SECAM - History

History

Work on SECAM began in 1956. The technology was ready by the end of the fifties, but this was too soon for a wide introduction. Initially, a version of SECAM for the French 819-line television standard was devised and tested, but not introduced. Following a pan-European agreement to introduce color TV only in 625 lines, France had to start the conversion by switching over to a 625-line television standard, which happened at the beginning of the 1960s with the introduction of a second network.

The first proposed system was called SECAM I in 1961, followed by other studies to improve compatibility and image quality.

These improvements were called SECAM II and SECAM III with the later being presented at the 1965 CCIR General Assembly in Vienna.

Further improvements were SECAM III A followed by SECAM III B, the adopted system for general usage in 1967.

Soviet technicians were involved in the development of the standard, and even created their own incompatible variant called NIR or SECAM IV, which was not deployed. The team was working in Moscow's Telecentrum under the direction of Professor Shmakov. The NIR designation comes from the name of the Nautchno-Issledovatelskiy Institut Radio (NIIR, rus. Научно-Исследовательский Институт Радио), a Soviet research institute involved in the studies. Two standards were developed: Non-linear NIR, in which a process analogous to gamma correction is used, and Linear NIR or SECAM IV that omits this process.

SECAM was inaugurated in France on October 1, 1967, on la deuxième chaîne (the second channel), now called France 2. A group of four suited men—a presenter (Georges Corse, Minister of Information) and three contributors to the system's development—was shown standing in a studio. Following a count from 10, the originally black and white image switched to color; the presenter then declared "Et voici la couleur !" (fr: And here is color!) In 1967, CLT of Lebanon became the third television station in the world after the Soviet Union and France to broadcast in color, utilizing the French SECAM technology.

The first color television sets cost 5000 Francs. Color TV was not very popular initially; only about 1500 people watched the inaugural program in color. A year later, only 200,000 sets had been sold of an expected million. This pattern was similar to the earlier slow build-up of color television popularity in the USA.

SECAM was later adopted by former French and Belgian colonies, Greece, the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries (except for Romania and Albania), and Middle Eastern countries. However, with the fall of communism, and following a period when multi-standard TV sets became a commodity, many Eastern European countries decided to switch to PAL.

Other countries, notably the United Kingdom and Italy, briefly experimented with SECAM before opting for PAL.

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