29/05/2010

Space Aged Design & the Keracolor

Keracolor History

For a moment in time, the world was transfixed on where we would be going…..off to the moon and beyond. Politics, culture, communications, technology….all of these were exploding into uncharted areas. And design was transformed too. Furniture, clothing, transportation, automation, communication - nothing would ever be the same again.

Space age design has it’s roots in a popular era most commonly called “Mid-Century Modern design: This type began in the mid 50’s and is best epitomized by the work of Charles Eames and peers, and continued thru the 60’s and perhaps early 70’s as well.

An offshoot of this design trend involved space age influences. The movie “2001” by Stanley Kubrick epitomized the clean, rounded shaped, biomorphic design that held fast in culture for around 8-10 years. Other movies in a similar vein included Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”, the television series “Star Trek” in the US, and the hit “Space 1999” in the U.K.

Among the most radical changes to occur were to the electronics of the era. Radios, stereos, turntables, TVs - everything changed, and how it was presented to the “user” made all the difference in the world. In the late 1960’s, TV’s began to change in design. First, the addition of the Saarinen tulip base occurred to many “normal” televisions. Then, the cases themselves become both smoothed on its corners as well as having integrated pedestals as well.

In 1968 a British designer by the name of Arthur Bracegirdle designed and put into production the Keracolor television, the worlds first perfectly spherical TV made from Fibreglass, which was to become one of the greatest design icons of the 20th Century.

History of Group Systems (Keracolor) Limited

I would first like to thank the Original Designer Arthur D Bracegirdle for giving me the opportunity to restart production of one of the greatest design icons of the 20 Century.

I would also like to acknowledge the help I have received from the Original Technical Director of Keracolor Mr Howard Taylor for his great insight into the history of the Keracolor television and allowing me to use his original photos and brochure pictures.

I have been collector of Keracolor Televisions for over ten years, in that time I have restored, modernised, and still own some original Keracolor’s that I site and watch to this day. So when I was given the opportunity to purchase all the original mould and meet the original Designer, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

I will never forget the first time a saw my first Keracolor television, I was walking to school early one morning, as I pasted the local Television dealer they had a 20” model on display in the front window, at that time I had never seen anything like it. I never imagined that nearly 30 years later I would be producing the same televisions.

This is a brief look into the design, production and models available over the short production period of the television. We have tried to include as many of the original Keracolor advertisement, pictures & quotes from this era as possible.

The design

Designed in 1968 by Arthur D Bracegirdle.

In 1968 Arthur D Bracegirdle broke the traditional mould of television design when he designed one of the great icons off the 20th Century the Keracolor Television.

At a time when all other television where uninspiring wooden box the radical new spherical design became an overnight design icon. It has wrongly be reported over the years that the Keracolor shape was inspired by a spaceman helmet after watching the first moon landing or designed to look like the sputnik spaceship. Both of these are strongly disputed by Arthur, “the Television was design in the shape of a sphere, one of the most simplistic & pleasing of all geometric shapes” Keracolor 1970

THE KERACLONIC SPHERE

“Round, the natural shape- like the world, the sun and the moon, Shinning brightly by day and by night, The KERACLONIC SPHERE- Blends all to soothe the sight.” “Keracolor 1970”

A test of any design is how it stands the test of time, which the Keracolor has without doubt achieved. Original Keracolor are still being used around the in Films, TV Adds, Pop Record Sleeves, Music Video, Magazines, Television Program and yes they are still being watched in modern contemporary designer homes around the world nearly 30 years after the end of production, you can see them most days on Nick Jr the Worms in there show & video as well as ITV Ant & Dec Saturday nights takeaway to name just a couple. With it’s timeless design still looking as modern and fresh as the day it was conceived nearly 40 years ago, this is in an age when modern TV and Technology begins to look dated after only a couple of months of in production.

In the mid 70’s Keracolor offered the most comprehensive range of Television available in the world, and encompassed floor standing models, ceiling models, hanging versions which came with own stand & even a conventional square table model, all of which could be ordered in any colour you like or even a wood grain effect. The star attraction was the 26” model that could be ordered with a Decca 8 track player fitted. The Keracolor had a number of design innovations including, Sculptured bases, Air cooled by Convection, swivel action for extra luxury & tilt adjustment for soothing viewing.

The name Keracolor was derived from the Greek word Keraunos - meaning Thunderbolt, with the “U” being missed out of the word Colour so as the name would look symmetrical on the side of the Television, it was design details like this which contributed to it success. Most people in the UK seem to misspell the name Keracolour by adding the “U”.

“The design registered, spherical format is unique and indeed the receivers are those of the future but available TODAY in fact” ”Keracolor 1970”

Many design museums around the world have added a Keracolor Television to there collection. The Keracolor has also been included in many of the most famous design books of this era which include:

  • "L'Utopie Du Tout Plastique", page 124
  • "The Sixties" by Phaiddon, page 103 and 113
  • "TV is King" by Michael Bennett Levy, Page 53 and 54
  • “Collecting the 60’s” by Madeleine Marsh, page 44

The production

Arthur spent the next twelve months having a wooden model made from which a fibreglass mould could be taken, this was for the 25” model and from this mould came the first proto type Keracolor cabinet. The first cabinet was produced by a company called Waterside Plastic located in Todmorden, Yorkshire.

As Arthur was a designer and businessman he lacked the technical knowledge to install the television himself, so in the spring of 1970 he placed a job advert in the Manchester Evening New for a “contact required with qualified colour TV Engineer” the advert was answered by a young and talented television engineer by the name of Howard Taylor. The pair arranged to meet one evening in a pub in Wilmslow, Cheshire once the pair had decided they could work together, they arrange a second meeting at Arthur’s home in Cheshire a couple of days later, when Howard arrived the pair entered Arthur’s garage under great secrecy, this was the first time Howard would see the ground breaking spherical design. This combination of Arthur’s business attributes and Howard’s technical ability proved to be a winning combination.

“History barometers the future, Victory at waterloo was motivated on the playing-fields of Eton, or so it is said, and the continual genius of Great Britain’s pioneers have produced the steam engine, the hovercraft, the Concord, the Lotus Europa and the KERACLONIC SPHERE” “Keracolor 1970”

It was decided that Arthur would approach Decca Televisions, with a view to using there 10 series chasses in the first cabinets along with the Mullard tubes that Decca were using at that time. Decca were very pleased to provide the chasses as there own design team had been working on a sphere shape cabinet. Howard then set about installing all of the new component, this was not a straight forward task as special brackets had to be fabricated and a special shelf made for the chasses to sit on they also designed & the swivel mechanism so the TV could that it rotated for “extra luxury”.

Once all the design problems had been worked out, the pair built the first ever Keracolor televisions. The first one was to be supplied to there first customer which was and still is the most famous department store in the worlds, Harrods of London. Harrods placed the TV for sale at £375 in late 1970, the following week due to the incredibly interest they delivered another 4. This was a very good marketing move by Arthur as it catapulted the design into the public eye, once people saw the ground braking design they went away and asked their local dealers about them and orders started to arrive. At first dealers were a bit wary of the new sphere TV, until they discovered they were fitted with the 30 series Decca chasses more commonly know as the “Decca Bradford”, a chasse renowned at that time in the television industry for it reliability. In some of the later Keracolor the Decca 80 & 100 chasses were used.

“KERACOLOR offers a picture with crystal clear clarity, controls as easy as any, sound from the centre in fact a safety-first set of British design and British manufacture – in all, a colour receiver for the connoisseur” “Keracolor 1970"

The pair assembled the first 100 Keracolor whist still working in Arthur’s garage, before they moved production to a factory on Middlewich Road, Northwich Cheshire. At this point they were still using Waterside plastics to produce the first cabinets until a fallout, at this point they moved produced of the cabinets to another GRP company that made a small number of cabinets, but due to the poor workmanship of the company with them not using enough resin in the making of the cabinets Arthur decided that the only way to maintain the high quality was to manufacturing the cabinet themselves.

Once in there new factory they recruited a laminator to make the cabinets, at this point they where only making 25” models, until Decca produced there new 26” model which still used the 30 series chasses, this meant a new set of moulds had to produced in order so that they could fit 26” tubes.

It was in early 1973 that they decided to add a 19” models to the range, the moulds were later adapted to take a 20” screen, this sold in reasonable numbers, so they added a smaller 12” model which sold in smaller numbers, and a 22” model, they even made a 20” square Keracolor called the “Conventional model” of which only a handful were ever sold.

 

The 20” sphere model was made available as a hanging model which could be suspended from the ceiling using a chrome chain, this came with a reinforcement kit for the ceiling. It could also be purchased as a floor standing model with the additional metal frame to hang the Keracolor from. The first frames were made out of box section steel by a local Blacksmith, the later frames were made by a car exhaust company out of round tubing.

Keracolor produced fewer than 200 Televisions in Glassfibre these have now become the most desirable among collector worldwide.

“KERACOLOR has been enjoying success since the introduction of colour in this country with this very special set which has been designed for pure pleasure” “Keracolor 1970"

Due to the increasing demand it became apparent they needed to start producing the cabinets on a larger scale as they were only able to produce 6 cabinets a week in GRP. A number of ways were considered including injection moulding they finally settled on making them from Vacuumed formed plastic. Howard was given the task of making the vacuumed forming tools, whilst Arthur purchased the machinery required, when all this was in place they them started to sell the Televisions on a larger scale, offering them in any colour including a wood grain finish and even making one in a blue flock finish for a lady to match her interior, this was after all the 70’s. The main drawback to this was the join in the centre of the cabinet, each half of the cabinet was formed from four foot squire sheets of plastic, they would then cut the halves from the sheets and join them together, this left a unsightly join all round the cabinet which resulted in a number of completes from dealers. It was now possible to produce up to 90 televisions a week, and add other produces to the range including an audio range, window shutters, Lotus Europa front spoilers, Capri spoilers, Christmas tree stands, flower tubes, steering-wheel desks, car tonneau covers & even a sledge.

“The only substitute for the superb KERACOLOR receiver is a KERACHROME, 12” portable which is so loyal it will follow the connoisseur everywhere, and anywhere. ” “Keracolor 1970”

Keracolor had a close working relation ship with Lotus cars which resulted in Lotus supplying 3 Europa Sport cars in kit form, these were the last 3 Europa sold by Lotus in kit form before the introduction of VAT on kit cars. A deal was worked out that once the cars had been built at the Keracolor factory they would all be painted Yellow with the Keracolor logo in black writing these would also feature in the advertised of the NEW 12” Kerachrome TV which used the chasses from the Decca Gypsy they also incorporated an integral, unique carrying-handle specially designed to compliment the pleasing appearance.

“Introducing the discerning to the KERACHROME portable- because we do not make many, ownership must be exclusive.” (Keracolor 1970)

During the short 7 year production run Keracolor made a number of special models including five 26” suspended monitors models fitted with the Decca 40 series chasses for a theatre in London, 20” suspended models for the Barbican Centre.

Due to the high cost of the internal Decca parts, Keracolor decided to start supplying there dealership network with none working display models, which had false silver screens fitted, these were also sold as marketing tools for a number of companies and charities, a slot was cut in the front screen so you could post your completed questionnaire or donation to the charity. The 12” model was also using by a company making children’s toys.

A small number of Keracolor were fitted with the new ground braking remote controls Decca TV. These had the slider controls fitted to the back panels with the receiver for the remote in the recess where the buttons once sat; this was not the ideal locations as you had to be sat directly in front or to the right hand side for it to work correctly, Arthur still has one of these sets it his home today.

1976 Keracolor Television price list 
  • Models B 626 26” sphere with base …. Cost £445.00 B 926C
  • 26” Sphere with Base + 8-Track stereo cartridge player….Cost £475.00
  • B 722 22” sphere with base….Cost £405.00
  • B 520 20” Sphere with base….Cost £375.00
  • B 812 12” Sphere Portable MONOCHROME, Mains/Battery….Cost £110.00
  • B 1020T 20” Conventional table model….Cost £275.00 Options
  • Available in White and/or BLACK. (standard) Wood grain finish + £6.00
  • Any choice of colour from standard colour chart. (to order) + £17.50
  • All handing & suspended models + £15.00
  • All Models with radio included + £19.95 Export crating, per set + £15.00
  • Remote control models to order 

    The audio range and the square Keracolor were designed by Keracolor Technical Director Howard Taylor. There were 5 models in the range all of which were available with a choice of turn-tables, colour options including wood grain & with different speaker options to suit all budgets. 

    “GSK audio systems are a logical development of the company’s colour, television receiver, in spherical format, which are synonymous in the industry with the most modern and up-to-date design concept in the world.” (Keracolor 1970) 

    1976 GSK AUDIO PRICE LIST 

    GSK B 14AL Cost £53.95

    Three watts, sound output. Mians ‘on’ neon indicator. Volume and tone controls. Fully automatic turntable. Lightweight pick-up arm fitted with high output cartridge. Solid state circuitry. Tinted lid.


    GSK B 15AM Cost £82.50
    Ten watts, sound output. Mains ‘on’ neon indicator. Volume, bass, treble and balance controls. Inputs facilities include – radio, tape and auxiliary. Choice of` automatic turntables `fitted with high output, ceramic cartridges. Lightweight pick-up arm fitted with high output cartridge. Solid state, modular construction for ease of serving. Tinted lid.


    GSK B 16 AH Cost £113.95
    Twenty-five watts, sound output. Mains ‘on’ neon indicator. Volume, bass, treble and balance controls. Inputs facilities include – radio, tape and auxiliary. Choice of` high precision, belt drive turntables fitted with magnetic cartridges. Solid state, hermetically sealed modular construction for easy of servicing. Tinted lid.

    GSK B 17 AR Cost £120.50
    Twenty-five watts, sound output. Mains ‘on’ neon indicator. Volume, bass, treble and balance controls. Inputs facilities include – radio, tape and auxiliary. Radio Choice of` high precision, belt drive turntables fitted with magnetic cartridges. Solid state, hermetically sealed modular construction for easy of servicing. Tinted lid.

    GSK B 18 AMC Cost £151.40
    Ten watts, sound output. Mains ‘on’ neon indicator + stereo indicator. . Volume, bass, treble and balance controls + multi push button, VHF, stereo radio. . Auxiliary Inputs facilities. Choice of` automatic turntables `fitted with high output, ceramic cartridges. Stereo cassette player fitted with auto stop and automatic recording levels controls: twin recording level meters. Solid state, modular construction for easy of servicing. Tinted lid.

    Options and extras

  • Available in White and/or Black. (standard) Wood grain finish + £3.00
  • Any choice of colour from standard colour chart. (to order) + £12.00
  • All models with radio + £19.95 B 1120S STAND (Audio/table model/portable ect.) £7.50
  • Export crating, per set + £15.00
  • Cassette adaption + ` £14.15
  • Special model configurations can be produced to specific orders.

    Speaker Specifications and options
  • Standard B 19 ASM . Fitted with 8” x 5”, three watts, full range, dual coned loudspeakers….Cost £37.50
  • De Luxe B 20 ASH Fitted with 8” round ten watts, full range, dual coned, loudspeakers: acoustically damped + cabinet refinements….Cost £44.95
  • Speakers single ( standard) Cost £21.75
  • Speakers Single ( De Lux) Cost £26.25 15AM GSK Audio Garrards A. + £3.00 15AM GSK Aduio Garrards B + £5.00 16AH GSK Audio Goldring Supreme + £1.50

    Keracolor Watches

    5 Functions watch ….Cost £17.95 4 Function watch …. Cost £14.95

    In late 1976 Howard decided to leave Keracolor and carried on working within the television industry. A local television company was employed to install the televisions into the last 20 cabinets to complete a export order for the Middle East, this is believed to be the last batch Keracolor ever to be produced in early 1977.

    The company produced television for only 7 years in that time fewer than 2000 sets were made. Howard remained in the television industry; Arthur went into property and later became an author.

    The original moulds and tooling were store for sometime up stairs at the factory until it closed down, they were then stored under cover at the bottom of Arthur’s garden until recently, after 30 years of storage the Keracolor is back!!!

    There have been a number of sphere, Space Helmet and retro style Television produced since including the JVC Videosphere, Panasonic TR-005, Zarach ,Alphelion, Philips Discoverer, LG, JVC 3100D & the Orbit TV but none has come close to the simple classic timeless beauty of the 20th Century Icon which is the Keracolor Sphere Television.

    Vintage Keracolor History Credit text : John Dunne
    for Keracolor Televisions (2006-2008)
    web archive from the website :
    www.keracolor.com (2006-2008)


    Keracolor produce custom made NEW Keracolor televisions, using the original but fitted with modern TV sets. Our new Web site will be up and running on the 20th April 2006

    Keracolor produce bespoke designer television using the original moulds that have been in storage for nearly 30 years, but fitted with modern component, so they don’t only look great but produce a superb picture as well.     

    Originally designed in 1968 by Arthur D Bracegirdle, the Keracolor Sphere Television has become a true design icon of the 20 Century.
    This site as well as promoting the new range of televisions and replacement parts for the original TV,  also provide a insight in to the design, production & history of this great television.

    Details from the Keracolor 2006' "NEW MODELS"
    All new Keracolor Televisions are handmade to order in any BS4800 or Ral colour, we can also have any paint colour mixed to order. “20in models can also be ordered as ceiling handing or suspended models complete with stand”.

    • Special introductory price £1045.00 for the 20in model in white normal retail price £1245.00 inc vat.
    • Special introductory price £1445.00 for the 25in model in white normal Retail price £1750.00 inc vat.
    • Any standard BS4800 or RAL colour please add £50.00
    • Ceiling Handing models with chrome chain extra £25.00
    • Suspended models with frame form extra £100.00 depending of type of frame; chrome, black or stainless steel all custom built to order.

    For custom made and one off models including themed TV please enquire for price.

    All Spherical Models include Beautifully sculptured stands. Air cooled by convection - for longer life. Factory adjusted for soothing viewing. A swivel and tilt adjustments. Beautifully simple and effective. Sound from the Centre. Distraction free. Easy Controls.

    25in New Keracolor Television

    25in (63.5) TV with 59 cm visible screen size
    2 x 3w RMS power output.

  • Active3D Surround
  • 25 in (63.5) TV with 59 cm visible screen size 
  • Nicam
  • Bass Xpander
  • Teletext.
  • Fast Tex
  • Fast Tex Memory 10 pages
  • UVF/VHF hyperband tuner.
  • Auto setup.
  • Auto search tuner
  • Auto search sorting
  • Auto search labelling.
  • On screen display.
  • 100 channels.
  • Child lock.
  • Sleep timer.
  • Auto shut off.
  • 2 SCART socket.
  • AV Sockets
  • Remote control (2 x AAA batteries supplied).

    20in New Keracolor Televisions

  • 20in (50.8cm) TV with 48cm visible screen size
  • 2 x 2w RMS power output
  • Teletext
  • UVF/VHF hyperband tuner
  • Auto setup
  • Auto search tuner
  • Auto search sorting
  • Auto search labelling
  • On screen display
  • 100 channels
  • Child lock
  • Sleep timer
  • Auto shut off
  • 1 SCART socket
  • AV Sockets
  • Remote control (2 x AAA batteries supplied)

    Models Under Development

    We are currently working on adding a 12inc portable and LCD models to add to the range. 

    The Keracolor policy is one of continuous improvement, so it is possible that alterations to specification and imagery may have occurred. Please check exact specifications at time of order.


    more about keracolor :
    http://keracolor.blogspot.com ( blog created just before the website keracolor.com and not actualised after april 2006)

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