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The must-have accessory for the 1980s: 2-inch screen in-dash TV (2014) (autoweek.com)
77 points by mzs 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments

This reminded me of something I’d long forgotten about — sometime in the early 90s I somehow got my hands on a small portable (handheld?) TV and it was amazing. I seem to remember it had a 2 or 3 inch full-color screen, a big CB-style telescoping antenna, and was basically miserable to use (lol) — but it was a portable TV!

I remember being on some long bus trip with some kids from school and we were all hovering around the tiny screen as the various VHF signals came in and out as we drove on the interstate. 5 seconds of solid signal was miraculous and we all watched in awe.

I guess if I'd been a bit more prescient in my teenage years I'd have started working on YouTube right away! ;)

If you're into this, check out the TechMoan channel on YouTube. He's got a ton of old tech like this, including portable TVs, old portable cassette decks (both consumer and professional), older audio and video formats which never made it to the format wars (some that were very popular in the UK where he lives, but never made it to the US markets), etc.

It could have been the Realistic Pocketvision 22, which I have. Neat aside, it uses the right side of the screen to show which channel is tuned, and you need to scan to find one.


I had a small LCD color one and we plugged the NES into it and played it on the tiny screen. While still sitting in front of our nice 20 inch TV.

It was an even lower resolution than Super Mario Bros 3 as you could tell it couldn't show every pixel, so it was probably something like 120p. It seemed like half the resolution of SMB3 which is 256x224.

But it felt like the future. :)

It is the future. Us old-timers (you know, in our late 30s/early 40s) keep thinking that a big screen tv is great, while the cool young kids each just want their own small screen. Most are happy with a 4-5" screen, others like a 7" - 10" screen, and the rich kids have the 12.9" ipad pro, though even that is "a bit too big".

portable TVs were like magic. well, so was the GameBoy for that matter. that feeling of technological magic was unique. I wonder what the equivalent would be for today's kids?

Probably virtual reality. I tried it for the first time at an art museum a week ago and while I was only floating around an artist's 3D painting-like impression of her home, it still felt pretty magical.

Somewhere - maybe Banggood? a few years back I saw a most remarkable product - a keychain VHF TV receiver, and not expensive either. It was a real "how far we've come" moment for me.

I didn't buy it because I had no use for it, and now I can't find any references to it anywhere. I suppose its essential uselessness caught up with it, no matter how cool. I wish I'd bought one :(

I had a game gear back in the day with the TV tuner and brought it to camp one summer. Portable TV indeed! We did the same and found that even though it mostly received one solid channel it was too cool not to watch.

Was it, by chance, the Sony Watchman:


I picked up one of these at a thrift store recently. While I've still held on to it, I keep struggling to think of a useful project I could use it for that wouldn't be better served by a newer backlit color LCD panel.

Obligatory eevblog teardown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65ENph8sV-0

The engineering is amazing.

I still think the epitome of 80's "engineering" belonged to Tomy. Their engineers and product designers were mechanical engineering wizards.

I personally think they showed absolute mastery of the subject with the release of the Tomy Armatron.

It may not seem possible, but that 5 axis robot arm was completely mechanical. The entire drive system was powered by a single 3 volt DC motor that ran on two D-cells.

It had two joysticks for control; each had, IIRC, 4-way directional control, along with stick rotation mechanically coupled to a complex transmission system that controlled each axis (I believe the rotation of the stick controlled on one side the jaws of the gripper, while the other controlled rotation of the wrist).

It really is the most complex manual transmission control scheme you can imagine.

It was built upon years of similarly complex systems for various tabletop "games" (Atomic Pinball, for instance), as well as weird mechanical and electronic systems for their various entertainment robots they created (culminating in the Omnibot robot line).

Check it all out if you ever have the chance. Most of these robots have become collectors items (and should be treated as such for the most part), but the Armatron was mass produced and licensed all over the place, with Radio Shack being the main outlet in the day; you can find used RS-licensed Armatrons all over Ebay cheaply. In fact, there's so many RS Armatrons available, you hardly ever see an actual Tomy branded one (if you ever find one, especially NIB, and it's cheap - grab it and hold onto it).

There are more than a few articles on the internet detailing how to modify the Armatron to connect it to a computer (back in the day, the common machine to do this with was an Apple or Commodore). Many of these articles have tear-down images showing the inner workings of the Armatron.

Same for me, I used it in the train and it worked pretty fine. It still works today, of course there are no more UHF/VHF channels but I should find a use for the video input.

This reminded me of how excited I was to see my friends TV Tuner Cartridge for his Sega GameGear in the early nineties :D

I went to summer camp one year and another kid brought the TV tuner for the GameGear to camp. We were doing some wilderness survival thing where we had to sleep out in a makeshift structure. In the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, he brought out the game gear and everyone gathered around to see what we could watch. All we could get was Lambchop and Matlock reruns. No one cared, though, because, well, hey, we had TV in the woods. Pretty magical, I must admit.

I brought my GameGear w/ tuner to summer camp in WI. Didn't matter what shows were on because it was the same, pretty magical.

Until the batteries ran out two and a half hours later (if you were lucky) :-P

Those were neat. There was an input on it too, so you could hook up other devices to it.

I actually beat Mega Man on the NES... using a Game Gear with the TV Tuner as the screen.

I so badly wanted one of those for my GameGear. Alas, it was not to be.

I wish cars still had DIN standard stereo mounting.

Many base models still do; they're just hidden behind the OEM's dash panels. Aftermarket equipment makers sell vehicle-specific adapter faceplates that will let you swap out the factory radio for a DIN / double-DIN device.

It's still relatively common on Mitsubishi econoboxes and Ford trucks.

My mid-2000s Subaru still has a standard double din. Even a 2000s Audi I solid, had worked with DIN with a curved adapter. We are seeing more flush/curved/integrated dashes today though, which really sucks. I agree, standardized components and sizes are good. In 15 years when that Honda GPS dies, it nice to have other options you can replace it with, without needing weird adapters or having to 3D print plastic parts.

They still do in many poorer countries where minimizing cost is still important (e.g. Mexico and India), but they’re fading away as people become wealthier and demand (and can afford!) complex integrated entertainment/climate/navigation system.

The thing that sucks about such a thing is that for those of us who want standard components, we'll be relegated to the cheaper automobiles meant for those with less buying power - if we can get them at all.

One vehicle I would love to purchase - if it ever makes it to market - but one that I doubt I'll be able to, is the Ox Global Vehicle Trust flatpack truck:


Those trucks just look so damn useful and neat, and you get to put it together yourself!

Which means it'll never see the light of day being sold in the United States. I've kinda figured that if I ever want a vehicle like that, I'll have to design and build it from scratch myself.

This may have better odds of getting around the Chicken Tax than imported diesel pickups. The Sprinter vans are imported knocked-down, then re-assembled. I’d like a flat-bed diesel Toyota like you can buy in Australia.

Even if the mounting is standard it's problematic to make the steering wheel control buttons work correctly with aftermarket units.

I remember those. I also remember thinking, "hmm, 'Mustang', the first name that comes to mind when you think quality audio gear. /s" IOW, having never seen one in the flesh, I assumed it was a cheap version of the Casio handheld TV (one of which I did have) tacked on to an even cheaper tape deck that would just as soon eat your tapes as play them. Combine that with an eye-watering price, and I took a pass when it came install a new deck.

I wanted to get it but the EBay listing was sold, and it was a great deal, considering that it was new, and its nearly impossible to find anything vintage in new condition.

Since we can't get analog TV signal anymore, I'd love to have retrofitted this with Raspberry Pi since this TV-radio has a VCR (assuming standard RCA) input and Raspberry Pi has the analog video output.

Raspberry Pi composite video looks pretty terrible on a 5" B&W TV.

I can only imagine what 2" (at 55MPH) looks like.

This would be illegal in many US States, though I doubt anyone would enforce it... unless you got into an accident while yelling at the Price is Right on your tiny screen.


Illegal today, in 2019, yes.

But were these laws on the books back in the 80's when this item would have been newly on the market?

Since laws often occur in a reactive manner, it is very likely these laws were not yet on the books, and when it was new it would not have been illegal at that time.

People were driving around with 12v portable B&W TVs in the front seat in the 70s, (I think "taxi driver" features just such a situation) so it's possible the laws had appeared around the time this product did.

Looks like NY's law against TV use in cars dates to 1974, Texas's to 1995.

If you re-read the ad copy included in the article, you'll notice that it had a lockout function that disabled the screen when the engine was on (though you could still listen to the TV sound output).

Massachusetts passed a law against using your phone while driving (other than one touch button presses) something like 4 years ago. I'd be shocked if this screen was illegal in the 80's.

Reminds me of knight rider and the sony watchman.

looks like an oscilloscope

Put the panel on a hinged lid (you'd have to reduce the size of the "cassettes" greatly) and you'd have something resembling The Original Series Star Trek "Tricorder."

I can see this being sort of useful so you can listen to news broadcasts while driving.

Interestingly enough, back in the old days of analog television, you could listen to the audio feed for channel 6 - it was broadcast on 87.76 MHz. Not every car radio was capable of going low enough on the frequency spectrum, but if you had one that could hit 87.7 and you were in an area utilizing TV channel 6, it was possible to listen to TV on the radio.

I had a Walkman clone (Aiwa perhaps?) in the mid-late 1980s, and one of the things I remember doing a lot was just slowly moving the analog dial from the far left to the far right to see what I could pick up. I could pick up TV sometimes including, for reasons I never figured out, HBO. We didn't have HBO, and so this was pretty cool. Obviously listening to a movie (especially a movie you've never seen) would be annoying, but they used to show a lot of comedy specials too. Dennis Miller, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, whatever that big day-long comedy special is that raises money for charity. I can't imagine how eye-rolly my kids would get if I told them this now, but at the time that was a blast.

That's very strange! Back in those days HBO would have been a satellite uplink directly to cable or to a personal satellite receiver so it's not like it would normally just be floating around the airwaves.

Honestly, radio as a hacker hobby is still absolutely a blast. If you're into breaking out a shortwave radio receiver or HAM equipment there's all sorts of wild stuff out there just waiting to be discovered - same with satellite wildfeeds and free OTA television, honestly. It carries a bit more magic than the Internet since it's all around us just waiting to be picked out of the air.

This was before cable boxes, I think (or maybe they were only needed if you had a fancy cable package). At least around here, there was a physical RF filter that was removed at the cable box that delivered cable to your house, if you subscribed to HBO. I swear I remember hearing about people removing the filter themselves and then getting in trouble when the cable company found out. On most sets you could turn the knob to channel 2 and get a distorted picture and audio for HBO if you weren't a subscriber.

I always figured that it was either leaking out from the cable, or maybe a TV or something wasn't shielded well enough. I'm out of my depth on that though, so I'd just be guessing.

Did you have any neighbors? Maybe one of them was using some sort of wireless sound system with a low power FM transmitter.

Plenty of neighbors but I don't think wireless sound systems were available in the mid-80s. Maybe they were though.

This is still happening today, only in reverse.

The FCC is allowing analog TV stations on channel 6 to stay on the air to serve as an additional FM signal for the market. There's one in Chicago, and a few others around the country I've seen.

Technically, they're all supposed to be off the air, but the deadline keeps getting pushed back since they serve a useful function in an already crowded FM band.

Pretty sure news radio was also available.

That one was our first TV set, but from a different brand, it was german I remember.

That record onto tape with no hassle feature is pro.

Very nice car indeed, even without TV.

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