Flashback Friday: Here’s a Letter from 1946 Predicting the Advent HDTV
Time for a brief history lesson.
As you know, color TV hasn’t been around forever. In fact, color TV—we’re talking about consumer-ready color TV here—doesn’t even make up half of the entire lifespan of television. Consumers began buying color TVs in bulk around the mid-1960s. The technology existed about a decade prior, but high costs and a lack of quality color content (sound familiar?) prevented the widespread adoption of the technology.
1965 was really the tipping point. That’s when it was announced that over half of all network primetime programming would be broadcast in color that Fall. By 1972, all networks were broadcasting their primetime as well as daytime programming in color.
Flash forward another 50 years and that's when—after a series of decisions by the Federal Communications Commission to improve the standards, quality, and adoption rate of digital television—high definition television (HDTV) began to creep its way into consumers' homes.
So why are we talking about this, you ask?
Well, it just so happens that we here at Dealerscope and Technology Integrator were the recipients of an email today that contained a letter dated February 14, 1946 (nearly 70 years ago to the day) from the cofounder and president of the Zenith Radio Corporation that makes reference to HDTV and high frequency color—technologies that wouldn’t exist for another half century. And, as such, we felt it necessary to take part in the #FlashbackFriday festivities by sharing that letter with you.
The email came from LG Electronics USA Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications John Taylor (LG formed a relationship with Zenith in 1995 and ended up acquiring the company in 1999), in which he stated, “In the Zenith archives, I found this letter to Variety Magazine … in which Commander Eugene McDonald, Jr. Zenith’s founder-president, predicted that the future of television ‘will be in high definition, high frequency color.’ (Believed to be among the industry’s first references to HD and wide color gamut!) The letter also alludes to his visionary thoughts on pay TV.”
It’s a little hard to read, so here’s the text of the letter. The letter itself is pasted at the bottom of this post:
Zenith Radio Corporation
February 14, 1946
Office of E.F. McDonald Jr., President
Mr. R. N. Stahl
145 West 46th Street
New York City
My dear Mr. Stahl:
As I stated over the telephone today, I believe the great future for television when it comes will be in high definition, high frequency color.
As I said in my letter to Bob Heinl, Columbia has made great progress and deserves much credit in their technical application but I have not changed my opinion on the economics of television.
I am enclosing an article I wrote on 1941 entitled “Television – An Economic Riddle” and a later article which appeared in “Retailing” which gives not only my views but you will find the views of RCA on the reverse side. You will find we are quite far apart on the subject of economics.
Television will one day be a great industry. There is nothing wrong with it that money will not cure but it needs a box office. The advertisers, in my opinion, do not have the kind of money it needs to supply appropriate acceptable programs in quantity that will be needed to make television a great industry.