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 Tournament 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" Sharp 3D HDTV on the family room wall. This 1957 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 improvement.
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.
Posted May 13, 2014