Telly behemoths: Does size matter?

And in Blighty, does class matter even more?

A class act

Size isn't everything when it comes to TV. In fact, as we hinted at the start of this piece, it can seem a bit vulgar to go on about it. For the British at least, TV has always been somewhat linked with class.

Granada TV rental ad from 1977

Ooh, don't buy a colour telly, what if it breaks down? Worries about initial cost and repairs meant that many of us rented our TVs, which kept Granada and the like in business until the early 1990s

In At Bertram's Hotel, Agatha Christie has one of her characters comment on the ghastliness of ITV, and nice children such as myself were kept safely away from commercial television. If you watched Magpie, you probably went to a comprehensive.

Sony KP-7210 PS – the world's first back projection colour TV set from 1972

Bloke and mirrors: Sony's KP-7210 PS – the world's first colour video projection system from 1972
Going large in the Seventies was pretty much exclusive to boardrooms

And, of course, one of the things that today vexes the unempathetic is that poor people are in possession of large flat screen televisions. Presumably, according to their logic, the moment anyone loses their job, a snatch squad from the DWP should raid their house and replace it with a black and white portable.

In fact, this sort of complaint is nothing new – it's just the type of television that has changed. I recall hearing grown ups gossiping, scandalised, in the 1970s. The object of their ire? A woman down the road, who was "on the social", yet had a TV set with doors on.

Grundig Fernseh-Stereo-Konzertschrank Zauberspiegel 61 M 1 from 1959

All part of the furniture: Grundig's 1959 flagship, the Fernseh-Stereo-Konzertschrank Zauberspiegel 61 M 1.
Tellies could easily linger in the home for a decade before something (usually smoke from the back) would entice an upgrade. Like going from SD to HD, the introduction of PAL in 1967 did shift a lot of old behemoths

Ah, the TV with doors. One wouldn't want the neighbours to know one had anything as common as a television set, would one? From the 1950s to the 1970s, just as the manufacturers of radiograms worked at disguising them as sideboards, so TV makers created sets with doors on. There were plenty of variations in cabinet style, to ensure that it fitted with the rest of your room, from the 'Scandinavian' to the decidedly old fashioned.

One of my favourites is the Dynatron Sandringham. It's really just re-badged Philips kit, but this is probably the pinnacle of TV snobbishness: a cabinet named after the Queen's residence, containing a 26 inch colour telly, with ultrasonic remote control. On top – with, of course, a wooden lid – is a built in Philips VCR. Truly, an entertainment system that could have been designed for Margot Leadbetter.

Early 1970s Dynatron Sandringham TV and Philips N1500 VCR

Hide your shame behind the doors of this stylish cabinet. Early 1970s Dynatron Sandringham CTV25 and Philips N1500 VCR. Image courtesy of Rob Grimley

Although tube sizes steadily nudged up by an inch or so, it seemed the main obsession in the 1980s was to have a small-screen portable TV that could live in the kitchen or the bedroom. And as those of us in Blightly watching American TV cop shows would never understand, tellies would be blaring away in bars. A television in a pub, who on earth would want that?

To get a bigger picture, projection systems were rethought and eventually found their way into homes that were large enough – think America and Australia. Three CRTs of red green and blue beamed the picture onto projection screen via a mirror. Installing one of these in the home took a lot of commitment, not only in terms of space but, given the weight, once you'd positioned it, you wouldn't want to be moving it again.

Mitsubishi VS-500 G rear projection TV from 1984

Mitsubishi VS-500 G projection TV from 1984. The enclosure had an effect on viewing angles
Click for a larger image

Sony had its Videoscope system that appeared in 1978 until 1982 offering 50- and 72-inch screens. Mitsubishi, among others, knocked out its own range with the 50-inch model weighing in at 103kg. It wasn't until around 1986 that rear projection television (RPTV) arrived, eventually getting slimmer and lighter as CRTs gave way to LCD and DLP light sources.

Next page: Enter the Nineties

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