Recently, I was reviewing my blog’s stats and noticed that a couple of postings about American television’s past were being hit a lot (ok, a lot for this blog anyway.) Specifically, the posting about the CBS Color system. Curious, I wanted to know why. I have not yet figured that out, but I did uncover some more information about the field sequential method that CBS used as well as some photographs. I do not have permission (I have not asked for it) to post those photos here-and I don’t like to link directly to other people’s photos (the exception being the Apollo photos elsewhere on this blog) so please go here to view the photos. Go on over there and view them. I’ll wait a few minutes.
Back, Ok, let’s discuss them. The author of the post explained how he nearly went to work for CBS labs back in the 1960’s. Fast forward to 2004 where he was at the Early Television Convention. There, he had the opportunity to view a CBS color standard monitor. A DVD player was connected to the monitor via convertor to convert NTSC to CBS color. The photos reveal just how good the color was. The really amazing thing is that the monitor, like the Hytron set CBS was to sell, used a mechanical disc to recreate the color. It’s pretty amazing that it worked and worked very well. They used “the Wizard of Oz’ as the source. Even though the standard dictated 405 lines of resolution, the picture looked really good. It was not as soft as the higher resolution BW sets of the day.
One other tidbit revealed in the post is that there was a CRT that could have worked with this system and that, oh the irony, was designed and produced by RCA-the chief rival of the CBS system.
It now appears to me that the CBS system was superior to NTSC during that time. I think the real advantage of the mechanical wheel is that all of the wheels for specific models or even of an entire company would display EXACTLY the same color. The wheels were colored and could all be produced from the same material and fairly cheaply. This would have resulted in Hue and Color control circuits being left out of televisions. Of course, this would not have been the case when the system went all electronic-which would have been inevitable. I have to wonder, though, how they dampened the noise and vibration that a motorized wheel would have made. My wife would have kicked the tv out of the living room!