Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Philco Predicta TV (1958-1959)

Good morning!

I appreciate all your well wishes on the engagement party post yesterday! It's exciting to be marking off major milestones on the long trek down the aisle to matrimony. But enough about little old me...it's time to get back to what's really important-- 1950's ads for TV's! Philco's Predicta line from 1958-1959 does not disappoint in the midcentury "eye candy" department. Let's take a look!

Every once and awhile I forget how exciting old television sets used to be. It's easy to become inured to the charms of modern flat screens, because that's essentially all they are: flat screens. The flair and panache of console sets of yore is something from which I think modern tv manufacturers could learn a thing or two. Even a cursory glance through a 1958 Life magazine and these Philco ads will turn your head RIGHT around, serving to remind you of everything that was good about having a gorgeous, space age looking tv as the centerpiece to your late fifties' living room. I know TV gets a bad wrap....the glass teat, the boob tube...other analogies that have to do with suckling mindlessly through a block of tv westerns and daytime soap operas...but in my life, tv's been good to me. And gosh, wouldn't it be even better with a bit of style tacked on. Take a look at this 1958 Predicta model:

 The only complaint you could make about a lot of fifties' tv's would be their lackluster profiles from the back of the unit. I can tell you my 1960 Zenith has a plain, press-board backing with the round portion of the tv's tubes sticking out the back (what do you call that? Old tv geeks, do you know what I'm talking about? Is it the picture tube sticking out? I don't know), and it is nothing to write home about. This Philco has a continuous, gleaming wood finish to both the front and the back of the unit, so you needn't be embarrassed by the unsightliness of its back when the living room layout cries out for a freestanding unit.

Aaaah! Look at this! It looks like the younger cousin of that robot from Lost in Space! I love it!

It's cool how "out there" a lot of these Philco designs from that era were. The Wikipedia page on the Predicta line mentions that its outré design and space age aesthetic was one of the major strengths and weaknesses of the model, and one telecision history page goes on to describe Predicta's creation as follows:

Introduced in 1958, the Philco Predicta line rejuvenated the industry and made TV fun again. In 1957 the economy was experiencing a mild post-war recession causing some manufacturers to try gimmicks to augment sales. Philco didn't quite know what to do; they were perpetually in a state of management turmoil. Clearly, they needed something dramatic to turn things around if they were going to survive as a company. This led Henry Bowes, the marketing vice-president, to set the future direction when he said, "We need a dramatic new concept of TV forms."

The growing popularity of color model televisions (Philco tv's were strictly black and white), resistance to the almost "too atomic" design, and the poor performance of the picture tube on the Predicta spelled out its sad demise in 1960. Philco went bankrupt in 1962, so you could say this line was the last great design hurrah of the seventy year old company.

Look at this portable monitor! Are you for real, 1959 Philco?

 Look how beautiful even the more tame members of the design line are, represented by this "swivel screen consolette". I want to take one home now!

Good news, though-- while I'm sure they are by no means inexpensive, you can still fulfill a life long dream or two to own one of these Predictas via this website, which claims to still sell the stylish sets in this, the year of our Lord 2013! I wonder if they improved upon the quality of the picture at all in the new generation of them.

Seriously, could those be more beautiful? I don't think they could.

If you're interested in more about the original Philco line of Predictas, check out this website, which has a full color pdf scan of the 1959 manual (erroneously labeled as a 1965 line, which would have postdated Philco's bankruptcy. This error is no doubt due to some confusion  about the byline of the ad being "THIS IS 1965", in an effort to underscore the futuristic quality of the design) as well as more info about restoring these beauties.

Which Philco Predicta would you like to bring into your own home? Do you own now or remember from your childhood any crazy vintage tv sets? What do you think about today's crystal quality sets, and how do you stylishly incorporate a boring old flat screen into a mid century modern inspired decor nowadays? I have our living room tv sitting on top of a 1960 Telefunken console stereo, but it's not a perfect situation. A perfect situation would be having that Chalet model Predicta in the above photo to have and to hold in my house!! :)

That's all for today, kids, I gotta get back to work. See you tomorrow!


  1. Gorgeous, one and all! My friends just got one of the repro's in the pedestal model and they love it. It really changes the dynamic of their already fantastic mid-century living room to something truly over the top. I think that if I had to choose, I would get the Chalet even though it makes me nervous just hanging there.

    1. Well, I want to be your OTHER friend with a pedestal Predicta, haha! :) SO cool. I think the Chalet one is the most gorgeous of the repro ones, but you're right, it does look a little fragile. How do you think that one that you can separate the tv from the bottom part even WORKED, from the old ad I posted? That was a real ad, not a prototype, too!

    2. There was a 25ft cord that attached the screen to the table set! Haha they neglect to include that in the futuristic ad...

  2. Oh my!! I love that TV. My fella has an older 50s/60s tv back at his folks house. He keeps talking about how he wants to get it fixed for the soul purpose of watching black and white movies. Not sure how that can me made possible on a TV made before DVD hookups were a thing...but it's his sweet ginger dream

    1. Oh, but you can! My sixties' Zenith can play anything you'd want to watch on it. Check out this tutorial or there are several similar ones on the internet. You can get the little thing they're talking about at any Radio Shack for about $10, I think. SO. COOL. I run my VCR through the transformer, and then my dvd player through the VCR (is I think how it works...I'd have to ask Matthew). GET IT, GURL.

  3. I have one of these! We lugged it all the way back from Missouri to Texas! It doesn't work (yet) but the guts are pristine and the picture tube is good. I'm desperately wanting it to be a Christmas present to myself to send it off to a guy in Dallas to have it fixed! It would just be THE LIVING END for it to work! The dream is to get it hooked up to a VCR or DVD player once it's working, I Don't even care about the black and white factor. (We have a color 1953 RCA frankenset in the den). Right now the Predicta is just a gorgeous conversation piece in my Coral formal living room.



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