The first flickers of television

On 30 april 1939 (75 years ago), the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) introduced television to the American public. The first experimental broadcast in the New York metropolitan area was the opening of the World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens from a transmitter on The Empire State Building. Despite its naysayers, the advent of television would go on to create tremendous cultural and social shifts in the way we communicated and interacted.

RCA began selling their first television models in various New York stores just as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized commercial transmission on July 1, 1941. While World War II slowed TV’s roll out in the US, RCA began a huge push selling television sets almost immediately after the war ended. By 1947, the growth of television exploded.

Print ads for the beginning of regularly scheduled television broadcasting in New York City began appearing in April 1939. RCA was proud to announce that TV would provide news, sports, celebrities, and general interest programs, in addition to opportunities for big profits for dealers and service techs. That same year, RCA also created the iconic television test pattern.

broadcast television celebrates 75 years, RCA, notable anniversaries, tv print ads, tv test pattern, history in the making

broadcast television celebrates 75 years, RCA, notable anniversaries, tv print ads, tv test pattern, history in the making

RCA was a big deal growing up in my house. My father worked at RCA for a long time, and its iconic dog Nipper was on view everywhere. We had Nipper banks, pens, salt-and-pepper shakers – it was branded on nearly everything. All things Nipper along with the cathode ray tubes, are long gone, but, I’ve saved this item (see below) which I can’t identify to this day.

broadcast television celebrates 75 years, RCA, notable anniversaries, tv print ads, tv test pattern, history in the making, rca mystery product

The real benefit of living in an RCA-household was having one of the earliest color TVs on the block, complete with the rabbit-ears antenna on the top of the set.

As for those early television reviews, The New York Times concluded:

“The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it.”

Hmmm, I could be wrong, but I think it caught on.

Let me know if you figure out what the RCA red mystery product is, I’m curious.

Images: RCA ad and test pattern via Wikipedia are in public domain. The RCA mystery product, @ 2014 Janet Giampietro

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