RCA CT-100 Color Television



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RCA model CT-100  chassis CTC-2 ca: 1954

RCA was first to market a color TV. The famous model CT-100 was introduced in the fall of 1953 for the 1954 line. It was promoted as having a 15" screen but in reality it had only a 12" viewing area. The CT-100 cost RCA nearly $1500.00  to build but they sold 'em for only $995.00.  The loss was only "pocket change" compared to the subsequent steadily increasing sales of color TV's over the following decades. Although all manufactures built a color TV in the 1954 - 55 period, few of were them sold as they suffered from poor performance and were prone to a multitude of electronic problems. The CT-100 performed extremely well with beautiful color and picture resolution. The only thing negative I can say about this set is the brightness level. It had to be viewed in subdued light. Although the phosphors used were rich in color, they were not as bright as the subsequent year models.  Chassis CT-2 was the designation for the chassis of the 1st model (don't know what happened o CT-1)?

Chassis CT-4 was the next release of the RCA color line which in no way compared to the picture quality of the CT-100.  Rather than go into all the technical info. that made the CT-100 stand alone in the early color television equipment, I'll refer you to Ed Reitan's terrific site dedicated to the RCA CT-100: https://www.earlytelevision.org/Reitan/ct-100_gallery.html

NOTE; Ed was a friend of mine and sadly, he passed away early 2015. He contributed a great deal to color television history including major assistance restoring one of the early TV networks major color broadcasts; an evening with Fred Astaire and his web site lives on.

Over the years I have restored and owned a number of these wonderful sets and a couple of photo's is all that remains of them with me today. The above image shows a photo of the first one of these that I restored. The left of course showing it not powered up. The right view shows it with an actual over the air image (not a fake pasted in picture as some of the other sites show) of it  playing in my living room in the mid 1960's. It was the first of these that I owned and restored.

The CT-100 truly was a wonderful example of NTSC at it's very best. The color resolution was unmatched until high end monitors were introduced in the late 1980's. Unknown by most, the color bandwidth of broadcast television was triple of what all consumer television sets could reproduce until the late '80's, that is all but the CT-100, it reproduced the full spectrum of the IQ method of color demodulation. All subsequent TV's (until the late 80's) incorporated the R-Y, B-Y color demodulation (about 1/3 the bandwidth of what was broadcast). The shortcomings of the CT-100 was low brightness and the small screen

Below is an off the air image of that same TV that I restored & photographed in 1966. I used the TV in my living room until I moved in 1970. The image was of a morning talk show being broadcast from a Washington, DC station. If anyone knows who the lady in the image might be, please notify me.

Unfortunately, I did not have the forethought to take any additional photo's of any of this one or any of the other CT-100's I restored over the years.

 < reprint of the Factory service manual is available
the television is no longer in my possession
© C.E. Clutter


Member of:
Northwest Vintage Radio Society

Member of:
Antique Wireless Association