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In October of 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. It was the beginning of the Space Age, a monumental moment not only in the world of science and politics, but in design. Suddenly, futuristic stylings emerged in everything from cars to vacuum cleaners.

The Philco Predicta Princess

The Philco Predicta Princess cost $179.95 in 1960. This 17-inch Predicta in a perforated and finned metal cabinet is compact and lightweight. A similar model called the Siesta was available with a clock above the tuner that could turn the set on and then off automatically.

So, it shouldn’t have come as too big of a surprise when in 1958 Philco debuted Predicta, a television set it promoted as the “TV of Tomorrow.” And yet it was. Gone was the traditional square or rectangular shapes of a television screen entombed in heavy wood. The Predicta was elegant, with a forward-looking design that was lightyears ahead of the competition. Even today, the design remains appealing more than sixty years later.

Philco Predicta Advertisement

Advertising for the Philco Predicta promised a "new era in Tele-fashion."

Philco’s engineering department helped turn designers’ dreams into reality by separating the viewing screen from the bulky receiver chassis. Such freedom of movement was revolutionary.

The swivel picture tube made viewing more flexible and gave the Predicta a modern look, which led to its nicknames of “the Atom Bomb,” “Cyclops,” and “the gas pump.” A new plastic called Tenite protected the glass and caused the tube’s greenish hue, adding to the set’s otherworldly look.

Philco's Predicta televisions are possibly the most distinctive sets ever designed and cause quite a stir in the market place. RCA's president, David Sarnoff, was quoted as saying, "Philco has reinvented the industry and made TV more exciting again."

The Philco Predicta Pedestal, 1958

The Philco Predicta Pedestal, 1958, originally sold for $459.95. The Pedestal cabinet was created by Catherine Winkler and Richard Whipple. Philco patented the design in 1958, in US Patent D183,782.

Philco Predicta Penthouse

The Penthouse picture tube could be placed anywhere. It was connected to the cabinet by a 25-foot-long flexible extension cable. Original cost: $339.95. 

Alas, the Predicta was short-lived. While it's true that its swivel head and space-age design were way before its time, the Predicta was a black-and-white TV in a world that was turning to color. As color TV technology improved, black and white TV sales plummeted. The pioneering design was shelved after two years, shortly before Philco was sold to Ford Motor Co. The last Predictas were liquidated in block sales to motel chains.

Yasmina Greco with Predicta Princess.

Yasmina Greco with her striking Predicta Princess. 

The Predicta, however, lives on with collectors smitten with its Mod design. In working condition and depending on model, a highly desirable Predicta can sell for north of $3,500.

“Predicta is a conversation starter for sure,” says Yasmina Greco, a lifestyle blogger in San Francisco, who bought her set at an antique mall in working condition. “Most people haven’t ever seen one. It’s a dynamite looking mid-century marvel.”

The Philco Predicta Continental, 1960

The Philco Predicta Continental, 1960, with its Scandinavian design was one of the most stylish Predictas. 

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