What Does The ‘TK’ On RCA Cameras Stand For?
As most of you know, the TK prefix on RCA camera models began in 1946 with the introduction of the RCA TK30 Image Orthicon camera. Pictured below is one of the very first TK30s delivered to NBC in early June of 1946.
Last night I had a conversation with my friend Lou Bazin who was the lead engineer on the TK44 and TK76 lines at RCA. I asked Lou what the ‘TK’ designation stood for. He said that he had asked the same question many years ago too. He said he never got a clear answer, BUT…it probably stands for Tele Kine.
That had never crossed my mind, but it’s actually a very good answer and here’s why. Over time, references change. For instance, ‘hooking up’ used to mean I’ll meet you later. Now it means having sex. Same for the word Kinescope which started as a noun, but later became a verb.
Before the process of recording the output of a cathode ray tube to film became known as a ‘kinescope’, the term originally referred to the cathode ray tube used in television receivers, and the word kinescope was coined by RCA’s Vladimir K. Zworykin.
As a noun, Kine is defined as: “a cathode-ray tube with a fluorescent screen on which an image is reproduced by a directed beam of electrons”. Tele is defined as: “across a distance”. Combine the two terms and you get the idea of a creation that can make images at a distance. That is in essence, the definition of a television camera.
I can see how, as a quiet tribute to Zworkin and RCA heritage, that the TK designation would be appropriate. The Image Orthicon tubes used in the first TK models, the TK30 and TK10, were revolutionary in their ability to shoot great pictures with much less light…even candle light.
This is as good an answer as I have ever heard, but like many things from that bygone era, we are not really sure of the truth.