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Okay, I know they’re Japanese, but the name sounds distinctly, well, British?

Nope, 100% land of the rising sun, founded in 1912 by one Tokuji Hayakawa


So where does Sharp come from?

Tokuji’s first product was the Tokubijo, a snap-action buckle but in 1915 he invented a mechanical propelling pencil, he called it the ‘Ever-Sharp’


Propelling pencils, that’s not very high tech?

Actually Sharp moved into electronics very early on and in 1925 it was building and marketing crystal radios. Valve sets followed in 1929 and in 1953 it began mass-producing televisions.


And the rest is history?

They’re unusually diverse. Sharp are big in microwave ovens, it launched the first model back in 1962, produced the first all-transistor calculator in 1964, and started using chips in calculators in 1966. The first model with a liquid crystal display LCD was in 1973.


LCDs, oh yes it is quite hot on display technology?

A world leader in optoelectronics in fact with important firsts in solar cells, laser diodes TV and computer displays, and in 1968 it developed the first combination toaster microwave oven… Bet you didn’t know that?


What is it up to now?

Better flat panel displays, wall mount TVs personal organisers, digital camcorders, network audio and ever bigger LCDs, it recently announced another world’s largest, a 26-inch TFT LCD, but no, there’s no details of price or availability just yet…



THE VIDEO WALKMAN (pics in post)


A Video Walkman, I like the sound of that, where can I buy one?

You’re too late, they came and went about five years ago


How did it work, did you have to wear special glasses?

No, though a couple of companies did come up with video headsets, with built-in viewing screens, but that’s another story…


So how did they work?

A miniature, battery-powered video deck was combined with a colour LCD viewing screen and sometimes a TV tuner as well, so you could watch your favourite movies, anywhere, any time


It didn’t catch on then?

There was around half a dozen models at one time, from Hitachi, Panasonic, JVC, Sharp, and of course Sony, who might still have one or two kicking around. Sony’s was comparatively small as it used 8mm tapes; the others based theirs on VHS or VHS-C tapes, so they were rather bulky


What killed them off?

How long have you got? Cost, they were very expensive, upwards of £900 for some of them. They were not very convenient, there were few pre-recorded 8mm tapes and none on the VHS-C format. The batteries only lasted a few minutes, most models couldn’t or wouldn’t record off-air TV, and the small screens meant only one person, or two very good friends, could watch them at the same time.




Ó R. Maybury 1998 1002




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