March 1957 Radio & Television News
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early
electronics. See articles from
Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby
The first commercial color television
broadcast occurred in 1954 during the
of Roses Parade. By the late 1950s, color television sets were becoming popular
in homes, but the price, at around $500, was too prohibitive for most people to
afford. In 2014 dollars that is equal to around $4,200 (per
USBLS), which would allow you to hang a
70" Samsung UHD on the family
room wall. This 1957 Radio & Television News magazine article reported
that there were only about five major manufacturers (more, actually) making color
TV sets, including RCA, Sylvania, Emerson, Westinghouse, Magnavox, Zenith, and Philco.
Most or all used a common 21" round CRT. Over the years many television manufactures
came and went, and now today there are really only about twice as many TV manufacturers,
although many brands are built by the major companies. Consumer Reports list the
top 10 TV manufacturers as, in descending order, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Vizio,
Sharp, Insignia, Toshiba, JVC, Philips, Magnavox, and Sanyo. All of the American
companies have either gone out of business or have been bought by foreign firms.
You might be tempted to curse company executives for selling out at the expense
of American jobs, but they were only able to do it because the vast majority of
consumers were more interested cheaper goods than in preserving their heritage and
global leadership. Labor organizations, workers' rights groups, and other citizen-driven
forces left them no choice. Sure, the CEOs and board members are no benevolent angels,
but they know business models and what won't last.
The Outlook for Color TV
By Robert B. Gary
Pricing for the installment buyer is as much a factor as programming and technical
There can be no doubt that the tempo of
color programming and receiver merchandising has been stepped up considerably during
the latter part of 1956 and the beginning of 1957. A number of large manufacturers
have placed competitive color sets on the market and have invested heavily in advertising,
distribution, and servicing preparations. With at least five major manufacturers
producing sets, color must succeed.
The most important single sales feature is, of course, the new low price. With
the original announcement by RCA that it would offer a set for $495 which could
receive both color and black-and-white, a large segment of the market was made available.
It had long been argued by retailers that a receiver with a $500 maximum price could
be sold on installments suitable for most middle-income families. The economic argument
runs somewhat like this: The old TV set needs major repairs and is ripe for a trade-in.
Granting a trade-in value of about $50, and offering a year's guarantee for about
$100, the customer would have to put down only about $100 to $150 in cash and take
a year to pay the remainder at low interest rates. In a typical transaction like
this, the monthly payments for a one-year plan amount to $39.50. A two-year payment
plan would cost only $20.60 a month, or $4.80 a week. This rate of payment is quite
customary in the appliance and furniture fields and definitely brings the color
TV set within the range of a very large segment of the buying public.
Monochrome TV started out with $325 for the least expensive set - and this was
at a time when minimum wages and average earnings were considerably lower than today.
Another straw in the wind of the tinted TV future is the recent announcement by
Muntz that it is operating and planning a $395 color TV set.
The second most important sales feature is the ease of operation now designed
into recent receivers. Earlier models contained a bewildering number of color adjustments,
which prompted the frequent statement that color sets were only useful when sold
together with the designing engineer. Now, however, most sets use only two color
controls that require viewer adjustment, and these are often only fine settings
for a coarse adjustment made by the installer. Adjusting the chroma gain control
and the hue control is within the ability of most viewers and should not cause too
many unnecessary service calls. Automatic switchover from color to monochrome and
many other circuit improvements add to much easier customer adjustments.
As with the earlier monochrome receivers, it is expected that most new color
sets will be sold with a year's service and installation contract. RCA and a few
other manufacturers offer factory service in most areas. Emerson, to cite another
example, offers factory service only in the New York metropolitan area and dealer
servicing elsewhere. The majority of manufacturers still leave the installation
and servicing up to their dealers and distributors, but offer the service personnel
of these agencies extensive training, both at the factory and through field-service
clinics, to acquaint them with the particular lines of color receivers.
In this respect the outstanding feature is the almost universal adoption of the
21-inch round metal-envelope shadow-mask picture tube, the 21AXP22. Several tube
manufacturers now produce this CRT in quantity, and almost all new color sets use
it. The exception is Westinghouse, which manufactures its own 22-inch, rectangular
all-glass shadow-mask tube. The electrical characteristics of both tube types are
so similar that there is practically no difference in the circuitry required to
operate either tube.
The much publicized Lawrence tube still has not been used in production quantities,
but Du Mont recently announced plans to manufacture this type of picture tube and
eventually incorporate it in its color receivers.
Philco's beam indexing color picture tube, also known as the "Apple" tube, has
been returned to the laboratory and has not yet reappeared. The current Philco color
receivers use the 21AXP22 shadow-mask tube.
Although no radically new circuits are used in the new color receivers, improvements
can be seen both in circuit design and in production techniques. The increasingly
wider application of printed-circuit techniques to all portions of color sets and
the use of multiple-purpose tubes will reduce production costs as well as simplify
assembly and servicing. Some of the new color receivers that use printed circuitry
throughout provide a layout which really speeds up alignment and troubleshooting.
Typical of these improvements are the new Westinghouse, RCA, and Sylvania sets which
will permit removal of sufficient top, front, and side panels to permit real access
to each portion of the chassis.
Installation is greatly simplified since most color receivers will be shipped
with the picture tube in the cabinet. In several sets the picture tube is even mounted
on the main chassis, which permits removal of the entire assembly. To further aid
the service technician, test points are available on most chassis with suitable
references in the service data. The availability of reasonably priced color test
equipment is another step forward in the inevitable growth of color TV.
Color and Monochrome (B&W) Television
Posted November 22, 2022
(updated from original
post on 5/13/2014)