Televisions

These are the old TVs I have.

Zenith All-Channel Model 8320 | RCA ColorTrak FKR484WR | GE Porta-Colors

Zenith All-Channel Color Console TV (Model 8320, Chassis 25MC36)

I’ve been fascinated with this TV (which was made around 1965-1966) since around 2002 or 2003. 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. As opposed to a VCR, 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.

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RCA ColorTrak FKR484WR

One of my favorite old TVs is 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. In September 2011, 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 are 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!

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.

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GE Porta-Colors

I’ve had two Porta-Color TVs.

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Updated Friday, October 19, 2012