Radio News Television Number Nov. 1928

My wife found this magazine at a garage sale. This special "Television Number" of Radio News was published by Hugo Gernsback in 1929. It's full of informative articles about the then-pioneering technology of scanning-disk television.

This cover shows Gernsback in his home, sitting in a flowery upholstered arm chair and peering at the miniscule "screen" on his enormous handbuilt TV set. The square box in front of him contains the scanning disk and neon bulb that transmitted the image. To his left are the receiving box, sitting inside a bookshelf, and the rounded speaker on top. One cable runs from the receiver to the viewing box, and he holds a second green cable in his hand.

The magazine includes a prophetic column by Gernsback on the possible future development of TV. Among other things, he correctly predicted that TV would become a commercial medium. In hindsight, it wasn't a very tough call. The very first TV broadcasting stations had already been approached by eager advertisers, even though the pictures they broadcast had no sound, and could be seen by only a handful of experimenters using sets they had built from kits or from scratch.

In another article, Gernsback describes how to build the experimental model pictured here. You had to be pretty dedicated. The image was so tiny that Gernsback hung a magnifying glass over the "screen." And since the images were not synchronized, you had to sit there and hit a switch (to speed up the scanning disk) whenever the picture started to go crazy. Nevertheless, it had to be a mighty exciting experience to watch one of these.

As you can see in the picture, the border of the cover contains the word Radiovision alternating with Television. Perhaps they are meant as synonyms, although in Gernsback's column he's a bit fussy about terminology. He defines television as "instantaneous sight at a distance" (i.e., live broadcasts), distinguishing it from "radio movies," which he called "canned sight."

A separate article in this issue describes radio movies, also called animated radio telephotography. Instead of live images, an apparatus projected light through the movie film. The images were scanned by a spinning disk similar to the disk used in live TV broadcasting.

When I attended the 2005 convention at the Early Television Museum in Hilliard, Ohio, I saw a demonstration of a working replica of a scanning disk television. Lots of fun to see, although you can't squeeze much detail into a tube that's only a couple of inches high.

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