Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When TV was but a punk kid of 10

In 1949, this was the NBC Television Network. It stretched from New York to St. Louis, all hooked up to the coaxial cable, as ably explained that year by Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob Smith and Clarabell the Clown.

If your city wasn't on the hookup, then your local network affiliate (assuming you had a TV station at all) got its national programming, what there was of it, via kinescopes -- 16-millimeter film recordings of a TV monitor at the New York studios. The hinterlands got network shows when they got them.

And videotape still was the better part of a decade in the future.

What you see here --
the state of the art four years after the end of World War II -- features less capability and lower quality than a 4G-enabled smart phone today. And it was miraculous.

As primitive as it seems today, it would revolutionize an entire society in the years following 1949.

THOUGH TELEVISION still was very much in its infancy in April 1949, NBC was in a mood to celebrate how far the medium had come since the advent of regular American broadcasts 10 years earlier in New York.

Through the New York facilities of
WNBT (now WNBC), here we have a kinescope of TV's first anniversary gala. NBC was celebrating a decade of television, and the network was throwing a party.

Kind of an austere party by today's standards, but a wingding nevertheless.

the folks at WNBT were thanking their lucky stars for now-forgotten singing stars, because not only was TV history in short supply in 1949, but also reliable ways of archiving old programs. That tends to make retrospectives problematic.

Let's just say I hope you enjoy old kinescopes of fighter planes taking off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. That was a really big deal back then -- it wasn't the content; it was that the TV people could broadcast from an underway naval vessel at all.

IT'S TIME to go, now. And, of course, that would be Bulova Watch Time.

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