Virtual Gallery

The Philco Predictas

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The Philco Predicta

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We are beginning our website with a gallery of those classic 50's televisions, the Philco Predictas. For those of you who haven't seen one before, Philco's line of Predicta televisions are quite possibly the most distinctive sets ever designed in North America.

Philco was formed in 1892 as the Helios Electric Co. It mostly manufactured batteries and power supplies, becoming the Philadelphia Battery Storage Co. in 1906. It successfully branched out into radio manufacturing in 1927, quickly becoming one of the "big three" radio manufacturers along with The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in New Jersey, and Zenith Corporation, which was based in Chicago. Philco's popular Baby Grand line of radios were among the ornate "cathedral" or "bee-hive" wooden radios that the reader may have admired in old or nostalgic movies. Despite the depression that followed the twenties, radio sales actually improved as people sought an escape from their surroundings.

Philco began researching electronic television along with RCA in the early thirties. For a few years they financed the experiments of Philo T. Farnsworth, the first person to develop a working electronic television apparatus (back in 1927). By 1937, Philco was demonstrating an experimental 441-line television system which utilized a 12" mirror-in-lid television receiver. This ornate but bulky receiver was designed to rival RCA's best effort, the 12" RR-359B.

Philco became a popular television manufacturer during the post-War television boom, which lasted from about 1948 to 1955. Beginning with attractive televisions like the 48-1000 designed by Emil Harman, Philco marketed a wide selection of sizes and shapes of televisions. These sets incorporated many technical advances in picture tubes, transistors, set portability, and cabinet design.

The Philco company began suffering from the declining market for TVs by the late 1950's. Something very innovative was needed to renew the demand for Philco televisions. With Russia's Sputnik, the first satellite launched in 1957, the space age dawned. This had a futuristic influence on the design of everything from cars to vacuum cleaners. Philco's design department, already widely known for its innovative radio and phonograph designs, decided to try and stimulate its TV sales by revolutionizing the styling of the Philco televisions away from the traditional square or rectangular shapes that had become the norm by the mid-fifties. The engineering department contributed by making the wide-deflection picture tubes and printed circuits that helped to turn the designers' dreams into reality, by making it feasible to separate the viewing screen from the bulky receiver chassis. The space-age theme was promoted in ads promising "TV today from the world of tomorrow".