I've been searching for a cathode ray tube television for some time, with the belief that the older consoles in my collection were just not being properly represented on more modern sets. By happenstance, I was reunited with a National TR602A "Delux" 12 inch television set from my childhood.
It was on the way to the municipal dump and had been left out in the rain for three days, so my hopes of getting it up and running were pretty low but, after taking some safety precautions, the almost forty year old set came to life.
After a couple of hours of searching through cables, and my extra Atari 2600's I had River Raid up and running and looking better than it had in some decades. Although the television is limited to being black and white, the crispness of the pixels is immediatley impressive. The curvature of the screen, convex rather than the concave options available in the 21st century, also adds a long forgotten quirk of technology, much more obvious in a vertically scrolling game than say, watching the cricket.
It has been difficult to pin down the exact year of manufacture, but this "all transistor" model (charming) was made by Matshushita in Osaka around 1980.
It is made of modern plastics, with the white casing holding up extremely well -- this model was also available in red. In terms of inputs the set is limited to screw terminals on the back of the set (you can daisy chain more modern inputs from the screw terminals, but there is a loss of quality for every adaptor you add). While I was able to get a NES, NES, SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive and an Atari 2600 hooked up simultaneously, the video degradation was not worth the novelty, so I ultimately kept just the Atari 2600 attached.
Other features include an earphones port (mono only) as well as brightness and contrast controls on the front with vertical and horizontal hold on the back.
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your views), due to our regulators removing free over the air television programming the receiver now only picks up FM radio stations.
As of today I was able to find a single set, slightly newer than mine, on E-Bay for $130 AUD, but given the perils of shipping and handling, I've found that for vintage electronics it is best to source locally.
I throughly enjoyed setting up the Atari 2600 in it's own area of the collection, and even if I did come across a colour set, I'd be hesitant to "upgrade" given the moderne stylings of the National Deluxe.
- Phil Fogg
Advisory: If considering working on a CRT yourself please remember that according to ifixit.com "A CRT can hold several thousand volts of electricity in its flyback circuitry. If you do not have the necessary experience and tools to properly discharge and make safe a CRT, you should not even take the plastic cover off. There is also the chance of physically damaging the fragile neck of the CRT, leading to a violent implosion as the vacuum is released. This could spray poisonous, phosphor-covered shards of glass all over the room."