Friday, March 13, 2009

TV Test Patterns



Remember the TV test patterns? They came on at night after a formal sign off by the television station and the National Anthem. They were used for adjusting the receiver controls for optimum reception.
In 1949, television programming was only a few hours a night and the test pattern replaced the shows. The most famous design was the "Indian Head." It was designed for RCA by an artist named Brooks in 1939. The original artwork was found in a dumpster by a wrecking crew worker. He saved them for over 30 years and sold the art to a test pattern collector.
The "Indian Head" pattern was built into an RCA monoscope tube which acted as a replacement for a television camera. Many of these tubes were saved as souvenirs and art pieces. But, nearly all of these small, hard to open tubes were junked. The actual cards, on the other hand, were 1.5 feet x 2 feet and saved for wall displays.
There is a great little blurb on Cheech and Chongs album, Big Bambu. Cheech drops by Chongs pad and asks him what he is watching on TV. Chong replies, "I don't know, it's a movie about Indians, but it's really boring." Cheech says, "Hey man, that's not a movie, man. That's a test pattern, man." Chong answers, "Far out!"

6 comments:

On the Money said...

The illustration is realy beautiful and I can imagine framing and hanging it.

Below is the url to a post I wrote that's illustrated with a ca 1968 UK testcard. A few decades later, it was recreated and photographed using the same girl (by then a woman in her 30s). hoipe it interest you.

http://russellcavanagh.com/2/?p=186

Sheri Fresonke Harper said...

That makes sense, cool history :) Sheri

Jai said...

The test patterns were cool!... Looking at it now-it speaks about the four 4 directions and the Source in the center... interesting...

Jai

thebeaddreamer said...

I had totally forgotten about the test patterns. It was a different era, TV was not a constant 24x7 presence.

Steve said...

So . . . why the picture of an Indian?

Jean Faucher said...

http://www.pharis-video.com/

Owner of the original design.