Ask anyone the make of their first television and you'll probably be able to guess that person's age.
If it's a Sony Watchman, you're probably talking to a kindergartner. A 27-inch color set will probably peg the person as anywhere from 10 to 20 years old. If l9-inch black and white is the answer, you've got someone in their 40s. Get a l0-inch set with a magnifier as an answer and you'll be addressing anyone from 50 on up.
Television got its start more than 50 years ago. The amazing thing, according to the current issue of Video Magazine, is that a lot of sets from that era are still around, although there are some missing links.
Some of the earliest televisions were projection models. Others were mechanical TVs which operated by means of light passing through a rotating disk. There were even battery-operated models. Examples of these still exist.
However, many of the weirder sets, such as the CBS color wheel TV introduced in 1952, went the way of the dinosaurs as soon as they came on the market and are hard to find today. The CBS set bombed immediately because it wasn't compatible with the millions of black and white sets already in use. CBS recalled all they could find and destroyed them. There's one in the Smithsonian, and experts believe only one other survives.
The world knows about these artifacts largely because of the efforts of Arnold Chase, owner of the world's largest collection of antique TVs. Chase donated the CC-012 to the Smithsonian. He also rediscovered the set that launched the age of television at the 1939 World's Fair, the RCA TRK-12 with a translucent Lucite screen. This is also in the Smithsonian.
The 38-year-old Chase is enthralled by TVs. When he's not heading up the television station he owns in Hartford, Conn., he spends his time restoring the 300-plus antiques in his collection.
Because Chase is always on the lookout for new acquisitions, he's willing to pay a finder's fee to anyone who uncovers an unusual pre-World War II TV that he ends up adding to his collection. He's especially interested in sets made by General Electric, Stewart-Warner, Pilot or Westinghouse. Chase can be contacted at (203) 549-1674.
Meanwhile, if you have an old television set in the attic, don't throw it out. Even if it isn't worth anything right now, it might be in a few years time.
Distributed by AP Newsfeatures.