Color Television Introduced - History

(6/25/51) CBS introduced the first color television broadcast. The broadcast took place in 5 American cities, and CBS began producing two and a half hours a day.

RCA Manufactures The 1st Ever Color TV Set at 12.5 Inches, $1,000

Color television made its debut after the Federal Communications Commission accepted the RCA-developed "Compatible Color" System permitting colorcasting of programs without blanking the screens of black-and-white TV sets. Source: Bettmann / Contributor, v

The RCA CT-100 color TV was the first color television produced for the masses. The company began manufacturing it in 1954, when there were few color broadcasts, and its $1,000 price tag would make it a luxury item. This hulking beast, its innards packed with vacuum tubes, showed a picture that measured just 12 inches wide. About 4,000 were produced, and only 300 or so are known to exist today. While the CT-100 was, for consumers, the first color TV on the market, it wasn't the first color TV ever made.

The color television stands as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Today, it’s how many of us get our news, entertain ourselves, even improve ourselves with the litany of educational programs. However, the historic invention of the color television reads like the space race between Russia and the United States.

Only this race was between Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and Colombia Broadcasting System (CBS). There was also an army of engineers fighting over who would invent the best system and most crucially, who got credit for the invention.


Unbeknownst to many, color TV is already being experimented right at the same moment as the black-and-white television was invented. One of the first proposals that were presented for color TV was developed by Maurice Le Blanc in 1880. However, the proposal did not contain any concrete details about how the machine will work, although there were documents that were pertaining to the line and frame scanning capabilities of the television.

The second known proposal was developed by Jan Szczepanik, a Polish inventor that is also known for inventing the wireless telegraph. In the said inventor’s proposal that was written in 1897, the machine would have a selenium photoelectric cell located at the transmitter, an electromagnet that controls the oscillating mirror on the TV, and a moving prism at the receiver to produce colors. Unfortunately, the television conceptualized by Szczepanik lacked a specific part that will read or analyze the moving prism’s colors and transfer it directly to the screen.

The first person claiming to have invented color television was Armenian inventor HovannesAdamian, who applied for a patent for his color television on March 31, 1908, in Germany. Today, Adamian is considered as one of the founders of color TV.

A Scottish inventor named John Logie Baird improved upon Adamian’s patent by utilizing several scanning discs that will be able to analyze colors at the transmitting and receiving ends of the machine. Along with the scanning discs, the machine also has three spirals of apertures that each contains one of the three primary colors, and three light sources to amplify the brightness of the screen.

To showcase what Baird’s television was capable of on July 3, 1928, he and his team recorded footage of a girl that is seen wearing three hats with different colors. The girl in the footage was Noele Gordon, a young actress who would eventually star in the iconic television soap opera in Britain titled Crossroads from 1964 to 1983.

Color Television Introduced - History

In 1936, RCA demonstrates an all- electronic, 343 line/30 frames per second, television broadcast signaling the arrival of a completely functional television system. That summer lead to the first major broadcast using this new medium, the Berlin Summer Olympic Games, which were televised by Telefunken using RCA equipment. Another major broadcaster rises to prominence as the BBC starts the "world's first public, regular, high-definition Television station" on November 2nd.

During the 1939 World's Fair David Sarnoff, president of RCA, unveiled the first commercial publicly accessible television broadcast. In Flushing NY, he proclaimed "Now we add sight to sound" and during the opening ceremonies of the fair on April 30th, FDR became the first president to ever be televised. TV sets went on sale to the public the very next day, and RCA/NBC began regular broadcasts on a daily basis. By the end of the 30s, there were a few hundred televisions in America.

The next major step in television broadcasting came on July 1st, 1941 when the FCC authorized commercial broadcasting. NBC had the first commercial ever with a 10 second watch commercial which made them $7.00. On December 7th, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, which became the first major news story broken by television.

After the war ends, television sales become much more popular in the US with the 630-TS model by RCA selling over 43,000 units. Television slowly becomes ingrained into the fabric of American life. The first telecast of a World Series Game was on September 30th, 1947: The New York Yankees vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers. Harry Truman becomes the first president to make a television address from the White House on October 5th. Howdy Doody, the first children-targeted show begins its run on December 29th, 1947 on NBC.

In 1948, television production begins to grow greatly. By July of 1948, there are 350,000 TV sets in the USA. Notably 3/4 of them are in eastern network cities, and half of them are around New York City. This was the case because without a signal, the television was useless and very few cities outside of the northeast had a clear signal to original programming.

Money and sponsorships started to become very important in television broadcasts. A study found that 68% of viewers remember the names of program's sponsors(3) so this spurred advertisers to sponsor more events. Gillette, for instance, paid over $100,000 ($1.1 million today) for the rights to televise the Louis-Walcott return boxing match and the television rights for baseball games in New York City cost $700,000 ($7.7 million.)

Continuing the phenomenal growth, 2 million television sets were in American homes in 1948 (of which 720,000 were in New York City alone.) On September 4th, 1951 the first coast-to-coast telecast was aired as President Truman spoke to 13 million television sets.

Televisions were still mostly found in cities simply because the television stations were only found in cities (especially New York.) However, in the late 1940s a resident in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania named John Walson came up with the idea of building a transmitter on top of the mountain between Philadelphia and his town. After this transmitter was purchased, he began to offer television through coaxial cable to his town members. This proved to be so effective that the Governor of Pennsylvania spearheaded a master cable system that allowed signals from New York and Washington to be "imported" to his entire state.

The next big innovation came in April of 1954 when RCA introduced a color television set. It initially failed to be popular with only 5,000 selling in the first year. Notably, this adoption rate was much higher than the original television sales (although it isn't until 1964 when one million color televisions a year are sold.) Following this production landmark, NBC announces that all but two prime time shows will be broadcast in color.

Product & Technology Milestones

TV8-301 World's first direct-view portable transistor TV. Comprised of 23 transistors and 19 diodes, this model was developed based on Sony's extensive experience in radio technology. In an age when TVs were assumed to be living room fixtures, this device opened the door to personal television use. Additionally, this model offered three choices for power input.


TV5-303 Developed with the aim of bringing TV entertainment to the automobile environment, this was the world's smallest and lightest monochrome TV, which enjoyed wide popularity under the nickname "micro TV." The slogan for the device was "Transistors have Changed TV."


KV-1310 The first in Sony's exclusive line of Trinitron color TVs. This model offered approximately twice the brightness of TVs using conventional shadow-mask tubes. This was a milestone product establishing Sony's superiority in color TVs.


KV-1375 Personal TV nicknamed the "Citation." In addition to its unique and innovative design, this TV incorporated the Jet Sensor, whereby the user selected channels by gently pressing the control panel buttons. Incorporating newly developed NBM phosphor, which greatly increased the luminous sensitivity of cathode-ray tubes, this TV offered unparalleled picture clarity ultimately resulting in this product becoming a major hit.

The world’s first television remote control was called the Tele Zoom, and it can barely even be categorized as a remote control. The Tele Zoom was only used to “zoom in” to the picture on the television. You could not use it to change any channels or turn the TV on or off. The Tele Zoom was released in 1948.

The first “true” remote control was produced by Zenith and released in 1955. This remote control could turn the television on or off and change the channel. It was also completely wireless.

32 comments on &ldquo The story of colour television in Britain &rdquo

Our first colour TV was a Decca CS2032 bought new in 1974
This had the series 30 hybrid chassis
The weak point with the set was the sound output stage with a PCL82 output valve instead of a more
robust PCL86
Other than this it was a reliable set.

I was a TV engineer during those days, remember the first colour TV I repaired, convergence errors and needed degaussing….

It was NOT a service that was introduced on BBC2 in July 1967 – it was still ‘experimental’ along with the ‘trade test’ transmissions and unannounced experimental colour programmes. The ‘service’ began on December 2nd 1967 and was opened using Marconi MkVII colour cameras at Television Centre. Germany, France and the USSR were slightly ahead of the UK with their colour services and the BBC must stop trying to frig this date by pretending that the Wimbledon coverage was part of a full service – it wasn’t and not even claimed at the time.

Can ADAPT please stop propagating this misleading information.

this is true. in july 1967 the BBC were TESTING colour on bbc 2. such a shame that it took many years for the uk population to be able to get colour as the build of 625line transmitters were so slow. ie orkney 1975 and shetland 1976 as was channel islands.

I rented a Baird colour tv from radio rentals for £7 month in 1968 with the door closed it looked like a cocktail cabinet, the tuning dial was round like a radio would have it was excellent when the day came for BBC one and Itv to start colour broadcasts

Are you sure about that date? I only ask as my dad worked for radio Rentals in a fairly senior position, and we had one as a field-trials test prototype, and I can remember it. I was not born until the end of 1964, so I would have thought that would have been 1969 at the earliest.

I am absolutely sure l watched the coronation of the Queen in 1953 in colour at our milkman’s parents dairy. In Henley on Thames.

You watched that on a normal black and white TV, however we watched it on my uncles TV as it had an add on filter which fitted over the normal black and white screen, you could buy these but they weren’t very popular It gave an impression of colour although it was predominately blue not proper colour but it looked exotic.

Walked into rumbleows arnos grove in the summer of 1978- bought a washing machine and rented a GEC color tv for £8 a month (plus government mandated 10 months down payment-£80). Great set!

I used to have a black and white ‘ portable ‘ Marconiphone tv in the 70’s, it weighted a ton !

I am seeking information and confirmation of, a technique that demonstrated what a colour television, would look like, this then was broadcast to all black and white sets. I think there was three or four colours shown. I am not certain of the word used, something like Chromatic? There is no one who remembers this event. Did I dream this or, was this true.
Thanking you in anticipation of a reply. Katrina.

I remember that Radio Times gave away a free cardboard disc that had to be spun at a certain rate to strobe showing a coloured image on a black and white set. I guess this must have been circa 1967.

I think it was on tomorrow’s world, Raymond Baxter showed the effect of a rapid flickering black and white picture to produce a sort of colour. It’s on youtube

Gee, I vividly remember watching this exact edition of Tomorrow’s World as a child. It seemed like magic at the time!

I think you probably dreamt it.

you Know the strangest think to me was that is exactly, how i remember from an early time, to me our very first Colour TV was around 1970- 71, and that this to my Knowlidge was onlly a 24′ inch push button job.

You’re not dreaming. I can remember those tests, just not exactly when they were. We rented our first colour tv in early 1971.

On June 2, 1953, the first color television telecast in England was conducted using an experimental field sequential system developed by Pye and Chromatic Television laboratory.
Televisions with Chromatron tubes were set up in a children’s hospital to view the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The New York Times reported that a Chromatic representative concluded the test was a complete success.

“ Recollection of Peter Ward as published in THE 1953 CORONATION OB PETER WARD, GUILD OF TV CAMERAMANS MAGAZINE SPRING l985.

“Whilst 20 million viewers watched the transmission in black and white, 150 children and staff of the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street watched part of the procession in colour. Pye of Cambridge were given permission to set up three colour cameras on the roof of the Foreign Office, and by using a portable transmitter beamed the signal to Ormond Street to display colour pictures on two 20″ sets. Twenty years later it would be standard practice for major OBs to be in colour. and today it is common place to deploy 20 to 25 cameras just for one programme ‘Match of the Day’ ”

We rented our first colour tv in 1975 when I started work, I shared the cost with my dad, not sure how much, but I know it was from D.E.R, 26inch in a wooden cabinet.

In my Rose coloured memory it says that the moon landing was shown in colour but that was months before Pet Clarke party piece.
Help someone, or is it the dreaded onslaught of old age…..
yet again heehee.

no colour tv cameras on the 69 moon landing but the astronauts took plenty of colour film which was developed when they got back home. Later missions used a colour TV camera as technology progressed.

Channel Television didn’t receive colour until the (hot) summer of 1976.
This was due to engineering issues with getting a signal from the UK mainland to their main transmitter at Fremont Point in Jersey.

The IBA and BBC had to design a new aerial and transmitter capable of getting a signal from the main land.
Obviously- due to how the ITV Network operated – this had to be a 2 way system – so signals could be sent from the Channel Islands.

The date of July 1st 1967 is correct in terms of the beginning of BBC2’s scheduled colour output. A few weeks prior to that, some of the regular studio output such as the programme Late Night Line Up was broadcast in colour, but unofficially.

Once the government’s confirmation finally came in 1966 that the UK would use 625 line PAL colour, TV set manufacturers began production. By late 1966 shops had demonstrator sets available and the BBC was broadcasting colour trade test films during the day.

I remember a huge crowd gathered round a colour TV set in a department store in Gloucester (probably late 1966 or early 1967) – they were spellbound by the technological miracle of the clear images they were watching – they were in (for their time) ‘high’ definition. The colour trade test film showed aerial shots of two cars racing through the bush. The future had arrived.

Here are some other early milestones for colour TV in Britain:
(1) The 1953 coronation was broadcast via closed circuit TV to a children’s hospital using three separate signals each of red, green and blue. The images were then recombined to give a colour picture.
(2) Many colour film series were made by ITV contractor ATV for export to the USA from 1962 onwards – most notably Stingray and Thunderbirds.
(3) The earliest live BBC colour broadcast viewed by the public was the 1966 general election – though this was only seen in colour by viewers in America.
(4) The earliest surviving colour videotape of a British programme is from 20th March 1966 – a 525 line NTSC recording of The London Palladium Show made by ATV as a promotional tape for US TV executives to see. The show featured The Seekers and Roy Orbison. It was broadcast in 405 lines in monochrome in the UK.

It was common practice in the mid sixties for programmes made in America and in the UK for export to announce that they were in colour presumably to encourage the purchase of colour televisions .I remember shows like The Avengers,The Fugitive ,Lost in Space and Peyton Place announcing their change from black and white to colour although here in the UK we could still only see them in black and white .The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour was shown in colour on BBC2 on Boxing Day 1967 but most of us saw it for the first time a few days later in black and white

I wonder if you can help me ? Does anyone know for definite the name of the first feature film that was broadcast in colour on British T.V ?
I am not asking about a short information film or a documentary type film of an event, I am asking about a commercially released movie such as James Bond or The Music Man.
Many thanks.

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By 1952, television broadcasts were reaching 15 million television sets in 64 cities. the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), NBC, and DuMont offered a wide variety of programming choices, though DuMont ceased operations in August 1956. Although programming was in its infancy, the 1950s were considered to be the "golden age" of television. Some of the earliest entertainment programming on television came directly from radio, including such popular programs as Amos 'n' Andy, The Adventures of Superman, The Lone Ranger, and a number of soap operas.

Original variety shows such as Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Texaco Star Theater with Milton "Mr. Television" Berle, and Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan (later The Ed Sullivan Show) were popular draws. Programming also included dramas and westerns, such as Playhouse 90 and Gunsmoke, respectively. Situation comedies, led by the still popular I Love Lucy, and quiz shows, such as The $64,000 Question, attracted large audiences. Children watched Kukla, Fran, and Ollie and, later, Captain Kangaroo and Howdy Doody.

While many shows were broadcast live during the golden age, I Love Lucy was produced with a new technique. Three cameras caught the action, which reduced interruptions and retakes. The filmed episodes could then be rerun by the network and sold into syndication for extended profitable runs. This and other similar production techniques continue to be used.

In the 1960s and 1970s, as color televisions became more prominent, westerns declined in popularity, but medical dramas thrived and realistic police dramas such as Police Story found audiences. Even the science fiction and fantasy genre carved out a niche audience with programs such as Star Trek. Feature films were popular, and by 1966, the networks were airing their own made-for-tele-vision movies. In the early 1970s, the networks also began producing "event" programming in the form of limited-run series. Following the success of Roots in 1977, the miniseries became a mainstay of prime-time ratings sweep weeks (the periods that are key to the determination of the amounts that can be charged for commercial time).

By the 1980s, the audience for network television was diminishing as cable networks and pre-recorded home video began to lure viewers. In addition, a new television network, the Fox Broadcast Network (Fox), debuted in 1986 and found success in the 1990s by targeting young audiences with shows such as Beverly Hills 90210 and The Simpsons.

The television programming landscape has changed much since the golden age. Variety shows, so prevalent in the early days of television, were all but extinct by the 1990s. Prime-time network programming maintained its sitcoms and dramas (including the seemingly ever-popular police and medical shows), but it also showcased a number of reality-based programs. ABC, CBS, and NBC increased their newsmagazine offerings by 1993 and with good economic reason—a news-magazine show is cheaper to produce than an hour-long drama, and the network does not have to share profits. By the end of the 1990s, quiz shows had even made a successful return to prime-time network schedules. The 1990s also saw increased competition from new broadcasters, as the United Paramount Network (UPN) and the Warner Bros. Network (WB) debuted in January 1995. Paxson Communications' PAX-TV debuted in 1998.

1982-Colour television is introduced: Out of the dark ages

The year was 1982. India was gearing up for the Asian Games, a colourful spectacle. But most of the country was in the danger of seeing it in shades of black and white. Until a Union Cabinet decision changed the way people saw television forever. In the beginning, it was a temporary permit, with the Union Government allowing the import of 50,000 colour television sets by November of that year. But by the end of it, the Indian viewer was ready to spend Rs 8,000 on an Indian set and up to Rs 15,000 on the imported version.

  • The Ninth Asian Games are held in Delhi.
  • NABARD is established to promote sustainable and equitable growth in agriculture.
  • N.T.Rama Rao wins the Andhra Pradesh elections.

As Bhaskar Ghose, former director general of Doordarshan told India Today in 1999, "Colour was just a metaphor for a switchover to high technology." It was followed by Doordarshan's networking phase. In 1982, television transmitters jumped from 35 to 100, by 1990, the figure was getting ready to cross the 400 mark. Critics called it India's taste for modern consumerism, a hand-maiden of the commercial film industry. But for the Indian consumer, it was much more than that. It was an opportunity to see the world in all colour.

The main event: INSAT-1A is launched

For all its pioneering role, INSAT-1A is a satellite that the Space Department may want to quickly forget. Almost the only thing that can be claimed on its behalf is that it is operational: certainly a triumph in itself, but one robbed of much of its real value. The launch was late by 22 months. Despite that leeway, most of the related ground facilities to make use of the satellite are not in position. By the time they are, the satellite will probably have lived out its life, reduced from the planned seven years to perhaps just three because of the unanticipated burning up of vital hydrazine fuel. Even before its launch, some fuel had to be off-loaded from the satellite since its weight exceeded the stipulated 1,150 kg.

Color TV Introduced

On June 25, 1951, CBS broadcasted the first commercial color TV program, but almost everyone could not watch it on their black-and-white televisions. Even though this was the case, it was still a new and different way of living in this time period. The first TV program that had color was a called, “Premiere.” It was a small show which starred celebrities such as Ed Sullivan, Garry Moore, Robert Alda, and Isabel Bigley. Many of them hosted their own TV shows in the 1950’s. "Premiere" aired in the evening, from 4:35 to 5:34 p.m. but the show only reached four cities at the beginning. It aired in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. At first, the colors did not equal the essence of true color in reality, but the TV show became a huge success.

A couple days after the TV show premiered, on June 27, 1951, CBS started to begin airing the first regularly-scheduled color television series. It was called, "The World Is Yours!” It was starring Ivan T. Sanderson, who was a very famous man at the time. Sanderson was a Scottish naturalist who had spent most of his life traveling and exploring the world with all its beauty and amazement and also collecting animals. Thus the program was about Sanderson discussing artifacts and animals from his travels. "The World Is Yours!" aired on weeknights from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m.

On August 11, 1951, about a month and a half after "The World Is Yours!" made its debut, CBS aired the first baseball game in color. The game was between the Brooklyn Dodgers from Brooklyn and the Boston Braves from Boston at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. This really boosted the invention of the color TV and helped make it more popular. Even though these early successes with color programming, with its realistic way of viewing, the adoption and creation of color television was slower than most would think. During the first six months of 1954, fewer than 8,500 color television sets were manufactured in the United States. There were only owned a color set and only a small percentage of network broadcasts that were even in color. During the entire 1954-1955 television season, for example, CBS only made nineteen color broadcasts. It was not until the 1960s that the public people began to buy color TVs in earnest.

1965 was the watershed moment for color broadcasting there was still the small problem of the viewing public not having color television sets. According to NBC, there were only 2,860,000 color households in the United States as of January 1st, 1965 By July 1st, the number stood at 3,600,000 and on October 1st it was at 4,450,000 color sets. NBC’s figure for January 1st, 1966 stood at 5,220,000, an 85% gain over the January 1st, 1965 number but still only 9.7% of all television households. In the 1970s the American public finally started purchasing more color TV sets than black-and-white ones. They finally began to like the color and wanted it. However, sales of new black-and-white TV sets lingered in the 1980's.

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