This article was originally written for and published at TechTat on September 4th, 2011 It has been posted here for safe keeping.
Most people have heard of Commodore. This company was responsible for some of our favorite 1980′s computers such as the C64, VIC-20, and all the members of the Amiga family. Commodore also made it’s own accessories. There were joysticks, floppy drives, tape drives, printers, and even monitors. Now remember, back at this time, personal computers were clumped a bit with game consoles. You would hook them up to the family television set, which meant that everyone would be out of luck while one person would fool around with the home computer for hours on end. Having a dedicated monitor allowed for both a happy computer nut, and a happy family.
Of all the monitors for all the early home computers, the Commodore 1702 is arguably the most popular; even compared to others outside of the Commodore family. But what makes these monitors so good? Why are they still so sought after by collectors and videophiles alike? It all comes down to quality. Many say that the picture produced from a 1702 is on par with professional video monitors. The 1702 has even found a home in video production outfits as well as television stations because of the high quality display (at a lower price than pro gear).
The 1702 featured composite video and mono audio inputs on the front, and Y/C video and mono audio inputs on the back. There is a switch to flip back and forth between the two. If Y/C sounds a bit odd to you, it is just another way of saying video inputs for chroma (color) and luma (light) video. If that still sounds a bit off to you, have you ever heard of S-Video? JVC popularized S-Video in the early 90′s as a higher quality video standard when compared to composite. However, Commodore included this on its monitors years before it became mainstream (using two RCA ports as opposed to the standard S-Video port) and you can even wire up a simple cable that will allow you to use your S-Video devices on your 1702.
Something else I have to mention is build quality. Not only do these monitors look sleek, but they are also almost indestructible. I’ve seen some in pretty bad shape, picked them up in all kinds of condition, and they still function perfectly. The lifespan is also something to brag about. Most of these monitors are over 25 years old, and still keep firing up same as always.
Why would you want a 1702 these days anyway? Aside from the computer collector market, many others still enjoy the 1702 monitor. Many retro gamers flock to it because of the picture quality as well as the rounded tube which makes it light-gun friendly when compared to today’s flat screens. Those who use high-end video equipment also look to the 1702 as a monitor with proven display quality and compatibility. Others may just like the look of it (you have to admit it has a nice vibe) or keep it around as a spare display for a VCR or something to throw on the work bench in the basement.
As I mentioned before, I own a Commodore 1702. In fact, as of this writing, I own four of them and don’t plan on departing with them anytime soon. They have served me well in a variety of ways. They make great monitors for video cameras, good gaming displays, and I hope to deploy them again in a video production rig. I’ve found mine all over the place: yard sales, flea markets, on the roadside, you name it. Most people are just trying to get rid of them and price them out for a dollar or two or end up dumping them at a thrift store. If you are lucky enough to stumble upon one, give it a chance. You might be surprised by what you end up getting.