Chapter 10 - Television Becomes a Reality
The end of the war, a population weary of deprivation, and an industrial and technological base simply waiting for the onrush of consumer goods. Television development, put aside by the needs of a wartime economy, began again to be the primary concern of RCA. On September 11, 1946, RCA introduced its first line of post-war black and white television sets, and a few weeks later on October 30th, RCA demonstrated color television pictures on a 15-by-20-inch screen, produced by all-electronic means. All-electronic television had arrived.
As early as February 6, 1940, the first all-electronic reception of color was demonstrated to the FCC by RCA in Camden, New Jersey. A year later NBC and RCA scientists achieved the first successful color telecast with an experimental transmission from the Empire State Building. Then, of course, the war intervened.
On October 30, 1946, an all-electronic projection-type color television receiver, showing pictures on a 15- by 20-inch screen, was demonstrated publicly for the first time at the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, New Jersey. On July 16, 1947, a new RCA all-electronic color television camera was demonstrated to members of the FCC at Princeton on both a large screen and a home receiver. Still, however, the system remained in the laboratory stage because the RCA scientists wanted to keep the color transmission within the channel width for black-and-white broadcasting. Then, on August 25, 1949, RCA announced to the FCC that it had developed a system of all-electronic high-definition color television operating within the 6-megacycle channels employed for black-and-white telecasting, and that this system was capable of transmitting color programs that could be received in black-and-white on all existing home television sets with no modifications necessary.
All that now remained was to develop a color receiver wherein the three separate picture tubes that received three color signals—red, green, and blue—could be merged optically into a single picture. (p. 113)
In May, 1950, General [David] Sarnoff urged the Federal Communications Commission to approve color television standards based on the RCA all-electronic compatible system rather than upon a mechanical, incompatible system which would necessitate costly adaptation of black-and-white receiving sets. He pointed out that the RCA system had proved in demonstrations its high definition of light and color and its complete compatibility with the millions of black-and-white receivers in public use.
Although an FCC decision in 1950 approved incompatible color television standards, RCA moved ahead in the conviction that only the all-electronic compatible system could serve the public interest.
Again, it was Zworykin’s ancient nemesis the mechanical versus the electronic. Developmentally, mechanical color transmission was far ahead of the all-electronic method, but aside from being cumbersome mechanical color techniques would remain incompatible with existing black-and-white sets. The RCA management felt with continued research and development the all-electronic method could be vastly improved and, of course, be compatible.
In March, 1953, RCA again recommended immediate authorization of commercial color broadcasting standards by the FCC, and comprehensive demonstrations were staged during the spring months for the FCC, the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House of Representatives, and the industry.
On June 25, 1953, RCA-NBC formally petitioned the FCC to adopt the technical signal specifications used by the RCA compatible system as standards for commercial color television broadcasting. Within two months, petitions for compatible signal specifications had also been filed by the National Television System Committee and by several other manufacturers. (p. 114)
These signal specifications were, in basic respects, similar to the standards which RCA proposed to the FCC at the 1949-1950 hearings, but naturally reflected improvements resulting from the knowledge gained during the research and field tests conducted by RCA and others since those hearings.
On October 15, 1953, RCA-NBC joined with other members of the industry in a final demonstration held by the NTSC at the request of the FCC. This provided overwhelming evidence that all-electronic compatible color television, pioneered and developed by RCA, was ready for the American people.
On December 17, 1953, the FCC approved standards for commercial color television broadcasting, based upon compatible signal specifications presented by RCA-NBC and others.
On 4 March 1954, the first compatible color TV cameras and associated equipment to leave the production lines were shipped from the RCA Camden plant, and on 25 March the production began on RCA’s first commercial color television sets at Bloomington, Indiana.
All-electronic television in color was a reality—and a fitting tribute to Zworykin who was scheduled to “retire” from RCA on July 30, 1954. (p. 115)
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