1/11/13

Catalogs #28: 1971 Color TV


If you're as old as me, you remember when television sets were built as sturdy as the mighty oak.  They were wood enshrined monuments that seemed to weigh a metric ton.  They'd be a good place to hide behind in the event of a tornado.  Unlike today where electronics sail in and out of homes every Christmas, these suckers were built to last until the next Ice Age, and cost an ungodly amount of cash.

I have a gigantic flat screen, and I love it.  Don't get me wrong.  It just doesn't have the charm of these wooden relics which resembled more a piece of furniture than an electronic.  My wimpy flat screen has to be handled with kid gloves - the slightest tap or shake could be its demise.  These old hosses from 1971 were constantly being beat to rattle the picture into shape.




I'll also add that these TVs were HD.  Yeah, you heard me - high definition.  Nowadays you need HD because the screens are so huge that things get pixelated.... and it's digital rather than a feed through your rabbit ears.  No pixelation on those old warhorses; your quality depended on your signal.

Anyway, I came across this 1971 Zenith Color TV catalog, and the illustrations were just too damn good not to share.  So, you can download the entire catalog HERE or simply peruse some of the page details below.  Enjoy!


Check out the advanced technology.  It's like there's a lightsaber in the back of every TV.


We had a remote with a cord in 1983.  I don't remember cordless remotes as early as 1971.


In 1971,  a lot of people still didn't have color TV, so hue was a new concept.


Somewhere out there this TV is still running.  That hourglass is spent - yet the TV doth stand.  It's vaguely poetic.


Do you see what I mean when I say these TVs had character?  The lute (or mandolin... whatever it is), the classic candle and the regal TV seem to actually go together!  It's a TV that befits the Lord's and Lady's Chamber in a Medieval Castle.  Can you even fathom your plasma rectangle alongside such antiques?

These next eleven pictures of smaller televisions really entertained me.  Each attempts to show us a glimpse of what's on the tube.  Amazingly cheesy, obviously faked, but a joy to behold.












THE END (click!)


29 comments:

  1. Most people have never seen a high-quality NTSC (Analog TV) picture.
    A 'pristine' signal, on a properly adjusted, high-quality monitor, is absolutely stunning.
    I was always amazed at how good the pictures were (or *could* be) when I was in the broadcasting biz.

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    1. Well said. Just like with audio, analog (when done right)can surpass digital. Problem is, too many of us have memories of crummy reception (TV) and crummy record players that analog seems like a vastly inferior medium.

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    2. When I first started working at DirecTV, and saw some of the full-bandwidth NTSC signals coming down from the satellites we used for turn-arounds, I almost thought they were HD.

      Then I realized I was looking at analog video on a properly adjusted studio monitor, and about lost my lunch.

      I had *never* seen video that good before. It was amazing. All I had ever seen was over-the-air programming on consumer-level TV sets, and even on the high-end stuff I had previously worked on, it was never that good.

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  2. I miss the big old tv's. So many memories of hanging out in front of the stately wood-encased boob tube watching saturday morning cartoons.

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  3. We had a console like the one in the topmost photo, the big difference being that the top of it had a hinged lid that when opened housed a turntable. I would love to have that beasht back even if just to retrofit it now.

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  4. My parents had an RCA console TV in a cabinet designed to fit in the corner of the room. Great stuff!

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  5. I miss console TVs. The last one I remember seeing in a store was probably around 11-12 years ago and it was a Zenith. If they still made them, I'd probably have one in my living room!

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  6. We had a Quasar works in a drawer TV from 1973 to the late 80s. My parents still have a Zenith console from 1997. Not as big as the old ones but the TV swivels.

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  7. Remotes like those shown here used ultrasonic sound to control each function. The sound was produced mechanically, not electronically. Before that there were ones that used a directional flashlight to shine on photocells at the corners of the screen. Search for Flash-matic to see the cool looking ray gun type flashlight.

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  8. A friend of mine had one of those big cabinet models up until a couple of years ago.

    I think it was made in the early 1980s. I helped him move it a few times. That thing was heavy as hell. The last TV I bought can me picked up with one hand.

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  9. These were not just TV's - these were furniture, like a sofa or a dining table. They commanded presence and were not content to be stuck on the wall like today's big screen TV's. I have 2 TV's at home, one a modern widescreen which I use to watch movies and another "normal" old-style TV (which still looks great) where I watch old series on DVD like Starsky & Hutch or Mission: Impossible. I could watch them on the widescreen TV but it somehow feels wrong.

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  10. I'm sure we had a remote device by 1971. We called it "the clicker". Or "where the hell is the clicker" As my dad would say. The unique thing about this device was that a certain sound pitch would cause the TV to turn off or on. So if we ate in the den, where the TV was located, a clink of the spoon could cause the TV to turn off. For some reason this couldn't be altered with the clicker so you could sometimes find our family banging silverwear together until we duplicated that certain sound needed to turn the TV back on.

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  11. The original "clickers" had metal rods in them that were like half a tuning fork. Pressing ("clicking") one of the buttons would cause a little hammer to strike one of the rods, producing very high frequency sound waves. Circuitry inside the TV set would detect these sound waves, and activate the required functions.

    As you found out, banging silverware together would produce these sounds, as would jangling keys together, sometimes with unintended results!

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    1. In some cases, the sound of a flushing toilet generated the right frequency to activate a television.

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    2. We had them at the BBC in Llandaf too, in the Directors Galleries. Unfortunately, there was also a fashion amongst young women for wearing clusters of wire thin bangles on both wrists. The funniest thing was when a programme had just gone to air, the production Assistant would reach for a cigarette, and an entire bank of live studio monitors would shut down.

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  12. DON'T TOUCH THAT DIAL... WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK!

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  13. The "clicker" in action!

    From the Monkees' movie, HEAD!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1IlOVj1qYQ

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  14. "Handcrafted". Excuse me, what? After reading that first bit I thought it was for her dress. Betcha any amount of money that TV had wooden panels on it. Kinda like the really old ones you sometimes see in Chinese takeaways.

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  15. Zenith was the last to abandon hand-wired chassis and go to printed circuit boards, so *every* TV was hand-wired/"hand crafted".
    Most of the cabinetry was veneer over particle board/masonite. "Solid" wood went out in the 30's, before TV sets were mass produced, although I suppose there could have been smaller companies who used solid wood vs veneer.

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  16. I like the faked TV shots, especially the lady pulling a ham steak out of a hat.

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  17. Yep, we had a big ol' floor model for a long time. I remember a friend had a huge all-in-one entertainment unit. Everything was matched RCA components, I believe. Even at the time (1998), it was quite outdated, but still FAR cooler than anything you could get at the time!

    I still use CRT TVs; 27" upstairs, 32" downstairs. I don't think I'd go back to a CRT for a computer monitor, though.

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  18. Cordless remotes actually began in 1939 on a Philco radio. The remote was a low-power radio transmitter with buttons for volume and a phone-type dial to select prechosen stations. The receiver had a separate receiving circuit to pick up the remote's signal. Since the remote contained its own A and B batteries, it was about as large and heavy as a small table radio. Sort of fun to play with, but really no advantage.

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  19. Our family had as its first color set an RCA...I remember several times the wood cabinet sitting in the living room--with a B & W portable on top, as the insides had to go to the shop.

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  20. We could never afford a Zenith. We had Magnavox and Motorola color sets, and yes, cordless remotes were around in 1971... they were around in 1960, too!

    I worked in Broadcasting, too, and remember how beautiful and sharp a properly adjusted TV picture could be.

    As a TV service technician, I can say that I know of many of these Zenith Chromacolor sets that are still playing today. They were built like tanks!!

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  21. I still have my parents old 1976 RCA colortrac console television. they bought it new for $650 as a wedding present. it may not have working color now and if you wanna turn it on and off you have to plug it in but it still gets a picture. I spent allot of years tuning the color and getting the tracking just right, it even had a digital channel key board and no remote, you wanted a different channel you got up and walked over and dialed in the channels. I always thought it was a cool thing to have and as one of the previous comments said it was a piece of furniture not just a tv. I could never bring my self to throw it out. it is just sitting in storage right now but I have a plan for it in the not too distant future.

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  22. In the UK, we never seemed to have the 'monumental' TVs you guys had in the US. In fact, my parent's first colour set (Philips) was all brushed aluminium and grey plastic. And I don't think I've ever *seen* a TV in the UK with a flat table top. They used to be very shallow (maybe 8 inches) cases, with a recessed 'lump' many times deeper, narrowing towards the back as it followed the line of the CRT itself. I was always fascinated by the term 'set top box', since anything you put on top of a TV would end up eating carpet the first time someone slammed a door.

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  23. Boy, does this blog post bring back memories. My parents got a 25 inch screen color tv (in a wooden console) as a wedding present (in 1967) from my fathers parents.

    No remote control, but the front speaker was also a tilt out center that had additional knobs for the usual things: color, tint, horizontal control, vertical control, etc. That way you didnt have to go to the rear of the set to adjust those things. Ive long since forgotten the brand name of the tv set (zenith, I think?)

    The tv lasted longer than the marriage. My mother got custody of us kids as well as the tv. That tv provided me with many years of free of charge entertainment as well as comfort and escape from my living hell of a childhood. I have many fond memories of sitting in front of that set watching my favorite movies, syndicated reruns of classic tv shows, and cartoons.

    Unfortunately the tv gave up the ghost for good in the early 80s. (Around 1982-83). We called in a repairman who told us that it would cost us less to buy a brand new set than to hire him to fix our old one. Seeing as how we couldnt afford a new set, much less the repairman, we had to go without a tv for a year or two.

    When we did get a new color tv (general electric, 19 inch screen), it was push button. Still no remote control though.

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  24. That's the S.S. Zenith model on the second picture. It weights TWO metric tons.

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  25. Oh yeah, Old TV WAS HD, I live in the world of PAL broadcasts (100 odd more lines of rez that the US got) I stopped watching broadcast TV back in 2001 when all our TV Stations decvided to put digital repeater stations in the Chain, the moment that happened the horrible MPEG compression turned me off 'live tv' for good.
    Since then Ive owned some of the best 'new fangled' Tvs that money can buy, and yet ive only at best replicated the 'video look' on one top of the rage Sony set I use. I keep a old CRT running if I want to watch ANYTHING that was made on real Video, modern TVs cannot do Interlacing, so your archive TV looks flat and has almost half the resolution that it did on a CRT. For example I wanted to watch the old BBC Drama I Cladius again and spent 3 hrs fiddling with settings on the new set, it looks crap, 2d washed out, poor colours, like some horrible VCD. Popped it on the CRT, Magic. Its all about the Interlace No TV without a CRT can do it. In fact I spent some years in stuffing around with old film prints of Video, (you call them Kinescpoes) to try to re-invent the missing interlaced image, and after a few years I cracked it. BUT these could only be watched on yeah you guessed it a CRT.

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