The Philadelphia Daily News, October 89, 1999

Features

What was Space Age is new again - in TVs

by Jonathan Takiff
Daily News Staff Writer

The Gizmo: 1958-60 Predicta Replica televisions by CB Electronics, 726 Spartanburg Hwy. Hendersonville, NC 28792. Phone: 888-275-2297 or 828-798-0062. Web site. www.cbelec.com

Why We Care: It's back to the future, videophiles! The most distinctive-looking TV sets ever built in North America are available again, 40 years later, in replicas that evoke the futuristic wonder of the originals, yet work a whole lot better.

The split-chassis Philco Predicta televisions were developed in the wake of the Sputnik satellite launch (1957) that sparked a lot of "Space Age" design consciousness. Featuring a naked TV tube (17 or 21 inches) that could swivel independently, 180 degrees, above a separate receiver module, the sets had a bit of that "Take me to your leader, " pod-people aura about them - plus a crisp, no-nonsense, high-tech edge.

In fact, Predictas represented the last great hurrah of black-and-white television, fighting off the intrusions of that new kid on the block, color TV. (Some models sold for virtually the same price as color sets) Predictas also represented the last bold effort by the Philadelphia-based Philco Corp., one of the "big three" U.S. home-electronics makers in the heyday of radio and an early pioneer in television's development.

For a while, the Predictas sold like hotcakes. But the return rate was high, due to design flaws in the picture tube and chassis. Bad word of mouth and the inevitable turning of the broadcast tide to the "Wonderful World of Color" eventually did in the line, and Philco declared bankruptcy in 1962 selling its assets to Ford. (Later, the brand name was transferred to North American Philips.)

What's Different Here? Carl Bocchino, the virtual one-man production line and TV-repair facility operating as CB Electronics, fell in love with the Predictas in the mid-'70s, and made his first knockoff three years ago. To date he's produced 110 sets to order for purchase at $1,299-$2,099 by design-conscious consumers, including celebs David Copperfield, Riki Lake (it's dressing up the set of her TV show) and one of her most popular Seattle grunge-rock bandleaders, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

"Unlike the originals, mine have 25-inch color tubes - actually no bigger than the old 21 black and whites - and the new sets are reliable" Boccion said. The guts are a current model RCA Colortrak set that he purchases whole, then dismantles and re-assembles in his handcrafted cabinet.

"The way they overprice parts these days, it's cheaper t buy a finished set," he grumbled. "The manufacturers are putting repairmen out of business, which is why I turned to doing this.

His sets include a Guide Plus electronic program guide, parental control (V-chip), S video imput, sleep and alarm timers and a universal remote control. Those old-fashioned rotary dials on the front of the cabinets are strictly for show.

CB's most popular model in the handsome Predicta Pedestal floor-standing model ($1,699), made to order with a solid, slim-line mahogany or maple cabinet and also a available in custom color finishes (a $150 extra). A buyer also has the option of upgrading with a Picture-in-Picture feature ($100 extra) and a built-in Pro-Logic Surround amplifier with switchable stereo or center-0channel/subwoofer speakers ($300).

The maker warranties his replicas for 90 days' labor, one year on parts and two years on the tube, with repairs done by authorized RCA dealers.

Want to See the Original Predictas? Tour the MZTV virtual museum of television at www.mztv.com. Or see http://www.cbelec.com