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August 30, 2015

Wired looks at the history of the TV set

by Bob Sassone, posted Apr 6th 2007 6:40PM

Retro TV setIf I could pick my dream television set, and it would appear magically in my living room, maybe delivered by Jeannie or Samantha Stevens or some other TV character that could wave her hand or twitch her nose, I would take one of those cool sets from the 50s, with the insides being modern, of course. I want the look of the 50s, but I don't want to be stuck with the four or so stations they had back then. (And yes I know there are companies that sell them, but they're out of my income bracket.)

The sets of the 50s are just some of the TV sets in this cool slideshow over at Wired.com. They trace the history of the from the weird transmitters of the 20s (seriously, what the hell is this??) right up to today. This one looks like some weapon you can choose in a video game, one that maybe destroys everything all at once or turns you into a goat or something. This small one is kinda neat. Looks like the TV set the Flintstones owned, while this one is worthy of the Jetsons apartment. This one looks like the video games I used to play at the pizza place when I was a kid.

TV sets today are so boring.

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It's quite strange and somehow sad that US, where television itself is more powerful than anywhere else in the world, doesn't have any significant tv-sets manufacturer.
But you shouldn't blame Japanese for this. Notice that a European producers, like Philips, Thomson or Grundig still exist. They play noticeable part in both European and American tv-sets market, and Asian manufacturers certainly would like to take a full control over it. Why they haven't done it yet? Why Japanease haven't destroyed European TV industry?
So please, don't call it "Pearl Harbour". American products had to be just to bad to keep up on market and that's the only reason that the didn't.

April 24 2007 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul Hooson

I've repaired thousands of TVs over the years including a 1950's Philco style set like the illustration. The receiving tube TVs actually were terrible technology, as TVs really needed the solid state design to reliable. It was too bad that American companies had such a great problem developing all solid state designs. This allowed Japanese companies to eventually sweep the market.

Sony had a solid state TV available back in 1959, while the last American TV with tubes, the G.E. Portacolor still had tubes until 1978 by comparison. Other American TVs such as the American Quasar actually had to put some tubes back in as they had reliability problems with the high voltage section.

Japan's Panasonic actually planned a form of "predatory' attack to destroy and take over the American TV business, where not a single U.S. owned brand now exists today. Many Japanese companies dumped TVs on the American market at prices far below what they sold for in Tokyo, charging Japanese consumers far more to subsidize this takeover of the American TV market.

Japan not only had TVs that were far more advanced than the American models, but also destroyed the American TV business with their ruthless trade practices as well, a form of economic "Pearl Harbor" on the American TV industry. The last American made TV brand, Zenith disappeared from the market a few years ago after they borrowed huge ampounts of cash from a South Korean bank, and the bank called in the loan, and Zenith then became a South Korean brand.

Like many industries, the American TV market was doomed by a lack of technological adaptation to new technology as well as tough foreign trade practices meant to pick off and destroy this once vital American industry. With few laws to protect this American industry from a foreign economic attack, Japan and others were able to destroy the American TV manufacturers and entirely takeover and control this market.

Today old tube technology TVs are a great collector's item, however their old fashioned design and huge appetite for expensive replacement tubes make them absolutely worthless for everyday use. Some tubes can cost $60 to replace, and some TVs can can actually require the replacement of several tubes each and every month such as some of the early 60's RCA color models, where 6GH8 tubes develop shorts and need rapid replacement.

April 07 2007 at 5:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The one you said "what the hell is this" was a mechanical "television" that was a style in use from the late 1920s through to before WWII. It worked kind of like the super-old moving picture viewers, in that light was shot at a spinning disc at specific "holes" in the disc to form an image over time - usually something like 40, 60 "lines" of resolution, and 15-32 fps. Your eye's ability to retain the image of something for milliseconds helped form the complete image. Neon bulbs were used as the light source. A radio signal was transmitted after converting a photocell's imprint of the live action at the "studio", and this tv would reconvert it back to the image using the disc. The images weren't black and white either - they were usually kind of different shades of red or orange.

The other method that eventually won out and made these mechanical televisions completely obsolete was of course, the cathode ray tube.

April 06 2007 at 10:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Howard

Those 50s TVs do look pretty neat, but since I don't think they make them in a 50 or so inch widescreen, I'll definitely pass.

April 06 2007 at 10:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My grandparents had one of those high end sets (slide #9) up until they passed a few years ago. It was pretty cool, being able to listen to the radio, play some vinyl records, and watch TV all in one package.

April 06 2007 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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