The GE Widescreen 1000 was a big time TV for big time budgets in an era of excess. Introduced in June 1978, it cost about 3/4 as much as a family sedan at the time. But middle class families weren’t the target audience for this set.

The General Electric Widescreen 1000 (WS1000) cost $2,800. For the money you got a 45-inch screen, hardwood veneer paneling, two speakers, and a spot to plant a matching VCR.

Key takeaways for the General Electric Widescreen 1000

  • The GE Widescreen 1000 retailed for $2,800 in 1978, equivalent to $12,723 in 2022 dollars
  • The screen size was 45 inches measured diagonally (36 inches across and 27 inches vertically), not 75 inches
  • The entire unit measured 50 inches high by 70 inches wide and 24 inches deep
  • It featured two speakers, but stereo TV was still several years away

Wood veneer to match your 70s wood paneling

GE Widescreen 1000

The GE Widescreen 1000’s over the top design makes it a meme today, almost a thing of ridicule. But it was state of the art for 1978.

It had a veneered cabinet, because this was an era when a television still took up so much space it needed to look like a piece of furniture.

Although a TV that large looks like it could reasonably contain vacuum tubes, it was a few years after the end of that era. The GE Widescreen 1000 was a fully solid state design using transistors and chips, rather than tubes. Of course it came with a remote control. And it had the ability to detect which stations had a signal. That’s a feature we take for granted today, but was still a novelty in 1978.

The widescreen name is a bit of a misnomer, as it was a 4:3 set like everything else of its day. Widescreen content as we know it today didn’t start until 1998, 20 years later.

GE Widescreen 1000 size and weight

The ad has become something of a popular meme in modern times because it pictures the television with a man and a suit standing behind it and leaning on it, illustrating just how oversized this set was. The average adult male was about 6 ft tall in 1978, and the set is clearly about 2/3 as tall as he is. The entire unit measured 50 inches high by 70 inches wide and 24 inches deep.

What about weight, though?

The GE Widescreen 1000 looks like it should have weighed half a ton, but the looks are deceptive. It was largely empty space inside, so the cabinet contributed more to the weight than the CRT or the electronics. I couldn’t find any mention of the weight, but since it was the size of a large dresser, it was probably along the lines of 150 to 200 pounds.

General Electric Widescreen 1000 options and popularity

Most photos show the General Electric Widescreen 1000 with the optional GE Command Performance VCR occupying the pedestal above the right hand speaker. The VCR, manufactured by Hitachi for GE, cost around $1,000 and it weighed 38 pounds. The TV had dual speakers, but stereo TV broadcasts were still 6 years away, not gaining a FCC approval until 1984. The two speakers were most likely wired to emit identical audio. This was commonly called high fidelity sound at the time, and it gave a different effect than stereo sound does.

GE advertised it heavily, especially in publications like Popular Mechanics. But they didn’t mention the price. If you had to ask, you couldn’t afford it. And that’s a bit of a shame. It sure would have looked great in your wood paneled living room with the avocado green accent wall and orange shag carpet. That’s assuming your living room could spare 12 square feet of floor space. General Electric didn’t announce sales figures but did say all of their dealers in their network of 1,000 ordered at least one unit.

GE Widescreen 1000 screen size

By some accounts, the screen size was 75 inches. That’s based on the claim that it had three times the viewable area of a more conventional 25 inch set. That’s why manufacturers measure screen size diagonally. The screen actually measured 36 inches across and 27 inches vertically, giving a viewing area of 972 square inches. A 25 inch set measures 20 inches across and 15 inches vertically, for a viewing area of 300 square inches. That is indeed a bit less than 1/3 the viewing area of a GE Widescreen 1000. A 75 inch screen would be 60 inches across and 45 inches vertically, and that wouldn’t fit in the WS1000’s design.

Everything about the WS1000’s marketing was designed to make it seem enormous. And it was a big set for its day. It had three times the screen real estate of the set in the average living room in 1978.

But it was marketed to seem even bigger than it really was.

Was the WS1000 a CRT TV?

The TV had a CRT inside, but that wasn’t a 45-in CRT in it. Inside, it had a 13 inch CRT with a lens that magnified and projected the image onto the 45-in screen. Ironically, the portable Sony Watchman TVs from a few years later used a very similar technique to let it fit in your pocket. The GE Widescreen 1000 is the ultimate over the top CRT TV today, but finding a surviving example for sale now will be a challenge.

It’s easy to imagine the ultra wealthy planting one of these in a living room with an Atari heavy sixer attached for an epic game of Space Invaders before or after. And the VCR would have made for some good family movie nights.

But more units seemed to sell to restaurants and hotels than to individual consumers. The WS1000 received more editorial coverage in the trade publications for the hospitality industry than anywhere else. That makes sense. A hotel bar or lobby was better able to accommodate the space, not to mention the $2,800 price tag.

That makes finding a surviving example of a General Electric Widescreen 1000 for sale today tough. The audience best able to afford them was also best able to discard them as soon as they were obsolete.

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