Museum Hours:

Saturday 10-6

Sunday 12-5

 
Early Television Early Television
Early Television Early Television
Advertisement
Early Television Museum

Early Color Television

The first color system was developed by John Logie Baird in 1928. It used mechanical techniques. In the early 1940s, CBS pioneered a system which transmitted an image in each of the three primary colors sequentially. A wheel with segments of red, green, and blue rotated in front of the camera, while a similar wheel rotated in front of the television screen, synchronized to the one at the camera. The system was simple and produced excellent pictures, though it had many drawbacks, including low resolution, flicker, and most signifcant, it wasn't compatible with existing black and white broadcasting.

In 1950 the FCC tested the CBS system, along with a compatible system by RCA. At that time, the RCA system produced poor picture quality, and CBS was successful in getting the FCC to adopt their system. Here is a paper delivered by the Chairman of the FCC describing the thinking that led to the adoption of the CBS field sequential system.

For a few months in 1951, test broadcasts were done using the CBS field sequential system. Some manufacturers, such as Admiral, made adaptors for the CBS standard. See. Here is a 1950 film taken off the screen of a CBS receiver.

Manufacturers were reluctant to make sets for the CBS field sequential system, and very few sets were made. RCA, meanwhile, continued to improve their system. In late 1953, the FCC adopted the RCA compatible system, commonly referred to as the NTSC system. The first color television sets for this system were sold in 1954. They used a 15 inch screen. Later that year, 19 inch sets were made, and by 1955 all sets were made with  a 21 inch picture tube. Several manufacturers made 15 and 19 inch sets, most in very small quantities.

Here are magazine and newspaper articles and advertisements about the two competing color systems. The most comprehensive website on early color history is by Ed Reitan.

Admiral was probably the first company to offer color sets for sale to the public. The first set to be manufactured in significant quantites (approximately 500) was made by Westinghouse, and sold for $1295. RCA introduced the CT-100 a few weeks later, at a price of $1000 (about 4000 were made). GE sold its 15 inch set for $1,000, Sylvania's cost $1,150. Emerson rented color sets for $200 for the first month and $75/month thereafter. By the summer of 1954 there was already a shakeout. A headline in the New York Times said "Set Buying Lags - Public Seen Awaiting Larger Screens, Lower Prices". Motorola and CBS promised a 19 inch screen at $995.

In 1955, Raytheon introduced a 21 inch set for $795 and CBS offered a trade-in of up to $400 for their black and white sets towards the purchase of a $895 21 inch color model.

By the end of 1957 only 150,000 color sets had been sold. Color sales were slow until the mid 1960s, when the reliability of sets improved, prices came down, and more color programming became available. Read these Time Magazine articles from 1956 and 1958. In the late 60s color sets became more reliable and cheaper, and more network TV shows were televised in color, so color sales accelerated. Another factor that helped color set sales was the popularity of the Disney show The Wonderful World of Color, which began in 1961. 1970 was the first year that color set sales exceeded black and white.

 

Advertising literature Ed Reitan's Color Television History
Color Broadcasting Eckhard Etzold's Website
Early Color Set Database Summary Pete Deksnis's CT-100 site
Early Color Set Gallery  

 

Early Color TV Systems

Turner field sequential color film system (1902) DeForest mechanical color  (1948)
John Logie Baird mechanical system (1928) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Color System (1950)
Bell Labs system (1929) DuMont industrial color system (1950)
Leishman color system (1936) General Electric (1950)
Lorenzen system (1940) Eidophor (1952)
CBS field sequential system (1940-53) British experimental field sequential system (1953)
RCA dot sequential system (1941-49) British 405 line NTSC system (1954)
General Electric 2 Color System (1941) CBS Chromacoder system (1954)
Mexican field sequential system (1940s) Early Russian Color TV (1954-56)
John Logie Baird electronic system (1943-45) DuMont Vitascan (1955)
Philco Color Projection System (1945) Thomson-CSF field sequential system (1963)
RCA field sequential system (1945) Mexican color television (Guillermo Gonzales Camarena)(1964)
RCA 3 channel system (1947) Butterfield color system (1965)
Color Television, Inc. (CTI/Sleeper system) (1947)  

 

 More on Early Color

CBS system at CNAM Museum in Paris Newspaper and magazine articles about early color
John Christensen - CBS color TV engineer Notebook - Color Television, Vol 2
Chromatic Television Laboratories Online films and videos
Color filters - an inexpensive way to get color TV Philco 1964 advertisement and patent
Color picture tubes RCA color production quantities
Color set advertisments RCA CTC-4 based sets made for other manufacturers.
Color TV demonstations Restoration of early color sets
Early color programming Russian color demo at the 1958 World's Fair
The Electronic Side of Color Media - article by Richard Wirth Sava Jacobson's recollections about early color
Experimental British color set Smith, Kline & French Medical color TV
Five working 15GP22 based sets Sony Chromatron
Frequencies and Standards Technical information on early color sets
History of CBS Color, by Bob Cooper Television pioneers
Hoffman Color School Thomas Edison predicted color TV
Homemade color converters Uniray, an advanced Apple CRT
Hue control circuits in early color sets Westinghouse color dicrhoic mirror
Jordan Marsh department store color demonstration Zenith neon advertising sign
Modern Replicas of Early Color Sets  

These Sets Are In Our Collection

Click on the image for more information

Early Television

Admiral Ambassador  

Early Television

Admiral CA101 Adapter

Early Television

  Capehart CXC-12

Early Television

  CBS Color Personal Viewer

Early Television

  CBS RX-40/41 Color Converter/Adapter

Early Television

CBS RX-89

Early Television

CBS RX-90

Early Television

CBS "Slave"

Early Television

CBS 205

Early Television

Col-R-Tel Converter

Early Television

Colordaptor

Early Television

Colortone Adapter

Early Television

  Colortone Color Wheel Assembly

Early Television

Crosley Color Wheel Assembly

Early Television

Dage 650 Studio Monitor

Early Television

Dalto Projection Set

Early Television

DuMont Industrial Monitor

Early Television

DuMont Prototype

Early Television

Emerson C-502

Early Television

General Electric 15CL100

Early Television

General Electric 4TM-15 Studio Monitor  

Early Television

Gray Research 1101 Monitor

Early Television

Hoffman Colorcaster

Early Television

Home made Drum Receiver

Early Television

Home Made 1955 Color Projection Set

Early Television

Color Mirror Screw

Early Television

Motorola 19CK1

Early Television

Motorola 19CK2

Early Television

Motorola 19CT1

Early Television

Philco TV-123

Early Television

Raytheon

Early Television

RCA CT-100

Early Television

RCA CTC-4 in custom cabinet

Early Television

RCA CTC-4 Director 21

Early Television

RCA CTC-4 Haviland 21

Early Television

RCA CTC-5

Early Television

RCA CTC-7

Early Television

RCA Model 5

Early Television

RCA TM-21B 21" Color monitor

Early Television

RCA Trinoscope

Early Television

RCA 21-CT-55

Early Television

Sears Toshiba 16 inch

Early Television

Sentinel IU-816

Early Television

Sparton 16A211

Early Television

Sylvania 21C609

Early Television

Westinghouse H840CK15