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Early Television

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The Set: Pete Deksnis's Site about the CT-100

Restoring a Vintage Color Television Set

Early Television

Early Television

A bona fide caption from the article.


Let's face it: the first NTSC color television sets were a commercial flop. Virtually no one bought them, and those well-off few who plunked down a grand or so for a 15-inch 1954 color set were often able to trade up to a 21-inch model at a favorable rate, at the manufacturer's expense.

[I remember a family member replacing a 1951 table model TV with a 1955 Westinghouse console, saying she wouldn't buy a color set until it was perfected, in spite of my having delivered what my teen-age wisdom considered an impassioned, perfectly lucid, valid, vital argument for switching to color.]

Before RCA introduced the 21AXP22 late in 1954 as their first 21-in. tricolor picture tube, they had plans to introduce a 19-inch version of the 15GP22. I don't know if this tube ever had an official designation, so I refer to it as the never-marketed 19GP22. I've never seen a picture of one, let alone a prototype. But this may change all that.

It is not an advertisement; I cropped it from the lead for a 1954 article on NTSC color, and it professes to show both the new 15 inch and the newer 19-inch RCA tricolor picture tubes. I'd like to think so. It would be a rare sight indeed. But since generating magazine covers and article leads was once my job, I can't help but speculate about this one. Here goes.

Although that guy may be holding a 15GP22, I doubt it. He has his hands on one, of that I'm certain. But the tube may be supported independently, and whatever's really bearing the weight was probably cropped out of the picture. Am I certain? No. But did you ever pick up a 15GP22? They are (1) heavy and (2) big and (3) downright cumbersome. His right hand looks much too relaxed for so heavy a load.

I'm almost certain he wasn't there with a 15GP22 AND a 19GP22. The latter was a separate image stripped in to produce the effect of his hand resting on one tube while supporting the other. My justification for believing it's a composite? Look at all the concentric distortion in the "19-in." tube...

...if we assume for argument's sake that RCA kept the round design it pioneered with the 15GP22 and applied it to the 19GP22, then it too should be round. But it isn't; therefore, it is less than the genuine article -- not quite a counterfeit, it's more a type of literary license.

How can we be certain the distortion didn't simply come from our modern-day scanning techniques? That's an easy one. All the circles in the background that represent individual phosphor dots are perfectly round to the eye. They aren't distorted, so neither is this reproduction process.

It may, at worst case, be a picture of a 15GP22 that was purposely distorted somewhat and blown up to be in proportion to a real 19-inch prototype. Then again, it may be a picture of an actual 19GP22. Let's assume that. It feels better that way.

This graphic came from the April 1954 issue of "Radio&Television News." Thanks again to Rob for supplying an arresting exercise in sleuthing. --Pete