THE 1978 GE PORTA-COLOR TV – AMERICA’S LAST TUBE TV

Even though Sony of Japan had working solid state TVs as early as 1959, the United States seem to lag decades behind the Japanese in the development and production of solid state TV designs. One prime example was the 1978 GE Porta-Color, the very last American television to use receiving tube technology, making use of the Compactron style tubes, many with three to four sets of internal parts. The Compactron tubes were almost more similar to a tube version of the integrated circuit that a transistor, because of the complex design of these tubes.

Although the receiving tube technology of the Porta-Color seemed very out of date by 1978, partly because it was mostly 1966 technology, as these small TVs were built from 1966 to 1978, the design was quite small and hence, portable for these TVs. But, this aging technology began to have an inferior picture quality and durability by 1978, with many small Japanese 13inch designs having far better picture quality than these 10inch picture GE TVs. For 1979, GE replaced these aging TVs with an all solid state Porta-Color II design. But, they never equalled the sales success of the original versions, although many Japanese TVs were the larger 13 inch picture tube designs, compared to the smaller GE models.

By 1979, many Japanese brands had built solid reputations for quality and reliability, and the U.S. television business had suffered many disappointments such as being very late to replace their aging receiving tube technology with the newer solid state designs. By 1978, the fact that GE still had tube TVs on the market wasn’t much of an image builder for GE. And, the company might have been a major U.S. defense contractor at the time, as was Westinghouse, but both were suffering in the TV market for being way behind the Japanese in both quality and technology. GE-1977-front1portacolorChassis3portacolor2

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