Living Test Patterns: The Models Who Calibrated Color TV

As soon as World War II was over, television engineers and executives got back to a project they’d started before the war: broadcasting television signals in color. CBS and RCA developed competing transmission systems, but it was still decades before color TV sets were common in homes. Meanwhile, testing and calibration went over the airwaves, featuring models who became famous for doing nothing out of the ordinary that home viewers could see. Patty Painter and Marie McNamara were the most famous models who worked long hours to test the color systems.

Both of the women nicknamed “Miss Color Television” performed similar roles, but McNamara ended up getting greater public exposure, with the nationally syndicated columnist Walter Winchell describing her as “the most indispensible [sic] person” in color TV. Others had said similar things about Painter, but because most people did not own color receivers, they could not actually see her for themselves. Thanks to Sarnoff’s insistence on a compatible color system, people could now watch McNamara, if only in black and white. Even before the official endorsement of the RCA color standard, McNamara appeared alongside Dinah Shore on the cover of TV Guide, and soon she had made her way on to Howdy Doody and The Today Show, all the while extolling the virtues of compatible color.

An article at The Atlantic covers the working conditions and the fame Painter and McNamara experienced, but it also explains the war between CBS and RCA for FCC approval of their competing color systems. As you’ll see, the winner wasn’t necessarily “the winner.” -via Digg

(Image source: Popular Mechanics)

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