Retrotechtacular: Some Of The Last CRTs From The Factory Floor

CRT Monitor Recyling Center

It seems crazy having to explain what a piece of technology was like to someone who is barely fifteen years your junior, but yet we have reached that point when it comes to CRTs. There may still be remnants of CRT televisions and monitors left out in the wild, however, the chances that a kid preparing to enter high school has encountered one is slim. While there may be no substitute for the real thing, there is this raw video from [Glenn] who shared his tour of the Sony Trinitron assembly line in the early 2000s. Sony Trinitron Television

Sony Electronics’ cathode ray tube manufacturing facility was located alongside headquarters in Rancho Bernado, CA. The facility was shuttered in 2006 when Sony transitioned wholly onto digital displays like the flat-panel LCD line of Bravia televisions. [Glenn]’s video shows that the manufacturing process was almost entirely automated from end to end. A point that was made even more clear with the distinct lack of human beings in the video.

The Trinitron line of televisions first appeared in 1968. At a time where most manufacturer’s were offering black and white picture tubes, Sony’s Trinitron line was in color. That name carried through until the end when it was retired alongside tube televisions themselves. Sony’s focus on technological innovation (and proprietary media formats) made them a giant in the world of consumer electronics for over forty years in the United States, but in the transition to a digital world saw them seeding market share to their competitors.

A quick word of warning as the video below was shot directly on Sony’s factory floor so the machinery is quite loud. Viewers may want to reduce the volume prior to pressing play.

Because they don’t build them like they used to, there’s also this Retrotechtacular feature on the manufacturing of CRT televisions in the 1950s.

41 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: Some Of The Last CRTs From The Factory Floor

    1. I really wish HaD writers would get their shit together on this. It’s gotten /bad/ in the last few months and I’ve started to just assume they’re using speech-to-text and not proof-reading.

      Its sad really… see? My thoughts? I think there’s a better than decent chance that the average HaD reader is on the younger end of the scale and a pretty good chance they have a brain that doesn’t learn so well via traditional channels- HaD has them engaged and reading which is what people with those brains need- engagement. ‘Cede’ vs. ‘Seed’, ‘Wall-wort’ vs. ‘Wall-Wart’… doesn’t seem so big since ‘it’s just hackaday. …but it’s sloppy writing and you were ‘hired’ as writers (compensated or not) so do your fucking job, and do it well or don’t do it at all.

          1. I have a relative who is a professional proofreader. She has worked with corporate executives and is astonished by how poor their spelling/grammar can be, and her intercession keeps them from looking dumb.

  1. Incredible! The automation is amazing. As far as capturing that video….easier to ask forgiveness rather than permission? The videographer successfully avoided most people. The way they moved they obviously knew the plant and where to duck and avoid injury. Bet that whole video fits in the “trade secrets” category…

  2. “We had to watch TV on vacuum tubes! And we only had three channels! And when we wanted to change the channel, we had to walk to the TV! Barefoot! In the snow! And it was uphill both ways!”

  3. One of the things that baffled me when I was pondering about how they make CRT: how on earth do they get the three colors to align with the electron guns.

    Turns out each tube is an individual. There’s the shadow mask which acts as a pinhole camera, projecting the image of each electron gun onto the phosphors. The way they do it, they flood the tube with a resin containing the color phosphor, and then shoot UV light into the tube from where the corresponding electron gun would be, and the resin hardens onto the glass in the spots where the electron beam would strike the phosphor, and not where it is shadowed by the mask. The rest of the resin is rinsed off.

    So, the phosphors on the screen are a photograph of the positions of the electron guns at the back of the tube. That’s how they got the picture to align – almost perfectly. There was always some color aberration because the electron gun was then not installed perfectly in the right spot and the electron beam would not follow an exact straight path through the tube. That then required adjusting for color convergence in the electronics, especially for the Trinitron tubes which had more difficult geometry than the fishbowl tubes.

    1. Which is why the shadow mask has to be made of invar — it soaks up the energy from stray electrons, which means it gets hot, and it can’t cool itself except by radiation because it’s in a vacuum, so it has to run pretty hot to radiate the energy away, but it also can’t expand more than a few microns over that whole temperature range!

      1. I was a TV technician for about a decade back then. The shadow mask could start glowing, visible from the front screen. Even when less hot than that, the shadow mask could and sometimes did warp from the heat. This caused color distortion. As far as getting all 3 beams aligned properly, you had to use a panel of potentiometers and some magnets attached to the glass to align the beams correctly. All of these adjustments would interact with the others, making convergence difficult, more of an art than a science. Trinitrons were usually much easier.

  4. There are some out there who argue that certain models of Sony Trinitron (high end studio type ones in particular) are the best devices ever made for playing older game consoles.

    1. It might be pretty difficult to find flaws in some of those arguments though…
      According to some stories those Sony studio monitors and their kin were the displays used with the dev kits when those games were made. So if the game was made to look a certain way on those displays, it is as close as you could possibly get to how the game was ‘supposed’ to look at the time.

      There are other solutions that get you 99% of the way there, but there is always that 1% of people who scour ebay for date-code appropriate chips for their Apple/Commodore/Amiga recreations so everything is exactly as it would have been from the assembly line.

      And I salute them, because they make fascinating writeups with lots of pictures. :)

    2. I have too many sony trinitrons in my junk pile; i can’t throw them away because until just recently, when properly clocked, they really were the best display devices made.

      I finally (last month) caught a pair of 4k LCD’s with enough DPI to kick my last tirinitron off my desk. I’d love to find a home for them, barring that, anyone got a good guide on mulching them for the best bits?

      1. I got rid of all of mine a while back intact. Staples was taking CRT’s for free. Depending on where you live, getting rid of a bunch of CRT based displays may be an expensive endeavor.

          1. That’s probably fair if they’re recycling them properly. If it’s just the shipping fee to some beach on India, or some heap by an African town, not so much.

      2. I’d want them. I had a shed full of CRTs and parts as replacements for my arcade cabinets. At one point, I pulled every single CRT out of my cabinets for one repair or another. The most impressive was a CRT with a cracked flyback. Scared the bejeezus out of me plugging that monster in and seeing a blue spider sprout out and start crawling around the circuit boards, CRT and work space.

        But I digress, after a particularly bad rain storm the cat found itself hiding in my shed. She jumped from shelf to shelf to climb to the attic and the topmost shelf holding my coin doors broke, crashed down onto the next shelf holding my backup CRTs, which crashed down to my work bench holding my main CRTs which broke the bench and crashed down to the floor holding the biggest CRTs in my collection. 15 or so tubes in all. All destroyed.

        The cat came into the house cut and bloodied from the glass but I assumed it was from a cat fight and cleaned it up. I wouldn’t realize the extent of the damage until some hard to obtain parts arrived in the mail about two weeks later and I go out to the shed to install them.

        I cry a little inside when I see people throw out old TVs and I don’t have my truck to snag them.

  5. I worked in computer retail in the 1990s, and one (of hundreds) of the common annoying complaints was people who were convinced that the two teeny tiny horizontal lines, on their expensive Trinitron monitor, were defects.

    We had a script, about how Trinitrons were better because they curved only sideways like a cylinder, not in both directions like a sphere. And the two horizontal wires made that possible.

    But there was no convincing some people.

    1. There is, of course, a Wikipedia reference:

      I had heard Trinitrons were better, they sure looked better in the store, so I paid the 50% premium and bought one. It was worth it, except when the power button died just out of warranty, and Sony charged me for the repair. Other than that, it was trouble free.

      That TV showed many hours of Disney Channel , Mister Rogers and Sesame Street. It finally (still working) got recycled when digital broadcasting came in, and, coincidentally or no, we cut the cable cord. We got at least 25 years out of that Trinitron, which is impressive.

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