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Early Color Television

British Experimental Field Sequential Color System

In 1953 the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was televised in color, using an experimental field sequential system developed by Pye and Chromatic Television Laboratories. A field sequential camera was used and the signal was broadcast over a UHF channel to Great Ormonde Street Children’s Hospital in London. Receivers had the Chromatron CRT rather than the color wheel that had been used in all previous field sequential systems.

The June 18, 1953 issue of Model Engineer has the following information (courtesy of Alan Stepney):

But, perhaps not so widely known, yet a harbinger of things to come, was the private television broadcast by Pye Limited, of Cambridge, in collaboration with Chromatic Television Incorporated of America, who between them, arranged a programme IN COLOUR for the benefit of the children at Great Ormonde Street Children’s Hospital in London. This was, we believe, the first outside colour-television broadcast ever attempted, and we understand that it was successful. Letters from readers raised questions about this broadcast, and a later issue said:

Messrs Pye... gave us further details... The programme was transmitted over the air by a low power wide band UHF transmitrer on 575 mc/s...

The following is from comments posted on the AudioKarma discussion group. If anyone has any additional information, please send it to us:

I came across a book titled "The 1950s" by Edith Horsley, Produced by Bison Books Limited, London, England, Published by Quality Books Inc.

This book is written apparently in American English (e.g. "color," not "colour"), but has a great deal (perhaps majority) of English events as well as American and international.

On page 91, in the 1953 chapter, it has a couple of color illustrations attributed to Radio Times Hulton Picture Library. These photos purport to show 1) a cameraman and subject experimenting with color TV in 1953; 2) a family watching an experimental color set (no date).

The studio camera is too compact to be a simultaneous color camera of that time, but could conceivably be a field-sequential camera.

The receiver is probably a projection type, with a small color wheel.

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This site discusses the BBC television coverage of the 1953 coronation. A single paragraph is devoted to the experimental closed circuit color broadcast. I agree that it was possibly a field sequential system. Here's the paragraph:

"As befits the coming generation, two hundred children saw the Coronation procession by the TV of the future - in colour. They were at the Great Ormand Street Hospital in London. By closed-circuit they received pictures from three TV colour cameras overlooking Parliament Square"

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It's amazing how little info there is on this colour broadcast. Probably lost in the shadow of the BBC's overwelming b&w coverage of the event.

Here's an excerpt from a site that mentions a PYE ( A British electronics co.) and American company connection?

"1953..... the FIRST colour television programme was shown when the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 was transmitted. It was the result of an experiment between Pye of Cambridge and an American company. The vivid reds and dark blues worn by the Canadian Mounties and Royal Marines enthralled the children of the Great Ormond Street hospital who were watching this FIRST colour television broadcast."
 

This recollection from a cameraman who worked the 1953 coronation broadcast:

"Whilst 20 million viewers watched the transmission in black and white, 150 children and staff of the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street watched part of the procession in colour. Pye of Cambridge were given permission to set up three colour cameras on the roof of the Foreign Office, and by using a portable transmitter beamed the signal to Ormond Street to display colour pictures on two 20" sets. Twenty years later it would be standard practice for major OBs to be in colour. and today it is common place to deploy 20 to 25 cameras just for one programme 'Match of the Day.'"