Radio Corporation Of America
This page is dedicated to the men, women, engineers, and all the folks in the trenches who worked so hard at RCA to bring the dream of color television to all of us. RCA pioneered color television in the United States, although at times it was the corporate executives in New York who did so in a rather heavy handed manner. Farnsworth, Aiken, Philco (inventors/innovators) and others come to mind. Despite this, we have a personal fondness for RCA color televisions.
“THE FOLLOWING IS BROUGHT TO YOU IN LIVING COLOR” …
No, you are not looking at a high definition screenshot below. This is Vivian Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, 1939, photographed May 6, 2018 off the screen of a 63 year old television, the RCA 21CT55.
Bringing back the nostalgia of early color television is why I collect these old sets. Growing up in the late 40s and the 50s, about 1956, I remember seeing my first color television at a family member’s home. The new color shows were a big thing back then. Our family did not have early color television, we made do with the old black and white. Still, seeing the latest color sets and shows at the department stores were compelling.
As a young boy back then, from memory, color telecasting looked very much like this below 1958 early videotaped program image. IT WAS COLOR! It was new, it was exciting. We accepted it, loved it and wished we could afford color television. This photo was captured April, 2017 from our RCA 21CT55.
We had no idea what was to come, now sixty years later, we find ourselves lovenly restoring these old relics from the past that we grew up with. These old CRT’s like the 21AXP22 in the above and below photos were capable of reproducing great, high resolution color images. We just had to wait for some of the weak links in the broadcast chain, like the color cameras and studio equipment to catch up with the reproduction capabilities of the picture tubes of the 1950’s. Have a look at the below image captured from a 21AXP22 within the RCA 21CT55 television. This image was photographed in 2017 from a DVD player modulated to image on the set. The movie is from 1948 BTW, and digitally remastered in 2010. What a difference in the two photos!
After my retirement in 2009, we set out to find the many micro televisions that I loved and had to pass up, because they were just to expensive to purchase back in the day. Example, how do you justify paying $549.99 for a 3 inch Philips 3LC2050/05G active matrix color LCD television, with electronic tuning and preset memory storage of channels in 1990? It was so very cool, but that price was impossible. See Page Four
We found most of the micro televisions we wanted to add to the time line collection which you can see, starting with the Vintage Micro TV page, but still a few sets have eluded us.
In 2013, we shifted our focus and started looking for prime examples of the vintage early color televisions we grew up with and appreciate. We created this page to present our Vintage RCA Color Televisions in the order found. We hope to add a few more sets, but that might require a larger home.
MEMORIES OF A SELF PROCLAIMED TV JUNKIE
I trace my appreciation of electronics from my earliest memories of being fascinated with a green magic eye tuning indicator on my parents’ radio. It was a tube that emitted electrons and would shrink or enlarge as one turned the tuning dial. The station was properly tuned when the green light was at its maximum.
I think it was a Grundig or Telefunken short wave.
My parents also had one of those large vertical multi-band console radios with a fancy tuning dial from the 1930s or 40s. This image is the same set, but with a different finish and grill cloth. The radio had several speakers in the bottom portion. One was a 15 inch. The set had awesome bass and sound, and it may have had a magic eye tuning indicator. I can’t remember exactly. I do remember that I had to stand on a chair to reach the illuminated tuning dial. I loved to play with the buttons and knobs.
I also remember looking into the vent holes in back of a RCA table radio in our kitchen. I liked the warm glow of the tubes. I would even smell the odor coming from the vent holes. I was about four or five years of age when playing with these radios.
Mechanical things fascinated me at this very early age. I guess most kids were the same way. I liked the sound and feel of repeatedly tripping the shutter of my parents Ansco Shur Shot 20 camera. I saved that camera and have it today.
My father also had a precision German racing clock. It was encased in oak. I would open it and try to figure out how all the gears worked. First, my father put racing data into a small brass capsule. Then he inserted the capsule to advance it with a hand wrench and the time would be printed on a paper roll which advanced after every insertion of a capsule and a quarter turn of the wrench. The smell of the oils and ink were intoxicating every time I opened that oak case. I had to sneak around to do this as he wouldn’t allow me to touch it. I saved that clock, and it still keeps time and prints out on the paper roll.
My next door neighbor, who was one of nine kids and three years older than me, had an electronic work bench. He was always working on gadgets, and I learned a lot from him. He earned an amateur radio license at a very early age.
When my mother took me on a trip to Joliet, IL, I learned that one of my older cousins also had an amateur license. I was fascinated by all the dials and meters on the equipment. Intently, I listened to them talk to people in distant places. These early experiences influenced my interests in radio, television and gadgets.
For reasons I will not attempt to explain, we didn’t pursue a career in electronics. Instead, we served our country’s military obligation and then a 41 year career in real estate law, followed by a short stint in law enforcement.
My father bought our first television in 1954. I was 7 at the time and remember that it was an upright Travler black and white console. I could not find any old family photos, but it looked like this set. Excitedly on Saturday mornings, I planned the entire morning viewing schedule which started with cartoons. Then came The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickcock, (do you remember the raspy throated sidekick, Jingles, played by Andy Devine?), The Lone Ranger, Fury, Sky King, and closing with Mister Wizard. We only had 3 channels back then, and we had to switch to another channel to catch each show. I sat on the carpeted floor enthralled in front of the tube and watched these shows just about every Saturday morning. As a kid, I would set up the “TV dinner tray” (ours was the red/pink roses on black background) and eat my breakfast watching these shows, I did not want to miss a thing.
I saw my first color show in 1956 at my Uncle’s house. We were invited over just to watch his new color television. It was a big deal, we had dinner and then we all sat around the set and he turned it on. It was a drama late at night and the experience was magical. I loved watching television as a kid and now to see it in color was amazing. My parents could not afford a color set and when Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, the color specials, or the Rose Parade was on, I felt left out.
Seeing that first color show at my uncles house in 1956, put a spark in my eye which ignited a life long obsession with television and gadgets. About the same time I began to tinker with crystal radios and electronic projects. I found an old discarded upright black and white television console sitting in a junk pile in back of a nearby neighborhood TV repair shop. I asked the owner if I could have it, he said it was junk, but I could have it. He helped me lift it in my red coaster wagon and I pulled it home. We got it working and it was my first television which went in my bedroom. I read all the newspapers, went to the library, read magazines at newsstands to learn more about television, especially color television. In later years, I’d ride all over town on a bus to watch color TV programs at Boston Store, Gimbals and Schusters downtown department stores and visited all the appliance stores just to see color TV.
Color TV in our home would have to wait until I started work in early 1965 and purchased our first family color set in 1966.
WTMJ-TV CHANNEL 4 MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN.
My hometown television station, WTMJ-TV, channel 4, Milwaukee played a prominent role in early color television history. As a pioneering color television station, here are some of their firsts.
1. December 20, 1953: First color cast, “Amahl and the Night Vistors”, just 3 days after the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) approved the national compatable color standards.
2. January 1, 1954: First network color cast, the annual Tournament of Roses parade by NBC.
3. June 16 and 17, 1954, WTMJ-TV’s mobile color unit broadcast segments of the NBC-TV “Home” show from Whitnall Park, the first color network origination from Milwaukee.
4. July 18, 1954: First local broadcast in color in Wisconsin, the “Grenadiers”.
5. July 20, 1954: First commercially sponsored color program in Wisconsin, the “Layton Art Story” The sponsor was the Blatz Brewing Company.
Delivery of the first RCA TK41 color camera to WTMJ television, a Milwaukee Journal Company in April, 1954.
Channel 4 placed in operation on November 14,1954, a color film projector so it could broadcast all forms of color, local live programs, films, slides and network color.
Another 1954 on screen logo, courtesy Broadcast News Magazine.
A self promotion report of WTMJ-TV’s first year of programming which began on December 3, 1947.
Here is an excellent dissertation of early television history, color television history and Milwaukee’s role, highlighting WTMJ-TV, channel 4 Milwaukee. The information was compiled by Dick Golembiewski a Milwaukee television historian who recently passed away. Courtesy of Milwaukeehorrorhosts.com. Part one PDF. Part two PDF. Each file 15 MB.
A brief excerpt from the above dissertation:
“WTMJ-TV was one of the first stations in the country to purchase color equipment, and in December 1953, it broadcast the color television program Amahl and the Night Visitors from NBC, when only two prototype color sets (RCA Model 5) existed in Milwaukee. The first color television sets in the city were sold in April 1954; by July of that year, WTMJ broadcast its first local color program originating from its studios, The Grenadiers, becoming the third television station in the U.S. with live color capability. Later, about 3000 color sets existed in Milwaukee in February 1957.”
This is how the Milwaukee Journal newspaper reported Milwaukee’s reaction to the telecast of the January 1,1954 Tournament Of Roses Parade which was the third color telecast in Milwaukee:
As of April 23, 1954, Milwaukee area had 55 color receivers in operation.
The previous day on December 31, 1953, the Milwaukee Journal reported that there were at least nine prototype sets in Milwaukee for the Rose Parade color telecast. Four private showings and the one public showing at American Appliance & TV.
An excellent article appearing in the December, 1954 issue of Broadcast News describing the color studios of WTMJ-TV during the first and second years of operation.
WTMJ-TV PDF Part One 8 MB
WTMJ-TV PDF Part Two 8 MB
As you can see, WTMJ was serious about color broadcasting. The station was owned by the Milwaukee Journal newspaper. The owners foresaw the importance of color television advertising and marketing.
In 1967, WTMJ-TV hired a young reporter, his name was John McCullough. He was assigned field reporting duties and fill in or weekend anchor spots. He distinguished himself shortly after joining the station when he was assigned to cover the July 30 through August 3, 1967 racial riots in Milwaukee as anchor. He reported all through the night and coming days and nights on this story. I watched his coverage throughout the incident and was impressed in the way he handled the incident. I wondered when he would get a chance to sleep because he was on screen virtually 24 hours straight. WTMJ did not break away from the story until the city had taken control of the situation. His on screen skills and professional demeanor impressed many Milwaukee viewers.
Apparently, his on screen presence and reporting skills impressed his superiors at the station as well. In a very short time after this incident, John McCullough was promoted to chief anchor. It came as no surprise to this viewer.
This viewer got to watch John report the news in Milwaukee until 1980, when my wife and I moved to the San Franscico Bay Area to continue our careers. John retired in 1988 after 21 years with WTMJ-TV. During his tenure, he received many awards and accolades. If he wanted, he could have joined one of the big television network markets as prime time anchor, perhaps NYC or LA. He was that good, but that was not his style. He loved his home state and had no desire to move away. He retired to Scottsdale, Az. which happens to be a short distance from this author. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 77. We miss his excellence in local television reporting. He set a very high bar, a standard I have not seen anyone equal since he left us.
We would like to present to you the viewer, a few photos of this man and a short video describing his career. The folks in the video were his colleagues and journalist from Wisconsin. Photos courtesy of UWM and Wisconsin Broadcast archives. John McCullough, the consummate news man.
MY FIRST COLOR TELEVISION, A 1966/67 RCA CTC-19 BREMANGER CONSOLETTE.
I purchased in the summer of 1966, a new 1966/67 RCA color. I had just graduated from high school in January 1965 and started my career shortly thereafter. Saved a few dollars, the prices were dropping and the new 1966-67 television season went 100% color in prime time, an incentive to buy color back then. I was addicted, so many great new color shows to watch on our new color television. I’d come home from hard days at work and remember watching shows like “Run For Your Life”, “I Spy”, “Get Smart”, “Bonanza”, “Laugh In”, “Hollywood Palace”, “The Flip Wilson Show” and the “Dean Martin Show” with the “Gold Diggers”.
The photo below is a set found June, 2013. This is the same exact set I purchased new in 1966. The advertising pitch: “24 thousand volts of power for the sharpest picture in the industry, all copper circuits for space age reliability, automatic tuning” Amusing to read today. 🙂
Update May 9, 2014: The safety glass is cracked, but we found a replacement new in box 19EYP22 from the ETF. Our next project.
1966/67 RCA Catalogue
My hometown newspaper, I purchased the set 9 months earlier.
Another advertisement showing the Bremanger published October 7, 1966, about two months after my purchase.
Posted July 12, 2014
RCA Canton Mark 9 Model 14G912MV with CTC-15E Chassis
This set was available to purchase in August, 1963, but is considered a 1964 model. I found this television July 10, 2014, a 100% original in excellent condition. I’m the third owner of this beautiful set. The following is the story from the previous owner who found this set May, 2010.
“Earlier this afternoon, I called up the guy out in Marengo, IL who had the oriental cabinet roundie that we were trying to figure out. Marengo is about 35 miles northwest of me, so I stopped out there after work to check it out with intentions to buy it whatever it was.
It turned out to be a 1963 RCA Victor model 14 G 912 MV, the “Canton” with the CTC-15E chassis. This TV is about as mint as they come, it appears to have NEVER been serviced, 100% original and its super low hours. It does work, it just needs some adjusting and tune up, the CRT is strong. Its got the 21FJP22 with some cataracts going on.
I was amazed that all the tags and labels are still bright white, they haven’t yellowed and deteriorated in any way like so many have, such as the tube layout diagrams. The wires are bright clean and gunk free which is another first. This TV basically never aged which is amazing. The chassis is just a little “powerdery” which is just some zinc oxide from the plating.
The guy who owned it, Vito, told me all about the TV. It was his parents, they bought it brand new in ’63. He said that mom and dad were making big money and doing well back in the 60’s, they owned a night club in Melrose Park back then and they had plenty of money, they bought only the best of the best and took excellent care of everything. They had a very large home and this was in the front room for more or less decoration and it was hardly ever used. They were not smokers of course, and their son (vito) has had it for about the last 15 years when they left Melrose Park, and he kept it upstairs with a towel on top to keep it from getting scratched. He had a bunch of vintage furniture too that was theirs. He was selling everything off to make room to move into an apartment as he was going through a divorce and needed everything basically gone.
Fortunately, I was able to save it, as I kid you not, he really did tell me how he “really wanted to make it into a fish tank, or even an LCD TV cabinet”. He really didn’t care about the significance of the TV for what it is. It was clearly the case of the TV only being saved all these years because it was in such a nice cabinet.
I was ready to pay the $200 for it when he asked if I could in any way help him move some furniture into the storage box he had dropped off in his driveway. “Sure no problem” and so I helped him move some large pieces and he knocked $50 off the set for my help.
We loaded up the set and it came home covered in blankets. This is one of those sets that you don’t want to touch as nobody ever had their hands in there messing things up. That Zenith chinese set was the same way. I took about 20 pictures of exactly how the wires were before I pulled it apart to fix the CRT. This will probably be the same deal, but I won’t be able to work on it for a while. I’m glad to have this one as part of the collection as its the comparable model to the Zenith oriental console I have, and both are 1963 models.
RCA really put out a top notch product with this set. The cabinet construction is outstanding.”
Fast forward four years. My seller, Doug has had this set in his collection for the last four years after picking it up from the above original owner in Marengo, IL. He said no work was performed on the set and just sat in his collection with no more then one hour of operation.
Recently, Doug put the set up for sale and here is his description.
“This is “The Canton”, model 14G912MV from 1963, a 21″ round screen color console featuring the unique, very limited production Oriental Provincial cabinet. The cabinet features a lustrous lacquered gloss black wood cabinet in excellent original condition with only minor marks and imperfections from over the years. It still shines after 51 years! The original speaker cloth material is near perfect. All labels and decals are present and in excellent condition, even the reflector “COLOR” emblem on front. All brass accenting hardware is clean with no corrosion. All knobs and controls are present and work smoothly. Since this TV was built before April 1, 1964, it features VHF tuning only! Not only is this TV in such nice original condition, but it is 100% undisturbed on the inside. The CTC-15 chassis has NEVER been serviced, it contains every single original tube with the 1963 production dates. This is almost unheard of. The original 21FJP22 tests almost perfect on all three guns. This TV is from a clean, dry, non-smoker home where it was in the living room since the day it was new. The TV saw essentially no use throughout it’s life because it was bought strictly as a piece of furniture for a rarely used living room in a very large home in the Chicago suburbs. The TV works great! Excellent bright color picture with proper balance of the hue range and well saturated colors. There is only slight cataracts on the picture tube, but still presents itself well. The original capacitors are still good, they stay cool to the touch when the set is powered up. It would be a shame to even consider electronically restoring this set because it is so original still yet it works! They are only original once. Since this is a higher end cabinet from RCA, it also features a larger speaker for room filling sound! And yes indeed, the TV sounds very nice with powerful deep bass and crisp trebles! Also featured is a unique red pilot light on the bottom center of the cabinet which also works. The sliding doors work perfectly and do not get hung up. This is an extremely high quality built television with a solid cabinet made of quality materials and hardwoods. It is quite heavy, about 200 lbs. The cabinet measures 45-1/4″ long, 22-1/2″ wide (include an additional 6″ for the tube cap on back), 31″ high.”
Doug has well over 100 televisions in his collection and needed to part with this beautiful set and now I am the lucky owner. I have been searching for my first vintage color console (other then my RCA CTC-19 consolette) to add to my collection. I never expected to find a set in this near mint condition.
The set arrived safely in all its polished, lacquered, ebony finish. RCA described it as “a modern Oriental design with smooth sliding tambour doors and Dynasty door pulls for added flair.” Although this television is a 1964 model, we know it was built prior to April 30, 1964, (most likely mid 1963) because the “All Channel Receiver Act” passed by Congress in 1961, required all television receivers sold in the United States be equipped with built in UHF tuners as of that date and this set has no UHF tuner. You can see a provision for adding the tuner on the front bezel in the below photos. Additionally, this model started appearing in RCA showrooms in late August, 1963 and the former owner said the the tubes are coded with 1963 production dates. Here is a newspaper article from the Chicago Tribune, dated November 10, 1963. The Canton is featured in the top photo. An advertisement featuring the Canton Mark 9 appearing in the October 31, 1963 addition of the Herald Stateman newspaper, Yonkers, N.Y.
Despite extraordinary efforts in the crate and freight shipping to my home, the set appears to have suffered some slight damage. The tube apparently shifted slightly from vibration and images appears tilted. When tuning the set to its optimum, the color seems to shift back and forth, but if I tune clockwise well past the optimum point, the color stabilizes. Also, while manually switching through the channels with the selector, I noticed twice, that the vertical went out twice for a split second. That is scary to see. I hope we did not crack a board from vibration. We will remove the back cover and check all the tubes to be sure they are seated properly as well as inspect for visual damage. I will need a qualified technician if damage is found. In all other respects, the set is exactly as described. We will update later.
Update, October 16, 2014: We finally found a qualified service technician and today, he came to my home. He operated a repair shop for 55 years and is now retired. We removed the back cover and attached a color bar and cross hatch generator. We then attached video by way of a digital converter box sending an OTA signal. A quick visual showed no damage. He adjusted the yoke to remove the tilt in the image. He also adjusted the vertical linearity and convergence. He brought his degaussing coil, but it was not necessary as the purity was excellent. A little WD40 cleared up the noisy contrast control. No parts or tubes were replaced, so we still have a 100% original. We have an excellent image for a 51 year old TV. He also commented that the CRT looked strong and that the set was never converged outside the factory because the screws holding the convergence panel had never been loosened. We saw the all original tubes and components on the very clean chassis, just a little dust.
The tags and diagrams are in very good condition and the wiring is clean and bright. As Doug said, the set has defied the aging process.
The fine tuning control worked perfectly and we did not see the problem with the color fading out as I had reported. We had a beautiful color image so nothing further was done. He left and all was good, but after about 2 to 3 hours of operation, the color faded out to almost nothing. Eight hours later, I turned on the set and once again had a beautiful color image. This time it was only operating 1/2 hour with no problem. Tomorrow, we will run the set longer to see if the color fades out again.
Here, a view of the cross hatch pattern and the CTC-15E chassis. The fresh fingerprints on the CRT neck are from adjusting the yoke today. View the PDF. 15 MB.
Tap or click on images for full view.
The television was tested for 3 hours on October 17, 2014 and these screen shots were taken from the game show, The Price Is Right which I thought was appropriate since the show premiered during the golden age of television in 1956, hosted by Bill Cullen and yes we were around and remember that show very well. To bad about the beginning stage cataract, but we hope to keep this set 100% original as long as possible. As always, all screen shots are unretouched.
Update November 14, 2014: After operating the set for about 2 1/2 hours, the color faded out again, so while the set was in this condition, we removed two suspected tubes and let them cool down one at a time. After cooling down, we placed them back in the chassis and the color returned briefly and faded again. Next, we replaced the suspected 6GH8A OSC. tube with a new one and the problem persisted. Next, we adjusted the 3.58 Oscillator slug and saw a big improvement. Further tweaking and the color remained stable. We think we solved the problem and left the original 1963 coded 6GH8A installed and we still have a 100% original CTC-15. I want to thank the members of Videokarma forum for helping me isolate the problem and of course, Frank.
Posted June 1, 2015.
RCA Worthington CTC-7 Model 21-RC-8995 Color Television.
This television was acquired from the Estate of Ed Reitan who passed away earlier this year. The set was auctioned off at the annual Early Television Convention last month. We were fortunate to have won the auction of this beautiful, extremely rare television.
For those of you who do not know Ed Reitan, I would like to present a brief synopsis of his career. I first learned about Ed through the Early Television Foundation website. He was a regular contributor and supporter of ETF. He created his own website, http://www.novia.net/~ereitan/ about the early history of color television. This site is one of the most comprehensive of many sites on the subject. I never met Ed, but did have several telephone conversations with him regarding the Chromatron color system. It was with great sadness that I learned of his passing early this year. (2015)
The following two video tributes for Ed Reitan will give you more information about the man.
Update August 10, 2015
We contacted Kris Trexler about the possibility of obtaining a copy of the restored “An Evening With Fred Astaire“. We would like to produce a video showing the restored RCA Worthington displaying this program as a tribute to Ed’s work on the restoration of that television special and the fact that the Worthington was his set. The Astaire special aired on NBC October 17, 1958 and the Worthington was released for sale in Fall of 1958. A perfect marriage of vintage programming with a set from the same time period.
We received this from Kris Trexler, “Perhaps you’ve seen Richard Wirth’s recent story about Ed and the restoration:” http://www.provideocoalition.com/restoration-of-television-history
Kris is a two time Emmy award winning video/film editor, and has been honored with five Emmy nominations during his long career. Kris has worked with Hollywood’s top television producers and directors, having edited many genres including situation comedies, music videos, large scale music-variety shows, and segments for Oscars Academy Awards telecasts.
Update, December 22, 2016
My friend Steve who was a good friend of Ed, lived close by and visited his apartment frequently, sent this:
“I may have previously sent you the attached photo of Ed Reitan’s Worthington as it sat in his dining room for all those years. This just prior to me taping the remote door closed to avoid losing the remote unit. Then supervising loading the set into its shipping crate.”
Because of your delegence Steve, the set arrived in safe condition at the Early Television Museum and our shippers careful attention in crating the set, ultimately the set reached us in great shape.
June 1, 2015.
The television arrived at my home today and we are the proud new custodian of this beautiful television. It will be properly restored and cared for. Here, we present historic photos and information about the television.
Data sheet, courtesy Ed Reitan.
Cut sheets courtesy of Ryan Reuterskiold
Life Magazine September 8, 1958.
Click on below image for full view.
An article appearing in the July, 1958 issue of Electronic Age, courtesy RCA.
Another article in the October, 1958 issue of of Electronics Age, courtesy RCA.
Screen shots from the movie, “Please Don’t Eat The Daisies” release date March 31, 1960. Most movies are usually in production for a year or more. The Worthington for these scenes was probably procured late 1958, early 1959. The family gathers around their new television near the end of the movie.
A vintage video courtesy of RCA and Remote Central Reports. We are not sure why the video is labeled “1961”. It is misleading, because this television was introduced in the Fall of 1958. The video is in the public domain.
A screen grab from the above video.
The Worthington is part of the late series CTC-7 sets and went on sale in the Fall of 1958. It was the top of the line, high end, limited edition model which sold for an outrageous $1200.00, at a time when the next highest color set in the 1958 lineup, sold for $695.00. With this model, RCA wanted to demonstrate the highest technology possible just 4 years after RCA’s first color set, the model CT 100. The Worthington was the first color television to use wireless remote. The remote was stored in a red velvet lined left drawer and the the remote was duplicated by a hard wired identical keypad stored in the right drawer. This arrangement presents a sleek looking color television with all the controls hidden, out of site. RCA called it the “Wireless Wizard” and it was a 7 function remote with 14 push buttons. In the following years after the introduction of the Worthington, RCA color sets and other brands, would only use a 3 or 4 function remote. One can see the technology statement RCA was making with this set.
The following photo journal, will chronicle in the days and months ahead, the restoration of the 1958 RCA Worthington CTC-7 color television.
June 1, 2015: Day one, arrival.
The television was located at Ed Reitan’s apartment in Westwood, California, where it stayed for many years. It was shipped to the Early Television Museum in Hilliard, Ohio for the auction. From there, it was safely shipped to my home in Arizona. Very well packaged with triple protection. You can see the serial number in the eighth photo, or it could be the cabinet serial number. We shall see when we remove the back cover. The remote is in excellent condition with only minor traces of battery corrosion. It uses ultrasonic sound and the receiving unit is located just above the remote control drawer on the left. This remote could prove to be a major headache, due to its complicated operating mechanisms. More about it later. A tag at the rear of the set reads “Panoramic Sound”. I can see that the set has four speakers through the wood grill work. The mahogany cabinet has only minor scratches and scuffs. The CRT tested good at the ETF.
June 4, 2015, Day four.
We moved the RCA Worthington CTC-7 to its climate controlled temporary location. We hand rubbed a light coat of high quality Danish teak oil which is also good for mahogany finishes. The oil penetrated well and concealed almost all of the minor scratches and scuffs, and brought out the natural color of the finish. There are a few nicks along the side of the cabinet which will be delt with later. We cleaned the glass and the next step will be to add brass restorer to brighten the trim pieces. The cabinet is in very good condition, so we won’t have to do much more.
We noticed several differences in my set compared to the You Tube video. First, the drawer pulls appear to be wood and not brass as on my set. Additionally, the “on” and “off” buttons on the hard wired keypad are clear in the video and not black like my set.
Another difference, you will notice that in the Life magazine advertisement and the two photos from Electronic Age, they do not show a remote control drawer on the left hand side of the cabinet. Apparently, remote control was an option or there was a design change.
Tap or click on the first four images for full view.
To operate the set, the user pushes the “on” or “off” black buttons on the hard wired keypad and the red pilot light located at the bottom center of the cabinet illuminates. All functions of the television can be adjusted with the keypad. The user can also adjust the set with the 7 function remote control which has the same identical push buttons including turning the set on and off. The set will be in “standby” mode until the user pushes the main “off” switch on the hard wired keypad and the pilot light will then extinguish.
Next, open the cabinet, inspection, recapping if required and controlled power up.
July 23, 2015, Day fifty three.
Inspection, controlled power up and first raster.
My friend, Frank came out today to help me troubleshoot the RCA Worthington. We removed the back cover.
Start of controlled power up.
Gradual increase in voltage, no obvious signs of problems. Frank felt the filter cans were good. Don’t know how he determined that except by touch. I will say that Frank owned and operated his own television and radio repair shop in Phoenix for 65 years. He was working on sets prior to the dawn of color television in 1953. He told me that he worked on just about every RCA chassis as well as other brands. He is retired and has medical issues. His wealth of knowledge were greatly appreciated by this rookie. I got my hands dirty for the first time on a vintage color television.
Service tag found.
New capacitor found probably installed with the new service.
Full power, first raster.
We could not change channels with the hard wired key pad. The tuner was locked on channel 10. We needed to change the channel to 3 so that a digital converter box could display an over the air telecast. We pulled the chassis to see what was going on with the tuner. We found that the actuator plunger was working and depressing, but the gears were not turning, or the servo motors were malfunctioning.
This was my biggest fear when I purchased the set. When we first saw the auction photos on the ETF, we noticed the channel indicator was on channel 10. That told me the set was probably not operated since the digital switch over in 2009 and that the tuner was probably inoperable. It would need to have been set on channel 3 or 4 for a digital converter box to display a signal. Same thing for a DVD player. One of Ed Reitan’s good friends told me that he visited Ed’s nearby home frequently through the years and he never saw the Worthington operating while visiting.
The problem could be any number of things causing the lock up. The relay might be defective, one or more solonoids may be mal-functioning, broken gear(s), lubrication?
The actuator is the slender rod at the bottom of the below photo. When one of the seven push buttons on the hard wired key pad is depressed, we can see this rod move inward, but the gears do not rotate. You can see four of the seven servo motors in this photo.
I managed to manually rotate the white nylon disk with chain drive, clockwise, one channel at a time until I reached channel 3.
Success, first image on screen, but just black and white and we can’t fine tune the set because the gears and or servos are frozen! The image is too blue, we need to adjust the grey scale.
We pulled the key pad from its mount to make it easier to troubleshoot the frozen gear/servo system.
This photo shows the fine tuning gear assembly. The brass gear on top is designed to disengage from the channel selector white nylon assembly below. I managed to fine tune the tuner by rotating this gear manually so that a color image appeared. We have no idea at this point which servo motor corresponds to the color, tint and volume push buttons. At this point, the gears are frozen and can not be rotated manually.
Pleasantly surprised by the first color images seen on this set. In the below photo, you can see that the tuner was pulled from the front of the cabinet.
First color images. We can see linearity, purity, AGC and convergence problems. The image pulls in from the right after a few hours of operation. This is visible in a few of the below images. We are lucky, because the color and tint appear to have been adjusted properly prior to the servo/gear problem. Much work to be done.
The power indicator lamp illuminates.
July 24, 2015, Day fifty four.
We swapped the two 6CG7 tubes to see if this might correct the image pull. These five screen shots were taken 45 to 75 minutes after the set was powered up. We now have a full raster, no pull or shrinkage of image. We have a purity problem in the lower right side of screen. This set does not have an automatic degaussing circuit. We will attempt to fix with a degaussing coil and do a complete setup. We need to fix the AGC problem as well. The tuner servo/gear assembly will be a challenge.
July 29, 2015, Day fifty nine.
Being a rookie at diagnosing these old sets, (this is my first chassis pull and I had to pick a set with a complicated relay/servo/solenoid controlled tuner) not sure what is going on in these photos.
The dark spot is sticky to the touch. Leaking capacitor?
Posted August 7, 2015: From Justin of Stellar Electronics. “That sticky spot on the high voltage cage is ‘runoff’ from the chemical decomposition of the wiring right above it. The plastic sheathing starts to decompose and gets sticky. Combined with heat, the stuff drips off and pools like that.”
The remote control chassis. Looks like we may be able to trim or adjust the color, tint, brightness, etc. settings at the back of chassis? From Adam at Videokarma: “Those controls on the side of the remote chassis look like what they do is basically adjust how strong the signal from the remote has to be to activate the relay.”
Replacement Sylvania and GE tubes found.
Model and chassis numbers.
Four speaker “Panoramic” sound. “Woofers and tweeters”. Notice the “tweeters” are angled outward.
We just acquired the Sams folder for this chassis CTC7AM, remote control chassis CTP6A and remote control CRK1A, 6.5 volts. We also have the service clinic booklet thanks to the ETF.
Go to Vintage RCA Vintage Color TV Page Three for continuation of the restoration.
Posted October 3, 2015
RCA 21-CT-55 Color Television also known as “The Spectaular”.
Prototype 21 inch color television by RCA.
We are pleased to have added one of the rarest vintage color televisions to the collection, the RCA 21-CT-55 which went into production in November, 1954 and became available in dealer showrooms in January, 1955. A limited number were available in time for Christmas delivery, 1954. This was the second production RCA color television introduced after the historic RCA CT-100, first introduced in April, 1954. RCA had planned on a 19 inch color model, then cancelled development and leapfrogged to this 21 inch set which was the worlds first 21 inch round color tube designated 21AXP22. It has an area of approximately 255 square inches (2 1/2 times the CT-100). The 21-CT-55 used basically the same chassis (CTC 2B) as the CT-100, but modified to drive the larger 21 inch tube.
With RCA’s first color set, the Merrill CT-100, sales were dismal for good reasons. The price was $995.00, almost the price of a new car. A 1954 Chevy Bel Air 2 door was $1830. (The CT-100 price was later rebated to $495.00 in the same year of introduction and the unsold sets were recalled. Many of the recalled sets were donated to technical schools and institutions as learning tools.) The picture produced by the Merrill was just 12 1/2 inches, a size harkening back to the early days of black and white television. It was like peering into a airliner window. Folks were used to seeing at least 17 inch black and white televisions. People wanted bigger color sets. Another drawback, there were only 68 hours of color programming the first year, then increasing to about six hours of color programming a week in the later years and the CT-100 and other early sets produced dim color images. People closed their drapes to watch and the Merrill was finicky and difficult to adjust for the average owner. The color was inconsistent and folks reported color fringing on black and white programming. This author remembers seeing his first color set in 1956. It was nothing short of amazing seeing color television for the first time. At the time, I was nine years old and can say the flesh tones never looked good, often with a green cast and the image was blurry to me. I remember some people were afraid of color television and thought they were unreliable. I remember the owner (my Uncle) of the set I saw in 1956 telling me “don’t touch it, the color is good now, if you adjust it, the color will look bad and I will never get it right again”, or something very close to this. From personal experiences in those early days, the problem was adjusting the “rabbit ears” antennas sitting atop the sets. It was a combination of adjusting the antenna, the tuner and the color controls and it was hard to get it right.
All that said, it didn’t matter. It was color! and this author was hooked. I tried to learn everything I could about color television.
Under the direction of Chairman General David Snaroff, RCA launched a crash program to develop a larger color tube and a color television with improved performance. The RCA marketing campaign called it “simplified big color”. Here is an article in PDF format from a Lancaster, Pennsylvania newspaper where the early RCA color tubes were made. It describes the recollections of the RCA engineers who developed the CT-100 and the 21-CT-55 color tubes.
It has been reported that only 3000 21-CT-55 sets were produced, (5000 CT-100 sets) about 2000 less then the RCA CT-100. The cabinet serial number on my set is 1954. The chassis serial number is B8801261, about midway in the list of surviving sets. According to the Early Television Foundation, there are only 29 of these sets known to exist. Early this year, a 21-CT-55 was found by a VideoKarma member located in Omaha, Nebraska. You can read about it here. The restoration is near completion.
It is interesting to note that this model was the only set in the RCA color lineup then and in future sets, not given a name such as the “Merrill”, “Worthington”, “Canton”, or “Bremanger”, almost as though it was meant to be a limited edition, or test bed prototype of the new “simplified big color” 21 inch tube.
Here, photos of the set still located at its former owners location. We have been informed the RCA 21AXP22 CRT tested excellent. The set will require recapping of its old paper capacitors and the set will be tested prior to power up.
During my research of the RCA 21-CT-55, I found an unpublished book, courtesy of the David Snaroff Library. A small excerpt follows:
Pioneering in Electronics
A Short History of the Origins and Growth of RCA Laboratories, Radio Corporation of America, 1919 to 1964
by Kenyon Kilbon
Revised Draft August 1964
Chapter Nine – Television: Monochrome to Color
“The laboratories had one more important contribution to make to the commercial success of the new system. (electronic compatible tri-color shadow mask, adopted December, 17, 1953) During 1953–54, a concentrated effort was made to reduce the complexity of the color receiver (CT-100) with the aim of simplifying production techniques and reducing costs. At Princeton, Pritchard and others in Kell’s group worked out a number of innovations that helped to simplify (p. 242) the receiver. Earl Anderson, Edwin M. Hinsdale, and others at the Industry Service Laboratory in New York applied their talents to the same end. The results were shown to RCA licensees and the press at the David Sarnoff Research Center in September 1954.
The new achievement was a vastly simplified high-performance color television receiver with an improved 21-inch picture tube. (21-CT-55) The demonstration was a valedictory for RCA Laboratories as far as today’s commercial color television system is concerned. The equipment shown at Princeton, and the studio apparatus and transmitters which supplied the program material from NBC in New York, were the ultimate fruits of work that had been initiated and energetically pursued by the research staff under great pressures and in the face of great technical obstacles. It represented as well the outstanding contribution of the engineering staffs at Camden, Harrison, Lancaster, and NBC in New York.
As the scene shifted in 1954 from the laboratories to the factory, the broadcast studio, and the market place, more than $50 million already had been invested in the RCA color system, detailed information had been distributed to the television industry, and color was ready to move onto the production line.”
Author, Kenyon Kilbon of the David Sarnoff Research Center’s Public Affairs staff.
This article, courtesy of AmericanHistory.com is from the October, 1954 issue of Radio Age magazine describing a prototype 21 inch color television.
Here is a follow up article from the same magazine, but published January, 1955, announcing the RCA 21-CT-55.
Update, October 20, 2017
We inquired at the Videokarma forum if anyone had a theory as to why RCA did not give the 21CT55 a name. This from Dave Arland:
“The 21-CT-55 was, indeed, given a name — “The Spectacular” — as seen in this posed shot from the Bloomington, Indiana production line. But no one knows exactly why that name never stuck. At this time, of course, NBC was staging “color spectaculars” to show off color TV to the very, very wealthy who had it at home.”
I found this shot in the RCA archives at the Indiana Historical Society — and Ed Reitan and I used it in an ETF Presentation about the first year of color receivers a few years ago. RIP, Ed!”
21CT55’s ”Coming off the line” in December, 1954, courtesy Dave Arland.
An RCA advertisement for the newly developed 21AXP22 CRT appearing in Life magazine, February 14, 1955. (Thanks Ben)
UPDATE, FEBRUARY 8, 2017
From my friend Steve: “Hi Marshall,
I hope you are doing well in the new year. I was turning pages in a 1955 TV information publication and came upon this photo.
Figure I’d send it along to you as I have never seen it before. So even if you just file it, you have it.
An article appearing in an RCA publication, RCA What It Is – What It Does 1955
Newspaper advertisement published January 20, 1955.
Win a big color TV advertisement.
This ad appeared simultaneously in major Sunday newspapers across the country on March 6, 1955. This ad is from The Daily Herald, Provo, Utah.
This photograph was provided by the Abilene (Texas) Library Consortium.
This is the first color studio in “30 Rock”, NYC. Studio 3K NBC went on air for the first time on September 12, 1955, broadcasting the Howdy Doody show. You can see three or four RCA 21CT55’s. Photo courtesy Gady Reinhold.
Here are follow up articles provided by Steve Dichter regarding studio 3K. Read the PDF.
Three RCA 21-CT-55 color “home” receivers were used as studio monitors in the NBC Burbank, California studio control room in 1955 until they were replaced later by professional monitors. Photo courtesy of Radio & Television News.
A contribution from Steve Dichter, “I know you posted on your 21-CT-55 page the Radio-Television News cover color photo of the NBC Burbank color video control room. Not sure if you have the NBC New York photo of their color video control room. You can see this is probably just a bit earlier than the Burbank photo. The 21-CT-55 in the center flanked by RCA CT-100’s. If you look closely you can see additional CT-100’s in the bank of monitors in the next room.”
This photo was published in the book, “Window on the World” published 1965 by Charles I. Coombs.
Thank you Steve.
This advertisement appeared in TV Guide, July, 1957.
An article appearing in RCA Engineer magazine, June-July, 1959.
RCA 21-CT-55 promotional sale flyer, courtesy Ed Reitan.
RCA “Big Color” advertisement for the new 21 inch color 21-CT-55 color television courtesy Early Television Foundation. View PDF here.
A 1971 RCA advertisement proclaiming the reliability of the RCA 21CT55. A couple shown with their 21CT55.
We will be updating with additional photos and information as the restoration progresses in the days and weeks to come.
UPDATE, DAY 37 NOVEMBER 8, 2015
The RCA 21-CT-55 restoration started today. As previously mentioned, I do not possess the skills to attempt restoration of this set on my own. We asked Dave May who is a Field Representative for Amptech Systems located in Warren, Ohio, if he would be interested in restoring this set and he accepted. I know my television is in good hands and I’m sure some of my viewers know him from his work with the Early Television Foundation. He was recommended by Steve McVoy, owner of the museum. Here is his personal website. As you can see, he is experienced in television restoration and has excellent resources.
Today, Dave removed the chassis from the cabinet and began working on it, independent of the cabinet and CRT.
“So far, it appears in overall good condition. On visual, the fly does not appear to have any burn marks.”
“I did find a potential issue. There is a ballast tube on the chassis. If it’s bad, there is a workaround, and it will preserve the original appearance. I’ll worry about that later. It is very unlikely that I’ll do a soft start considering all the bad caps. Someone replaced an electrolytic and did it in a shoddy way. I will restuff the cans if possible (depends on the size of the replacements) or hide new ones underneath. All paper, bumblebee and brown mylar caps will be replaced. All tubes will be checked and bad ones replaced. I will add fusing to the b+ and the horizontal output cathode circuit. It looks like I can use my Telematic rig to check post recap performance. I will send pics as I go.”
UPDATE, DAY 72 DECEMBER 13, 2015
Comments and photos from Dave.
“Enclosed are the chassis shots before any restoration begins. I am sending you full sized and resized copies. You will see a very questionable repair. Due to this repair, I will not attempt a soft start.
[Here are shots of the chassis before any restoration. Due to the number of wax and plastic caps, and a very questionable repair, I will not even think of attempting a soft start. I will check all tubes, replacing all bad ones. The tuner and all controls will be cleaned. I will replace all paper and electrolytic caps. The high voltage doorknob caps should be OK. I hope so since replacements, if even available, will not be cheap. Someone added an additional switch. This was located on the back of the cabinet. I need to confirm the set’s original switch is good. If so, the extra one will be removed electrically, but reinstalled in the cabinet to fill the hole that was drilled for it. I will use my Telematic rig to check performance and debug if necessary.]”
Authors note: A Telematic rig is a substitution CRT with various adapters for televion chassis. The cabinet and original CRT were left with the former owner for now.
UPDATE, DAY 100 JANUARY 10, 2016
“I have the chassis mostly recapped. I’m waiting for an order which will give us the one high voltage cap needed. I also found more repairs and additions that look less than professional and not to RCA specs. In the next couple of days, I’ll be restuffing the lytics and hopefully applying power. More pics will follow after the lytics are done.”
UPDATE, DAY 114 JANUARY 24, 2016
The restoration continues. From Dave:
“I finished the recap and applied power. The ballast tube is still good. With no signal source, I got snow from the speaker. I used an actual RCA loudspeaker with the audio output transformer attached. Just as high voltage was about to come up, I saw the 6CB5 (horizontal output tube) arcing internally. I tested the tube and the needle on the tester pegged. The tube is bad. I will need to order some from Steve. During the week, I will test the remaining tubes and replace any that have grid leakage, heater/cathode leakage or low emission. I will replace the three 3A2’s (HV rectifiers) and the 6BK4 (HV regulator) as precaution. The following were non-RCA modifications and were corrected:
1. An audio jack was added. I’m not sure if it was to tie the set to a separate amplifier or for an audio input. There was no such jack shown in either the RCA or SAMS manuals, so it went away.
2. The two voltage doubler caps had been replaced at some time. They were only 120mf. The prints called for 200mf. These cans were restuffed with the correct values. The “extra” can (47mf) was removed.
3. The selenium rectifiers were replaced. Here, they used a pair of silicon rectifiers on each side with dropping resistors. I will replace these with 1N4007’s, one for each side. I may need to add a dropping resistor to the main B+. This will need to be confirmed.
It turns out the yoke adapter I made when I did Steve’s CTC-5 is a direct match for the 21CT55. Once I confirm operation on the rig, I will try to get to Hilliard and finish the restoration. The weather will play an important role. So will my on call schedule.
That’s all for now.”
UPDATE, DAY 128 FEBRUARY 7, 2016
The restoration is progressing, from Dave:
“Enclosed are pics of the chassis after recapping.
I finished testing the tubes. I discovered 18 tubes with either low emission or inter-element leakage. Due to the leakage, these tubes are considered bad. I will check my stock and replace what I can. The rest will have to be ordered. All High voltage tubes will be replaced regardless of condition as a precaution.
I finished correcting the non-RCA mods. I decided to keep the existing low voltage rectifiers since they are good and the power supply is producing good voltage.
I discovered a tube socket broken. It is for the 5th video I-F. It will need to be replaced. I happen to have a junk RCA chassis which will donate a new socket. The socket is surrounded by shielding, but that should not be much of an issue. I will get a pic of the socket before I swap it out. I hope to place the tube order sometime this week. More to come.”
UPDATE, DAY 152, MARCH 2, 2016
“Enclosed is a shot of the bad tube socket. I will get a close up of the new one once I have the set working. The tubes I need have been ordered. Once I have these, I can proceed.”
UPDATE, DAY 170, MARCH 20, 2016
“I got the tubes I needed. I powered it up and got magic smoke in the vertical section. I feared the vertical output transformer was shorted. I removed it and checked the windings. They were within specs. The insulation on one of the leads had seen better days. I put heat shrink tubing on the leads and reinstalled the transformer. We still had magic smoke. It was the resistor feeding the transformer primary. I did get an unusual voltage reading. On the control grid of the 6BJ7 (vertical output), I was getting +60 volts on the control grid, where I should have had zero. It turned out that one of the new caps was shorted. I replaced it and the vertical was working. It actually fills out the telematics screen better than Steve’s CTC-5 did.
We have video issues, as in, no composite video. Several peaking coils are open. These are the cement encased ones. I will find replacements. For now, I clip-leaded them and we have video. I found yet another non-RCA mod had been done. Someone added a 10K resistor between the high side of the brightness control to ground. This caused lack of control over brightness and overloaded video. I removed this resistor and brightness control returned to normal. One of the two contrast controls has a bad spot, rendering the control open. 1500 ohm controls are not hard to find. I will replace it. With the setup as it is now, we also have color. I will replace the coils and contrast controls. The video is either overloaded or anemic. Once I do this, I can proceed.”
“This pic is the vertical section. The resistor circled in red was giving us magic smoke. The cap circled in yellow was shorted, as in bad out of the box.
Next up is where I had to clip lead all the bad peaking coils. It’s crude, but it works.
Finally, here’s a shot of the Telematic. As you can see, the video is overloaded due to a bad contrast control. I think replacing the control will get the video normal. I did darken the screen shot slightly due to the lighting.
Once I replace all these parts, I hope to have a very presentable picture. If so, then I can reassemble the set at the museum.”
Thanks Dave. It’s great to finally see video. More work to be done, but we are progressing well.
UPDATE, DAY 177, MARCH 27, 2016
The restoration is progressing.
“The coils I need arrived Thursday. I began replacing the bad ones yesterday. I had video, but there were issues.
Someone messed with the video and color alignment. I was able to get it as good as I could get it. The misaligned video was the reason the video looked overloaded or washed out. Once I got a decent black and white picture, I could now proceed to the color issue.
It turned out a resistor in the “Q” demodulator plate circuit drifted high. The RCA manual showed an 18K resistor. It read about 25K. I swapped it out and reds were back. Before finding this, people looked like “The Simpsons.” A color bar pattern confirmed some of this. The picture was stretched out horizontally, which is typical of my rig when servicing round tube sets. I got a decent bar pattern. Returning to a DVD confirmed the color issue was fixed. Over the air wasn’t as good, but still watchable.
I also had to replace one of the two contrast controls. The one in the rear had a bad spot. I found a replacement, but I had to modify the shaft to make it work. I wanted to find a 1/4″ coupling, but the store didn’t have any. I got what I needed in the plumbing department. This repair works.
Now, here are more pics:
Final shot of the now restored chassis. You can see the new video peaking coils.
This is the repair to the contrast control. I did a similar fix on a Philco I have. This fix does work.
Here is a shot from the cable. It is actually better than this shot shows. The lighting and being unable to pause live TV make this shot a not so good one. Now to…
Another shot from the DVD player.
Next step, off to the ETF for reassembly and setup. I plan to do this the weekend of 8 APR. With any luck, I’ll have it playing at the convention.”
UPDATE, DAY 190, APRIL 10, 2016
The restoration has been completed, from Dave today:
“9 APR 2016: I returned the chassis to the museum and reinstalled it in the cabinet. First light looked promising. I am using the same signal source used during restoration. This time, I didn’t have a signal booster. The first shot is the first color picture the 21AXP22 produced in years.
I then set up convergence and purity. The 21AX is difficult, if not impossible to achieve perfect convergence. As you can see, the left and right red/green are not converged. I tried everything I could think of, but those lines would not converge. The rest of the pattern seemed to converge. This actually turned out better than Steve’s 5 did. Purity is good. I did not need to adjust the magnets around the CRT. Despite not being able to achieve perfect convergence (I only get it on rectangular sets), it is very watchable.
Next is the chassis reinstalled. RCA decided that shorting clips were a good idea. It was a pain in the … The wire you see is wrapped around the clip that shorts the HV when the back is off. (No, the box cutter isn’t included). I was getting corona inside the cage. This may have been overlooked since I had the chassis on its side during restoration. There is a second shorting clip that activates when the cage is opened. I had to lay a 2×4 over it. The corona was gone. I removed the clips. Problem solved.
Here is the final shot. Due to the florescent lighting, the pics did not turn out as good as I hoped. I did darken them slightly. The picture on the 21AX is better than these shots show. The 21AX is not as bright as a 21FB or FJ would be. I did not have the pic set for full brightness or contrast. It is very watchable. I was also able to repair the pencil box. Here is the final shot.
In closing (insert applause here), this was not an easy restoration. The recap went well, as did the removal of non-RCA add-ons. Someone messed with practically every coil. 18 tubes were bad. One of the new caps was shorted on arrival.
I would like to thank Steve McVoy for recommending my services, and having the tubes I didn’t have. Marshall, I thank you and I’ll see you in Columbus.”
First Dave, I want to thank you for restoring this television. I simply do not have the expertise to work on a set like this one and overcome the many challenges along the way. I would freak out seeing that corona. I can’t wait to bring the set home and take additional screenshots. (Sending you a private message)
My comments after seeing the latest photos: It’s great to see the 21AXP22 light up in it’s own cabinet after probably decades in storage. The images are low resolution taken under less then ideal conditions as Dave mentioned. I can’t judge the image quality from these photos. They appear to have little color content and look unsaturated. A color bar test signal would be helpful. The best way to take a television screenshot is under almost total darkness and then to compose and fill the camera view finder with just the screen image so that the camera sensor measures the light from the CRT accurately. Trying to get a good exposure of the CRT image while trying to get a correct exposure of the cabinet will always end up with an over exposed screenshot. We are confident that in future updates, we can display higher quality, colorful images we know this set is capable of.
We are challenged by the low resolution, but I can clearly see the misconvergence at the outer edges of the crosshatch pattern, which is always difficult to get perfect.
This television will be on display during the Early Television Convention, April 29 through May 1, 2016 for anyone interested or attending, after which the set will be shipped home to me in Arizona. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and photograph it displaying high quality color content under proper conditions. Once again, thank you very much Dave for all your help on this set.
UPDATE, DAY 226, MAY 16, 2016
From Dave today. The CRT shows very good emissions on all three guns.
We are preparing to have the set crated and shipped in the next few days. An update will follow after the set is shipped to me.
UPDATE, DAY 247, JUNE 6, 2016
After 247 days from the day of purchase, the RCA 21CT55 finally arrived home to it’s new custodian. The crating company did an excellent job, using five layers of protection. The set was suspended on layers of construction insulation and crated in such a way that it was physically impossible for the set to move in any direction within the crate enclosure. You can see the two brass hooks attached to the front of the crate which were used to secure to the wall of the truck. We used express service which reduced truck transfers to minamize exposure to damage.
After 182 unscrews, we were finished uncrating. The set will remain in the garage overnight and hopefully we can get a helper to help me move this 200 pound set to its final location in my home theatre room. We recently purchased a new home which will allow me to display my RCA color console televisions together.
UPDATE, DAY 248, JUNE 7, 2016
We took the back cover off to inspect and found that the shipping company installed foam padding to protect the tubes and CRT neck. We see some flaking and breakdown of some masking material that surrounded the convergence coils. We will contact Dave with the below photos for comparisons after he last saw the television at the ETF convention on May 1, 2016. We don’t expect the flaking will affect the CRT performance, it’s just a breakdown due the set’s 62 year age.
Below, images taken early this morning. Notice the matching serial numbers.
We cleaned the cabinet and glass, gave it a light coat of high quality Danish teak oil which is also good for magonany finishes. The set is looking good. Here the 21CT55 shown in it’s final location. Tap on image for full view.
Our home theatre is under construction. When completed, we will have a state of the art 4K projection system in the forward portion and a vintage television section in the rear portion. Here, the RCA 21CT55 takes it’s place next to my RCA CT 7 Worthington and RCA CT 15 Canton. The CT 19 Bremanger will be added later. The display space is tight now because the room is under construction and we have furniture in temporary locations. Tap on image for full view. View the front portion of this room.
Next, signal source attachment and power up.
Today we attached a digital converter box, powered up and unfortunately we have bad news to report. We have good audio and raster. All adjustment controls work as they should, but we have unstable video. The video is pulsing (shrinking and expanding) rapidly with a faint snapping sound and won’t sync. This is not a vertical sync problem. I have not been able to resolve the problem with my limited technical knowledge on servicing.
Dave had a good image prior to shipment on May 1, so the logical conclusion is something happened during the 4 day transit. It’s to early to say, but probably vibration caused the problem. I did see some flaking on the chassis when I open the back, indicating vibration. Until we get the problem resolved, we can’t display screen shots.
UPDATE, DAY 250, JUNE 9, 2016
Dave diagnosed the problem as high voltage arcing based on a video I sent him. It may be a matter of something falling into the high voltage cage during transit and simply removing it. Dave also asked me to make sure the chassis and CRT are properly grounded. I understand that for sure! We need to do research before going further.
UPDATE, DAY 269, JUNE 28, 2016
Today, Mike Doyle from Lake Havasu City, AZ, came to my home to help me diagnose the video problem. He is a retired engineer and worked for JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and the Palomar Observertory among other things. Mike worked on the CCD sensors for the Hubble space telescope and did adjustment work on the telescope located in Southern California. We have known each other for the past six years. We both share an interest in television and technology.
If there was a high voltage problem, my inexperienced hands were not going to poke around in the high voltage cage. We were lucky. The problem was an easy fix. During the four day transit by truck, the high voltage connector leading from the CRT suction cup to where it connects with the high voltage cage became loose and we found it almost disconnected. We simply pushed the plug back in and taped it securely.
I was concerned that the convergence and purity may have been messed up by the trip and so we tried to improve upon Dave’s work. We attached a pattern generator. See the tests and adjustments in the below photos. You can see the severe misconvergence at the left and right of the screen. We could not improve upon Dave’s adjustments with the limitations we had. We are sure we can improve the convergence with proper test equipment and diligence. We had the set running 4 hours today with very stable operation. Solid audio and video, no clitches or hiccups.
I took several screen shots today after attaching a digital converter box to my roof top antenna. First impressions: Focus could be better, there is ringing (ghosting), certain scenes look dark and the brightness control will not correct. At other times with a different program, the images look well balanced and bright. This may be a DC restoration problem or lack thereof. Just guessing. There is a sepia cast, way to warm. Grey scale needs adjustment. The convergence is bad at the outside left and right portions of the screen and I can see a purity problem in the lower right corner of the screen. The tint control seems to have no effect at all. More work needs to be done, but all in all, not to bad. We think we can improve the image quality and will add a few more screen shots with better content soon. Mike was amazed at the brightness of this 62 year old CRT. Not the best color images we have seen, but keep in mind this was the very first production 21 inch color television by anyone and it’s technology is 62 years old. Imagine going back in time to 1954/55 and viewing a properly set up 21CT55 in your living room after Christmas 1954 delivery. Color television was unique and expensive and only the well heeled family could afford to purchase back then. It would have been a real treat to see the color specials back then because of the limited color programming.
You can see the pixel structure in this image. I did not use a professional camera for these shots, just an iPhone 6 Plus cell phone camera. Tap on image to enlarge.
Today is day 269 from day of purchase at the ETF. Thank you Dave and Mike for all your help. Thank you Steve for the needed tube replacements. There you have it. We finally get to see some reasonably decent color images on this set. We derive great pleasure in being the custodian of this piece of television history and will take care of this set the best we can. We do believe we are nearing completion with this restoration. I don’t want to call myself a perfectionist, but I expect and know we can improve the imaging on this television. We just need to fix the aforementioned issues. Mike has offered to come back in September when things cool off around here and take the entire set back to his shop. He is just three hours away. Hopefully this rookie can attend, watch and learn more during the process. We will post additional screen shots when the remaining work is done. Almost there, but then, with these old temperamental sets, one is never finished. 🙂
This chronicle of the restoration of the RCA 21CT55 CONTINUES ON VINTAGE RCA COLOR TV PAGE TWO