NTSC - History

History

See also: History of television

The National Television System Committee was established in 1940 by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to resolve the conflicts that were made between companies over the introduction of a nationwide analog television system in the United States. In March 1941, the committee issued a technical standard for black-and-white television that built upon a 1936 recommendation made by the Radio Manufacturers Association (RMA). Technical advancements of the vestigial sideband technique allowed for the opportunity to increase the image resolution. The NTSC selected 525 scan lines as a compromise between RCA's 441-scan line standard (already being used by RCA's NBC TV network) and Philco's and DuMont's desire to increase the number of scan lines to between 605 and 800. The standard recommended a frame rate of 30 frames (images) per second, consisting of two interlaced fields per frame at 262.5 lines per field and 60 fields per second. Other standards in the final recommendation were an aspect ratio of 4:3, and frequency modulation (FM) for the sound signal (which was quite new at the time).

In January 1950, the Committee was reconstituted to standardize color television. In December 1953, it unanimously approved what is now called the NTSC color television standard (later defined as RS-170a). The "compatible color" standard retained full backward compatibility with existing black-and-white television sets. Color information was added to the black-and-white image by adding a color subcarrier of 4.5 × 455/572 = 315/88 MHz (approximately 3.58 MHz) to the video signal. To reduce the visibility of interference between the chrominance signal and FM sound carrier required a slight reduction of the frame rate from 30 frames per second to 30/1.001 (approximately 29.97) frames per second, and changing the line frequency from 15,750 Hz to 15,750/1.001 Hz (approximately 15,734.26 Hz).

The FCC had briefly approved a different color television standard, starting in October 1950, which was developed by CBS. However, this standard was incompatible with black-and-white broadcasts. It used a rotating color wheel, reduced the number of scan lines from 525 to 405, and increased the field rate from 60 to 144, but had an effective frame rate of only 24 frames per second. Legal action by rival RCA kept commercial use of the system off the air until June 1951, and regular broadcasts only lasted a few months before manufacture of all color television sets was banned by the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) in October, ostensibly due to the Korean War. CBS rescinded its system in March 1953, and the FCC replaced it on December 17, 1953 with the NTSC color standard, which was cooperatively developed by several companies, including RCA and Philco. The first publicly announced network television broadcast of a program using the NTSC "compatible color" system was an episode of NBC's Kukla, Fran and Ollie on August 30, 1953, although it was viewable in color only at the network's headquarters. The first nationwide view of NTSC color came on the following January 1 with the coast-to-coast broadcast of the Tournament of Roses Parade, viewable on prototype color receivers at special presentations across the country.

The first color NTSC television camera was the RCA TK-40, used for experimental broadcasts in 1953; an improved version, the TK-40A, introduced in March 1954, was the first commercially available color television camera. Later that year, the improved TK-41 became the standard camera used throughout much of the 1960s.

The NTSC standard has been adopted by other countries, including most of the Americas and Japan. With the advent of digital television, analog broadcasts are being phased out. Most U.S. NTSC broadcasters were required by the FCC to shut down their analog transmitters in 2009. Low-power stations, Class A stations and translators were not immediately affected. An analog cut-off date for those stations was not set.

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