Nowadays, television is an indispensable audiovisual device and is no stranger to every Vietnamese family. However, few people know how the first color televisions in Vietnam were assembled. On a late autumn afternoon, we had the opportunity to stop by Tu Dinh Street, Long Bien District, to meet veteran Le Van Khanh to hear about the memorabilia that he has kept throughout his life. Among them, there was the first color television assembled in Vietnam, which he once called "a family treasure". 

Mr. Le Van Khanh was born in 1953 in Thanh Hoa. His father was a resistance soldier participating in the war against the French and fighting in the battlefield of Dien Bien Phu. In 1954, after returning to take over the capital, his father relocated the family to Hanoi. On September 4th, 1971, he enlisted in the 52nd Battalion, 37th Company, 59th Regiment, 968th Division. When he was discharged from the army, he kept many memorabilia of wartime individuals. They have their own stories and memories. Besides, there are peacetime ones, of which we are most impressed by the story of the first 14-inch JVC color TV assembled in Vietnam. 


Mr. Le Van Khanh's JVC color TV - one of the first TV assembled in Vietnam

When asked about the origin of the TV, Khanh excitedly recounted that "In 1987, Hanoi University of Science and Technology cooperated with the Japanese Government to import TV components for assembling in Vietnam. That year, under the cooperation agreement, the University imported components to assemble 1,000 units. However, according to Japan's warranty policy of 5%, they provided us with components sufficient to assemble 50 more units. After the warranty period expires, the televisions still work very well, so lectures were allowed to buy 50 televisions under the warranty policy." 

The 14-inch, 7-color JVC television, Model C-140ME, has a convex screen, a red outer case, and a manual controller with adjustment knobs and dials located below the screen. The rear of the television has audio, video, and antenna jacks. Khanh told us that, at that time, it was very difficult to buy this television, partly because of its scarcity and great value, as expensive as a today’s car. As he was so passionate, Khanh convinced his friend who was a lecturer Hanoi University of Science and Technology to sell him for two taels of gold. A huge asset that his family has saved over the years. Owning the television was not only a great joy of the family but also of the whole village. 

Hearing this, I recalled the memory of my neighbor's television. In my hometown, in the early 90s, only few families ranked as the "richest in the neighborhood" could own a domestic Japanese black and white television. Besides, the owner did not forget to buy a voltage stabilizer from Thong Nhat Electromechanical Enterprise to stabilize the voltage and a backup battery to run the TV every time the power went out as, at that time, electricity provided for daily life was lacking and very weak, even cut off. It was mainly connected at night. However, the TV programs were mainly broadcast in the evening from 19.00 to 22.00. 

The villagers gathered to watch the TV show. (Documentary photo)

At that time, television broadcasting technology was analog, not digital as it is now. To watch the shows on TV, people had to use a high-hanging antenna to receive the signal. The image of people in the neighborhood lifting, turning, and adjusting the bamboo antenna pole high above the roof to catch the TV signal entered my childhood memories. Inside the house, the TV owner rolled a piece of paper taken from the cigarette pack into the antenna string, dribbling it back and forth. Along with the applause and chants of viewers, the space was no different from a cultural center or a cinema. We were all ecstatic as if hypnotized into the television with our eyes never leaving the children's TV shows. There were times when we stayed up all night watching football games from a small screen, but the joy was always on everyone's faces.


Mr. Le Van Khanh (in military costume) introduced memorabilia to Hanoi Museum staff

Nowadays, the development of science and technology has introduced many good quality TV products, meeting the needs of entertainment. Khanh's family has also bought a new, more modern television. In 2020, he decided to donate his TV and all his memorabilia to Hanoi Museum for preservation and display with the desire to spread part of his memory to the public.


Kiều Tuấn Đạt