Sony Model FD-10A Watchman Television (1987)


The Sony model FD-10A Watchman television is the most recognizable of all handheld TVs. Measuring 6 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches, it literally slips into a shirt pocket.

The Watchman has a sleek, utilitarian look. The tiny picture tube is flattened out, without a long rear neck like most CRTs.

The low-profile controls are thumbwheels (Tuning, Volume) and slide switches (VHF/UHF, Power/Sound/TV). Powered by four 1.5-volt AA batteries, the FD-10A has an earplug port and uses a built-in monopole antenna.

That's it! No contrast or brightness controls, no external antenna or video connectors, no AC adapter, no horizontal or vertical adjusters. The Watchman does only one job, but does it well. The screen is watchable in ordinary room light, or even outdoors if you're not in direct sun, and I have never seen a wobble from the horizontal or vertical.

I like the ability to listen to TV sound without the picture. Before analog broadcasts were switched off in favor of digital, I used this feature every now and then. Once, I quietly tuned in a big ballgame on an earplug while attending a dull meeting. I also enjoyed listening to Sunday morning news programs while walking, in the days before analog TV broadcasting became obsolete.

Removing the back cover shows you some of the Watchman's compact circuitry. Repairing such miniaturized PC boards would be a real challenge, but fortunately, my Watchman works like new.

The Watchman is smaller than my other handheld TV, a Panasonic Travelvision. Both produce a sharp picture. The Travelvision uses a magnifier to boost the picture size.

Following the switchover from analog to digital broadcasting, handheld TVs have become cheap because few people know how to watch anything on them. This house is an exception, as you'll learn if you read about my home TV transmitter. The final photo shows these two handheld TVs receiving a home broadcast, along two of my larger restored sets.

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