Realistic TV-100

You have have noticed the zoomed-in image of the Realistic TV-100 Stereo TV Receiver acting as my blog “mascot” in the header.

TV100_Front

I chose the Realistic TV-100 to represent this blog for a number of reasons.  It’s a fantastic looking piece of mid-1980s audio equipment.  It’s also a classic representative of Radio Shack’s Realistic brand.  I have fond memories of visiting the Radio Shack at State Road Shopping Center as a kid back when Radio Shack was still an important electronics store.  Basically everything about Radio Shack from the 1980s and 1990s like their house brands Realistic, Archer, Optimus and for some reason those distinctive shiny green Extra Life batteries is a childhood nostalgia trip for me.  The TV-100 represents a lost era, which you’ll find is a common theme on this blog.

TV100_Model

Therefore it’s time to give this lovely looking but slightly odd bird it’s day in the sun.

As this October 1985 ad in Popular Mechanics explains the original purpose of the TV-100 was to add MTS stereo and SAP capabilities to existing TVs.  “Many stations are already broadcasting in stereo…all the time.  Come in and discover the added dimension of stereo TV.”

TV100_Rear

The idea was that you plugged your TV antenna into the antenna inputs on the TV-100 and then attached cables from the VHF and UHF outputs on the TV-100 to the antenna inputs on your TV.  I believe at that point the TV-100 became your TV tuner.  You could then attach speakers directly to the TV-100 because it has an integrated amplifier or you could attach it to your stereo with the Tape Out.

TV100_Front_Buttons

The brilliant part of the TV-100 is that it also has an Aux input, which means that you can use it on it’s own as a small amplifier.  Today, following the analog TV end times the MTS decoding functions are useless but sometimes you just need a small amplifier.   The TV-100 was often sold with two magnetically shielded Minimus-2.5 speakers as seen in the Popular Mechanics ad, and together they are perfect for these situations.

TV100_Minimus2_5_SideTV100_Minimus2_5_Rear

At some point, I believe it may have been in the late 1980s, my grandfather gave my father a TV-100 and the two Minimus-2.5 speakers.  My father also purchased another TV-100 at a thrift store.

When I was a teenager I couldn’t have a TV in my room but I did have one of the TV-100s so I listened to over-the-air TV.  I have fond memories of listening to ER and SNL, trying to imagine the pictures in my head.

Somewhere along the way we got rid of the two TV-100s but my father kept the speakers.

Recently I saw this TV-100 at the Goodwill on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls and had to have it.  I reunited it with the two speakers and now I have the complete set once again.

It’s not the greatest sounding amplifier in the world and it’s not particularly loud but when you just want to improve the sound of a small TV it does fine.

Today my TV-100 sits in my classic gaming nook on top of my Laserdisc player and below a circa-2005 Toshiba CRT TV with the Minimus-2.5 speakers.

TV100_Blade_Runner_LD

Los Angeles 2019.

Aside from it’s utility I appreciate the way the TV-100 looks.  It represents the best of a transition period that was happening to stereos in the 1980s.  Stereos of the 1970s often had a silver face and a large, lit radio tuning dial like the TV-100 but unlike it often had wood paneled sides and larger switches.  It seems like they were all trying to look like ham radio transceivers.

About the time the TV-100 debuted in 1985 receivers started to become computer controlled and began eliminating the tuning dials and switches in favor of digital displays and more flat, computer-like buttons.

My mother’s Akai AA-R22 is a good example of this styling.

TV100_Akai_AA-R22_Front

My parents’ old nursery room has great wallpaper.

By the late 1980s, of course, receivers started going all black which for the most part, they remain until this day.  Generally, the more a piece of stereo equipment looks like a DeLorean DMC-12 (silver, angular), the better with me.  Chunky black monoliths are boring.

So, for the TV-100 to be silver and fully analog (in it’s operation and appearance) makes it an interesting mid-80s transition piece.  There’s also something majestic about the well-proportioned analog-ness of the TV-100.

TV100_Side

The size of the tuning dial in comparison with the turning and volume knobs and the rest of the unit is pleasing to the eye.  Somehow this diminutive, somewhat esoteric add-on unit found deep within the Radio Shack catalog (1985, page 104) turned out to be a work of art.

Advertisements

Nintendo Game Boy Micro

I had originally planned to put up a different post this week but some technical issues and the fact that I had a cold means that post will have to wait for some other week.

Today though, I’m going to bend the rules somewhat because this is an item that technically I didn’t buy at a thrift store but I did buy used.

This is my Nintendo Game Boy Micro which I purchased sometime in 2008 at The Exchange in Cuyahoga Falls.

GBM_F_Zero

Released in 2005, the Game Boy Micro is a miniaturized Game Boy Advance that loses compatibility with original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games but gained a brilliant (if tiny) screen and a headphone jack that the Game Boy Advance SP oddly lacked..

The Game Boy Micro is, in my opinion, the sexiest piece of videogame hardware ever created.  It’s so tiny and jewel-like while at the same time so utterly minimalistic that it just looks better than anything else Nintendo, or perhaps anyone making portable game systems has ever made.  It’s not surprising looking at it’s brushed metal construction that the Micro was a contemporary of the iPod Mini and was widely believed to be Nintendo’s bid to capture customers looking for another stylish portable gizmo.  It’s so beautiful that you almost feel bad inserting a cartridge because it clashes with the color scheme.

GBM_Rear

Practially the Micro can be a bit tough to hold for any long period of time.  The tiny size (it only measures 50×101×17.2 mm) means that  in order to have your index fingers on the shoulder buttons and your thumbs on the D-pad and a+b buttons there’s a good chance you’ll have to hold your hands at an uncomfortable angle.  I have pretty small hands and holding the Micro is just about at the edge of discomfort for me.  Additionally, while the screen is bright and the colors are well defined the screen is still just 2 inches wide.

The Micro’s party piece is that it’s faceplates are removable so you can change the appearance of the system by changing faceplates with a plastic tool.

Here are the three faceplates I own, along with the plastic tool:

GBM_AW_Faceplates

I believe that when I bought the Micro used it was wearing the obnoxious red/orange faceplate.  Back in 2008 you could still order new faceplates from Nintendo’s parts site so I bought the stylish black plate and the nostalgic Famicom faceplate.  Sadly today they only offer replacement AC-adaptors.

The plastic tool inserts into these two holes on the side of the Micro with the D-pad (on either side of the screw):

GBM_Side_2

Micro owner Pro-tip: Always insert new faceplates so that you hook in the side with the longer hooks near the a+b buttons first.

This is what the Micro looks like without any faceplate mounted:

GBM_Faceplates

One practical advantage to the faceplates is that they act as hard screen protectors, but really they just look bitch’n cool.

However, the real reason I want to talk about the Game Boy Micro is it’s historical significance to Nintendo.  The Game Boy Micro is the last Game Boy as well as the last 2D gaming system from Nintendo.

Now, I would not be shocked if some day Nintendo reuses the Game Boy name but suffice to say Nintendo started selling a line of cartridge-based portable game systems with four face buttons (labeled a, b, start, and select), a D-pad, and one screen in 1989 with the original Game Boy and created a succession of systems with those attributes that ended in 2005 with the Game Boy Micro.

GBM_Family_Portrait

Following the Game Boy Micro Nintendo retired the Game Boy name and has produced the Nintendo DS line of cartridge-based portable game systems with two screens, one of which is a stylus-based resistive touchscreen, six face buttons (labeled a, b, x, y, start, and select), and (at least) a D-pad.

More importantly though, the Game Boy Micro was the last Nintendo system of any kind that was primarily built to play games based on 2D, sprite-based graphics rather than today’s 3D, polygon-based graphics.

This means that the Game Boy Micro was Nintendo’s final love letter to the era when it dominated the videogame world with the NES/Famicom and SuperNES/Super Famicom. There’s no coincidence to the fact that the Micro itself resembles and NES/Famicom controller.

GBM_NES_Famicom

From the release of the Famicom in 1983 to December 3rd, 1994 (when Sony released the Playstation in Japan)  Nintendo was undoubtedly the single most important force in the console videogame world.  Surely Sega played some part as well, but while they could on occasion be Nintendo’s equal they were never Nintendo’s superior.

But, as the world marveled at the Playstation and the rise of 3D graphics, Nintendo’s influence crested and then began to wane.  Today they are an important part of the industry, but they have never again become undisputed champion.

However, in the portable gaming arena, Nintendo was still  the undisputed champion (and still is today, as tough as it is for this PSP and Vita owner to admit).  When Nintendo decided to replace the Game Boy Color in 2001 it returned to a 2D-based system and created the Game Boy Advance.  An era of 2D nostalgia reigned with the GBA finding itself home to classics of the 16-bit era re-released as GBA games and new 2D classics that heavily drew inspiration from SNES games.

So, when Nintendo said it’s final goodbye in 2005 with the Game Boy Micro it was really closing the door on the era of 2D gaming it had dominated from 1983 to 2005.  In that way the Micro is comparable to the last tube-based Zenith Transoceanic or the last piston-engined Grumman fighter aircraft.  When a great company wants to say goodbye to one of it’s great products they will often create something fantastic as a last hurrah and that is clearly what Nintendo did with the Game Boy Micro.

GBM_Xevious

Apple PowerBook G3 (Wallstreet II/PDQ)

There was a period in the late 90s and early 2000s when finding old computers, especially Macintoshes was a regular occurrence at the local thrift stores.  I’ve basically been a Wintel guy since the mid 90s but the collectability of old Macs piqued my interest.  These were not generic beige boxes; Macs had well-documented stories.  I quickly accumulated a Mac 128K (that had been upgraded to Mac 512K specs), a Mac Plus, a Mac SE, a Quadra 700, and a Mac LC (I still have some of these machines and plan to do posts on them someday).  However, there came a point in the mid-2000s when these machines stopped showing up at thrift stores.

Today, it has become really difficult to find classic computers at thrift stores.  Partly I think this is because the larger stores such as Goodwill are concerned about the privacy and licensing issues of selling old PCs. They have to be concerned with with the previous owner’s data and would rather recycle the PCs than deal with wiping them properly and the license hassle of reinstalling software for resale.  I think it’s also because the smaller stores don’t understand there is a collector market for vintage PCs and they think that older computers are too difficult to sell.   People alo probably only keep one or two generations of old computers in their house so in many cases they’ve already trashed most of the really vintage stuff.  The good old days I experienced in the late 1990s and early 2000s have come and gone.  As a result, I have decided as a general policy that if I see an interesting computer at a thrift store I should pick it up because I never know when I’ll see one again.

However, for whatever reason I never saw Macintosh laptops at thrift stores, even in the good-old-days.

Imagine my surprise one day in 2011 when I saw this lovely Apple Powerbook G3 sitting on a pile of old furniture at the Abbey Anns off the Circle in Tallmadge.

PBG3_Front

PBG3_Side

It was really dirty and covered in stickers but as far as I could tell it was complete.  There was no power supply included and the battery was clearly dead so I ended up buying it for about $15 without knowing if it worked.  After buying a knock-off power supply from eBay I was amazed to find that it indeed still worked!  With that said the hard drive now makes some awful sounds and sometimes takes several attempts to start so it could probably die at any time.

PBG3_Badge_Image_Crop

Going from this badge I believe this Powerbook G3 to be the “Wallstreet II/PDQ” model as that’s the model that came with the 266MHz processor while still having the colored Apple badge.

PBG3_Keyboard_Badge

The Apple System Profiler says this machine has 128MB RAM, so someone probably upgraded it at some point.

PBG3_Profiler

This machine because is clearly from a very transitional period for Apple shortly after Steve Jobs returned in 1997.  On the lid is the new transparent/white Apple logo and on the inside is the color striped Apple logo they had used since the late 1980s (also my favorite version of their logo).  The machine is powered by the Power PC G3 processor that would also power the first iMacs (the first stellar success that Jobs would have after returning to Apple) but the back of the machine reveals an Apple Desktop Bus port and a DIN-style serial port that would have been more familiar in older Macs from about 1986 onwards.  You can immediately tell from the dark gray exterior that this is a Powerbook descended from the first Powerbooks in the early 90s.  And yet, the generously large screen and the still-good-by-today’s-standards touchpad remind me off today’s Apple laptops.  This is a computer with its feet in two eras in Apple history.

PBG3_Top

PBG3_Ports

This Powerbook G3 is also a computer that feels like it represents the best of the era of Apple that was soon to be wiped away by brushed aluminum.  The Apple of today produces really well engineered computers but they have turned brushed metal into the new beige.  They want computers to look like fashionable Braun radios.  Today’s Apple would never put a processor badge on their computers or build a laptop with two docking bays and a removable battery.  We will surely never see a return to this philosophy, but this machine is a nice reminder of what once was.

PBG3_PowerPC_Badge

There was a wealth of old software on this Powerbook G3 including Mac OS 9.2.2, iTunes 2, Mozilla 1.0, Netscape, Internet Explorer 5 for Mac, and some Adobe software including Photoshop.

PBG3_Boot

PBG3_Mac_HD

Seeing this ancient version of iTunes was particularly interesting for me because I use iTunes today on Windows.

iTunes2_Songs2

iTunes2_About

It’s hilarious to see iTunes without AAC encoding.

iTunes2_Encoder

As a die-hard Firefox user since 2003, I was also curious to see what Mozilla 1.0 looked like.

PBG3_Mozilla

I also like silliness so here is the Goodtimes video from the Windows 95 CD being played on the Powerbook G3.

PBG3_Goodtimes

I have quite a large collection of old software (which I will get to in future posts) but I was surprised to find that I had very little that will run on late model classic Mac OS.  I tried SimCity 1.4c, but that complained about requiring 256 color mode and I wasn’t too keen on entertaining that foolishness.

I did remember however, that one of my favorite games from the late 1990s, Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far, came with a Mac OS version on the same disc as the Windows version (surprising for a Microsoft published game).

Here is what the installer looks like.

PBG3_CC2_Install

The game doesn’t run badly and is surprisingly playable with the trackpad.

PBG3_CC2_Play

Looking at this Powerbook is kind of like looking at an Art Deco building and thinking about the 1930s.  The swooping curves of this machine remind me of the dynamism right before the Dot Com crash when the promise of all of that “multimedia” bunk from the early 90s was finally going to pay off with the Internet.  It also reminds me that the Apple of the 1990s that almost died also died with this machine and that the Apple of the 2000s that changed the world in some ways was born with this machine.

PBG3_Logo

Casio TV-1000

Casio_1000_Front

We’ve all become accustomed to “the smartphone stare”.  You know, when someone is hunched over their smartphone, oblivious to the world around them, bathed in the glow of their smartphone’s screen.  I admit, I can be found in this state several times on the average day.

The magic of the “smartphone stare” is the magic of the personal electronics revolution:  It’s the way that an electronic device can be made small enough that you can use it without sitting down.  You don’t need a room in your house for it and you don’t need any special furniture.  You just pull it out of your pocket and commune with a piece of electronics.  When a piece of electronics can come with you anywhere you go and can be used at practically any time it becomes something more intimate.

The “smartphone stare” might seem like a recent phenomenon, but videogame enthusiasts will recall that for them it basically started in 1989 with the Game Boy and Tetris, which for many people was the first really killer portable gaming experience.

But, even before the Game Boy a handful of early adopters could be found basked in the glow of their handheld TVs.

I have a particular affection for the various attempts to make a usable handheld TV in the 1980s.  For one, I love the 80s styling.  They’re like little jewel boxes of 80s chic.  For another, these devices are relatively easy to find and even easier to store.  Also, these devices were pushing the boundaries of what was possible technologically, and I respect that.  Finally, I’m fascinated by how at the time these were esoteric luxury devices and today they are basically semiconductor trash.

Of the vintage handheld TVs I own the Casio TV-1000 is my favorite. This was one of Casio’s first attempts to make a color LCD handheld TV.

I found it at the Village Discount on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls with its original box, instructions, and warranty card.

Casio_1000_Box_Front

Casio_1000_Box_Top

Casio_1000_Package_Open

While it does have a backlight it also has an interesting feature where you can open up this door in the back to allow light in, as a way to conserve battery power.

Casio_1000_Back_Open

The part that folds down there is actually the battery compartment, which is smart because it gives that section some heft to weight the set while it’s folded down. The interesting thing is that with that part open you can see the innards of the backlight diffuser, which is located at the bottom of that angled transparent section, and how it’s meant to distribute light across the screen evenly.

Image quality, as one would expect from a mid-1980s passive LCD is atrocious.  My understanding is that the TV-1000 was an attempt to produce a more affordable color micro TV than it’s contemporaries the Epson ET-10 and the Seiko T-102 and as a result it uses a passive LCD rather than an active LCD.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen a passive LCD screen that was ever any good.

Here I am trying to tune in one of the last low-power analog TV stations in the area, WAOH-LP (oddly enough, they were showing a black and white program).

Casio_1000_Screen_TV

Casio_1000_Screen_TV_2

Notice the onscreen blue bar on the side with the red hash mark on the right side of the display.  In order to tune the TV-1000 you would select VHF or UHF and then press the up or down channel button once so that it would start scanning for a channel.  The red mark shows what channel it’s currently tuned to.  The scanning process makes it difficult to tune in a marginal station because often it will scan right past.  I would vastly prefer a manual tuning knob like the CRT Sony Watchman sets from the same era.  But I suppose at the time this type of tuning seemed more high tech.

The TV-1000 also has a standard RCA 1/8th inch AV input, which is useful in the post analog TV doomsday.  Use red/right for video and white/left for audio.

Casio_1000_Controls_Side

Casio_1000_Screen_SMW_2

Here is Super Mario World on my Yobo FC Twin (which I shall discuss in the future).  As you can see, the TV-1000’s color reproduction is awful, but that’s the reality of mid-80s passive LCDs.  The sound however, is loud and crisp.

Casio_1000_Back_Label

Right now the TV-1000 is the only 1980s-vintage LCD handheld TV I own, but I’m always on the lookout for others.  I do, however, have several micro CRT handheld TVs from the 1980s:  A functional Sony Watchman FD-10A, a functional Sony Watchman FD-30A, and a non-functional Panasonic TR-1010P.