FIRST STEPS OF THE SOVIET COLOR TELECASTING
By V. Yefimov
Today the color television is well-established fact of our
life. It is hard to believe that just not long ago it was a
matter of a dream! Though the sending of color images was first
described in late XIX century, the idea could come true only 50
odd years later.
The All-Union Television Research Institute (VNIITe) had been
working on color television since early 50s. And in 1953 - 1955
there already had been experiments on color TV broadcasting in
Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg) with so-called serial
color TV system. As a whole, the system was rather cumbersome,
not too reliable, and in addition it was incompatible with
black-and-white television, i.e., all the black-and-white home
TV sets, already used, were unable to receive those color TV
To the beginning of telecasting the VNIITe produced a few
experimental color TV sets (unable to receive black-and-white TV
stations). In such a system a video signal occupied greater
bandwidth due to additional information in a frame. It resulted
in lessening a number of channels within an authorized VHF TV
band. These sets were called Raduga ("Rainbow").
These disadvantages of the serial color TV system are fatal
only for telecasting but there are some other applications of
television where the serial systems are effective, e.g., medical
According to results of its experiments, in mid-1950s the
Television Institute switched to works on the COMPATIBLE color
TV system, free from the mentioned shortcomings. Solution for
all these problems was sought by different departments of the
Institute and the principal research and coordination of allied
teams were performed by the Broadcasting Equipment Department
(headed by M.M. Zimnev) at immediate participation, scientific
and engineering management by Dr. V.L. Kreutzer.
Prof. P.V. Shmakov, the then Head of the Chair of Television
in the Leningrad Electric Engineering Institute of
Telecommunications, was appointed as a scientific consultant for
the subject, as that Institute also was working on the problem
but more theoretically, while the VNIITe was charged with
creation of operating equipment.
Looking at the history of development of compatible color
television, we can see that a progress in many fields of
technology, including television, depends directly on progresses
in a number of adjacent sciences and technologies. On the other
side, the development of color television beneficially
influenced with other technologies, pushing engineers to
discoveries of new know-hows.
As the principal organization in creation of the new color TV
system, the Television Institute was not restricted to its own
researches, it coordinated works of other research institutes,
design bureaus and enterprises. These works were rather
intensive. The system of color TV transmitters/receivers was
roughly made to June 1956. That system shaped, transmitted and
received composite video signal, similar to the NTSC standard
with elements of the USSR standard TV signal.
Two American-made TV sets were used as receivers, with almost
all their units remade for the signal of our system. To examine
compatibility, the Soviet-made commercial black-and-white TV
set, called "Yantar" (Amber), was used. The color TV system
could send movies and slide films.
A sensor of a signal was a slide-cine-projector along with a
"scanning beam" device. The transmitter of the system included
also a color picture monitor of immediate vision, and the author
took part in its creation. That rather bulky apparatus consisted
of three cathode-ray tubes with luminiferous surfaces, glowing
red, green and blue and two semitransparent mirrors. The color
picture was obtained with these mirrors by means of composition
of the three monochromes.
We should note some difficulties in designing of
transmitters. In spite of wide-spread suspicion of plagiarism,
the creation of the whole system was done practically from
In June 1956, the Ministry ordered to carry all the system to
Moscow, with a group of experts headed by Candidate of Science
M.E. Goss followed the equipment for its deployment and
demonstration. We deployed the system in a foyer of the Sverdlov
Hall in Kremlin. Beside us the demonstration was attended by the
specialists of the Moscow Electron Tube Plant (MELZ), charged
with commercial production of color kinescopes.
After deployment of the color TV system and its alignment we
were visited not only by specialists but also by officers of the
Council of Ministers, Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the
Naturally, this "parade" had a great significance for the
management of our Ministry (and finally, for equipping of TV
stations around the country). Mr. A.I. Shokin, who became a
Minister of Electronic Industry later, was one of the organizers
of these demonstrations.
With our equipment we showed color slides and a travel film
by a Moscow TV center. I remember a visit of a group of
specialists who generally asked about TV cine-projector and a
An employee from the MELZ talked about their difficulties in
organization of mask kinescope production. They had to seat on a
screen more than a fifteen hundred thousand of tiny specks of
different luminiferous chemicals, glowing red, green and blue,
and opposite to a screen had to be located a metal sheet in some
way (so-called mask) of a special alloy with more than 500
Boy, we were amazed when one of those specialists, listened
with attention, said that such operations are successively done
in nuclear industry. So, our colleagues from the MELZ got an
Our "exhibition" was also visited by Klement Voroshilov, then
a Chairman of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and
the Foreign Minister V.M. Molotov. We expected also Nikita
Khrushchev but then he had talks in Moscow with Joseph Tito,
President of Yugoslavia and could not come.
Our demonstration was successful. The staff of our Institute
began further in-depth development of the color TV system,
especially the TV camera, cine-projection equipment, commercial
TV set and other appliances.
Looking for a way of sending the color information within a
composite video signal, we had chosen SECAM standard
(serial-simultaneous color TV system), invented in France in
1954 by Henri de France. After joint development and improvement
by Soviet and French specialists in 1965 - 1967, our country and
some other European countries adopted SECAM III B telecasting
This choice was caused by looser requirements of SECAM III B
to TV set parameters compared to other color TV standards, thus
TV sets should not be too complicated. Moreover, this standard
facilitated growth of color TV stations over vast territories
with minimum reconstruction of existing TV centers and
Overall elaboration of all parts of the color TV system by
our Institute and other organizations made it possible to design
up-to-date equipment and manufacture it by Soviet industries for
TV stations in the USSR and some other countries. Color TV could
be received almost everywhere in this country.
It should be noted that at a first stage the engineering
development of commercial color TV receiver progressed along two
directions: the one was based on color picture monitor of
immediate vision and in the other the mask kinescope was used.
Works on improvement of the color picture monitor by Mr. V.F.
Kozlov and the author of this article were fundamental for
designing a projection-type three-tube color picture monitor, as
well as TV receiver with three projection-type cathode-ray
After the experimental model of the three-tube monitor was
made, some doubts appeared about future of that version. That is
why the model was transferred to the Moscow branch of the
Television Institute (now called MNITI), to a group headed by
L.N. Shvernik to study a possibility to create a commercial TV
set using that technique.
A TV set with the mask kinescope was also created in the VNIITe, chiefly by a group of specialists headed by Mr. L.I.
Baldin and some allied designers, engineers and technologists.
We would like to remind that the MELZ then worked on commercial
production of mask kinescopes and the Svetlana Company developed
and manufactured special electron tubes for the mentioned TV
set: 6P45S, 6D22S, 3C22S and GP-5. As a result, "Raduga"
(Rainbow) commercial TV sets were developed and made.
During 1958 - 1960 they were transferred to the Kozitsky
Plant in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) for putting into production.
Today two specimens of that television can be found in the
VNIITe Museum and in the A.S. Popov Central Telecommunications
Museum, St. Petersburg.
* It should be noted that during a joint Soyuz-Apollo
spaceflight in June 1975, to provide color TV images, spaceborne
television equipment included TV camera with serial sending of
color information. A signal from the camera was transmitted in
the air and transformed in a TV signal compatible with
simultaneous color TV system at on-land receiving points.