TV Cream

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Portable television sets

Dail-up entertainmentClassically cased in white plastic with a black dial for tuning in the picture and a hooped aerial that was maddeningly prone to losing the signal if anyone so much as looked at a power tool within a mile radius, the portable television set nevertheless opened up a new world of freedom for teens keen on sampling TV’s forbidden fruits. As a result, numerous episodes of The Young Ones were originally viewed in crackly black and white with the sound barely audible lest mum cottoned on to the unauthorised TV anarchy unfurling after lights out. The portable’s other benefit was to provide most households with their first real choice in viewing. So, while the parents did the 5.40pm current affairs courtesy of Nick Ross, Desmond Wilcox and the rest of the Sixty Minutes gang, the kids decamped upstairs with their beans on toast for some Peter Purves-endorsed bunny-hopping in Kick Start.



  1. Ste

    April 13, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Forbidden fruits indeed….
    The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents, C4’s red triangle output and Patrick Malahide’s bottom pumping up and down in the woods were all covertly viewed on my trusty B&W Pye and one of those hearing-aid style single earphones.

    • Joanne Gray

      May 8, 2017 at 10:10 pm

      I had a Pye black and white portable too, a Rambler 12 and it had a rudimentary two button remote control (Standby and flick forwards through the 8 channels). I was also bought a pair of cheap headphones that made my earlobes sore because of metal parts that poked through inadequate foam rubber covering. With my tiny Ferguson mono record player with a carry strap on the front, I was popular with my friends who always wanted to either play records or watch cartoons on my telly.

  2. Adrian

    April 13, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Don’t forget that once the home computer revolution arrived said TVs were pressed into action as computer monitors..

    • Will M

      September 20, 2018 at 10:50 am

      It took me until the 90s to realise that the Commodore 64 wasn’t a black and white computer.

  3. Richard Davies

    August 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    By the time my parents got a 2nd set it was a colour one with remote control.

    Keeping a thumb on a channel button showing something less risque was often called into play but almost never needed.

    The same set was also used as a monitor for our Acorn Electron, my aunt & uncle has a B&W set that had to also be used as a monitor after our Grandad’s TV broke & had to borrow their 2nd set for a while.

    Playing games with a lot of dark blue was hard because it didn’t stand out from black very well, due to a poor setting.

    One of my friends had a large Ghetto Blaster with a tiny TV screen, which could only be watched with your head about 2 feet away.

  4. Glenn Aylett

    January 1, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    I bought a 14 inch Ferguson BW portable with loop aerial and rotary tuning in 1982. Quite a flash looking television for the time with a wooden cabinet and slider controls for brightness and contrast and made in Britain when many of these televisions were made in Hong Kong. Also on a fine day, as well as BBC1, BBC2, Border and Channel 4, I could receive RTE, Ulster Television, Granada, S4C, BBC1 Scotland and BBC1 Northern Ireland. Kind of like a Freeview of its time.

  5. Richard16378

    May 9, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    I remember being able to pick up all the Welsh channels at home, which was useful when regional opt outs by the BBC were more common, as well as the novelty of watching cartoons like Inspector Gadget dubbed into Welsh.

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