The Most Stunning TV Ever Made: the Philco Predicta

Philco Predicta

My subjects for columns are frequently decided upon by pure gut feeling. If it feels right, write about it!

I’m a subscriber to Charles Phoenix’s Slide of the Week, and I recommend you do so too. Last week, I received a slide that featured a TV that I’d known about, but didn’t know too much about. It’s called the Philco Predicta, and it had the picture tube on a yoke in a wonderful expression of modern design. Charles had located a slide that featured a Predicta “in real life,” as he excitedly put it.

The next thing you know, I’m watching Revenge of the Nerds on TNT, and lo and behold: a Predicta! It was being used to play 80’s Atari games.

OK, two Predicta sightings in one week. Time to write a column!

Philco began in in 1892 as the Helios Electric Company. They manufactured batteries at first, but as electricity caught on, they diversified. In 1927, they began manufacturing radios, and soon became one of the Big Three in the business, along with RCA and Zenith. When televisions began appearing after WWII, Philco jumped on board.

A working Predicta

By 1957, Philco’s sales were flat. That year, the Russians electrified the world by launching Sputnik. Suddenly, the modern look was red-hot.

Philco looked at redesigning the traditional cabinet-mounted picture tube in TV’s to something radically different and uber-modern. The first Predicta, with a yoke-mounted shortened picture tube, thus appeared in 1958.

One of Philco’ biggest customers for the futuristic TV was none other than Holiday Inn. They bought thousands of the sadly unreliable television sets, probably to their regret.

You see, the Predicta was more gorgeous than gorgeous. But Philco never created a color Predicta, and there was a growing demand for color by the dawn of the 60’s. More significantly, it wasn’t well-engineered. The shortened picture tube ran very hot, bad for electronics. The circuit board for the tube was also extremely difficult to access, and the combination of the two made certain that Predictas were in the shop on a sadly regular basis, perhaps three or four times a year.

I think we Boomers remember how depressing it was to have the TV off at the shop in the 60’s.

Thus, ultimately, the Predicta was a failure. Many sat unsold in TV dealerships. Customers preferred reliability over drop-dead coolness. And Philco went under in 1961. It survived as a purchased product of the Ford Motor Company until the 70’s. Nowadays, what remains of it is in South America.

But you have to admit that it was absolutely the coolest TV ever built. And guess what! You Boomers with a little money to burn can get Predictas from the Telstar Company, which now owns the name and produces new models faithful to the original design!

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