In Living PortaColor - The Not-A-PortaColor Page

The televisions illustrated on this page are not members of the tube-type PortaColor line, but are somewhat related and/or may be of interest in terms of historical context.

GE PortaColor II
GE PortaColor II >>More images...

First, here's a GE PortaColor II from the early 1970's. This was an early attempt by General Electric to produce a solid-state small-screen color TV in the same spirit as the original PortaColor. Note that even the cabinet is similar in size and basic shape to that of the 'regular' PortaColor. Visually, one could even mistake this set for a regular tube-based PortaColor TV -- the primary cosmetic differences are that the front panel control knobs have been replaced with sliding controls and rocker switches, and that the plastic cabinet is more 'squared off' in the back and has a front facia that extends further beyond the front of the picture tube.

Inside, of course, the PortaColor II is entirely different, with transistors and integrated circuits throughout. The picture tube has the same part designation as that used in the regular PortaColor, so that hasn't changed.

Considering the significant modernization of the circuit components, one would assume that this 'new' TV would offer a considerable improvement in features and performance over the bare-bones design of the original PortaColor. As it turns out, it appears to have only one performance feature not present in the tube-based PortaColor's, namely AFT (Automatic Fine Tuning). There's still no automatic chroma gain (ACG), a feature which would have been starting to become common at the time this set was made, and there's still no DC restoration either! [The latter really surprised me-- I fully expected it to have DC restoration, but while watching TV programs on it for a bit, it quickly became pretty obvious that either it didn't have DC restore, or it just-plain wasn't very effective. A quick look at the schematic pasted inside the cabinet indeed showed that, sure enough, there really isn't a DC restoration circuit.] On the other hand, it does have the instant warm-up 'feature' often found on TV's in that era. [This feature works by leaving the picture tube heater (filament) powered on-- at reduced voltage-- when the power switch is off. The result is there's almost zero warm-up time-- you get a picture almost immediately, though at some cost in electricity.]

Oddly enough, despite having a solid-state chassis, this TV is actually slightly larger and 2 or 3 pounds heavier (!) than the regular vacuum-tube PortaColor TV's.

Sony Trinitron 1210U
Sony Trinitron 1210U >>More images...

The next not-a-PortaColor set on this page is a Sony KV-1210U as introduced in 1969. This landmark model was the first Sony color TV sold in the USA, and introduced the world to the Sony Trinitron single-gun color picture tube. As if that weren't enough, this TV was also rather remarkable at the time in that it had a solid-state chassis. [Well, almost solid-state, anyway. See the "more images" link for details.]

ASIDE: While there were solid-state color TV sets made before this Sony, it would still be considered an early example of a transistorized color TV design. I also wonder if history will regard the first Sony Trinitron color TV to mark the turning point where the Japanese started to truly become innovators in the electronics industry.

The Sony KV-1210U has a 12" screen. At the time it was introduced, the tube-based GE PortaColor was still the only other small-screen color portable set on the market in the USA. So, when Consumer Reports magazine first reviewed the Sony, it wasn't surprising that they spent much of the article comparing it with the GE PortaColor TV. While CU did not rate this initial Sony model very highly compared with their ratings of most of the later Trinitron sets, CU did find the Sony to be a superior product (and deservedly so) over the GE in several ways. The only major disadvantage they noted, in fact, was that the Sony was also considerably more expensive than the far-simpler GE set. As CU also pointed out, for about the price of the little 12" Sony, one could have purchased a good (if not better overall) conventionally-designed American 18" table model color TV instead.

As noted on the main PortaColor page, Sony did consider licensing GE's three-gun inline tube design (from the PortaColor) during their color TV develoment phase, but Sony eventually decided to try to expand upon the Chromatron/Lawrence design instead. [ASIDE: Sony actually did briefly produce a TV using a true Chromatron picture tube, but it was sold only in Japan. Unfortunately, it turned out to be unreliable, and it was quickly abandoned after only a limited production run. This Chromatron set is also potentially interesting in that it may well be the only color TV Sony ever made that had a vacuum-tube-based chassis. Anyone out there know for sure..?]

GE Chassis AA
GE AA-Chassis >>More images...

This non-PortaColor set is a fairly early example of GE's second-generation attempt at a solid-state replacement for the old tube-based PortaColor.

Quite some time after the (apparently unpopular) "PortaColor II" was discontinued, General Electric came up with the AA Chassis design used here. This particular set was made in 1978, and you'll note some cosmetic similarities with its tube-based PortaColor bretheren from the mid-1970's. Also, while the picture tube has a different type number than that of the PortaColor, it appears to be essentially identical except that the neck is a few inches shorter.

This set is obviously more compact overall, and it's lighter in weight as well. ...And it finally has automatic chroma gain (ACG). :-) [Due to this set's partially-shared heritage with the PortaColor, I sometimes refer to this design the "PortaColor III" :-) ] Like the original PortaColor, this set went through a few styling/cosmetic changes over the years in an attempt to 'modernize' its appearance.

I'm not sure when this basic design was discontinued (made under a couple of different chassis identifiers), but I know it was quite popular and managed to survive well into the 1980's. In fact, it's certainly possible (if not probable) that it stayed in production all the way until General Electric exited the consumer TV business entirely in about 1986. [As many of you probably know, when GE left the TV manufacturing business, they licensed their logo (as well as that of RCA, which was bought by GE) to Thompson Electronics, which continues to make TV sets with the GE and RCA names to this day.]

RCA CTC-51 >>More images...

Of the major American television manufacturers, RCA was one of the quickest to phase out tube-based circuit designs in preference to transistors and integrated circuits. Illustrated here is an example of a TV having one of RCA's last series of "hybrid" color chassis, the CTC51. This particular set (a 14" RCA AccuColor-line model) appears to have been made in 1972, but, if SAMS index is any indicator, CTC51 chassis sets were apparently made up until the point when RCA went all solid-state circa 1974.

This "hybrid" design is probably about 60% tube-based. The IF and video amp stages are solid-state, as well as most of the audio section (oddly, however, the audio output stage is a pentode -- an 11DS5). The chroma and sweep sections are mostly tube-based, and (not surprisingly) so is the HV section.

In terms of performance features, this set is practically a modern-day miracle compared with most of the other color TVs mentioned on this page. It has automatic chroma gain (ACG)..! It has automatic fine tuning (AFT)..! It even has an automatic tint control circuit! It still doesn't have DC restoration?? (WHY??) ...Oh, and the automatic tint control circuit appears to be almost useless, but it's the thought that counts, right?

By the way, this thing is definitely the heaviest of the portable TVs pictured here so far-- it weighs 42 pounds, which is close to twice that of the all-tube GE PortaColor. [The PortaColor is definitely a lot easier to carry around too.]

Interestingly, about half of the tubes in this set appear to have been made in Japan by another company and then re-badged with the RCA logo. Perhaps this is further evidence that RCA was preparing its departure from tube-based products. [The TV itself was built/assembled in the USA]

GE Chassis SF-series ("Venturer III")
GE SF-Chassis >>More images...

Okay, this General Electric set is not only not-a-PortaColor, but it's not even color. It's also in rather poor condition at that. It does, however, qualify as an example of what might very well almost be GE's black-and-white equivalent to the PortaColor. However, I need to do some research on this one. This 12" monochrome TV was introduced in the late-1960's or thereabouts as (I think) the "Venturer III" (?). This set is of a hybrid design whose active components include 6 tubes, a handful of transistors, and one integrated circuit (!). I believe there was a 15" and perhaps a 17" version of this same set using essentially the same chassis, but it was the 12" one that was the true survivor of the group. Over the years, it was made available in several different colors (including a distinctive red-white-and-blue Bicentennial edition), and 'deluxe' versions sometimes sported metal trim. ...But they all had the same soft-plastic cabinet (which is admittedly quite durable but never really looks like it fits together perfectly) with the same basic styling shown above, including those little plastic tuning knobs (with a continuous UHF dial), and all controls and the speaker located below the picture tube. ...At least, that is, until about 1975. For whatever reason, rather than just let this low-cost TV die and fade away into the vacuum-tube sunset, GE decided to breathe some new life into it. ...Or at least put it on life-support for a year or two. Garage-salers and thrifers beware-- the next drab, blah-looking grey/black plastic mid/late-1970's-looking 12" B&W GE TV set you see might just be one of these SF-chassis hybrids wearing heavy make-up. These "last-gasp" models were very different in appearance-- you'd never guess it had the same chassis as the set pictured above if it weren't for the identification sticker on the back. They even look almost the same as GE's far more popular solid-state 12" B&W sets from the same era-- in fact, the lack of a "NO USER-SERVICABLE PARTS INSIDE" warning on the back may actually be the most obvious clue that something isn't quite right. In any case, the SF-chassis "makeover" sets didn't stay in the GE lineup very long at all (probably only a year or so), leaving the even older PortaColor design to be the last remaining GE vacuum-tube TV set.

A couple of "user" notes about the normal, 'classic' version of this set (like the one shown in the picture) might be worth mentioning, however. For one thing, despite being at least 50% tube-based, it's actually noticably lighter and more compact than most solid-state 12" B&W TV sets. (!) On the other hand, it's a pretty mediocre TV from a performance standpoint, and I don't think it's entirely because of the age/condition of this particular set. [i.e. there are only two IF amplification stages, there's no DC restoration, and the picture geometry has the usual old-cheap-TV intentional overscan (with corresponding mediocre horizontal linearity) and lacks the proper service controls for properly correcting it.]

More Anachronistic Mystery Televisions
1978 Admiral B&W console

Now, perhaps, like me, you find it amusing that an American company would still be manufacturing a tube-chassis color TV set in 1980. Of course, they wouldn't have been making them if they thought nobody would buy them, right?

I find these sorts of "mystery" products somehow facinating in their own right.

Sometimes they're just seemingly outdated technology, such as the manually-operated wringer-style washing machines still being made by Maytag as recently as 1983. [ASIDE: Here's an American-made Amana wringer washer made in 1988..! It was apparently based on a Speed Queen design, as Amana had bought Speed Queen in 1983, and Amana did not previously offer laundry products. What year did Amana / Speed Queen stop making wringer washers in the USA and/or for the USA market anyway..?]

Sometimes they're just products that went out of style, such as the "bottom pull-out freezer"-style Amana refrigerators that stayed in production-- and then suddenly became popular again in the late 1990's.

How about some more "mystery" television sets..?

For one thing, did you know that as of at least 1979, Zenith still offered 22" B&W console TV sets? Yes, that's right, a black-and-white console TV in 1979. Unfortunately, I can't find the reference again, but I saw it in a TV industry model listing, and Zenith was the only manufacturer still offering them. While I can't find that particular reference, I recently aquired a 1978 Admiral TV dealer information binder, and gosh-golly, what do we see here. ...And here's one in a Spanish-style cabinet. ...And here's a 1978-dated dealer pricing page covering these sets. Well, at least they're solid-state, unlike the GE PortaColor... :-)

Now, the big question suggested by this information is this: Just who would have actually bought a B&W console TV in 1978? Granted, even at a retail price of nearly $300, they were still cheaper than the least-expensive 19" table-model color TV that Admiral offered at the same time ($399.99 list), but I would think that if money was of primary concern, practically anyone would have preferred to buy a 19" portable B&W TV ($169 list or less) than spend close to twice that much on an obsolete B&W console having a screen only modestly larger in size (and probably having the same chassis as one of the portable sets, at that). Sure, the console has a "homespun Early American cabinet, with antique hardware and curving ogee base" and is "crafted in hardboard, selected solid hardwoods and plastic parts in warm simulated maple grain finish", but even the $169 portable was available with a matching pedestal base which would have at least dressed it up a bit.

After you've pondered that, consider this secondary question: Just where did all these late-model B&W consoles go after the original purchasers decided to replace them? Come to think of it, I can't recall ever seeing a B&W console TV at a yard sale or thrift store (or other such venue) that looked like it was made any later than the mid-1960's or so. Perhaps everyone who bought a B&W console in the mid/late 70's became so embarrassed by their purchase that they eventually carted it to the local landfill under cover of darkness rather than attempt to re-sell it or give it away... :-)

Speaking of B&W TV sets, in the early 1980's, Zenith might not have still been offering B&W consoles, but they did make 19" and 12" B&W portables having fully electronic frequency-synthesized tuning! No, they weren't cable ready, and, no, they didn't have remote-control, but they did have full random-access keypads and a two-digit LED display to show the selected channel! As far as I can guess, these are the probably the only B&W consumer TV sets ever made by anyone with this type of tuner. They must have been moderately popular, however, because I have seen them (in both sizes) show up occasionally at thrift stores and garage sales. I don't have a 'real life' picture of one of these sets right now, but here are some illustrations scanned from a Zenith service manual which depicts representative 12" and 19" models of this type, as well as a close-up of the keypad area.

This next TV is also somewhat of an anachronism, but in a different way. Or, at least I think it's kinda amusing. Take a quick look at this 19" color TV that I spotted on a shelf at a thrift store. Guess the age of this set. Looks like a typical table-model TV from the mid-1980's, doesn't it? Note the clean lines of the simulated woodgrain plastic cabinet. See how the speaker-grille panel is uninterrupted except for the little window for the LED channel display and IR remote sensor. So what? After you've finished yawning, take another look at this set.

Marty's Home, Whirled --> PortaColor main page

Last updated 03/21/2004

"PortaColor" is presumably a trademark of General Electric Corporation. "RCA" is also currently a trademark of GE, as far as that goes. "Trinitron" is a trademark of Sony Corporation. "Admiral" is now a trademark of Maytag Corporation, as is "Amana". "Zenith" is currently a trademark of LG Electronics (Goldstar).
In any case, no endorsement or approval by General Electric, Sony, Maytag, or LG is implied, nor is GE, Sony, Maytag or LG responsible for the accuracy of the content of this web site. All information is provided on an 'as-is' basis; the author of this site is not liable for damages of any sort (financial, physical, or otherwise) which might arise from the use (or misuse) of information on this site. The Admiral brochure images are assumed to be Copyright © 1977 / 1978, Rockwell International (since they were the parent company at the time), and the Zenith service manual images are © 1983 Zenith Electronics / LG Electronics.
The PortaColor chassis has a transformerless power supply, and so is directly connected to one side of the AC power line -- for safety's sake, you should therefore use an isolation transformer when servicing a PortaColor set.

Unless otherwise indicated, all contents (including images) Copyright © 2000-2004 by Martin (Marty) Kuhn /