Thursday, August 19, 2010

Let's go to the videotape

Welcome to May 22, 1958. WRC television in the nation's capital is having a big soirée, and they've invited President Eisenhower.

All the bigwigs are there, including the Sarnoff dynasty -- father and son -- which wields the controls at the Radio Corporation of America, parent of the National Broadcasting Co., which owns WRC in D.C., which is dedicating its brand-new, ultramodern radio and TV facilities.

It's all about color today, and I'm not talking the integration battles up on Capitol Hill. I'm talking color television. And during this particular shindig, the president will be appearing in living color for the first time from our nation's capital.

And it all will be preserved for posterity on something called "television tape." That is --
How do the kids say? -- cool.

NOW IF WE press this button on the television-tape recorder, we can fast forward . . .

. . . all the way to 2010, 52 years in the future. Robert W. Sarnoff, president of NBC in 1958, is long dead. His father, RCA founder and chief David Sarnoff, is longer dead.

For that matter, RCA is dead, too. It didn't survive the 1980s, at least not as a corporate entity. A foreign company bought the name to put on cheap electronics made in China.

Ike is dead, commentator David Brinkley is dead, analog television is dead, broadcasting is dying . . . and TV engineers had to round up a tandem of antique videotape recorders and new technology in 1988 to preserve this, the oldest surviving color videotape, for you to watch here now.

For you to make it -- this lost world -- live again.

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