Today in History – June 24, 1963 – First television video recorder is demonstrated. The Telcan was the first domestic “TV recorder”. The Nottingham Electric Valve Company developed a simple reel-to-reel system, using ordinary 1/4 inch audio tape that recorded linearly with stationary heads. It could only manage a maximum of 20 minutes of low-resolution black and white recordings, though the tape could be turned over to get about 40 minutes per spool.
The Telcan went on sale in 1963 and was mainly sold as a kit, for $60 [2005: $840]. Unfortunately, the kits only appealed to technically competant buyers with money. It never captured the imagination of the general buyer and low sales caused the product to fail in the market. It is reported that only two Telcan machines are known to exist today – one in San Francisco, the other in the Wollaton Hall industrial museum in Nottingham.
Another factor in the Telcan’s demise might have been that it was restricted to black and white for programs of any length. A decade earlier the color television was catching the public’s attention and was being sold at a reasonable price and didn’t require putting it together as a kit. If you had the money, which new technology innovation would you pick?
On March 25, 1954, RCA began mass production of the model CT-100 color television. The cost of the set was $1,000 – not much less than a new car! Unsurprisingly, it took some time for color television to catch on. Not until 1966 did a network (NBC) broadcast all of its programming in color, and color television sales did not exceed black and white sales until 1972.
Initial quality of color television receivers was low: the picture was small (the CT-100 had a 12-inch screen) and the images were not very bright. Advances in technology such as the transistor and integrated circuits led to improvements in size, power consumption, and image quality. In recent years, the very standard underlying color television has been subject to intense debate, as high-definition digital television comes to the fore.
For additional information on the history of television see: FCC website, IEEE History Center or view my earlier March 25th blog on RCA’s production of the first color television set.
Check out the Engineering Pathway’s educational resources on the television. For more educational resources, see our electrical engineering education and computer engineering education community pages. The Engineering Pathway also hosts Engineering Education communities in all ABET-accredited disciplines.