RCA Merrill
Veteran of colour TV's early days – and format wars!

One of the pioneers of colour television, William E Boss, has died, aged 86. He was RCA's director of colour TV development from 1954 until 1962, and oversaw the launch of some of the first sets in the States, and the development of the system as a major force in home entertainment.

Known as RCA's "Mr Color TV", Boss joined the company in 1947, and was later instrumental in convincing broadcasters, dealers and distributors to work together to ensure the success of TV.

While RCA wasn't the first company to launch colour TV, it found itself embroiled in a battle with CBS over the TV standard to be adopted. CBS had its own mechanical system, while RCA used an all-electronic system, backwards-compatible with black and white receivers, developed by the company under the chairmanship of David Sarnoff.

Given that there were already 25m black and white TVs in use in the States in the early 1950s, that back-compatibility proved a crucial factor – the US Federal Communications Commission, having initially backed the CBS system, adopted the RCA system as a standard in December 1953.

RCA started broadcasts almost immediately via the 31 stations around the country already equipped for the new system, showing the Rose Bowl Parade in colour on New Year's Day 1954, even though there were hardly any receivers in use.

More after the break

It launched its first consumer TVs in March 1954: the CT-100, or Merrill – seen above showing that first broadcast – sold for $1000, and had a 12in screen. 

By 1960 there were half a million colour sets in US homes, and the majority of NBC's prime time programming in 1962-63 was 'colourcast'. The further spread of the new system was led by successes such as the first TV Western made and shown in colour – Bonanza.