When did they stop selling black and white television sets in the USA?
September 30, 2015 4:44 PM   Subscribe

We had a black and white tv set when I was a child. We switched over to color at some point in the early '80s and we, along with tens of millions of other American consumers, never looked back. At some point, I suppose they must have stopped selling black and white tv sets

because the market had pretty much died. Here I speak of the brick and mortar world; I'm sure that you could still pick up a used black and white set on eBay. I don't, however, know when exactly this not-a-bang-but-a-whimper whimpered. When did the black and white television set disappear from shop shelves in the USA?

As always, many thanks in advance. Over and out.
posted by jason's_planet to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What do you mean by "television set"?

Until the 80's or 90's you could buy compact tube-based portable TV sets that were still B&W.

You can buy this brand new B&W TV on Overstock.com today so I guess they're still for sale?
posted by GuyZero at 4:49 PM on September 30, 2015 [8 favorites]

And this one from Coby via Amazon. Which gets some decent reviews.
posted by GuyZero at 4:50 PM on September 30, 2015

I don't have an answer, OP, but I know my mom had a B&W mini, portable TV on a shelf on her office that she got sometime in the late 80's. These were available for quite a while afterwards.

On preview, exactly what GuyZero wrote.
posted by mosk at 4:50 PM on September 30, 2015

Note that neither of those TV will pick up current OTA TV transmissions in the US as they seem to be analog NTSC based units. All those Amazon reviews are actually from before the digital OTA transition. Whether or not you can actually buy one if you order it is another matter I guess. But they're technically listed for sale.
posted by GuyZero at 4:53 PM on September 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you don't count the portable minature set, I'd say the fall of 1992 is a reasonable answer.

"America is Finally Pulling the Plug on Black and White Television Sets" (9/6/1992)
Except for miniature models, black-and-white TVs have faded from view, their sales shrinking as fast as the size of their screens. The sets rarely are seen even in discount stores anymore, and prisons are among the few remaining customers.

Many of the nation's biggest retail chains, such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Kmart Corp., don't sell any traditional black-and-white sets. The last time Sears sold them was in 1990, and then it was just for the Christmas season when the chain offered a 12-inch model for $79 to drum up customer traffic.

Stores that do sell black-and-white TVs usually won't sell anything bigger than the small models, with screen sizes typically ranging from a few inches to 7 inches, and the same holds true for electronic appliance chains.

"That's really a dead market," Pat Ruggieri, a marketing manager for Sony Corp., said of larger black-and-white sets.

posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:55 PM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Coming in to say what GuyZero and Pater Alethias said.

There were some Emerson B&W sets still on shelves in my hometown discount store Roses in 1996, but they didn't look like they were manufactured in 1996. By that point Emerson had gone through bankruptcy and had basically licensed their brand to Goldstar, who eventually became LG.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2015

I know someone that for a wedding gift he gets everyone a small b & w TV. I know this went on past 2000.
posted by ReluctantViking at 5:34 PM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

I watched the Twin Towers fall on a tiny portable B&W television my boyfriend had just bought me because he couldn't understand how I could choose to live without a TV. The portable was a compromise.

"For emergencies," he said.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:44 PM on September 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

DarlingBri, I had the same TV for the same inexplicable reason that day, but from my mom. I was trying to remember for sure if it was black and white.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:56 PM on September 30, 2015

Best answer: I've seen that little memorex/coby tv(which is sold under like, 10 brands) at fred meyers and at least a couple other big box stores within the past 5-10 years. It wouldn't surprise me if some of them still stock it.

I've also, 100% for sure, seen these at walmart or a similar big box store within the past year. I was kinda shocked it had a black and white tube tv in it, honestly.
posted by emptythought at 9:46 PM on September 30, 2015

Well...don't know if this counts, but you can turn the color level all the way down and pretty much every set sold is black and white.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:59 PM on September 30, 2015

Best answer: As recently as 2007 or 2008 you could still buy new portable B&W tube televisions at Walgreens (source: I worked there). They were eventually discontinued, I think shortly before the end of analog broadcasts.
posted by neckro23 at 11:06 PM on September 30, 2015

One person at that Amazon link says he's using it as a UFO detector...
posted by persona au gratin at 12:25 AM on October 1, 2015

What about TVs used for surveillance cameras? A fair deal tend to be in black and white.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:10 AM on October 1, 2015

Best answer: What about TVs used for surveillance cameras? A fair deal tend to be in black and white.

Those fail to meet a strict definition of "television set" as they usually lack tuners.
posted by tremspeed at 10:03 AM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

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