RCA TK-40/41

RCA TK-40/41

The RCA TK-40 is considered to be the first color television camera, initially used for special broadcasts in late 1953, and with the follow-on TK-40A actually becoming the first to be produced in quantity in March 1954. The TK-40 was produced by RCA Broadcast to showcase the new compatible color system for NTSC—eventually named "NTSC-M" or simply "M"—which the company is credited with inventing (though several other companies including Philco were involved in development). Color had been attempted many times before, often in a semi-mechanical fashion, but this was the first series of practical, fully-electronic cameras to go into widespread production.

The camera was quickly followed with the TK-41, a line that shared a very similar shape, but featured streamlined and enhanced electronic subsystems. Earlier TK-40s are distinguished by the lack of venting slots on the sides (the cameras were prone to overheating, necessitating the addition of these openings). The last variation of the TK-41 was the TK-41C, released circa 1960. The cameras are considered to have been of very good quality, better than the very different TK-42 which succeeded the TK-40/41, and probably better than anything produced by RCA for several years after the production line shut down (NBC didn't fully replace their TK-41s in Rockefeller Center until the release of the later TK-44). Prior development in the late 1940s and early 1950s had included the TK-X (for "experimental").

An image splitter was used in the TK-40/41 to direct the incoming light into three image orthicon tubes (specially-designed CRTs) for recording moving pictures in the red, green, and blue component colors. The early cameras required a very large amount of lighting, which caused television studios to become very warm due to the use of multi-kilowatt lamps (a problem that still exists somewhat today, but is less pronounced).

The cameras, which weighed hundreds of pounds on their own, were only one component of the TK-40/41 system. There were also backend devices placed in studios to generate special signals for the cameras and allow for communication between crew members (the cameras integrated an audio system so that camera operators could talk to others via headsets). This combined chain was required in order to produce images. The TK-41's camera head weighed 300 lbs. and had to be carried by at least two people when setting up for remote broadcasts.

The TK-40 was used for a colorized telecast of the opera "Carmen" on October 31, 1953, apparently on a closed-circuit system (monochrome images were apparently broadcast with the color burst removed). The first commercial telecast was of the "Colgate Comedy Hour" with Donald O'Connor on November 22, but the color burst may have again been removed. The Federal Communications Commission finally approved the color system for use on December 17 of that year, allowing telecasts to begin 30 days later. Special permission was received to broadcast the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1954.

TK-40A camera setups were brought to several TV stations around the country as part of demonstrations throughout the year. They appeared at places including WKY Oklahoma City (April 8), WBAP Fort Worth (May 15), WTMJ-TV Milwaukee (July 18), WBEN Buffalo, WCCO Minneapolis (August 5), and KTLA Los Angeles.


*TK-40 (1953)
*TK-40A (March 1954)
*TK-41A (1954–?)
*TK-41C (1960?–1967)

External links

* [http://www.ev1.pair.com/colorTV/TVcams-in-action.html RCA TK-40 and TK-41 color TV cameras in action]
* [http://www.novia.net/~ereitan/Color_Cameras.html Color television camera development.]

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