The 1960s, much like the 50s, was another great period for television, as it brought several spectacular enhancements to the experience of watching TV shows at home. Although the 60s was dominated by TV, there were still some improvements brought to the radio industry in that period, but to a lesser degree. Here is a timeline of the technological advancements in television and radio in the 1960s.
The television served as a pivotal element in the 1960 presidential election, as it was a gateway for Americans to get to know the candidates, most notably Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The broadcasted debates helped voters decide on who they choose to be the next president of the United States.
The year 1960 also saw the rise in popularity of wireless microphones, although they were still quite expensive during that time. In addition to microphones, disc jockeys (DJs) also became popular in 1960, and they helped the radio industry to stay afloat.
It was in 1961 when NBC held its first “color day,” which is a special daytime broadcast where the station will broadcast TV shows in color. In the same year, RCA proposed the use of “remote controllers” for TV, as this will further enhance the ease of use of television sets at home. Before the creation of the remote control, TV owners would have to get up from where they are sitting and approach the TV if they want to change channels or turn the volume down. With the proposal of having a remote control for TV, RCA aimed to help consumers get better and easier access to their TVs.
During the same year, FM stereo systems, particularly the Zenith and the GE systems, were approved by the Federal Communications Commission to be the standard broadcasting method for FM radio. The push to get FM from mono to stereo was noted to be a key moment in the revival of radio in the 1960s.
In 1962, transistors became the common device for controlling electric current for television sets, and they have eventually replaced vacuum tubes in the market, as the former is deemed to be more durable and reliable. After transistors dominated the television industry, it would eventually become the popular choice for radios, record players, and stereo speakers.
It was also in 1962 when AT&T, through the Bell System, introduced the pager, which improved the communication between people from far away. This pager was once called the “Bellboy” pager, mainly as an homage to its creators, and it would eventually become the primary tool for communication in the 60s up to the 70s.
Bell System introduced another invention in 1963, and this time it is the push-button telephone. Before the creation of the push-button telephone, there were only rotary dial phones, which the user has to rotate several times to get the correct phone number. With push buttons, the telephone would be faster and easier to use, and with the added “automatic dialing” feature, users could automatically dial the previous number they have called without inputting the numbers again.
Around the same year, Philips released the first compact cassette, a smaller version of an older cassette tape, under the Norelco brand. The compact cassette was utilized generally for audio storage during its early years, but would eventually become a medium for music listening.
In 1964, RCA built the Relay 2, a satellite that is utilized for experimental communications. The Relay 2 was built with the help of the funding given by NASA, who also launched the said satellite on January 21, 1964. Unlike the Telstar 1 and Telstar 2 satellites launched in 1962 and 1963, respectively, the Relay 2 is moving at a stationary orbit, making the signal transmission much more stable.
On the other hand, IBM launched the IBM System/360, a family of mainframe computer systems, on April 7, 1964. It is said that the System/360 allowed IBM to become a juggernaut in the computer industry, and the system also paved the way for smaller but powerful computers to be developed.
In 1965, the television shows aired on NBC were mostly in color, as the network plans to move forward to making color television as their primary focus. According to a survey conducted in the same year, more than 2 million color TV owners tune in to NBC more than any other network, and the dominance of NBC on television could be brought by their focus on producing more colored television shows or programs.
During the same year, experiments on installing cassette tape players on cars were conducted. After three years of research, the dashboard car radio with a built-in cassette player was released by Philips.
By 1966, radios with transistors became more popular than tube radios, and the durability of transistor radios helped the industry have a surge in listeners in the same period where the British Invasion is at the peak of its popularity. While AM radio was still the most popular type of analog modulation in 1966, FM radio is becoming the number one choice for listeners who want to listen to classical music or AM duplications.
ABC and CBS followed the same business strategy as NBC, as they began broadcasting mostly colored television shows. In this year, both daytime and primetime broadcast were in color.
Reel-to-reel audio tape recording in stereo was also becoming well-known in 1966, thanks to its ability to record a track using only half of the audiotape. The stereo sound is achieved on the tape using a multi-track recorder, which allows instruments or voices to be recorded on different tapes. The multi-track feature enables the “layered” sound on the recorded audio.
The Duracell, a battery that has a longer life than most of the batteries available in the 1960s, experienced a surge in popularity in 1967. The Duracell brand’s rival, Eveready, launched its own “long-lasting battery” called the Powercell around the same year. The Powercell battery would eventually be renamed as Energizer.
In the music industry, because of the abundance of stereo recording equipment like the multi-track recorder in 1967, most albums and singles released in the year were in stereo.
In 1968, RCA stated that they are currently experimenting in utilizing liquid crystals for televisions to have a clearer screen resolution. This research would eventually lead to the invention of LCD (liquid crystal display) TVs in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, FM radio is becoming more popular than AM radio in a few states in the US, particularly in New York. In addition, color television sets are becoming more common in households around the country in the late 1960s.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed cable TV stations to have their own programs and have paid commercials in 1969 in order to boost the cable industry. Because of this authorization, the cable TV industry competed toe-to-toe with the broadcast TV.
Although vinyl records are still popular, studios began releasing albums on cassette tapes by 1969, as they saw the potential of the cassette to be the number one platform for music in the near future, mainly because it is more compact and more durable than vinyl.
However, the most important moment in 1969 in the world of technology was the Apollo 11 moon landing, as it was thanks to the advancement in spaceflight technology that Neil Armstrong became the very first human to step on the moon.