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Early Color TV

June 2024
1min read

In the Navy we found parts to make a color television in 1946. Anything to watch the heavyweight championship.

In 1946 I was in the U.S. Navy, stationed at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. In addition to the experimental television transmitting station and receivers that had been instituted in the New York City area before the war, television broadcasting had been started on a small scale (the legend was fifty receivers) in the District of Columbia.

At the research lab some of the crews that had spent the war years installing and testing exotic electronic devices on naval vessels had time on their hands and decided to construct their own television receiver. The hardest part to obtain—the video picture tube—was readily available at the lab because every radar system contained one.

In June 1946 word spread rapidly that the Louis-Conn heavyweight championship fight would be televised. The technicians at the lab realized that the potential audience would probably be greater than one picture tube could handle. So when the crowd showed up on the evening of the bout, the long room contained not one but ten screens, all in a row, about three feet apart. The installer crews had triumphed again!

My memory is as follows: poor sound, good picture. But the radar picture screen’s images were not black and white but shades of green. It took a few minutes to figure out which fighter was Joe Louis (who won) and which was Billy Conn.

Everyone had a great time, but it was a long while before I saw color television again.

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