FD-210BE, picture by Nick Jarman

The FD-210BE was one of the earlier Watchman models to be offered for the European market. As a manufacturer who is probably famed above all else for making high quality miniature versions of familiar electronic product, Sony naturally had an interest in producing a very small television set. The ultimate goal would have been to produce a set which could have been fitted in the pocket, gave a reasonable viewing time from standard batteries and would a produce a viewable picture anywhere without elaborate antennas. While the FD-210BE did not meet all these requirements, it was clearly a step in the right direction. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Strangely, Sony did not dominate the market for miniature television sets in England during the early stages of the development of the technology. Sinclair (a British company) had succeeded in producing a series of remarkably small sets, which were known as the Microvision series. First shown in the late 60’s, these sets were truly tiny, even if they did not offer the last word in reliability. The FD-210BE arrived during the period of the Mk. 2 Microvision. In comparison, the Sony set was considerably larger, but it was also much more of a “finished” product: better made and far more reliable. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

The Mk. 2 Microvision used what was in effect a cut-down oscilloscope tube, complete with electrostatic deflection. The Sony set also used a cathode ray tube, though there were radical differences between this and what could be considered as a conventional design. To reduce the casework of the set to a shape that could be slipped into a pocket, whilst still offering a reasonable size of picture, the tube was “folded”, so that the gun and electromagnetic scanning assembly came in from the bottom rather than from the back. This allowed a thin, “flat” set to be designed, a major step forward. The novel tube was, of course, more difficult to drive than a conventional one, so the scanning circuits became very complex. There were many adjustments that had to be made to produce a sensibly shaped and reasonably square picture. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

There is of course more to a television set than just the tube, and for a portable set the design of an efficient receiving section is paramount if a small antenna is to be used. Sony excelled in this area with the FD-210BE, producing a sensitive tuner that could produce a watchable picture even in poor reception areas. As a bonus, the tuner covered both UHF and VHF with UK and European sound standards, so the set was usable in most of the countries that employed a 625 line system. Power came from 4 “AA” sized cells, which lasted for a reasonable time, certainly long enough for an evening’s selective viewing. To save power, the set could be switched to “sound only” mode. The built-in loudspeaker was perhaps not the set’s best feature, but Walkman type headphones could be used instead, resulting in better sound quality. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.