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SINCLAIR FTV1

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Front View [18K]Tuning scaleTelescopic Aerial2-inch viewing screenTuning controlOn/off plus volume control

  • Launched on the 16th September 1983
  • 2" side gun C.R.T. with 2.3KV E.H.T.
  • One I.C. plus 10 transistors (excluding
    the tuner)
  • Dual standard 625 and 525 lines
  • Lithium battery or external mains power pack.
  • Original Cost £79.95, plus £7.95
    for the mains adapter
  • Size 5½ x 3½ by 1¼ inches
NOTES "Jon, there's no valves matey!". Almost true ... with LCD displays still many years off, this set uses a good old electron gun CRT but in a novel way.

Since around 1963 Sinclair had been obsessed with the idea of a true pocket TV. In the late 70's he came close to his goal with some miniature sets based on a normal (if miniature) CRT but these would still require a large pocket (see models MTV1 and MTV1B). It was not until the 80's, with a combination of advances in technology and money coming in from his successful range of computers that Sir Clive Sinclair was able to invest the £4 million it took to realise his dream with the FTV1.

The most novel feature of the C.R.T is that the electron gun runs parallel to the screen, requiring the beam to be bent at 90 degrees to hit the phosphor. This is achieved using a charged transparent coating at the front to repel the electron beam into the phosphor.

The C.R.T uses electrostatic deflection. The underlying phosphor screen actually has an aspect ratio of around 16:9 (just like a modern wide-screen T.V.!). The reduction in height not only aided picture linearity but also reduced the drive (power) requirements. The image is then magnified vertically using a fresnel lense to achieve the correct 4:3 picture aspect ratio.

In order to achieve a pocket set, the electronics had to be shrunk. No prizes for guessing that this is achieved by an IC. The Ferranti chip performs the IF, audio, video and sync seperation functions, but there's more ! The set handles multiple video standards too, and if that wasn't enough it also automatically controls the brightness and contrast (for which the set has no user controls). The power supply and high voltage tube drives have, however, been farmed out to discrete transistors.

Thin lithium battery [6K]The miricals don't end there. The battery for the set is an extremely thin 6 volt lithium battery (illustrated alongside a standard PP3 battery). The one illustrated is slightly shorter than the original but still illustrates just how small the original battery was. The mirical ? The original battery was claimed to be able to run the set for an amazing 15 hours (due to its miniscule size I would have been impressed if it managed 10 minutes!).

Although Sinclair seems to get credited for the invention of the unusual C.R.T., it was in fact the brainschild of Doctor D. Gabor in the mid 1950's (follow this link for a period magazine artical). Yet having spent 6 years developing the set, Sinclair was actually pipped to the post by a similar sideways tube design from Sony. However the writing was on the wall for this type of C.R.T. ; in 1977, when sSinclair lauched their first pocket TV (the MTV1) Hitachi displayed a prototype television that was the first to use a new display technology, namely LCD. Then in the same year as this FTV1 model was lauched Casio (and possibly Seiko) launched the first production televisions utilising an LCD screen.

So ultimately Sinclair's FTV1 was a flop. Despite the September launch, you still couldn't buy one in November and the batteries were also quite expensive (around £10 for a set of 3). The planned ramp-up of production to 10,000 units per month never happened, with only some 15,000 sets being produced.

An artical appeared in the November 1983 issue of Television magazine (follow this link to read the artical) which makes an interesting read, not only for the technical snippets but also for Sinclair's optimism at the expected volumes and the trades scepticism.
SERVICE DATA A rough circuit diagram plus a seperate text description was downloaded from http://www.feertech.com/andy/sinclair/.
CURRENT STATE Bad photo of screen image [5K]Physically very good condition and working. The frame scan has slight barrel distortion, however the picture is clearer than the illustration may suggest (crap digital camera). Although the set came with its original packaging and pouch, the original ear piece is missing as are the instructions.

The battery is a non-original replacement, but then it is unlikey that a 17 year old rechargable lithium battery would still be servicable today.

The picture itself is suprisingly bright, with the picture coming up within a second (the speed no doubt helped by the CRT having a directly heated cathode). The fresnel lense does tend to limit the viewing angle, as well as give the effect of the set running with a much reduced number of scan lines. With such a small speaker you wouldn't expect hi-fi sound quality, but it is adequate.

Living in a strong signal area I can't yet comment on the sensitivity of the set other than is seems to pick up all the main stations without noise.
WHERE FOUND May 2002 National Vintage Communications Fair at the NEC for £40, complete with a previously unused power supply.
ADDITIONAL If pocket TV's are your thing then there is a useful site at Frank's Handheld-TV Pages which also includes on-line manuals and advertising material.
EBAY GUIDE 15,000 sets were produced, and being so small were easilly tucked away in storage. So today they are so common that they regularly turn up on Ebay or at amatuer and vintage radio swapmeets. Therefor any Ebay seller describing one of these sets as "rare" is clearly a total muppet.

Kit of bits [26K]


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Last updated
28th June 2007