Color TV in 1953 !!

Found in the fascinating El Mundo photo archive is this shot of a ‘pretty girl tuning in a colorcast on a color video receiver ‘before the assembled American press on 17th December   1953. This was a prototype; commercial broadcasting in color began the following year. I don’t know when TV reached Argentina, let along colour TV, but British viewers were only offered colour in 1967, nearly 14 years after it had been unveiled in the States. Apparently, colour had been in development across the Atlantic from the earliest days of TV but due to technical and other problems, the service was delayed for many years.

My own family were initiated into the TV age in 1951—before the Coronation—when my mother was given a leaving present of a new sixty guinea Bush receiver by a grateful employer. But if someone had told us in 1954 that in America families were gathering around what appears to be a 16” screen (ours was a tiny 10 inch one) to watch programmes in colour, we would have thought it incredible.

Of course, the very earliest TV screens in the UK were even smaller—I mean the ones receiving programmes from c 1934 – 1939. I was obliged to do research on early broadcasts while working on a book about Geoffrey Grigson a few years ago. He, John Piper and John Betjeman were popular TV broadcasters (mainly on art) in the late thirties.

Incidentally, why has no-one published a social history of this early TV era in Britain ? It would be fascinating.


Early Books on Television: 1926 – 1939

British techies will boast that the origins of television can be traced to a room above a shop in Hastings ( blue plaque ) where John Logie Baird constructed the first TV receiver—generating moving images on a mechanical principle. Americans, however, will argue that their man, a certain C. Francis Jenkins, who was also involved in cinema technology, was doing almost the same thing six months earlier in 1923. Unfortunately, neither of these pioneers can be said to have invented the television that we tune into today. Most of the credit for that probably belongs to Philo Farnsworth, the farmer’s son from Utah who in 1927, aged 21, produced the first electronic image. So, whatever way you look at it, the Americans invented television, just as they invented rock music.

Most of the collected works on early TV appeared before 1930. The first book on TV alone was Alfred Dinsdale’s well-known Television, or Seeing by Wireless (1926). A book that although not uncommon is sometimes seen at prices into 5 figures. The second significant work, which appeared a year later is Television for the Home by Ronald Tiltman, whose frontispiece show the author being televised by John Logie Baird himself. If you hanker for a Dinsdale and can’t afford his Seeing by Wireless you could target a copy or a run ( if you can find one ) of his genuinely rare Television Journal (6d a month), whose July 1929 cover rather hopefully looks ahead to a time when the family might gather around the box of light on a winter evening--an extraordinary image for 1929, when radio was still in its infancy and TV broadcasting was several years away.

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