Color Television The Amazing Journey


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The foundation of color television as an entertainment and news media was formed in the 1950's with pioneer anchors such as Edward R. Murrow and Gabriel Heatter setting the standard for later news reporting as the television era matured. However, I believe their fair and balanced reporting of fifty years ago is no longer observed by today's more Hollywood-like national networks, which seem to focus more on their budgets and their ratings than the truthfulness of the news they are reporting.

Other television pioneers in another area of programming included names such as Milt Beryl, Bob Hope, Lucy Arnes, Jerry Lewis, and Jackie Gleason to name a few who were setting the standard for the new entertainment venues that would fit into an hour or a half-hour time slot that would also make room for the advertiser's message. This unique type of programming became so popular in American living rooms across the country that millions of people would change their schedules and dinnertime eating habits literally overnight.

Viewers would repeat some of the scenarios the following day to others along with imitating the musical jingles played from the advertisers, music provided by musicians whose lives, if interested, were described in the lyrics of Barry Manilow's song, Studio Musician. Watch some 1950's television ads, but you'll need a WinZip program.

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At the same time, children's television programming began to come alive from the hard and creative work of many dedicated individuals. These included people such as the amazing Mr. Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers, the extremely creative and on-the-floor funny Milton "Soupy" Sudman of the Soupy Sales Show, the soft-spoken and kind fatherly voice of Bob Keeshan of Captain Kangeroo and his sidekick, Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum, (aka Mr. Green Jeans), along with the very talented Bob Bell of the classic Bozo the Clown Show

Bozo was transmitted from the studios of WGN Television, Chicago. Waiting lists for children to find themselves in the audience and on the TV screen with Bozo were measured in years, not weeks. The show was so popular parents would place their children on waiting lists when they were born, knowing how old they would be when they got to sit in front of Bozo "LIVE" on WGN.

This list included the now famous daily children's show aimed at inner-city youth started by the producer, Joan Ganz Gooney. She had a dream for a program on PBS that would become a household word on the lips of every parent and child in the country called Sesame Street. She worked originally with the late Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, who changed forever the world of puppetry. Where else could you see the world-famous jazz singer, Tony Bennett, doing a duet with Miss Piggy? Now on the air for more than 35 years, Sesame Street has been accepted all around the world, even invited into China in 2003.

Note: While the program has been a real solid attempt to help inner-city youth lift themselves up, unfortunately the reality is that inner-city youth are more drawn by the fatalism of Gangster Rap than the hope for tomorrow provided by Sesame Street. Obviously, inner-city kids have to relate to the reality of where they are being raised, which is very understandable. There are no Big Birds walking around where they live talking to "The Count," just streetwalker "hos" from the dictionary of Gangster Rap.

As producers began to understand that television viewers represented a huge untapped entertainment vacuum awaiting to be filled through the medium of television, the need for exciting content exploded with the creation of television programs that would include formats such as daytime soap operas, nighttime serial dramas, live theater, and specific professional sporting events that would grab the attention of the world.

Thirty-six years have gone by since he guaranteed a victory in the Super Bowl, then delivered it. Namath outgrew his Broadway Joe image a long time ago. Today he is seeking his college degree, striving to rear two kind, caring, confident daughters, struggling to be a holier, humbler person and mostly staying clear of the spotlight, which he neither needs for financial subsistence nor craves.

Broadway Joe. See more on CBS Sprotsline.

To this end, and through innovative marketing, the introduction of new concepts that include the Superbowl, providing television signals that would be watched by tens of millions of viewers in homes throughout America, and then the world. Who would have dreamed that fans across the country would sit for at least three hours on couches in their homes surrounded by friends, drinks, and bowls of popcorn just waiting to watch sport-stars like "Broadway Joe" quarterback for the underdog, New York Jets, in Superbowl III? And it was all in Living Color, a term coined years ago by an ad agency that would represent the manufacturing giant of color television, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA.)

Later documentaries, innovative game shows (The Price is Right), quiz shows (The 64,000 Dollar Question), drama series (Kraft Theater), and sitcoms (Situation Comedies), along with the innovative weekly Sunday night shows from Disney, would all spark a new evolution of lively programming supplied by the four major networks of the time; ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS.

As cable would also became popular across the country, it would instead provide the capability for even more content through wonderful and exciting programs produced by new providers such as National Geographics and the wonderful world of the Discovery Channel. The Discovery Channel went onto premiere other successful shows that included the Animal Planet and The Learning Channel (TLC) to name a few, with these programs and exciting programs being easily adapted to the new world of HDTV.

It was only natural that technology would then help television evolve to its next step, taking programming into the larger-than-life world of the larger home theater environment where a home owner could experience high-resolution pictures with high-quality five-channel Dolby Digital 5.1 stereo-surround sound.

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This assault on the senses has begun to create a Paradyme Shift, a sea change if you will, in the way people depend more and more on their exciting new home television viewing experience. It would also provide them with renewed incredible pictures and sounds they had not before experienced from their cable provider's standard programming and video playback from mediums such as DVD's and time-shift digital recorders like TiVo.

Strangely, and only as a side note, many of these fantastic and sophisticated new products are no longer manufactured in the United States. Instead, they are produced in whole, or in part, in countries located all over the world. The production of hardware for the coming new technology was literally taken away overnight from right under the noses of American television manufacturers, starting in the mid 1970's, taking only a decade to begin to take over the various hardware markets.

One political artist creatively showed this shift using side-by-side drawings through a published cartoon; a left panel showing America war planes dropping bombs on Japan during WWII while the right panel was showing Japanese manufacturers dropping in turn millions of boxes filled with VCR's on American soil only thirty-five years from the end of WWII.

See an excellent summary of the history of Zenith Electronics Company.

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So it was no surprise, as we entered this new millennium, that virtually no television sets were being produced in the United States under an original American manufacturer's trademark unless they came for foreign manufacturer's plant built on U.S. soil. To stay competitive, even the last American manufacturer, Zenith Electronics Company, was forced to move its facilities to Mexico where only its circuit boards had been previously made. Ironically, the company was later bought by its earlier audio manufacturing vendor, Goldstar, the company recently changing its international name to LG Services.

Excellent timeline for the development of HDTV, which has been going on for decades.

Compliments Crutchfield Advisor

Ironically, it was Zenith Engineers who were way ahead of the curve in developing a television format that would change the way the world would view that medium forever, instrumental in developing the HDTV signal transmission system that was to be accepted by the FCC, which would become the standard in Hi-Def that would be sent and received in homes around America and the world.

May 1993 - "The HDTV Grand Alliance is formed to create a single best-of-the-best high-definition digital television standard. The Grand Alliance includes AT&T, the David Sarnoff Research Center, General Instrument, MIT, Philips, Thomson Consumer Electronics, and Zenith."

Source: Crutchfield Advisor, The HDTV Story; A timeline, by Steve Kindig, June 16, 2003

While the very first HDTV wide-screen sets were priced around $20,000 in the late 1990's in response to a few new HDTV programs being introduced by a few program and source providers, the technology quickly started to explode allowing these sophisticated sets to sell in larger volumes, dropping prices. This caused the Suggested Retail Price of a HDTV set to drop by more than 50% for the top models in only about eight years, the technology adding at the same time even more amazing features and other viewing formats.

As the industry continues in the future, some formats surely will be washed out or replaced by other new technologies that are better, cheaper, and more reliable over time, today's proven CRT format lasting more than sixty years since its use in American television sets back in the 1940's.

The faithful CRT format was also welcomed to the table of the new HDTV revolution, CRT rear-projection sets coming in at half to one-third the price of flat-screen systems of the same diagonal picture-screen size, their street prices selling in the low $1,000 - $2,500 dollar range, making the new HDTV technology into American homes that would not normally be able to afford them.

When flat-screen formats approach the price of CRT HDTV sets, the rear-projection television format wiill probably disappear from the market. But that most likely is still years away, the rear-projection format still incorporating excellent built-in stereo sound systems and multitasking tuners, these basic features winding up as options on some more expensive flat-screen models to reduce their very high price-points.

In this world of expensive wide-screen television, today's small, inexpensive standard-screen color sets featuring mono sound and cable-ready tuners are still needed. When they are connected to a digital multi-channel cable box, these basic sets allow anyone with $99 in their pocket to still be able to experience most of the entertaining and educational programs that are now available to wide-screen users without their needing all that extra jazz.

For any comments, you are welcomed to e-mail the original author of this report at While replies are optional, every effort will be made to read all responses.


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