TV ARRIVES AND THE FUTURE BEGINS; TELEVISION USHERS IN A NEW FRONT IN THE POPULAR CONSCIOUSNESS

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Whatever happened to dreamworld?" asked the February 1947 edition of Fortune. During wartime, Americans fantasized about the wonders of the modern world that would come after the bullets stopped.

But Fortune concluded the "ball-bearing pen" was the only invention that was making a difference in the postwar U.S. While the development of TV was put on a back burner during the war, the medium now was becoming popular, the magazine conceded, but still was "experimental."

A pretty successful experiment, it turned out. As that article was being printed, the medium was about to become a social and technological phenomenon.

Back then, a small TV set cost $200, a fancy console model as much as $2,500-at a time when the median income was around $3,000.

And yet, despite the price and the lack of a full national TV service, the business grew rapidly, similar to the explosive growth of the videocassette recorder, the fax machine and telephone answering machine of this era.

One year after the war, there were just 6,000 TV sets in use. By the end of 1947, there were 142,000. But by the end of 1950, there were 9.7 million, and by the end of '51, 15.6 million. In the '50s, more TVs were sold (70 million) than children born (40 million).

By 1946, the medium had printed-drum roll, please-its first TV advertising rate card. It was issued by WCBW, which was to become WCBS, in New York City.

That year, the DuMont TV network began as what might now be viewed as the original fourth network. (It lasted until 1955, as did the DuMont company that sold TV sets. Fittingly, its core stations became Metromedia, which eventually were sold to Rupert Murdoch to become the "new" fourth network, Fox.)

A year earlier, on Aug. 9, 1945, DuMont's Washington, D.C., TV station, W3XWT, broadcast live the news that the U.S. had dropped its second atomic bomb, and the telecast was carried live to its New York City station. It marked the first time a live broadcast was simultaneously seen in two cities.

Things happened quickly, and given the medium's infancy, some durable TV concepts and programs emerged. NBC introduced "Kraft Television Theater" in 1947, and around the same time, children saw "Howdy Doody" in New York and "Kukla, Fran & Ollie" in Chicago. "Toast of the Town," later "The Ed Sullivan Show," began in 1948 on CBS, and the "Texaco Star Theatre" with Milton Berle became the first TV sensation that same year on NBC.

John Cameron Swayze began anchoring NBC's 15-minute "Camel News Caravan" in 1948. "The CBS-TV News" with Douglas Edwards began that same year.

Even into 1952, not every reasonably large city had TV and most had only one or two stations. But bigger cities had several stations by the late '40s. And there, marketers (and entertainment rivals) saw the impact of TV.

In "television cities," for example, 1951 movie box office receipts were 20% to 40% lower than in other areas, where the movies were as popular as ever.

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