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A Clever 1960s Prank Convinced Swedes They Could Watch TV In Color With?

A man demonstrating how to put pantyhose on your televsion

Answer: Pantyhose

When it comes to a good prank, the best pranks have a long reach but are completely harmless. In that regard, a 1962 April Fool’s Day prank perpetrated by the staff of SVT (Sveriges Television)—then the only station in Sweden and broadcast in black and white—is pretty great.

That evening, the station aired a segment led by Kjell Stensson, who they labeled as their “technical expert”. Stensson carefully explained to the audience that a new discovery had revealed it was possible to enjoy black and white television in color thanks to the light scattering properties of nylon pantyhose. The viewer simply had to stretch the pantyhose over the screen. Naturally, to extend the life of the prank, it was explained that viewing distance was critical and it would likely be necessary to move your head around a lot to get the right viewing angle for the full effect.

Thousands of people fell for the prank and it remains a memorable cultural event—many people in Sweden today recall their parents and older relatives trying, and failing, to experience color TV with a pair of pantyhose.

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In The 1960s, RCA Invented A Record That Could Play?

A capacitance electronic disc removed from its sleeve
Theo’s Little Bot/Wikimedia

Answer: Video Recordings

Long before LaserDisc and even longer before DVDs, RCA had a disc-based video system. Invented in the 1960s, RCA’s Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) was truly the middle child of video playback history.

It looked like a record, it shimmered in the light like the surface of an optical disc, and it relied on a needle to playback an analog signal. From a technological standpoint, it was a huge success and marvel. It featured high-quality video for the time (lower-end VHS quality for a 1960s-1970s era format was nothing to laugh at), the movies recorded on it had chapters, the ability to easily skip back and forth throughout the film, and a variety of features unavailable at the time (but standard on later LaserDiscs and DVDs).

Just being a technological marvel isn’t enough, however, and the CED system was a commercial failure. Despite a lead on the competition, support from major movie studios, and support from manufacturing and distribution channels, the system remained largely unknown. Thanks to infighting at RCA, poor marketing, technical difficulties, and the arrival of the LaserDisc, Betamax, and VHS formats, the CED system never took hold and ultimately cost RCA an estimated 600 million dollars in losses.

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