A Vintage Sony Portable TV, Brought Up To Date

In the time before smartphones for on-the-go visual entertainment, there were portable TVs. You might think of a portable TV as a luggable device, but the really cool ones were pocket-sized. Perhaps if you are familiar with pocket TVs you’ll be thinking of a Citizen or a Casio with a matchbox-sized LCD, but before those devices reached the market there was an earlier generation that featured tiny CRTs. These were simply the coolest electronics that an ’80s kid could lust after, and [Nick Reynolds] is lucky enough to have one. It’s a Sony Watchman from some time in the first half of that decade, and because it’s useless in the age of digital broadcasts he’s upgraded it by installing a Raspberry Pi in its case.

The unlikely inspiration for the project came from the 1970s British sci-fi TV series Space 1999, in which portable CRT-based communicators were a prop. They were typical of the sci-fi vision of the future in shows of the period, one that got so much right but didn’t quite see the smartphone coming.

The Watchman features Sony’s angled CRT, and fitting a Pi Zero W into the limited space behind it called for some careful insulation of its parts with Kapton tape. He’s even included a Pi camera module with a contorted run of flexible cable, placing it beneath the screen where a tuning indicator once sat. He has no sound as yet, but is able to demonstrate a working videophone using Ekiga as a client. He has a few more Watchmen, and has plans for a suite of retro videophones, and a Pi 3 based model.

Surprisingly this isn’t the only Sony Watchman that’s had this kind of treatment, previously we’ve brought you one that hosted a Pong game.

5 thoughts on “A Vintage Sony Portable TV, Brought Up To Date

  1. //hese were simply the coolest electronics that an ’80s kid could lust after, and [Nick Reynolds] is lucky enough to have one. // Correction. 8 I think he said. He bought eBay

  2. Ok… I suppose I can start buying up those monochrome “Hurricane” TV’s that are now obsolete. Tons of space in there, replace the eight R14 batteries with 18650s…

    Does anyone happen to know what kind of voltage I could expect to avoid inside one of those little 5-inch combo radio/TV units? Discharge and safe-handling of course, but would that little tube pack a whallop or just a sting?

  3. Article seemed to imply Sony Watchman is pretty rare but I am not sure if it’s the wording or what. If it was rare back in the day due to high cost, I can understand. But today they turn up once in a while at local Goodwill. I snagged 3 over the past few years, 2 fully works and one whose PCB just up and fell apart after being stored with batteries for over 15 years. I kept the CRT so I can show it to people.

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