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CT-100 with CTC-2 Chassis Exposed

Introduced in April 1954, the RCA CT-100 was an early all-electronic consumer color television set in the USA, preceded by the Westinghouse H840CK15 by a few weeks[1]. It has recently come to light that the Westinghouse was preceded by an Admiral[2] which was, in turn, preceded by a Raytheon[3]. However, the key technology for all of these sets was developed at RCA and the CT-100 is considered by most collectors as the "first" color TV. The color picture tube measured 15 inches diagonally. The viewable picture was just 11½ inches wide. The sets were made at RCA's plant in Bloomington, Indiana. The sets cost $1000, half the price of a new low-end automobile. By the end of 1954, RCA released an improved color TV with a 21-inch picture tube.

The CT-100, which had 36 vacuum tubes in its CTC-2 chassis (known as "Merrill" to the marketing department) was the most complicated electronic device sold to the general public at the time of its release. After initial sales to early adopters, the rest sold poorly, even after a price cut. Many were donated by RCA for training purposes to trade schools and technical colleges, the source of most of today's survivors.

Early NBC Living Color programs included An Evening with Fred Astaire. The CT-100 was created in 1954, before the Peacock existed.[4] RCA CT-100 sets are extremely sought-after by electronics collectors and restorers, with restorers often spending thousands of dollars to obtain or repair a set.

It is believed that RCA only made 4000 CT-100 receivers. Around 150 survive, but only 30 are restored and working. The Early Television Museum in Hilliard, Ohio has a restored and working set on display, as does the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham, Washington. One reason for the rarity of surviving sets is that the RCA-developed tri-color cathode ray tube (the 15GP22) that was used in the CT-100 was notorious for its glass-to-metal seals breaking down, causing the tube to lose its vacuum. It is extremely rare to find tubes that still work. The 15G was a glass tube, but its high voltage connection is a metal ring between the face of the tube and the glass bell. This is where the leakage often occurs.


  1. ^ Early Television Foundation article on the Westinghouse H840CK15
  2. ^ "Early Color Television". Early Television Museum. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Raytheon 15 Inch Color". Early Television Museum. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  4. ^ Extensive CT-100 restoration page