Combo television unit
A typical TV/VCR combo.
|Launch year||early 1970s (experimental movie rental equipment); mid-to-late 1980s (mainstream market)|
A Combo television unit, or a TV/VCR combo, sometimes known as a televideo, is a television and either a VCR or a DVD built into a single unit. These converged devices have the advantages (compared to a separate TV and VCR) of saving space and increasing portability. Such units entered the market during the mid-to-late 1980s when VCRs had become ubiquitous household devices. By this time, the VHS format had become standard; thus the vast majority of TV/VCR combos are VHS-based.
Though nearly all TV/VCR combination sets have monaural (mono) sound though with stereo soundtrack compatibility, there are a large number of TV/VCR combos with a stereo TV tuner, but a mono VCR (some may even include a mono sound input alongside a composite video input. Some models from Panasonic also included an FM tuner. A major exception to this convention is TV/DVD combos, which can have a stereo VCR included in the unit (i.e. a TV/VCR/DVD combo). One of the major drawbacks of a TV/DVD/VCR combo is that the integrated VCR can sometimes activate the CSS programming on the DVD player portion, making it impossible to watch DVDs on the unit.
Modern televisions tend to be mostly solid state machines, while VCRs require mechanical manipulation of VHS tape and require occasional servicing. For this reason, it is not uncommon for the VCR component to cease functioning or to become unreliable years before a similar fate befalls the television component. This leaves users with only "half" of the set in operation and a more expensive repair or replacement.
At the start of the 21st century, flat-panel TVs with integrated DVD players appeared on the market, and integrated TV/DVD sets started overtaking the TV/VCR market. This is due to both the low price and overwhelming availability of DVDs and more compact form factor, as opposed to the increasingly rare video cassettes and near-extinction of cathode ray tube displays in the consumer market.
Some of the earliest combo TVs with a built-in video playback device were ones that supported Cartrivision. Cartrivision-equipped TVs date back before even the introduction of VHS or stand-alone video playback devices in the consumer market (but with the exception of some open reel video playback devices that could be connected to TVs back in the 1960s), which the majority of combo TVs had in the late 1980s and 1990s.
During the era of their popularity, many of these units displayed product videos in stores or for other commercial displays. Unlike most standalone VCRs, many could play back a tape over and over again. After each play, the tape would automatically rewind, usually showing just a blue screen during the process, and restart as soon as rewinding was finished.
Some fully functional computer systems or game consoles have been built into some models of TVs over time. Hewlett-Packard currently has a version of their TouchSmart line of computers with a built-in TV tuner, and even has a built-in DVR; also making it a TV/DVR combo which is a relatively rare concept. As of late 2010, Samsung introduced an LED TV with a proprietary operating system with Internet access to websites like Facebook, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and other sites. Other TV/Computer combo equipment can simply just be flatscreen TVs with USB ports which allows USB flash drives and external hard drives to be connected to allow for audio and video playback, in which it can give a streamlined, fully solid-state profile.
Almost every modern day TV sets have simplified CPUs and memory chips for basic functions such as channels and video settings, and video timing for LCD flat panels; however these examples are not sophisticated enough to qualify as significant examples. Other computer parts are used for real-time playback of DVDs on combo TVs with DVD player (and Blu-ray Disc for more high-end models) functionality; however these dedicated functions alone don't qualify as significant examples either.
In the past, other attempts have been made to integrate computer functionality in CRT or display enclosures. However, prior to the concept of TVs with built-in computer motherboards, early portable computers had monitors of their own, but no TV tuner since it was a cost-prohibitive feature in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The Compucolor (followed by the Compucolor II of the 1970s was one of the first computer systems to be contained entirely within the casing of a video screen. Instead of being a functional computer system for hobbyist programming with a TV tuner, the tuner was removed from the casing of an RCA brand TV (GE for the Compucolor II) since such a feature during the 1970s would have been too costly for such an application. But such a device would be pulled off the market due to FCC concerns over a lack of radiation shielding from the CRT. As a notable example, but without a built-in TV tuner, The first model of the well-known Macintosh line of computers had a built-in monitor.
In the mid-1980s, Sharp introduced the C1 NES TV which was capable of playing NES and Famicom games and the first one to also have a TV tuner. Years later, in the mid-1990s, Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh TV (not to be confused with the current-day Apple TV set-top box) which was capable of capturing still images of TV broadcasts to the hard drive since hard drives at the time were not big enough for practical DVR use even though experimental use of hard drives for video capture only captured less than a minute of video back in the 1960s. Handheld game consoles such as the Game Gear had a full-color display housed with a CPU, but wasn't a true TV-computer combo unit since a modular TV tuner peripheral was required.