We now take super-large TVs and projectors for granted, but it wasn't always that way. Rewind a quarter of a century, and the most common TV in use back then was a 22-inch colour set (4:3 of course).

And, although you could buy self-contained projection TVs and three-tube CRT projectors (for use with a separate screen), for many they were prohibitively expensive and more often than not ended up being abused in pubs and clubs.

Big-screen TV

Yet there was still a demand for big-screen TV, whether for movies or the 'big match', and some manufacturers tried to meet this demand economically. The first attempt was a stand-mounted magnifier that was placed in front of your existing TV; an idea with its roots in the early-1950s era of tiny black-and-white screens.

Built around a curved lens, screen magnifiers did indeed give bigger pictures - 30-inch from a 22-inch screen was possible. But it had too many problems to succeed as a mainstream product: plenty of picture distortion; reduced brightness and contrast; restricted viewing angle; and it looked stupid.

Another solution was a self-contained 'projector' that consisted of a Ferguson 14-inch portable TV and massive lens. This was used in conjunction with a screen. Nice try, but the dim picture necessitated drawn curtains, and was none too reliable. AV fans had to wait several years for 'affordable' rear-pro TVs - and only then did big-screen TV become a reality.

This article first appeared in Home Cinema Choice(issue 149).

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