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Considerations were made by consumers in 1949 for purchasing a new television set

Bob Cox • Oct 6, 2019 at 12:00 PM

It is August 1949. We have a ringside seat at the next Joe Louis fight without moving out of our easy chair. We watch Arthur Smith and His Cracker-Jacks, and enjoy a close up of the World Series without dust bothering our hay fever.

These sights and sounds were brought to us in Johnson City courtesy of WBTV out of Charlotte, N.C. It would take another 4 years until we would have our own television broadcast in WJHL.

“All of these pleasures will be ours at the twist of a dial,” said the salesman at the television demonstration. He was right too, at least for some customers.

But for others, he was just a prelude to frayed tempers and ultimate cynicism. These were the ones who would buy a 1949 television without knowing what they are getting into.

If we are a potential customer of a television, here are a few pertinent facts that might be worth knowing before you invest from $200 to $2,500. First, you should look over your locality: buildings, noise, trees, hills and the relative position of your home with regard to sending stations can affect your reception, sometimes to a lethal degree.

Television signals travel pretty much in straight lines. Objects between the transmitting aerial and your receiving aerial can cause you major trouble. One woman found that she could not get any reception with an aerial on the roof of the hotel where she lived? Why? There were too many taller buildings nearby. A man who lived in the country had similar difficulty because of the hills around his house.

A television aerial, in fact, is so vital to good reception that it must be installed by an expert. The job will cost you about $50 in addition to the cost of the set. If you live in an apartment building, you must get permission from your landlord before putting up an aerial.

Some landlords, foreseeing a forest of these unsightly contraptions on their rooftops, refuse approval. However, a “multiple aerial” is now on the market, but it is quite expensive.

If you live near an airport, planes passing overhead may produce revolving pictures. An oil burner, diathermy machine, elevator, or similar electrical installations will send your picture into convulsions unless they are adequately filtered out.

A reliability dealer will, upon request, have a serviceman look over your home in advance of your purchase of a set. He will tell you if television is practical where you live and will estimate any additional costs that may be necessary.

It is extremely important that you check upon the number of hours a day during which it is possible to receive television programs in your district. One man bought a very expensive set only to learn that he could receive no more that seven hours a week.

Metropolitan areas have enough programs to make a set very much worthwhile, but there are still many sections where a television receiver would be just an ornament.

When you start shopping for a television set, call the biggest showroom in town and find out when their regular demonstrations are given.

Begin by seeing the best in order to have a base from which to judge the quality of the pictures on all the other sets you will be shown.

Many persons who have never seen a good set in operation do not expect very much of television. Actually, it can be as good as sitting in the movies. You should get clear, steady pictures with good contrast and detail.

You can get satisfactory performance on sets that sell for as low as $250, which is no higher than the price of many good radios. However, the screen will be only about five by seven. This screen may make a good show, but it won't prove as satisfying as the larger ones.

The best sized screens for home use range from nine to 15 inches, but the bigger the screens, the higher the price. An excellent set with a nine-inch screen can be had for around $400.

It costs only one or two cents an hour to operate. During any demonstration, find out if the picture on the screen is real or projected. That is very important.

Some sets actually have a small image, but it is enlarged by a projector inside the set. While this helps to prevent some of the eyestrain that a small image can produce, it also causes the picture to lose contrast and thus be of poor quality.

Another point to check is whether your home is supplied with AC or DC current. Television sets burn up when plugged into DC sockets. A converter costs between $30 and $60. However, the motor of a converter will cause interference unless perfectly filtered out.

Be sure to look carefully at the guarantee you receive. Most sets are not guaranteed for more than 90 days, while others are warranted for one year.

Still others can be “insured” for a year at fees ranging from more than 90 days. Still others can be insured for a year at fees ranging from $50 to $200 extra.

And then, there is the problem of constantly wrestling with antennas on top of your house or garage to maintain good reception … but that's another sordid story.

Reach Bob Cox at [email protected] or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.

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