This site was started back around 2006 when I discovered that the Cartrivision.com name was available so I bought it but it wasn't until May of 2016 that I actually wrote the programming to put information on it. As an original Cartrivision owner myself having purchased one of the Montgomery Wards Airline models when it was still being sold in stores, I also bought a half dozen or so bare Cartrivision units new directly from Cartrivision's San Jose, California factory. I also bought others has I found them but still have my original. I also have the original camera, another camera still in the box, and several original microphones and extension cables.
The text below was written by me and published many, many years ago on one of the others sites about Cartrivision but it has recently been rewritten and updated for posting here. For over ten years this site has been only a template or place-holder until now and over the years I've gotten emails asking about what is happening with it but to be honest I've simply not had the time to devote to creating another site until now. I am a Web programmer and work on many other sites with this being one of the easier ones so I decided to finally get this updated version online, especially as I was able to leverage programming code I had already written for use elsewhere to make it even easier!
I bought my first Cartrivision and camera new when I was 20 years old, which was one of the 6' tall Montgomery Wards units and one of the models that played back in stereo with its own built-in stereo amps and speakers. It had one audio channel which used the single tube amp of the TV chassis with the other channel being supplied by a small IC circuit mounted on the inside of the wooden cabinet on its own tiny sub-chassis. At the time I bought mine, my family had just moved back to California and I was still living with them. We needed a TV anyway but our family room wasn't big enough for a large console so the small footprint of the Wards unit was perfect.
When Cartrivision, which had facilities here in San Jose, California went out of business, I bought a half dozen machines new in the box, just to have a supply of parts for my own although these came from their development area so they had some differences here and there over the production models. The purchase of these machines was prompted when my own was at Montgomery Wards repair facility and they could not get the parts it needed so ultimately I supplied them myself.
Around the same time, a San Jose company called Media Associates appeared, which was created by former Cartrivision employees who had bought tons of parts, empty cartridges, manuals and much else to sell. They offered these things along with full service facilities. They also offered custom cabinets for the machines, which they sold with the connection cables, Sears face plate and knobs. Media Associates still exists as far as I know but they no longer work on Cartrivisions.
I have many boxes of tapes including prerecorded, but many of the blanks were put together by Media Associates with their own label that is the same appearance as Cartrivision's but with the Media Associates name. They also had some with a nice black striped label that was quite professional looking over Cartrivision's colorful ones and I put my own together using a burled wood vinyl sheet to match the face plate of my own Cartrivision. Using more modern and thinner tape, Media Associates was able to get over two hours of recording time into a cartridge although it was recommended to play them through rather than stopping and starting them unnecessarily since the thinner tape was more easily damaged.
In addition to several uninstalled units, I also still have my original Montgomery Wards machine in storage, although it needs some work. That is, I still have it but I am sure that the Cartrivision unit in it isn't the one that came with it and a later Montgomery Wards repair to the TV left the Cartrivision unplayable as I believe they bypassed it at its chassis connector. I also have another free-standing unit which has a professional cabinet that was probably made by Cartrivision themselves, or made for them. It is not a home-made one although I also have one of the Media Associates cabinets without a Cartrivision in it, and a box of parts from a disassembled Cartrivision. I have Media Associates' extended 50' cable for the camera that gave enough length to allow it to be taken outdoors. I also still have the original camera that I bought with my Montgomery Wards unit, and several original microphone sets of the type that came with it when a local electronics surplus store was selling them in bulk back in the '70s. I also bought a camera still in the box a couple years ago.
One of my Cartrivisions was modified to record in stereo which I did the modification myself, and which was actually quite easy. This was done by adding a second audio recording pre-amp from a spare unit. Of course, back in the '70s there were no stereo TV broadcasts but I used it several times to record the simulcast broadcasts where the audio came through an FM stereo radio station and somewhere I still have one or two such recordings.
On early versions of the short 15 and 30 minute tapes, stubby cartridge cases were used but these were discontinued in favor of the large case that was used on the longer tapes. The stubby cases caused jams and tape breakage for some reason, possibly because the smaller diameter and lighter reels stopped too quickly, but also it made more sense to simply make one type of cartridge rather than two different types. Had the machines been designed to use only the single cartridge size, the loading mechanism could have been much simpler but as it was, it needed to be able to detect and compensate for whichever size tape cartridge was being inserted.
In all the Cartrivisions that I have or have had, I noticed some differences. There were at least three different transport motors used, with my original being by Singer. Only one had a plastic cover over the upper half of the scanner head and several had a little circuit board of some sort attached on a bracket near the audio head. Also, most had the main transport chassis in a gold or silver anodizing but one had it black.
Many of the photos used here are placeholders until I can locate all my Cartrivision files and folders but in the meantime, if you have items to share, please let me know. I would especially like scans of original ads, photos of Cartrivision and accessories and your stories. I welcome any questions, comments and (especially!) photos or articles for this site! I also need photos of the Admiral Cartrivision. Simply use the Contact form to send me a note.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy this site and can donate a little to help keep it online and growing!