The illustration on the front of this card celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the introduction of television to the public, which took place in Flushing Meadows, New York at the 1939 World's Fair. Under the banner of "Building the World of Tomorrow", over 45 million people visited the Fair with sights set on leaving the Great Depression behind and catching glimpses of a hopeful tomorrow.
RCA used the event to launch the first four models of television receivers made available to the public. The one depicted on the front is the TRK-12, the top of the line model featuring a 12-inch screen and selling for $600. The Cathode Ray Tube, or CRT, was mounted vertically in the cabinet and an angled mirror reflected the image from the screen for viewers. In coordination with this release and the opening of the Fair, April 30th, 1939 brought about the making of television broadcast history with the launch of the first regularly scheduled programming on W2XBS (which later became WNBC). Visitors to the Fair were given the opportunity to be televised. Exemplifying the absence of video recording, as proof of being televised visitors were given an official RCA paper card stating their name and the date of the broadcast.
With the exception of adding color and standards, television, broadcasting and video signals remained relatively unaltered from 1939 to recent times. However, in the past few years dramatic change has occurred. June of 2009 brought about the end of analog television broadcast in the USA, concluding its 70-year stretch. Also facing obsolescence are the CRT, standard definition and interlace scanning, being replaced by flat displays, high definition and progressive scanning. The evolution presents challenging preservation and access issues for caretakers of legacy video.
One could have hardly overestimated the dramatic and permanent impact that broadcast television technology has had on world events since its inception. Regardless of your views on the quality of most TV programming today, on a whole it arguably provides the richest and potentially most accessible record of human undertakings over the last century. Our duty now is to preserve that record using current and advancing technologies. Access to history and learning from it is one of the ways we can ensure that all of our New Years are better than the years before.
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