Spectral color

Broadcast history in May: color television, satellites and the transition to digital television

Although broadcasting had barely made its appearance in the spring of 1922, some visionaries were looking beyond a simple form of one-to-many oral communication.

These included Los Angeles inventor Rudolph A. Dallugge, who in May of the same year filed a patent on a television system. Although the patent described mechanical scanning at the “camera” and “receiver” positions, Dallugge offered the option of using an electromagnetic deflection cathode ray tube for the display. There is no record of marketing his system.

While the drawing in Rudolph Dallugge’s 1922 television system patent application shows “Nipkow” scanning disks on both the “transmitter” and “receiver” sides, the application also describes the use of a CRT for display. (Image credit: United States Patent Office)

Other important TV Tech events that happened in May:

75 years ago – May 1947: TV’s long-running “color war” was beginning to take shape, with RCA showcasing an “all-electronic” color television system just months after the FCC rejected the 16 MHz wide-field sequential color system proposed by CBS.

The demonstration, which took place at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, was performed via a tri-color television projector and images scanned from Kodachrome slides and 16mm film. (RCA had not yet perfected a color CRT, and its live color camera was also under development.) A record number of American television stations were now on the air – 12, two of which were still under experimental license. CPs had been issued for more than 50 others.

NBC color

RCA and NBC had been pushing “compatible” (NTSC) color television since 1954, and after nearly two decades (mid-1972) it seemed to be catching on, with first-quarter color set sales up nearly 25 % over the previous year and nearly 55 of US homes now enjoying color. (Image credit: NBC)

Around the same time, reports were beginning to come in of FM stations being received at much greater distances than expected as broadcasters began to populate their new 88-106 MHz spectrum. Few, if any, saw a connection to the ongoing TV rollout. However, with more and more new TV stations taking to the air, reports of co-channel interference (and a “freeze” on new apps) would soon follow.

50 years ago -1972: The concept of a more inclusive home satellite communications system was beginning to take off, with the FCC hosting a meeting to explore an “open entry” plan to circumvent AT&T and Comsat’s new industry dominance.


(Image credit: Intelsat)

Potential satellite operating companies have been joined in the pleadings on this very hot potato issue by the DOJ and the Office of Telecommunications Policy. The heat was also on in the broadcaster/CATV arena following a federal district court’s reaffirmation of cable television operators’ right to retransmit broadcasters’ copyrighted content without incurring the right of themselves. copyright liability (free transport of broadcast content). CBS announced that it would appeal the decision.

The consumer VCR was beginning to roll out, with Norelco announcing that it would make some 23,000 units available in early 1973 through its American distributor. The suggested price was $1,425 (nearly $9,700 in today’s money). RCA has released the results of a recent study revealing that nearly 55% of US homes now have color televisions.

25 years ago – 1997: Despite arguments about high implementation costs and little return on investment, the move to digital broadcasting seemed certain. Broadcasters and NAB predicted that DTV service would be available to 43% of American television homes within 18 to 24 months, and that consumer receivers would be ready by Christmas 1998.

However, questions were raised about the availability of equipment and, what was to remain a concern for the next two decades, the lack of skilled workers needed to erect the necessary new towers and manage the antenna installations. The switch to digital television was also beginning to raise questions in the area of ​​cable television, because while the majority of American homes received cable television, the operators had no mandate to carry the new digital signals.

It also lacked equipment to convert OTA 8-VSB signals to 64-QAM modulation used in cable distribution. Operators also wondered about the distribution requirements for the additional program streams that broadcasters would transmit after the conversion to digital.

Sony HDC-750 HD Camera

As stations began to prepare for digital and HD, Sony announced the first sale of its new HDC-750 HD camera in North America. (Image credit: Jay Ballard)

Seattle public broadcaster KCTS-TV has become the first North American buyer of Sony’s HDC-750 HD camera, which was first shown at the NAB Show the previous month. It only supported 1035 line video, but Sony promised a 1080i sensor in late 1998. The list price was around $120,000 (almost $215,000 in 2022).