RCA CT-100 Color TV
RCA's CT-100 may not have been the first consumer color TV in the U.S., Westinghouse's set beat it by a few weeks, but that model didn't sell in significant numbers. Both sets were on the market less than 100 days after the Federal Communications Commission finalized its standards for broadcasting color television.
The RCA was decked out in a red mahogany cabinet, and its 15 inch "Tri-Color" picture tube had 600,000 phosphors. Collectors claim that working CT-100 sets still have exceptional color fidelity. The TV had 35 receiver tubes, plus the picture tube, 1,012 other parts, and 150 feet of wiring. The TVs were built in RCA's Bloomington, Indiana plant, and the production line was two city blocks long! A typical black and white set of the same period would have 400 parts and less than twenty tubes. The CT 100 was introduced in March, 1954 and sold for $1,000, only slightly less than the price of a new car, but the set's price dropped to $495 when RCA brought out the 21 inch CT-55 color TV in December, 1954. Less than 5,000 CT-100s were sold, and RCA reportedly lost money on every one.
Color broadcasting was limited to NBC stations in thirty five U.S. cities on the east and west coasts. Only three shows a week were in color, so RCA was eager to share its color technology secrets with other TV manufacturers to get more sets out there as quickly as possible. In fact, just as the CT-100 was being introduced RCA invited manufacturers to the Bloomington plant to observe the production line! RCA may have been the leader, but it knew only an installed base of millions of color sets would motivate the TV networks to rapidly expand their color programing.
Thanks to Steve McVoy and the Early Television Museum website for their help in preparing this report, and the use of the RCA CT-100 image.