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The Amazing 1971 Zenith Color TV

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62_1971 Zenith Color TV-1

If you’re as old as me, you remember when television sets were built as sturdy as the mighty oak. They were wood enshrined monuments that seemed to weigh a metric ton. They’d be a good place to hide behind in the event of a tornado. Unlike today where electronics sail in and out of homes every Christmas, these suckers were built to last until the next Ice Age, and cost an ungodly amount of cash.

I have a gigantic flat screen, and I love it. Don’t get me wrong. It just doesn’t have the charm of these wooden relics which resembled more a piece of furniture than an electronic. My wimpy flat screen has to be handled with kid gloves – the slightest tap or shake could be its demise. These old hosses from 1971 were constantly being beat to rattle the picture into shape.


66_1971 Zenith Color TV-16

I’ll also add that these TVs were HD. Yeah, you heard me – high definition. Nowadays you need HD because the screens are so huge that things get pixelated…. and it’s digital rather than a feed through your rabbit ears. No pixelation on those old warhorses; your quality depended on your signal.  Most people have never seen a high-quality NTSC (Analog TV) picture. A ‘pristine’ signal, on a properly adjusted, high-quality monitor, is absolutely stunning.

Anyway, I came across this 1971 Zenith Color TV catalog, and the illustrations were just too damn good not to share.


63_1971 Zenith Color TV-4

Check out the advanced technology. It’s like there’s a lightsaber in the back of every TV.


64_1971 Zenith Color TV-11

We had a remote with a cord in 1983. I don’t remember cordless remotes as early as 1971.


65_1971 Zenith Color TV-12

In 1971, a lot of people still didn’t have color TV, so hue was a new concept.


67_1971 Zenith Color TV-18

Somewhere out there this TV is still running. That hourglass is spent – yet the TV doth stand. It’s vaguely poetic.


68_1971 Zenith Color TV-20

Do you see what I mean when I say these TVs had character? The lute (or mandolin… whatever it is), the classic candle and the regal TV seem to actually go together! It’s a TV that befits the Lord’s and Lady’s Chamber in a Medieval Castle. Can you even fathom your plasma rectangle alongside such antiques?

These next eleven pictures of smaller televisions really entertained me. Each attempts to show us a glimpse of what’s on the tube. Amazingly cheesy, obviously faked, but a joy to behold.


69_1971 Zenith Color TV-21

We owned the variety of TV behemoths that many will remember : the kind that had a hinged lid that when opened housed a turntable. I would love to have that beast back even if just to retrofit it now.

80_1971 Zenith Color TV-39

So many memories of hanging out in front of the stately wood-encased boob tube watching Saturday morning cartoons. (deep sigh)

79_1971 Zenith Color TV-38 78_1971 Zenith Color TV-37v

You may have noticed that the cover of this little catalog claims the televisions are “hand crafted.”  Excuse me, what?   It turns out, Zenith was the last to abandon hand-wired chassis and go to printed circuit boards, so every TV was indeed hand-wired/”hand crafted”.

And now you know.

77_1971 Zenith Color TV-37 76_1971 Zenith Color TV-35 74_1971 Zenith Color TV-31 73_1971 Zenith Color TV-30 72_1971 Zenith Color TV-29 71_1971 Zenith Color TV-25

I know a TV service technician who can verify that many of these Zenith Chromacolor sets are still playing today. Can you even imagine your crummy flatscreen lasting 4 decades?  These things were built like tanks!!

70_1971 Zenith Color TV-23

THE END (click!)

75_1971 Zenith Color TV-33

  • timdub70

    I knew back then there were a few TVs with wireless “clickers”. My family had a 1973 Motorola Quasar with the “works in a drawer”, which was mostly solid state circuitry. That one lasted a little over 10 years, it was replaced by a used RCA from the late 70s that my dad bought at an auction in 1983. The first show I saw on that TV was at the auction. It was a football Saturday, and Nebraska was killing Kansas. That year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Mike Rozier, was scoring touchdowns in the rain that day. My parents had that set until 1997, when they bought a new Zenith which they have today and the picture still looks good. Those old CRT sets lasted a long time.

  • I like the green faced Martian woman. This is a great post, BTW.

  • Lacey W

    I remember the first “solid state” TV with NO TUBES. My grandfather use to take me to the local drug store with a bag of tubes to test then and get replacements when the TV was on the blink. You would test the tube at the test station and if it did not pass you would buy a new one right there. Now you have to buy an entire new set.

  • Paul Duca

    Zenith was the pioneer in TV remote control….in 1950 it offered the “Lazy Bones” unit, connected by wire to the set. 1955 introduced the “Flash-Match”, which used a flashlight like device to aim a beam at special sensors on the TV set.. Within a year it was supplanted by the Space Command unit shown here. The buttons generated ultrasonic waves that controlled the functions of the set…and the noise they made when pushed gave it the nickname people call all remotes, regardless of how they work–“the clicker”. It was the gold standard until the more and more channels of cable era.