Colours/finishes

GV-S50E

(1995)

GV-S50E, picture by Nick Jarman

The Video Walkman was, like the original cassette Walkman, almost the perfect product for Sony. Despite appearing very high-tech, it actually required very little in the way of new ideas or technologies to make possible. The idea, however, was amazing, making it as easy to watch a film anywhere as it was to listen to music. Countless cheap portable DVD players that have become available in recent years have diluted the impact somewhat, but the compact and rugged GV-S50E still stands out as an amazing piece of work. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Despite its apparent complexity, the Video Walkman was easy to put together. The VTR parts were common with the Handycam camcorder range, with years of development already behind them. The mechanism, which played Video8 tapes, was miniaturised and suitable for battery operation in the presence of heat and vibration, as was necessary for its original purpose in a camcorder. The screen, a 10 cm LCD colour panel, was the same as that used in the colour Watchman portable TV sets. The LCD unit was made by Sharp and was bought in as a complete assembly. Combining these two existing elements resulted in a desirable product that marked Sony out as innovators and masters of miniaturisation. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

The video recorder worked using the Video8 system. In this form, the specification included hi-fi stereo sound, which could be listened to through headphones. Although the GV-S50E was not a Hi-8 format machine, it could play back Hi-8 tapes, though only to the normal Video8 standard. This would not have made much difference on the small built-in screen, though it would have been visible when the machine was connected to a full-size TV set or monitor. Tapes recorded using the NTSC standard could also be played back in full colour. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

To reduce the number of user controls, many of the seldom-used functions were controlled using an on-screen menu system. The main controls were mounted on the cassette lid and beneath the screen, so that they were well protected when the lid was closed. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

There were a number of uses to which the Video Walkman could be put. Theoretically it could be used to watch films anywhere, though the viewer would have to make their own tapes, as pre-recorded material was not issued on the Video8 format. It would be a brave person who would have used such a machine on public transport, to do so would invite almost instant theft, and the Video Walkman cost more than a full-sized TV set and video recorder! A far more sensible application was as a viewing/editing machine for camcorder users, where the GV-S50E proved ideal. It was even small enough to be carried with the camera “on location”. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

To expand the usefulness of the Video Walkman, an optional TV tuner/timer unit, type TG-V3E, was available. Such things were normal for portable VTRs of all types, but normally the tuner/timer was the same size as the recorder. This was not the case with the TG-V3E, which fitted on the side of the GV-S50E and added only a few centimetres to the width. There was even a built-in rod antenna, though this could only give really good results in strong signal areas. With this fitted, the Video Walkman became a complete TV system, and could even make up to six unattended TV recordings. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Despite some very impressive technology and packaging, the GV-S50E remained of minority interest only. Unlike the cassette Walkman, it was far too expensive to be a mass-market product, and could not be used discreetly anywhere. It did find a niche though, and as an accessory for the well-funded camcorder user it remained in the range for many years. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.