General Electric's 1978 Widescreen TV
By James Grahame
Sometimes it's best not to keep up with the Joneses. Take 1978, for instance. Your spendthrift neighbors had just taken delivery of a monolithic new General Electric Widescreen 1000 projection TV and were showing it off to everyone who could be tricked into visiting. GE proudly marketed the set as "a super-size TV with a picture three times as big as a 25-inch diagonal console and the 'chairside convenience' of random access remote control." Oddly enough, there is nothing widescreen about the set, despite the name.
Luckily, you (or your parents) had done a bit of research to uncover the less impressive truth. According to US Patent 4181918, the giant wood veneer cabinet housed a much smaller CRT display that employed "a vertical deflection reversing switch to invert and laterally reverse the image, and a three element lens within a light-proof projection chamber to re-invert, magnify and project the image onto a forward projection type reflective screen."
In other words, the image from a regular old TV tube was flipped and back-projected onto a transparent screen [I suspect a similar system was used in the RCA rear-projection sets that debuted in 1983].
In addition to the honking huge screen and fancy remote, the set featured GE's futuristic VIR automatic color control system, which used "computer-like circuitry" to decode hue and tint information encoded in the broadcast signal, preventing little Ricky Jr. from cranking the color controls in an attempt to burn out the cat's eyeballs during Saturday morning cartoons.