Living Color

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In 1939, years before most Americans got their first glimpse of snowy black-and-white television images, engineers at what became Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories (ATL) were already crafting the next revolutionary step in mass communication: color TV.

Working in the Camden, New Jersey, labs of the then-named Advanced Development Group of Radio Corporation of America, the ATL engineering team developed Dichroic mirrors which divide light into the three primary color beams necessary to reproduce color images. Critical to the development of color television cameras, the mirrors divided the light without absorption losses. Special coatings developed by the engineers further enhanced the effect by suppressing reflections from the backs of the mirrors, eliminating “ghost” images.

The mirrors were a key component of a major push by the company to lead the development of color television. As early as February 1940, the company held a demonstration of color television reception in Camden to members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that was conducted in secrecy to protect the highly-proprietary technology. The heritage LMATL engineering team pioneered much of the development of commercial black-and-white television during the 1920s and ’30s and was keen to capture the same advantage with respect to color TV.   

Commercial development of television took a back seat until late 1945 to support of the war effort following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.  Advances followed in quick succession, and by 1947, the company demonstrated its first color television camera, employing the Dichroic mirrors and related optics developed by the Camden group. In 1949, the company exhibited color broadcast technology that was compatible with existing black-and-white television reception; the FCC chose it as the national standard in 1953.

Today, ATL continues to define the cutting edge of technology, conducting advanced research in areas such as robotics, autonomous systems, networking and artificial intelligence.


Sources and Additional Reading

  • “RCA-NBC Firsts in Color Television, a Chronological List of Significant Firsts by the Radio Corporation of America and the National Broadcasting Company in Color Television,” 27 March 1955, RCA Corp. (http://www.novia.net/~ereitan/rca-nbc_firsts.html)
  • Sanders, “NBC’s 85th Anniversary,” Brief Magazine

 

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highlights
  • In 1939 engineers at what became Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories (ATL) were already crafting the next revolutionary step in mass communication: color TV.
  • Dichroic mirrors which divide light into the three primary color beams necessary to reproduce color images.
  • As early as February 1940, the company held a demonstration of color television reception in Camden, New Jersey to members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)