Old TVs


Are there TVs so old that a converter box cannot be used with them? How new does a TV have to be to have that capacity? I have some very old portable TVs. Do converter boxes work with portable TVs?
Last edited:

Jason Fritz

Staff member

Unfortunately for mobile television owners, all TVs that receive broadcasts over-the-air (by antenna), will need a digital-to-analog converter box.

Why? The FCC has decided that once the entire country goes to dtv after the digital transition, no stations will be allowed to switch back over to analog, even if there’s an emergency such as a hurricane or earthquake.

So, what are the options for owners of mobile TVs? Not many.

There are two obstacles to overcome when converting your portable television to DTV...

1. A converter box will need power. As of todays date (9-15-08), there are zero converter boxes on the market that are battery powered. I've been watching news feeds for converter boxes coming out in the next year which will be battery powered; and there's no information on such a product.

Updated 11/15/08 - There is now a converter box that can be powered by battery. Check it out here: http://www.dtvusaforum.com/winegard-rc-dt09-converter-box/417-first-battery-powered-dtv-converter-box-market.html

2. Does your portable television have an external input which would allow it to accept an output from a digital converter box? Most mobile TVs are built to receive analog signals only, and do not have the capability to accept an external source.

If you're looking for an alternative to get news during an emergency, you may want to consider purchasing a portable radio. Most battery powered radios are more compact, and can last much longer on battery power than portable TVs.


You know I never really thought about that. I am sure that most people have not. Glad that you mentioned it I think I may have to contact some people and see what they manufacturers are doing for this type of thing.


converters on old TV sets

I have never done much with the small portable TV sets so I am not really familiar with a possible antenna hookup. I have seen wrist watch TV sets and I would not think it very likely that they would have an external antenna connection.

As far as how old the TV could be. I would not think it practical to use a TV that is more than about 30 years old. TV sets back then and older were the tube type sets instead of the solid state systems. The vacuum tubes have a fairly short life expectancy sort of like a light bulb. I do not think that vacuum tubes have been made by any company for several years.

Remember that all a converter box is, is a tuner. It receives the digital signal and converts it to an analog signal. Any analog TV can receive it no matter how old it is as long as it can receive channel 3 or 4. The converter box places no load on the TV nor does it make any demands of the TV set. All that may be necessary is to convert or adapt a wire to connect to the TV set from the converter box so that it can receive the analog signal. If a TV has a built in antenna with out a connection for the antenna wire. It would then be necessary to connect the converter box to a small device that will re-transmit the analog signal for a very short distance. Then any nearby analog TV set with a built in or portable antenna could receive this signal.

I do not know if any company is making a transmitter as I described for TV video at this time. I am certain that you have already noticed that this is common place with home theater and surround sound systems for the audio portion only. That is how you could place some of the speakers around the room without any wires being connected to them.


DTVUSA Jr. Member
My television is less than 6 years old and I paid a good price for it.I do not feel like spending another 500 dollars just because the government decides to stop allowing broadcast television. I am not very happy about this situation.


Are there TVs so old that a converter box cannot be used with them? How new does a TV have to be to have that capacity? I have some very old portable TVs. Do converter boxes work with portable TVs?
how old are your portable televisions? i think that it depends with the manufacturer. you may need to talk to them. i can remember my uncle who has a very old tv but then he was able to use a converter box.
Some fellow I talked to few months back told me there ARE small ones for pocket tv's but I knew he didnt know what he was talking about because there really isnt.

But as we all know, most older pocket tvs only have a crappy analog tuner in them with a simple rod antenna. Analog reception was fairly good on these portable tvs because you could take them anywhere.

But you need power to use a converter box, and, what would the sense be of carrying around a big converter box attatched to a little tv with a 2 inch screen?

it would look weird walking down the sidewalk with it.

All newer pocket tvs pre 2006/7 onwards SHOULD have digital tuners already in them.

the only thing you COULD do, is have it sit on your desk connected and everything, i dont know about anyone else, but my eyes would probably die out from staring at a tiny 2 inch screen.

I've seen those little grey Sony Watchmans in thrift stores scattered about. Back when the sony watchmen came out those were the must have gagdets.

Pretty dam good tuners in them for just having an extending rod too.