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Early Electronic Television

Westinghouse Color Set

The following email was sent to Steve Dichter, from Bob Garrett, about the 15 inch Westinghouse color set:


You have really brought back some significant memories for me with your web site.  I am retired from RCA, and of course, the CTC-100 and CTC-5 sets are something all the "sons of Nipper" have heard about.  But what really shocked me is your side-by-side photos of the RCA CTC-5 and the Westinghouse H-840CK [see Steve's site].  I definitely know and remember the first Westinghouse color TV.

I was 8 years old in 1954.  My uncle Forest Garrett worked in the Richmond VA warehouse for Westinghouse.  I do not remember the local company's name.  He was a young married man with the first baby on the way.  I remember the story very well.  Westinghouse was in competition with RCA, and had brought a color TV to marked two months ahead of RCA.  Both sets used the RCA tube, which, I believe, was produced in Philadelphia.  The problem was the cost of purchase and repair of the sets.  Westinghouse had abruptly decided to stop production of color sets.  Forest's boss had obtained one of the 500 sets.  The boss had agreed to sell it to any employee for about $800 or so.  Forest bought it on the spot.  You must understand that this was a very foolish, daring thing for a soon father-to-be to do in 1954.  Forest lived just down the road from me.  He had helped my dad get us a Westinghouse black and white TV around 1951 or 52.  So, we at least had a TV, but had never seen color.  I wlll never forget the evening they invited us to come see it.  I am absolutely SURE it was the exact TV shown in your photos.  They were very skeptical about even turning it on.  They had the color intensity turned all the way down for the current B&W program in progress, and briefly turned it up to show us what it looked like when the program was not in color.  The picture went red, with prisma colors of blue and green.  Then, at last the color program started.  They turned the little knob, and the color properly filled the B&W picture.  I cannot remember the exact program we saw, but I think it was Eddie Fisher or Dinah Shore.  The picture was bright and full of dark color.  It was not faded and dim, like so many of the demonstrations you see now of early TV.  I was so impressed by this thing that I began to learn electronics. 
Eventually, I got a degree in electronics technology, and got my FCC Radiotelephone First Class license.  Forest is still alive, but I haven't seen him in many years.  I am going to see if I can locate him and send him photos from your site. Maybe he has a computer, I don't know.  If I can contact him, I will ask him to write you and share whatever he remembers about the early Westinghouse color TV. I know the RCA retirees all know the story of the Rose Bowl TV, the $1,000 price, and how the Indianapolis factory made the color sets until they went to Mexico. You are very fortunate to have sets with good CRTs.  I had heard that many of the early 15" tubes lost their vacuum early on because of a problem with a seal around the neck.  History needs to record that Westinghouse and Alan DuMont both challenged RCA, and eventually lost.  However, they all advanced the television industry significantly. I really appreciate seeing your web site, and thank you for doing this work.

Robert D. Garrett