Thursday, May 15, 2008


It is difficult today, with hundreds of television channels, high-definition equipment and video streaming over the Internet, to imagine a world before TV. Even those of us in our 40s and 50s remember when there were just three television networks, snowy black and white pictures that required Dads constant fiddling with rabbit ears or everyones favorite fix for a bad TV picturebanging on the side of the set. We remember sitting on the floor of our living rooms on Sunday nights to watch Walt Disneys Wonderful World of Color, even though most of us saw those first broadcasts on black and white sets.
Our generation watched as the networks covered the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the first Apollo moon landing and the Vietnam War. We grew up to the sounds of Captain Kangaroos jingling keys on CBS, and watched The Beatles perform for the first time in the United States on The Ed Sullivan Show. Some of us are old enough to remember that there have been four different hosts of The Tonight ShowSteve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. We remember television stations signing off with The Star-Spangled Banner, black and white sitcoms where fathers always wore shirts and ties and mothers served dinner donning dresses and pearls. As kids, WE were the remote controls, with our parents asking us to get up and change the channel or turn up the volume. And, all of us seem to remember that remarkable day when the old black and white set was replaced by a color one and we saw, for the very first time, that famous peacock unfurl its plumes to the sound of The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC!
As hardware evolved on the receiving end of television, so did the equipment used to create those memorable pictures. Similar to the first television sets, which were big, bulky and full of vacuum tubes, the earliest television cameras were finicky monsters that required an army of technicians to keep them operating properly.
American camera manufacturers dominated the market in the early days of televisionRCA and GE mostly. The Marconi Company, a UK company, had a presence in America in large part because CBS tried not to buy cameras from its rival RCA. As broadcasting technology evolved, cameras, switchers, and other processing and recording equipment quickly became outdated and obsolete. As newer transistorized and then microprocessor controlled equipment became available, the older equipment was sold off or, in some cases, literally carried out to dumpsters and lost forever.
A new Web site called "Eyes of a Generation" is about to launch! Devoted to the collection, restoration and preservation of vintage television cameras, which really have been the eyes of a generation. It serves to offer a unique backstage look at the technology and the people who helped bring news, sports and entertainment into the homes of Americans since those first fuzzy black and white images were broadcast over 85 years ago.
Through kind submissions of photographs and written memories from collectors, broadcast professionals and others with fond memories about the way television once was, this Web site will provide an artful and thoughtful view of televisions not-so-distant past as seen through the eyes of a generation.
Your CBS Retirees Web site has been fascinating for those of us who have the opportunity to page through the posts and look at the collection of photos. We would welcome and very much appreciate the opportunity to include photos, images and stories on our site, of course giving careful credit to both your site and the members who submit.
Questions, comments and hopefully...submissions, can be directed to either one of the devoted and some might say "crazy" camera collectors below:

J.R. Smith
Bobby Ellerbee