Sunday, August 19, 2012

Audiovox CTX-3100A Cellular Mobile Telephone

For whatever reason, I am obsessed with any sort of business-related technology - especially if it came from the '90s.  For instance, I like PDAs, fax machines, etc.  I tend to like business and office environments in general.  As a kid, I made my own computer out of a box and also set up an office like my dad's - with a desk (Little Tikes table), pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, phone, etc.  The legacy still lives on, as I now have a filing cabinet, two fax machines, a briefcase, and several neckties.  Why I like business stuff?  Who knows?  Maybe it's the nostalgia from the days when my dad worked at a company where he did a lot of business stuff (undoubtedly, this all started by me copying him).  Or maybe I just simply find business stuff cool.  It just seems so modern, classy, etc.

Anyway, I've gotten a bit off topic with this.  Anyway, not too long ago, I was looking through our filing cabinets and looked through the folder for my dad's old car phone, which he used in his three company cars.  I had looked in the folder before but wasn't entirely sure what model it was.  But recently, after looking through the documents more closely, I learned that it was apparently an Audiovox CTX-3100A.  Sadly, I didn't get many results for it on Google.  Although I don't have a particular obsession with this gadget, it goes along with the "high tech business gadgets" that I mentioned - although I realize nowadays, cell phones are commonplace and not that big of a deal.  Still, it just seemed kind of classy and sophisticated talking on a car phone and having a nifty-looking spiral antenna sticking out from the back window of your car.  I think I'm also interested in this phone because it was in use in my dad's Dodge Dynasty, and as I've said many times before, I love that car.  I'm definitely glad to have found some literature on the phone.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

RCA SelectaVision VGT650 Top Loading VCR

Since the spring of 2011, I have gone to Value Village and other similar thrift stores because I learned how many cheap, cool things are there.  On July 18, 2012, I was fortunate to encounter a top loading VCR.  I was amazed at how large and heavy it was.  After seeing it in the store, I debated as to whether or not I should buy it, but finally, on July 21st, I gave in and bought my very first top loading VCR, which I later learned was an RCA SelectaVision VGT650, manufactured in June 11, 1982.  This thing really blows newer VCRs out of the water with all its ports, buttons, etc.  That's one thing that makes old stuff cooler than the newer stuff - they have so many more buttons, controls, parts, etc., so they're naturally more interesting.  While new stuff is practical and cool-looking, sometimes they are so plain, small, and bland that they just aren't as interesting.

Believe it or not, I didn't get around to taking pictures of it or testing it until only a few days ago (you can blame procrastination for that).  Although it accepted the home video copy from 1993, when I pressed "play," it would play for a few seconds and stop.  When I ejected the tape, I learned that it had eaten the tape.  At least the roller guides had returned to the default position, and the VCR didn't shut off.  I have encountered two VCRs in that condition, and it is very frustrating.  Although the VCR doesn't work, I am very glad to have such a vintage VCR in my collection.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The 7th Guest vs. The 11th Hour

I have been a fan of Trilobyte's computer games The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour for many years now.  A number of times, I have tried to decide which game I like more.  Basically, I like each game for its own reasons, but I think I will tend to lean a little more toward The 7th Guest overall.  Still, there are things I enjoy in The 11th Hour as well.  I will highlight what I like and dislike about each game.

The 7th Guest
The biggest reason I like this game more than The 11th Hour is that it's simply a lot scarier.  The music gives a creepier vibe, whereas in the other game, it's not so scary.  Also, in The 7th Guest, you actually see random, spooky animations throughout the house - including ghosts.  In The 11th Hour, nearly all video is viewed inside the Game Book, so you don't see any ghosts in the house environment.  About the only "ghostly" movements you see within the house itself is when objects come to life (like the razor and toothpaste in the bathroom).  I have to tell you, there were times I was terrified of playing The 7th Guest.  One of the most frightening things I saw was when I saw Stauf's face trying to stretch out of his portrait after I finished solving that puzzle.  What was even scarier than that was that I once went to the library to "auto-solve" the puzzle in the bathroom, and I saw the scene with Stauf's portrait when I clicked the hint book...without any warning!  For a while, I was afraid to even wander the halls for the fear that I would suddenly find myself in the portrait gallery.

I don't have any major problems with The 7th Guest except for the lack of a clear storyline.  When I started playing this game, I didn't really connect any of the ghostly scenes as being part of any story - just random events that happened.  It wasn't until I started researching the game online in mid-2001 that I got a better understanding of the story - and that the guests actually had names!

The 11th Hour
Many people have had a negative reaction to The 11th Hour, but I actually think it's a pretty good game.  Granted, I think some of the dislike of The 11th Hour comes from people who played the game back in the '90s and didn't have readily available access to walkthroughs and such - and had to figure the riddles and puzzles out for themselves.  But that aside, I don't think it's really that bad of a game.  By adding a "scavenger hunt," The 11th Hour increased interactivity compared to The 7th Guest, which only featured puzzles.  Also, many people criticized the game for its use of more AI puzzles compared to The 7th Guest, but I think this is actually a good thing.  Most of the puzzles in The 7th Guest have at least one set solution, so all you have to do is memorize it or write it down.  To me, that doesn't give the game much replay value.  But with the AI games of The 11th Hour, there's no definite solution, so it's more interactive and fun.  Admittedly, though, I hate most of the AI games except for the one in the chapel.  Another thing I like about the game is the clearer storyline and the use of the Game Book, which gives you more convenient access to help.  Then again, that could also be a bad thing.  I also like the use of shortcuts in the game.  For instance, clicking the bottom of the screen will give you a quick, 180 degree turnaround.  You can also left-click if you don't want to hear one of Stauf's taunts or watch a video sequence.  With The 7th Guest, you couldn't really bypass anything and had to sit and wait for it to be over.  And probably one of the biggest things of all is that The 11th Hour had superb graphics (even nowadays, and almost certainly back in 1995).  Everything was so detailed and beautifully-rendered.  Even today on a Windows XP computer in full screen mode, the graphics don't look pixelated, unlike The 7th Guest.  Even though The 11th Hour wasn't that scary, the dilapidated look of the house made it seem like a haunted house.  I also like how you can click on many objects - and how Stauf has a wide variety of taunts, whereas in The 7th Guest, you only heard a few select lines from Stauf while solving a puzzle.

Now, the only real problem I have with The 11th Hour is that unlike The 7th Guest, it just wasn't scary.  I didn't feel spooked while wandering the house.  If they had put some random ghosts in the halls, it would have scared me more.  And some of the music, as mentioned earlier, just wasn't scary.  Another obvious problem, while not a big deal with the Windows patch, is that the game simply won't play in DOS mode on modern computers.  I have, however, been able to get it to run in DOSBox, though it's a little buggy there.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Packard Bell Legend 230

A few days ago, I went to America's Thrift Store.  At first, I didn't see anything, but I happened to look behind a radio and found...a Packard Bell computer!  I was really excited - not only was this the first Packard Bell I'd seen in that store in over six months, but it was also a model from around 1994.  It appeared to be one of the first ones to use a case style that resembled mid-'90s Packard Bell case styles - around the time they first changed to their "Face of Technology" logo.  I thought that such models might be harder to find these days, and I didn't currently have one in my collection, so it was a must-buy!

The specs of the Legend 230 are as follows:

Processor: 33 MHz i486SX
HDD: 340 MB Conner CFA340A
Operating System: MS-DOS 6.20 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11

I'm a little uncertain why this computer only has 4 MB of RAM - and the hard drive has a 340 MB storage capacity.  There isn't very much documentation on this computer on the internet, but from what I've found, it apparently is supposed to have 8 MB of RAM and a 212 MB hard drive.  Also, this computer lacks a sound card and CD-ROM drive.  So I'm not sure why mine is a little different.  Who knows?  Maybe someone modified it.  As far as the hard drive is concerned, though, it seems to have the standard Packard Bell software installed, so maybe it is the stock drive (unless someone reinstalled the software on a different dive).

Anyway, when I first brought the computer home, I tried it out, and it apparently didn't boot from the hard drive.  I got the following error messages:

"Diskette drive B failure

Time-of-day not set – run SETUP program
Invalid configuration information – please run SETUP program
Press the F1 key to continue, F2 to run the setup utility"

I tried using a Windows 98 boot disk, and it worked just fine.  Later on, I went into setup and found that although I was getting an error message about the Diskette B drive, it wasn't selected.  Also, the hard drive was apparently auto-detected.  I did change the date in setup to the present time, saved the changes, and restarted the computer.  And interestingly enough, after that, I haven't had any problems booting from the hard drive.

I was pleased to learn that this computer still had Packard Bell Navigator installed (not sure what version, but either 1.2 or 2.x) - as well as a Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and DOS setup.  A true piece of classic machinery, this is.  A rather historical model in my opinion since it was one of the first to use the "Face of Technology" logo.  I should also note that this is the only 486 I've obtained so far that appears to be in full working order.  Two of the other 486es I have will boot from the floppy drive but won't recognize the hard drive - and one of them won't even boot from a floppy.  So I am definitely glad to have this computer.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Behind the Times with Technology


I've been meaning to write about this for a while but have put it off.  I didn't stop and realize it until a year or two ago, but it's becoming obvious now - I'm behind the times.  Why?  The main qualifier is that my most "modern" computer is currently a Dell Inspiron 1501, which my dad purchased for me as a Christmas present in 2006 for almost $700.

Here are specs for this computer:

*1.8 GHz AMD Mobile Sempron processor
*2 GB of RAM (originally 512 MB)
*60 GB HDD (though I have a 500 GB external USB drive)
*Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2

Even back in 2006, this computer was considered average and nothing particularly impressive, but you know what?  I needed and wanted a "newer" computer (something a little more modern than my 300 MHz Pentium II Windows 98 PACE computer and that could do more - matching or exceeding the performance of my dad's Dell Dimension 4400 from April 2002 (which now belongs to me)).  So I was quite happy that I got this computer.

More than five years have passed, and I'm still happy with this computer.  It still meets pretty much all of my computing needs.  But it has dawned on me recently that not many people are still using PCs from 2006 as their main computers.  And they're not even using Windows XP anymore.  No, most people these days have got these flashy new computers from at least 2008-2010 and are running Windows 7, have dual-core processors, and 4 GB and above of RAM.

And when I realize how new these machines are - and how I'm still using technology that can now be considered fairly outdated, I wonder...what the heck happened!?  Did I miss something?  Why is it that with every new piece of technology that comes out, everyone suddenly buys it and immediately deems the old stuff as obsolete and unusable?  And more importantly, why do people's needs change so much to the point that they have to constantly raise system specifications?  And where in the world do they get money for these things - especially in a poor economy?

Honestly, are people ever going to be satisfied with what they have?  Can they not be grateful for what they have?  I mean, I've been using this same laptop for over five years, it still works perfectly fine, and it still meets my computing needs even though I don't have Windows 7, a dual-core processor, or over 4 GB of RAM.  I just don't get it.  What more do people want from computers?  Isn't Windows XP good enough?  What's so much better about Windows 7 that they have to immediately ditch XP once it comes out?  I'm not saying that Windows 7 doesn't have advantages, but still.

Satisfying My Computing Needs

As of now, my computing needs are pretty much satisfied.  I like being able to do the following on computers:

*Viewing pictures
*Listening to music
*Moving and storing mass quantities of data
*Watching videos of reasonably good quality
*Creating videos and making them viewable on a regular TV

And those are basically the same creative desires I had for computers back when I started using them in the late '90s.  Most of my needs were already satisfied with a Windows 95, 200 MHz Pentium MMX Packard Bell computer (reading, writing, viewing pictures, and listening to music - four out of the seven things I mentioned).  Still, there were a few higher-performance desires that the Windows 95 couldn't fulfill - which were at last satisfied with Windows XP-era technology (or even earlier technology).  And even these last three things are pretty much interrelated.

First of all, even in its heyday, a 3.5" floppy just wasn't that great for moving data.  It was okay for most things, but moving data just wasn't as flexible as it is now.  Even then, you could sometimes have files that were over 1.44 MB, and you'd have no way to move them.  Sure, you could have access to 3 MB files on your computer - or to 700 MB worth of data on a CD-ROM - but no way to move them (unless you were on a network).  And also, you would have to use multiple floppies to store what you wanted.  Now, all you need is one flash drive or one hard drive.  You also have the option of using a CD or DVD burner, which adds more flexibility.  In the early days, there may have been CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives, but if you wanted to create a video to be played on a regular DVD player, forget it.

Now, there's more flexibility, as you can both read and write data.  You can move almost any quantity of data that's thrown at you, whereas back in the late '90s and early 2000s, you could receive data, but you couldn't move it efficiently.  And guess what?  You can use USB flash drives and hard drives on a mid-2000s Windows XP computer.  Heck, I've even used a flash drive on that same Windows 98 PACE computer I mentioned!  I should also mention that this data-moving desire also applies to downloading files on the internet.  In the days of dial-up, a person would have to wait impatiently several hours for a 20 MB file to finish downloading.  Now, with high-speed internet (perfectly usable on a Windows XP computer, by the way), it's possible to have 2 GB worth of material in under an hour!  So, with Windows XP technology (and earlier), that makes five out of seven of my desires fulfilled.

Then, there was the issue of watching videos.  Sure, there were videos on computers back in the '90s and early 2000s, but they weren't in as good of quality as they were since the mid-2000s or so.  They weren't really the same quality as you'd see on a VHS tape.  Also, regardless of the quality, the issue with viewing videos also ties in with the data-moving issue I mentioned above.  If you had a way to make a video on a computer, you wouldn't have a way to move it to another - or make it viewable on TV unless you had a TV-output jack on your computer.  With the onset of DVD technology, there is enough storage space to view videos in good, sharp quality.  And you can burn movies on a computer to make them viewable on a regular, standalone TV instead of having to watch .AVI files on the computer.  And that right there makes the last two of my seven desires fulfilled.

So, since all of my computing needs were met, have I had a change in standards?  Have I decided that I want more and more performance out of a computer?  For the most part, no.  My basic needs are about the same as they were when I started using computers in the late '90s.  I can easily move mass-quantities of data, I can not only view data on CDs and DVDs, but I can also write data to them - making them playable on regular TVs.  And thanks to DVD, I can also watch videos in reasonably good quality.

So as of now, Windows XP-era computers really have met pretty much all of my computing needs and fixed nearly all computing inconveniences for me, and I really haven't had the need to go higher.  Windows 7 might make my computing experience slightly more smooth and efficient, but anything beyond that, to me, is just excessive and a waste of time.  My needs have been met.  End of story.  I don't need a burning hot 3.0 GHz dual-core processor and 4 GB of RAM just to write a simple 50 KB text document!  And writing stories and journals is a big bulk of what I do on the computer, anyway!

Increasing Demands

Despite the fact that even XP-era technology appears sufficient (to me, anyway), people still don't seem satisfied. They still want more, more, and more!  In regards to video, DVD isn't even good enough for people anymore.  No, they need better quality.  Gee, I thought the DVD picture quality was pretty clear and sharp, what more do you want to see?  The pores on somebody's face?  So people have been starting to use Blu-ray technology.  Gee, it doesn't feel that long ago that I started using DVD and spent a lot of time converting my old VHS tapes to that format, and now, DVD is on its way out?  Last time I checked, DVD quality looked pretty sharp and impressive to me.  Pick a format, and stick with it unless there's something functionally wrong with it!  In the case of VHS tapes, they were prone to getting jammed in a VCR, and you had to fast-forward through everything to get to one scene.  They could also wear out after being played multiple times.  With DVD, you don't have to worry about your media getting jammed, and you can skip instantly to the point of the video you want to see.  And for the most part, you don't have to worry about the picture quality suffering due to multiple playbacks (though you still might need to back up your DVDs every so often, as there is the risk they could fail at some point).

I think another thing that's driving up performance demands in computers is gaming.  Newer games have a lot more graphic detail (supposedly) than older ones and have a lot of other things going on in the background, and thus, require more memory and faster processors.  Just like with DVD, I thought the games were pretty advanced and detailed already.  I mean, as an example, let me briefly mention two games I've played: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.  Chaos Theory had higher PC requirements than the original, but I didn't notice any significant graphical improvement.  The graphics of the first game were perfectly clear and sharp to me, and that game only required a computer with a 1 GHz processor.


Now, I will venture into area of technological "improvements," and that's software.  Actually, this is mainly what I wanted to blog about from the beginning.  The operating system on my main computer is Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2, and I use Microsoft Office 2000.  Meanwhile, most everyone else runs Windows 7 and has at least Microsoft Office 2007 - but more likely Office 2010.  I've used Office 2010 before, and while it does have a few nice, "fancy" features that would offer a little more convenience, in the overall scheme of things, it doesn't offer me any significant reason to upgrade from Office 2000.  I use Word 2000 to write stories.  It works just fine for me.  I can type, format, and print text just fine.  That's all I need.  I don't need to spend $200 on a program that does essentially the same thing as a program I've already have.  Heck, I might even be okay using Word 97 - or lower, as long as it gets the job done!

Which is another very big issue I want to address - probably the biggest point I'd like to make in this whole entry.  Where in the world do people get the money to buy all this stuff?  I thought the economy was bad, and people were having trouble paying their bills, but somehow, they have the money to own brand-new cars and the latest software, which isn't exactly cheap.

That brings me to yet another point.  Not only do people have the latest software, but it seems they have it installed on several machines!  I thought these days, with product activation, Microsoft only allowed you to install a copy on one computer (at least in the case of operating systems).  How in the world could people afford to spend several hundred dollars worth of software just to put it on two or three computers?  Maybe they got it illegally.  After talking to at least one person about this, that appears not to be the case.  Not only does he have Windows 7 installed on multiple computers, but they're all genuine, legal copies.

I should also mention that people seem to upgrade at a rather rapid rate, too.  It's enough that you broke the bank, spending several hundred (or even thousand) dollars worth of merchandise, but as I've said before, people are upgrading at a rather fast rate.  The minute a new software suite or Windows version comes out (which is often only about two or three years), people go out and buy it (or eventually buy it several months later).  So that's even more money spent - in a relatively short amount of time!

Finally, another big issue with upgrading to modern (Microsoft) software is its lifespan.  Since Microsoft implemented it's precious "activation" feature in the early 2000s, it makes it harder to use its software multiple times - or on multiple computers.  So, if Microsoft one day ever decides not to activate older software anymore, you're outta luck if you want to keep using it.  You have to upgrade (or downgrade).  In the case of my copies of Windows XP, two of my computers have it because they Dells and appear to skip the activation process - and the other computer I have with Windows XP was bought second-hand - and already had the OS installed.  If it weren't for these OEM-installed versions of Windows XP, I might still even be using Windows 98 or 2000!


For a brief moment, I will talk about another area of technology besides computers: phones.  Really, it seems that people are so obsessed with phones these days.  Everyone has a phone (sometimes more than one).  For the record, I have a phone - a TracFone W376g, but it's currently unregistered, and even when it was registered, I rarely had a use for it, other than checking the time or playing a quick game.  Don't get me wrong, I like having it because it can come in handy in emergencies (yes, even if it's deactivated, I can still call for help).  But people these days seem so dependent on their phones it's crazy.

And people complain about how terrible the economy is.  Well, maybe it is, but the last time I checked, you didn't need to spend $45 a month or more on a cell phone service - or buy the latest $200 or $300 phone!  With TracFone, just buy a $20 phone, spend $100 on a year-long minutes card, and you have service for a year.  My friend and I talked about this once, and he said that you tend to get better customer and technical service with the more expensive phones and services.  Maybe, but I don't talk on the phone much at all for it to even matter. I rarely even talk on my landline phone.


By the comments I've made in this entry, it might sound like I hate technology and am an old geezer that resists technology.  Far from it.  I like technology.  Touch-screen phones are pretty cool when you think about them, and new technology can offer a lot of fancy features.  But that's all they are.  Fancy.  I don't have much practical need to upgrade my computers, so I'm perfectly fine with what I have.  Most importantly, buying all this new stuff requires money that I simply don't have - and am surprised everyone else does.  In this entry, it might have sounded like I was a little testy when it came to defending why I still use a lot of older technology.  I think it just comes down to the fact that I don't like that I'm behind the times - and that the hardware and software I use can now be considered obsolete.  I don't understand why people feel they need to constantly upgrade everything before barely giving the old stuff a decent amount of use.  And again, I just fail to see where people get the money to buy all this new stuff at such a fast rate.

One thing I do understand, though, is that technology doesn't last forever.  My laptop is over five years old and could give in at any time, and the same could be said about my Dell Dimension 4400 desktop, which is now over ten years old.  Sooner or later, I plan to buy a new computer - assuming I can get the money for it.  But even then, it's mainly just because the computers themselves don't last forever.

Anyway, that more or less concludes this entry.  One more thing I should also add is that I have a page about a guy who, amazingly, still used Windows 95 as of 2008 (Why I Still Use Windows 95).  The page doesn't appear to be around anymore, but I was still able to see it with in the Internet Archive.  Even though I like Windows 95, there are a number of features I have taken for granted in Windows XP that I wouldn't like to lose.  Still, if this guy did it, it might be worth a try :).

Friday, June 1, 2012

10" General Electric Porta-Color WM202HBW-4

The last TV I'm featuring is a 10" General Electric Porta-Color, Model WM202HBW-4.  I got this TV from my grandmother's house in September 2010.  I don't know when this TV was made, but it was probably between 1973 and 1974.  The main reason I was interested in this TV is because it was another Porta-Color TV, and I discarded my Porta-Color WH35226WD in December 2004, after it suffered from the same problems as my Zenith console (not turning on).  I hadn't seen any Porta-Colors elsewhere, and there were times I felt great nostalgia for my old Porta-Color, so it was either this one or none at all.

I found this TV in my grandmother's closet in November 2003, though I think it used to be in the dining room.  I plugged it in and turned it on but was in for a bit of a scare.  About five seconds afterward, it made a loud popping type noise.  Needless to say, I unplugged that TV and didn't turn it on again for some time.

Fast forward to September 2010, I finally get up the courage to try the TV again, but I take some safety precautions.  I hooked it up to an extension cord and had it turned on in another room.  Also, I recorded the TV turning on for the first time in seven years to see if it made the popping noise.  Sure enough, it did, and I was glad I captured it on video.  Later, I turned the TV on again and wanted to see what would happen if I left it turned on after it made the popping noise.  This time, it didn't even make the popping noise, and when the TV warmed up, the screen glowed green and blue or whatever (I didn't have the TV connected to any cable or antenna).  Since then, I turned the TV on once more when I brought it home (and again, it didn't make a popping noise), but otherwise, I haven't done so.

So, there ya go.  Pretty much all the old TVs in my collection, except for my black and white 5" Living Solutions ATC-032, which I wasn't able to find when taking pictures of these other TVs.  Oh well, maybe another day.

20" Quasar VV2020 and 26" Mitsubishi CS-26EX1

My 20" Quasar VV2020 TV was given to me in January 2008 by my friend.  At the time, I still didn't have a good, reliable bedroom TV (I was using my 25" Sanyo in another room).  Although the TV didn't work and had a shaky picture, I took it anyway (he was planning to throw it out).  Eventually, I got way too annoyed by the TV since the picture shook a lot, and eventually, my friend sold me another TV of his for $40 - an Orion TV1934 (better yet, it actually worked).  Since then, I've kept the Quasar VV2020 around just in case I need a spare TV and in case I needed any spare parts (which I doubt).  Lately, I've actually even thought about getting rid of it, but TV disposal costs money, and I'd rather not have to pay to get rid of it if I don't have to.  Still, we could use the space in the basement.  I thought the TV was kind of ugly-looking anyway.

For information's sake, this TV has a built-in VCR and was manufactured in July 1993.  It's also got handles on the sides to make it easier to lift.

Now, onto the next old TV.  My dad purchased the 26" Mitsubishi CS-26EX1 in June 1993 when his old 19" Sears 564.42440450 TV quit working.  I actually liked this TV quite a bit, as it looked sharp and modern.  It was a pretty good TV, too, and lasted us a good 18 years before finally burning out in June 2011.  Like the Quasar VV2020, I've thought about getting rid of it a few times, but I hate to spend money just to get rid of something.

This TV was manufactured in June 1993 (same time as when my dad bought it).  One thing that's cool about this TV is that it actually has a composite video output jack.  Boy, that thing could have come in handy.

Zenith All-Channel Color Console TV

A few days ago, I made a blog post about my 19" 1984 RCA ColorTrak FKR484WR TV.  Since then, I was inspired to make some blog posts of my other old TVs.  So, for starters, I'll blog about my next favorite old TV - the Zenith All-Channel Color Console TV.

I don't know when this TV was made exactly, but it was likely sometime around 1965 or 1966.  It is apparently Model 8320 and has the 25MC36 chassis.  This is a vacuum tube TV, and one of the things I really like about it is how it's basically a big piece of furniture.  It's also cool in the fact that it's nearly 50 years old!  Now that's vintage!  I also like how the dials light up when you turn the TV on - it looked kind of eerie to me to see those numbers glowing.

The first time I ever really paid attention to this TV was probably around March 2000 when I went to visit my grandparents.  I went to the recreation room in my grandparents' basement and took notice of the old TV.  I turned it on, curious to see if it would work.  While it did make a noise, I didn't see a picture come on the screen, nor did I hear any sound from the speakers, so I just assumed it was broken.

A few years later, in 2002, I turned on the TV - but left it on for a while this time.  Maybe all it needed was a little warming up.  I left the room for about a minute or so.  That's when I started hearing a sound coming from nowhere.  I was a bit startled, not knowing where it came from.  I went back into the recreation room and was pleasantly surprised to find that the console was actually working!  Well, sort of.  The pictures came in kind of funny, but at least it did display some kind of picture.  I was really thrilled that I had "fixed" the TV (of course back then, I didn't know that vacuum tube TVs took a minute to warm up).

A year had passed, and this time, I was especially eager to not only tinker with the console - but also look around at the other TVs in my grandmother's house.  That's because in 2003, I was a really big A/V nerd and was fascinated with TVs, VCRs, DVD players, and so on.  I learned a little bit about how they worked and the different parts they had.  I did use the console a little bit while visiting my grandmother, but I ended up paying more attention to another TV - a Porta-Color WHE5226WD from March 1977.

My attention turned back to the console again later that year when we visited my grandmother for Thanksgiving.  Only this time, things got a bit scary.  I turned the TV on, expecting it to work, but nothing happened.  When I pushed the switch back in (to the off position), I was surprised when it actually started humming, indicating that it was starting.  What was going on?  Why were "on" and "off" mixed up?  I fiddled around with the switch some, but in the process, I yanked the switch off the control panel.  Even though the TV didn't do anything bad, I freaked out, thinking it was about to explode.  I cautiously (but as quickly as I could) went behind the TV and unplugged it.  After that, I was very reluctant to turn the set on again.  I even wrote a note, warning people not to turn it on since the switch was messed up (though I did put the switch back in place).

It was almost seven years later in September 2010 that I finally got around to turning on the TV again.  Part of this was because the last time we visited my grandmother was in November 2004 (a year after the "scary" TV incident), and we hadn't come back to visit her until May 2010 when she was in the hospital.  Even though I hadn't turned on the TV in almost seven years, I was still very reluctant to turn it on.  So, I hooked the TV up to some extension cords and plugged in the set in the hallway (and better yet, there was even a door I could close if I wanted - boy, I'm a coward).  A minute passed, and I peeked from behind the door, and sure enough, the TV still turned on.  I was quick to shut it off, though.

After I got over my initial reluctance with the TV, I decided to conduct an experiment similar to one I planned in November 2003.  I wanted to see the console hooked up to a DVD player!  That would be something - seeing 2000s technology working with '60s technology.  I expected that it would work, and sure enough, it did.  The color didn't work right, though, but as I said, that set had some kind of problem with the color that needed to be fixed, so it probably didn't have anything to do with the DVD player.

By the time my mom and I were ready to head back home, I was so enthralled with the console (and old TVs in general) that I wanted to take it home with me (even though the thing was very bulky and heavy).  It was quite a job getting that huge thing in the pickup truck - I had to lift it just high enough to rest on a hand truck - and then lift it again to center it better.  Then, I had to roll the TV up the back driveway.  Then came the hardest part of all.  I had to walk the TV up the steps to my grandmother's front porch - and then walk it a few more steps until it was where I had parked the truck.  (For the record, the idea here was to use my grandmother's front porch as a kind of loading dock so that the porch floor would be more or less level with the bed of the truck.  Otherwise, it would be almost impossible to get the console into the truck, as it wouldn't be easy to lift that thing high in the air.)  After a while, I finally managed to get that huge thing in the back of the truck.  It was a tiring, exhausting job, but I was happy.  I had always wanted to take that TV back with me (even my grandmother told me around 2003 that I could do whatever I wanted with it), but I never thought it would be possible.

When my mom and I were ready to go home, she found out that I had loaded the TV in the car the night before, and she wasn't particularly pleased with that.  She later said that it was just a piece of junk.  When we got home, I was left with the task of getting that big console out of the truck.  Getting it in the truck at my grandmother's house was at least remotely possible since I could use the front porch as a loading dock, but we didn't have anything at our house that would work, so I had to either create a makeshift ramp or try to lower the TV on the ground.  I still don't know how I did this, but by some miracle, I managed to slowly lower one end of the TV on the ground and then tilt it back on its side.  Then came the easy part (or so I though) - putting it on a dolly and rolling it into the basement.  Moving the TV on the dolly wasn't really that hard, but what was hard was when I put the TV on some cardboard and tried to slide it across the basement floor (the dolly wouldn't fit in some places).  It didn't work as well as I hoped, but eventually, the TV was in place.  I tried turning it on, but to my dismay, it simply wouldn't turn on.  A few days later, I did manage to turn it on, but from that point on, the TV never turned on and off reliably anymore.

Since then, I haven't done much with the TV, though I have tried to turn it on and off a few times.  It rarely comes on, though.  My friend and I sometimes joke that the TV is going to explode, and he'll make a loud, frightening noise that'll send me running out of the room for cover.

Although it's a shame that this TV doesn't seem to work anymore, it's still kind of a neat collector's item, and it brings back many memories for me.  I'm really glad to have it and hope to find a way to fix it someday.

Monday, May 28, 2012

19" 1984 RCA ColorTrak FKR484WR

All right, the first post in Joe's Blogspot of 2012!

I've lately had some inspiration to make an entry about a TV that I really like.  It's a 19" RCA ColorTrak TV, model FKR484WR, manufactured in June 1984.  I really haven't found anything at all about it online except for replacement remote controls, so I decided to make an entry about it to make some information available.  Last September, this TV was featured in a video I made, but I decided to make a blog entry with it to include more information and higher quality pictures.

I kind of like my Zenith console and Porta-Color TVs, but overall, I think the RCA ColorTrak is my favorite of them all.  The reasons being is that one, it's more modern than both of them - and is solid-state, and two, its cabinet is really eye-catching.  It's hard to explain why, but of all the TVs I've seen, this one has a very nice-looking style.  In the '90s, it seemed that companies didn't put as much effort into the style of TV cases, so a lot of them looked cheap and plastic-looking.  While this TV does have plastic parts, it still looks more refined and not cheaply-made.  And it's not weird or awkward-looking, either, like a number of other TVs from the '80s.  It's just overall a really beautiful TV set.  Too bad they don't make them like this anymore.  If it weren't for the fact that this thing were almost 30 years old and also used more power than my current bedroom TV (87 watts vs. 73 watts), I would use this one all the time.

But yeah, despite the age of this TV, it still works very well as far as I can tell (I don't know anything about its repair history, though).  My grandmother passed away in July 2010 (may she rest in peace), and afterwards, my family spent several months cleaning out her house to get it ready to sell.  This TV, as well as the Zenith console, were among the first things I brought back home with me.  Unfortunately, I don't know when my grandparents bought this TV, but as I said, the sticker on the back does say that it was manufactured in June 1984, so at least I have an idea of how old the set is.  As far as I know, they used it as their bedroom TV up until 2002, when my grandfather passed away.  My grandmother put a newer TV in her bedroom - a 19" Orion, model TV1933, which interestingly, is about the style TV that I now use in my bedroom (though I got mine from a friend and is also model TV1934).  Beforehand, the Orion was used for my grandfather while he was in the rehabilitation center.  After my grandmother put the Orion in her bedroom, she moved the RCA ColorTrak to the kitchen, replacing the 10" Porta-Color WHE5226WD that was there (not the model I currently have).  That TV stayed there for the next several years until September 2010 when I finally had the opportunity to take it home with me.

I was really pleased to take home such a nice TV.  One of the reasons I like this TV so much is because it reminds me of an old 19" Sears TV my dad used from June 1985 to June 1993 (model 564.42440450) until the TV quit working.  After my dad replaced the Sears TV with a 26" Mitsubishi CS-26EX1, the Sears TV was put in storage in the basement for about three years until we finally gave it away to a charity in the fall of 1996.  Back in the days before I had my own TV, I thought that the old Sears TV might make a nice one since it was just sitting around doing nothing, so I think that's one of the things that originally piqued my interest.  Also, like the RCA TV, the Sears TV also looked "just right," and I guess I've always wanted a TV that came close in appearance to that, and fortunately, the RCA TV at my grandmother's house looked pretty similar!  For the sake of reference, below is a picture of the Sears TV as pictured in the owner's manual.

What I also like about this TV is that it has both screws for the traditional VHF and UHF antennas - as well as a coaxial cable jack - and a switch to switch between the two.  I know that's not important in this day in age since both things are kind of obsolete now, but for whatever reason I can't explain, I like the old, analog-style connections.  Not that I don't have an appreciation for the new stuff, but still.  I just like how this TV has the capability for both VHF and UHF - but is also cable-ready and also has "modern" features like a remote control, random access keypad, and channel recall - something the Zenith console and Porta-Color TVs don't have.  I also really like that this TV has screen-adjustment controls right on the set, rather than digital, computerized controls.  Again, it's not that I don't like the computerized stuff, but there's just something about the old analog stuff I really like but can't quite explain in a way that makes sense.  So anyway, with its features, this TV really makes a good, all-in-one model.  Of course, it would be even better if it had RCA connector jacks, but this was 1984.

So, with this TV's eye-catching cabinet style and ability to receive both cable and standard VHF and UHF signals, this, to me, is an all-around good TV.  I really wish they made more like this one.  As I've said, the TV still works, too.  The picture looks quite nice despite the fact that this TV is almost 30 years old.  I hope to hold onto this TV for many more years.