Supposedly an extremely low-cost video tweak to convert a black and white TV set to a color TV set, is this almost-free video tweak nothing more than an “April Fool Color” tweak?
By: Ringo Bones
Imagine - back in 1962 - finding out afterwards that an almost-free video tweak to convert your existing black and white TV set to color turns out to be nothing more than an elaborately contrived April Fool’s Day joke. To the consolation of this particular hoax’s / prank’s victims, this particular April Fool’s Day joke managed to make it to the Top 5 best April Fool’s Day pranks in history according to museumofhoaxes.com. But how come something obviously “fool-hardy” managed to fool thousands already familiar with late 1950s home entertainment technology? Unfortunately, the science of optics conspired to provide the “twisted logic” behind the prank.
The origin of this prank begins in April 1, 1962 when a Swedish TV station’s technical expert went on the news to demonstrate how viewers could convert their existing black and white TV transmissions into color – by simply pulling a nylon stocking over their TV screens. Hundreds of thousands followed suit, hoping for magic and a bit of color in their lives. Many swear on the bit of color part, but can the intended result truly be called full-color or just fool-color?
The nylon stocking being pulled over the black and white TV screen to produce “color” works on an optical principle similar to a diffraction grating – i.e. the nylon stocking’s finely-ridged weave pattern uses structure alone to “open up” the spectrum and places white light’s various wavelengths on display. The “rainbow-effect” produced by vinyl LP and CD surfaces works on a similar principle. Conspiring to the “fool color” / false color effect is the existing 600 or so scan lines of your typical black and white cathode ray tube display interacting with the nylon stocking’s fine mesh to produce a “Color TV” fit for April Fool’s Day.