Early Electronic Television
How Many Pre-1945 Sets Still Exist?
Every year, a few more sets are discovered. The Andrea 1-F-5 in our collection was found in an attic in New Jersey, where it had been stored and forgotten since 1965. However, every year a few more sets are discovered. How many sets still survive?
To estimate the number of sets that are still out there, we start with the number which were manufactured. In the U.S, about 7,000 sets were made before the war. In Britain, the number is around 19,000. Production in other countries was much less: about 1,600 in Germany and only a handful in France and Italy.
Michael Bennett-Levy, a collector and author of two books on the subject, Historic Televisions and Video Recorders, published in 1993, and TV is King, published in 1994, estimates that around two percent of the original sets should still exist. Using this figure, about 140 American and 400 British sets should have survived.
For his first book, he compiled a database of sets. He found:
By the publication of his second book, he had found 180 sets. Since then, only a few sets have surfaced, bringing the total to around 220, far less than the 400 that he predicts should be around. Are there another 200 yet to be found?
Here is a quote from a television repair shop owner in England:
Prewar sets used power supplies ("mains derived e.h.t") that were lethal. Perhaps the danger of these power supplies resulted in many of the sets being destroyed, and explains the relatively few British sets still around.
Our database of American pre-1945 sets includes about 260 sets either verified or reported, well above what Michael Bennett-Levy predicted.
Michael Bennett-Levy said in the introduction of Historic Televisions and Video Recorders:
I suspect that many more mechanical sets are in attics, flea markets, or antique shops. Since they don't obviously look like TV sets, they may have not yet been identified.
If you have any comments about the number of sets still around, please contact the foundation.