Nevada Appeal at 150: May 28, 1935: Is television coming?
Some day you may realize the miracle of sitting in your living room and “seeing” a president deliver a speech in Washington or the presentation of grand opera in Chicago. But that day will not be in 1935, nor in 1936, nor — probably — in 1937.
If, after the Radio Corporation of America has spent its millions in field research, you have several hundred dollars to spend on a television set, you may be able — as a pioneer — to entertain or amuse your friends with the device.
For the present, you may as well sit back and enjoy your sound-receiving set and wait patiently while the country’s most brilliant electrical engineers devote their time to the most fascinating problem in the field of engineering.
This does not mean that television, the transmission of scenes from one place to another, is not possible, feasible, or actually on the way. Television has been achieved and is being improved. But as a commercial system, operating even with the indifferent success of our early sound-broadcasting and crystal-set receiving, it is not even “just around the corner.”
When David Sarnoff, president of RCA, announced recently the time had come to move television out of the laboratory and into the field for further experimentation, it seemed to many the move signalized success. As a mater of fact, it is just a beginning.
When this correspondent asked Dr. Alfred Norton Goldsmith, one of America’s most noted radio engineers, “What, doctor, is the major problem now standing in the way?” he smiled with tolerant amusement for a layman’s ignorance of the complicated subject.
“I could name a hundred major problems and a thousand minor ones,” he said. “Look here, do you know that every automobile running around the streets and every airplane in the sky is a problem? Let us suppose Mr. Citizen is sitting in front of his home television screen and an automobile dashes by outside. Every automobile is a transmitting station unless its ignition system is insulated. So, when the car goes by, Mr. Citizen’s television screen is all blobbed up with showers of snow and ink.”
The answer to that problem will be insulation of some kind, to be applied to all automobiles by the manufacturers.
“You point to the cost of receiving sets, which will be prohibitive to the average owner of today’s sound-receiver,” I asked the doctor. “Why not place the first sets in movie houses, which could pay the price?”
“Because of the size of the present television screen,” he said, “we can throw our pictures on a screen about five inches square, or perhaps larger, form 10 to 20 inches. But even with the use of mirrors or lenses, you lose all detail above that size. That means that for the present, television for large audiences, such as in a movie house, is out.”
Now, if you were to have a television set in your living room, under present conditions, it might take up the whole side of the room. It is actually five receiving sets in one. It has large and expensive tubes, $50 a tube, maybe. It is full of a complicated network of wires and carries so much juice, voltage, that you’d better not stick your fingers into it. Amateurs must not monkey with high voltages.
With this cumbersome set, you would see on a little screen, a fairly good presentation of some person signing and talking. You wouldn’t see Amos and Andy, or any of your favorite radio stars, hour after hour, because there are no commercial programs. You would get an occasional experimental program, of 15 minutes or half an hour’s duration, and that is all.
This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.