t grow up with, or at least didn’t grow up using, VCRs with such a now-convoluted recording scheme; I came around, thankfully, when that set-up had been reduced to on-screen displays and programmed with the remote. As such, the thought of setting a timer with this system kinda makes my head swim. I could have mastered it, I could still master it, but luckily, I’ll never have to!

Hold on, there’s more to it!

On top of the unit there’s a flip-up panel with controls for picture sharpness, regular TV or cable TV, display options, and so on. Sorry this pic is alternately too bright and too dark; this was about as satisfactory a picture as I was going to get.

Also, V-Lock for SP and SLP? That’s a new one on me. They’re probably found on some of my other VCRs, but if so, I never paid much attention – what exactly is that? “Vertical Lock?” Is that like the “Vertical Hold” on old TVs?

You know what attracted me most to this unit when I first came across it? That “Hi-Fi Audio HD” declaration above. It may not mean anything anymore, but man does that just sound completely top-of-the-line for the time. For the time? Heck, to me that still sounds cool!

Besides the ‘normal’ controls for playing and recording, you’ve also got plenty of audio features, including audio dub, and needless to say, the audio levels meter I always love seeing on these old models.

Along the back are the expected microphone inputs and whatnot and the television hook-ups, but what I really get a kick out of is the “Pay TV” knob; I’m not even sure what it does, but it almost doesn’t matter, because it’s such a neat mid-1980s throwback. I said the same thing about the previously-linked Sylvania VCR, so anyone with the appropriate knowledge wanna fill me in? Hit the comments section!

More inputs/outputs, including handy ports for a camera. The “Editing” plug has me curious, though the declaration of “See Manual” feels like a diss; I don’t have the manual, VCR! Thrift store finds rarely include them, and as such I’m performing a lot of guesswork (such as it is) with some of these features. There’s probably a PDF of the manual online somewhere, but frankly, searching it out is too much work for a stop-gap post that approximately three people are going to read anyway.

So, just where did I get this beast? I honestly couldn’t remember until I dug the machine out and noticed the “$8.00 Y” price written in marker. “Y” stood for “Yellow,” which means I got this from some Village Thrift somewhere. Evidently I never did much with this machine upon getting it home, since I hadn’t even bothered to clean that off! Nope, it had just been sitting in my stack of VCRs, staring at me, day in, day out, wondering why I shun it so. Until today anyway, when I decided I should probably write a token post for April 2017.

So there it is, a Panasonic VHS VCR, loaded with options and still looking darn cool to boot. This was one of those finds I buy based solely on looks, features and “aura.” I grab things like this all the time, and even though I usually never do all that much with them, I love having them, simply because of the era in electronics that they represent.

There. Gap = Stopped!