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2.9.10

Some 1980s Television Sets...

Let's take a look at some 1980s televisions. Forget those silly programmes you've watched which infer that we were all watching funky, late '60s designed space-age tellies in the '70s and early '80s. I've never clapped eyes on one and I was born in 1965. For yonks, most people watched bog-standard tellies with plastic wood effect surrounds or, when it came to portables, white plastic surrounds were popular. The tellies above were featured in the Brian Mills spring and summer 1983 catalogue. It was during the 1980s that remote control tellies became prevalent, but the prices listed above were certainly not cheap in those days.

And what's all that What Is Teletext? stuff at the top of the catalogue page? Surely Teletext had been around for years? Well, yes, it had, but it had never really caught on. Cost again, I suppose. According to 40 Years of British Television, by Jane Harbord and Jeff Wright (Boxtree, 1995), only six per cent of UK homes were receiving Teletext in 1984. Hence all the exciting catalogue hype.

I was less of a technophobe than I am now (well, there wasn't half as much technology about back then!), but decided there was nothing on Teletext I couldn't get from the daily paper, ordinary TV broadcasts, or the radio. However, taking a close look at the catalogue page above, I see that Teletext listed materials needed for each day's activities in Play School - which, on the two days featured, included "materials for doctors and nurses game" and pipe cleaners. Fascinating. I don't think you could get that information elsewhere.

So, obviously Teletext did have its uses. I stand corrected. Youthful arrogance, that's all it was.

From the Brian Mills Spring & Summer 1983 mail order catalogue.

The Pye Tube Cube radio/black and white TV/cassette/digital clock combination - an exciting new piece of technology, launched circa 1982. These were great - CONSUME, CONSUME! Nah, t'weren't like that in early 1983 when I bought mine. The big booming bit of the '80s was yet to arrive. The simple fact was that my seriously old telly (I was still a black and white guy in the early 1980s) had a horizontal hold so "gone" people on screen looked like eggs on legs, and the wood effect plastic surround was peeling off.

So, I put it out of its misery and bought a Tube Cube (again black and white) from my aunt's mail order catalogue, paying for it in minute weekly amounts.

Captures from an advertisement for the Tube Cube featured on TV-am's first broadcast in 1983.

"Wake up to what Pye is doing. The Tube Cube - your next clock radio, cassette recorder and breakfast TV all in one."

I got on very well with mine and had it until the early '90s - when I sold it.

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The 1983 Tube Cube ad.

A Teeny TV That Suits Your Pocket

Britain launches an £80 mini-marvel

Daily Mirror, September 17 1983.

A tiny TV with a big future went on show for the first time yesterday.

It's the size of a paperback book - and at £79.95 its price will also fit most people's pockets.

What's more the TV is British - the invention of electronics wizard, Sir Clive Sinclair. It has a revolutionary flat screen and measures only 5 1/2 in long, 3 1/2 in high and 1 1/4 in deep. It will run for 15 hours on a special £3 battery.

The set, which is black-and-white, has only two controls and will automatically adjust to any TV system in the world except the French.

Multi-millionaire Sir Clive told a London news conference: "This represents a number of firsts. It is a major breakthrough."

He said the launch was partly held up by a strike at the Dundee factory where the TV tubes are made.

This allowed Japanese rivals to win the race to the shops with their own mini-sets - but at far higher prices.

Sir Clive said that his set would be the best, the brightest, the easiest to use and the cheapest.

"We had the flat tube long before anyone else in the world and the only way the Japanese can match our price is by selling at a loss," he said.

Sir Clive, who is already working on a colour version, hopes to sell up to a million of the new sets each year.

1984: here's that "Wake Up To What Pye Is Doing" slogan again - this time being used to plug a 22" Teletext TV which apparently put manual tuning "firmly in the past":

Teletext information is received as clearly as it can be. You see your favourite programmes spot on the signal every time...
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André Previn plugging the Ferguson TX "Best picture of all time" in the Janet Frazer mail order catalogue, autumn and winter 1984/5.

Nice Pye Red Box portable - went very well with black ash furniture! It was first on sale c. 1984.

A mid-1980s black ash telly cabinet. Ooh, lovely! Note the snazzy colourful 1980s specs, too!

The Tatung Designer series, 1986. In the mid-1980s, we began to move away from wood surround effect TVs or the white plastic surround portables. These portables are colour sets, some with that marvel of 1980s TV technology, the FST (flattest squarest tube). Remote control 21 inch models would set you back £379.90 and the 20 inch standard TT £279.90.

There was a choice of five designer colours - electric blue, jade green, laser red, artic white and ebony black. Black became a highly popular colour for TV surrounds in the late 1980s, a trend which lasted throughout the 1990s.

The 22 inch Teletext TV costs £429.90, the 26 inch Teletext £549.90 and the 20 inch Teletext £389.90.

A range of tellies featured in the Argos spring and summer 1985 catalogue.

Great ad from the mid-1980s featuring the voice of Ian Dury...

... and based on Alexei Sayle's 1984 hit 'Ullo John Gotta New Motor?

'Ullo, Tosh, Gotta Toshiba? They ain't 'arf built well! It was the FST - flattest, squarest tube - sharper picture, know wot I mean, it was the dog's... er, pyjamas! See the ad below.



From the spring/summer 1986 Argos catalogue.

1987 - the Sony Watchman - two or four inch pocket TVs.

Argos, autumn and winter 1987. TVs with black plastic casings - like the Pye and Phillips models featured, were becoming popular. Black was the colour most associated with sets in the late '80s and throughout the '90s.

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