The 1970s JVC Videosphere: An iconic example of ‘space age’ design

One of the most iconic examples of 1970s designs is the JVC Videosphere. This cathode ray tube television was first produced in 1970 and sold up until the beginning of the 1980s.

The Videosphere is shaped like an astronaut’s helmet. In the late 1960s, space travel had attracted people’s attention and had a major influence on design in general.

There were several other space-age television sets made in the early 1970s, probably influenced by the popularity of the first moon landing in 1969.

JVC’s Videosphere is said to have been inspired by the epic 1968 science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Videosphere with alarm clock base. Max Erds – Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

The space-age TV set comprised a sphere styled as an astronaut’s helmet standing on a square base. Most of the units had a plain base, although an alarm clock/timer base unit was also available. The casing was made of plastic with a smoked acrylic-covered the screen.

It was available in several colors: white, red, orange, and black units were produced in the 1970s, and a gray-colored model appeared in the 1980s.

JVC Videosphere displayed at the Geffrye Museum

The controls for channel tuning, brightness, contrast, and volume were positioned on the top, with the antenna and an audio plug located on the back. There was also a metal chain on the top, allowing the viewer to carry it around, or even hang it from the ceiling.

The model with the alarm-clock base had a separate power plug, which allowed it to be used separately from the TV.

Top of the Videosphere showing the chain handle and channel dial. Canley, CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

JVC Radio and TV. Thorsten Haustein – Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

The Videosphere targeted young people as its main consumers. It wasn’t designed to be the primary television in the home, but was usually found in children’s rooms as a second set.

The sphere has appeared in several movies since the 1970s. In the 1972 movie Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, there was a black Videosphere.

The sphere in the movie had a color screen, although the actual TV set produced by JVC was black-and-white.

In 1973, a red model can be seen in Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper and in 1974, a famous video artist called Nam June Paik used a white sphere for his art piece TV Buddha.

Nam June Paik’s TV Buddha. Angus Fraser – Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

 

Orange Videosphere. Simon Malz – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Videosphere was very popular because of its futuristic design. Today it can be found in many collections of old television sets.

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Some of the collectors replace the old black-and-white screens with color ones. Spare parts for the sphere are not easy to find, so restoring a Videosphere is not cheap.