JVC Model 3240 (3250) VideoSphere Television (1970s)

           

Shaped like a spaceman's helmet, the futuristic JVC VideoSphere is a highly collectible modern television. Several other space-age TVs were made during the 1970s, including one that resembles a flying saucer.

Description

The VideoSphere's controls are located on the top, along with a heavy chrome chain that lets you carry the set around or even hang it from the ceiling.

The base of my VideoSphere contains an alarm clock with sleep timer and a power plug in the rear. This lets you fall asleep with the TV playing and wake up to your favorite program in the morning. The TV has a separate power cord, so you can also plug it directly into the wall and use the timer plug for a bedside radio or lamp. The clock is the mechanical digital type, showing the time by flipping down little numbered cards rather than by lighting LEDs.

The clock/timer base was an option, denoted by the model number 3241. Many VideoSpheres have a plain base (model 3240). Three cabinet colors were available: white, red, or black.

The VideoSphere makes a great companion to my Weltron 2001. The second photo shows both of these "space helmet" devices together. The Weltron combines an AM/FM radio with an 8-track tape player.

Another groovy companion is the futuristic JVC Video Capsule, shown playing next to my VideoSphere. The Video Capsule's pyramidal top swings down when you are not playing the TV. It also includes an AM/FM radio.

After getting this VideoSphere, I happened to make a package deal including the black and red models at prices too good to refuse. Some time later, I was contacted by a former JVC factory technician in search of a restorable VideoSphere. I traded him my non-working black VideoSphere and he restored my white VideoSphere to factory specs.

In exchanging email with this technician, I learned that the tuner on these sets was a frequent source of trouble. The contacts on the switch wafers eventually wear out. The usual symptom is that the tuner first becomes intermittent. You may need to jiggle the tuner to get a clear picture on an often-used channel. Eventually, you won't be able to receive that channel at all.

The factory fix for this problem was to discard the worn tuner and install a new one. New tuners are no longer available, unfortunately. If you have great skill and a lot of time, it is theoretically possible to refurbish the worn contacts, but the cost of having a professional technician do that for you will easily exceed the value of your set.

Now that analog TV broadcasting has ceased in the United States, tuner issues aren't so important. Most people leave their vintage TVs tuned to channel 3 or 4 and use a DVD player or other source to provide the content.

A couple of years ago, I got an email from a fellow who offered to give me his non-working VideoSphere. I wasn't looking for a spare—especially a white one—but he planned to throw it away if I wasn't interested. I paid to ship it here, and now I have three VideoSpheres!

As you can see both of my non-working VideoSpheres have the smoked plastic screen cover which my working set is missing. They also have the plain bases without clock/timer. Perhaps I'll take the screen from one of the non-workers to complete my working set, although in my experience, bubble-shaped covers are more trouble than they're worth, since they reflect glare from overhead lights.

Model 3250 VideoSphere

I also got an interesting email from an owner of a model 3250 VideoSphere. Possibly a later model than the common 3240, its cabinet is almost identical, but instead of separate UHF and VHF tuning knobs, it has a single VHF/UHF slide-rule type dial. The sides of its screen cover sweep a bit farther back than the 3240, although the picture tube size looks the same.

If you get your hands on a model 3250, count yourself lucky. I have never run across one in the flesh.

Final Thoughts

The model 3240 VideoSphere was very popular and these sets are still quite plentiful. I think $150 would be an average price for one in good working condition. Subtract points if it doesn't work or it has damage or missing parts. The black and red sets are scarcer, so they might be worth a bit more.

Several years after restoration, my VideoSphere is still chugging away. I have used it as a shop TV quite a bit, since it performs well and it doesn't take up much space. Even though analog broadcasting has switched to digital, I can still watch cable TV in my workshop, thanks to my in-home TV transmitter.

©1995-2014 Philip I. Nelson, all rights reserved