Table lamp, 'TV lamp', metal / cloth / plastic, made by Rite-Lite, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1957
When full-scale television broadcasting commenced in Australia in 1956, the TV set was a novelty that soon became the centre of attention in lounge rooms. TV receivers were not mere appliances, but were sold as furniture. The demands of watching television influenced the design of other furniture, the way people cooked and ate their food, and the placement of heating. Interior designers, industrial designers, furniture makers, and even clothes manufacturers focused on creating a domestic environment organised around the TV set. With guests popping in, whether welcome or not, large lounge suites were arranged in semi-circular arcs in front of the set.
As this table lamp shows, TV viewing influenced the design of domestic lighting. Around 1956 and 1957, magazine articles advised against watching television in complete darkness because the glare of the screen could strain the eyes. On the other hand, they warned that bright lighting could wash out the picture. They recommended subdued background lighting that illuminated the room without interfering with viewing. Specially made TV lamps, designed for placement on top of television sets, were marketed as a solution. They came in bizarre decorative forms.
This anodised aluminium Rite-Lite TV lamp is more functional in design. Made in Melbourne in 1957, it was designed to give soft subdued light to help television viewers avoid eyestrain. Its adjustable lid diffused the light, and ventilation holes spell out 'TV'. It was available in 16 colours.
Rite-Lite manufactured a range of lighting products, including table lamps, wall bracket lights and pendant lights. Based in Victoria, its office was at 54 Little Bourke St, Melbourne. The company had agents in the other states.
The Powerhouse Museum purchased this lamp on eBay in August 2005 from a dealer, for display as a prop in the exhibition 'On the Box: Great Moments in Australian Television'. It was given 'prop' status rather than object status so that it could be plugged in and kept switched on during the course of the exhibition.