I’m posting this one for Steve Pielock, who (like me) also has a passion for vintage electronics. The RCA CT-100 was the first all-electronic color TV introduced in March 1954, following a crash development program that in today’s money would have cost nearly a half BILLION dollars.
While there were earlier mechanical systems that were not compatible with black-and-white signals, the RCA “compatible color” system ultimately prevailed and was enshrined by the FCC as the official U.S. color broadcast standard in late 1953. The first RCA sets were sold in March 1954 (a similar model with RCA electronics inside but sold by Westinghouse was actually first to market.) The RCA CT-100 sold for $1,000 (same price as a modest, new automobile) and only about 4,400 units were made. Fewer than 170 survive today, and only a handful are in working condition. They are a marvel of ingenuity.
In today’s dollars, the set would have cost nearly $9,000 – even more than a 65-inch LG OLED 4K Ultra HDTV!
And once you got it home (the chassis alone weighs 65 pounds), there was only one hour of color TV programming each week – on NBC. In fact, the first “all color” TV season was none other than 1966 – as STAR TREK premiered.
Mine has been in and out of working condition since I bought it five years ago from a physician who put himself through medical school by working as a TV repairman in the late 1950’s. And after an 18-month restoration of the electronic chassis, I finally have a working unit – at least until something else fails!
So once I got it working with the vintage picture tube (itself even more rare than the set), I couldn’t wait to see how STAR TREK would have looked in 1966 if you’d had one of these first color sets.
The picture is not pristine – there’s lots of analog noise (“snow”) in the picture, but it’s almost like a time machine to see a 62 year old color TV set and its 15-inch screen jump to life!
Behold, “The Trouble With Tribbles” in vintage NTSC 1954 color!