Color TV Changed U.S. World View, World View of U.S.

In 1959, at the height of the space race, Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev stood together, surrounded by reporters, in the middle of RCA's color television display at the American National Exhibition in Moscow. Nixon, speaking to Krushchev through a translator, pointed proudly to the television camera before them and addressed the technological competition between the two nations that the leaders had just been debating. “There are some instances where you may be ahead of us, for example, in the development of the thrusts of your rockets for the investigation of outer space,” he said. “There are some instances, for example color television, where we're ahead of you.”

Comparing the significance of the invention of color television to the development of space rockets sounds ludicrous to us today, but color television was one of the most complex and transformative technological innovations of its time, symbolizing a unique and thoroughly modern form of seeing and representing. It was, in fact, often discussed by its proponents as an ideal form of American postwar consumer vision: a way of seeing the world (and all of its brightly hued goods) in a spectacular form of “living color.”

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