The year was 1967, and the vast majority of television was recorded and broadcast in black and white. Most Americans had a black and white television set in their homes. Some even had two sets. The monopoly of black and white TV was about to disappear forever, though. Color TVs began to become available, and broadcasters gradually switched over.
In the 1950s, though, color televisions were extremely expensive. A Westinghouse model sold in the mid-1950s in America cost the equivalent of over $12,000 in today’s dollars. That’s a lot of money to invest in a TV set. Some people do spend that kind of money on high-end TVs today, but as with early adopters of color TVs, they tend to be rich early adopters, not the average person.
By the 1960s, though, color TV prices dropped, and more content was available in color. Some prescient companies, like Disney, had begun recording their programming in color, so that it could be broadcast when color TV adoption was more widespread. That’s similar to how companies today have adopted HDR and 8K recordings in advance of many people owning compatible TVs.
By the mid-1960s, the world was ready to make the switch more fully. Part of that dramatic moment is captured in an amazing broadcast from 1967, from a news channel in Iowa. Two news presenters on Iowa’s Channel 2 news are seen in black and white, calmly discussing the color transition.
Presenter Bob Bruner then stands up and walks across the studio to a duplicate of his news desk as the black and white camera follows him. A technical person places a new microphone on his shoulders, and he takes a seat. The camera switches to the new news desk, and in a single moment, the feed transitions from black and white to color.
Bruner calmly discusses the transition and how proud he is to participate in it. It’s a remarkable dignified moment that most have felt magical to people watching at home with early color sets. Today, the quality of the feed is low compared to modern HD broadcasts. But at the time, the new color broadcast would have felt revolutionary.
Color TV, of course, went on to dominate the market. Bruner’s dramatic yet dignified moment of transition is a wonderful example of what that switch must have felt like to people living at the time.
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