Museum Hours:

Saturday 10-6

Sunday 12-5

 
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Early Color Television

John W. Christensen - CBS Color Television Engineer

John Christensen, who was born in Circleville, Utah, joined CBS as chief engineer after World War II and was associated with the laboratory 34 years. He became vice president and associate director of research in 1957. He was one of Peter Goldmarks's main associates in the development and promotion of the CBS field sequential color system in the late 40s and early 50s.In 1980, he retired and formed a consulting company to develop equipment for the shale-oil industry. He died in 1987.

John's son Craig has donated a large number of documents and photographs about CBS color. We are in the process of scanning these items and will post them on this page over the next few weeks.

Here is what Craig said about his dad:

There is surprisingly little on my father; I know that he worked under Peter Goldmark, who was president of CBS labs for a long time, and much like Shockley with the transistor, had an enormous need to have any credit for all successes go directly to him.  My father loved doing the engineering, so was pretty oblivious to this situation until my Mom had to point it out to him (at a dinner for Dennis Gabor celebrating his getting the Nobel prize (I think) for holography development, Dr. Goldmark tried to share the spotlight (some work was done at CBS labs) by observing how pleased he was that Dennis was getting this award for the work (he had his arm around Dennis) They had done together....).

Apparently back in the 50s you were unable to purchase some of the fly-back transformers they needed -- sort of a pancake structure.  This meant that it might take 2 weeks to make one -  by painstakingly gluing down a partial turn of the coil and letting it cure turn by turn.

One of the structures this fellow had nearly finished, and put it "just so" on a slowly rotating turntable with a heat lamp on it to cure the glue, and then had gone to lunch. 

My father and a friend carefully removed it once they could, and then took a discarded failed coil,  mangled it a bit, put lighter fluid on it, and set it on fire.  Then they put it on the turntable, which they increased the speed of, and lowered the heat lamp down close, so it was still smoldering, just before the fellow returned.  Then they waited and watched to see if they could get him perturbed...

Apparently when he entered and saw everything amiss, he still didn't lose his cool. All he did was quicken his stride over to his work spot, look down, and then mumble "Oh!!.... the dirty bastards!"....

That was the most upset they ever say him.

Maybe this is useful or not. no idea. But to me growing up it portrayed a flavor of what early experimental development might have been like -- engineers doing their job and figuring stuff out because it didn't exist yet.  And yet having some harmless fun of a sort...  Probably now you'd just not dare because you might get fired...

My father was a product of the depression. Having grown up out West during that era, he never wanted to experience it again.  He also grew up in a region where scientific equipment was scarce.

As a consequence, he became a bit of a pack rat. He would often visit Vulcan Scrap (Stamford Ct) for all kinds of scientific odds and ends; or occasionally buy out some place of its stuff for a penny on the dollar. He never threw out anything, and was often trying to prepare for tough times. He delighted in having anything he might ever need, "on hand". {Maybe trying to be like Edison at Menlo Park, who challenged anyone to come up with something common which they didn't have on hand -- I think someone won the prize when looking for a paper clip.}This included test equipment and TV prototypes from all over. At one point my Mom counted 26 TV sets throughout our home (Dumonts, RCA doghouses, CBS sets...) The irony was that most of them were in a state of disrepair or modification so that they were not functional.  After my father died, Harry Poster, a collector of old TV stuff came by and took 2 full U-haul trucks of stuff back to NJ.

On the humorous side, my father's stuff tended to work it's way up from the extensive basement, up our one staircase, and into the more normal living areas of the main floor. At one point every step in that stairway was storing something. Finally during our normal Saturday lunch my Mom put her foot down: "Either you remove some of your stuff and take it back downstairs, or it will be grounds for divorce! (not a serious threat). My father asked  "on what grounds?"  My Mom meant to say "Mental cruelty!"  but it ironically came out "Metal cruelty".

At my father's funeral, the most common question was "what are you going to do with all that stuff??"

Photographs

Cameras
Film Chains
Studio and Transmitter Equipment
Receivers
Miscellaneous

Brochures, Booklets and Reports

Color Television - The Way Ahead
Black and White/Color Comparison
Questions and Answers About Color Television
Report of Test of RCA Model A UHF Converter
Ultra-High-Frequency Television Converters
Observations of John Christensen of the CTI Color Demonstration
General Public to Play Major Role in Color Televsion Tests

Demonstrations and Lectures

SKF Atlantic City Demonstation invitation - 6/6/1949
SKF Atlanta Demonstration - 2/7/1950
Color TV - Comparative Demonstration - 2/23/1950
Franklin Institute - 10/24/1951