Cooling devices based on the Peltier effect were first
demonstrated by French physicist
Jean Charles Athanase Peltier when he noted the presence
of heating or cooling at an electrified junction of two different
conductors types (opposite of a thermocouple). Widespread commercial
use depended on finding efficient materials that could be produced
inexpensively. Music synthesizers, to be practical, needed to
await the availability of miniaturized electronics like transistors
and memory elements. Light amplification similarly depended
on affordable sources to be anything more than a laboratory
curiosity. Fortunately, by the mid 1950s such entities were
becoming reality. This article reports on a few of those items.
Electronics for Tomorrow
Music, television, recording, and air conditioning are major
fields expected to benefit from new electronic developments
recently demonstrated by RCA. Revealed to the public for the
first time are an "Electronic Music Synthesizer," an "Electronic
Light Amplifier," a new TV tape recorder, and an all-electronic
The "Music Synthesizer" is an elaborate device that generates
any tone produced by the human voice or musical instruments,
as well as tones beyond the capabilities of these sources, including
tones never heard before. Capable of solo or ensemble effects,
it is expected to open new horizons for composers who could
take advantage of its almost limitless possibilities.
Brigadier General David Sarnoff, RCA head,
watches demonstration of "Electronic Light Amplifier."
Another use of the synthesizer could be in phonograph record
production. Since the unit can produce any sound imaginable,
it may be used to rejuvenate old pressings into new records
with full tonal range and complete freedom from noise and distortion.
In addition, the synthesizer can provide remarkably authentic
renditions of older music since it can produce accurately the
tones of the old instruments for which many great composers
wrote. For music lovers, scholars, and historians, this feature
should prove of great value.
Research and development of the synthesizer is under the
direction of Dr. Harry F. Olsen, Director of Acoustical and
Electromechanical Research at RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center,
RCA's Dr. Harry F. Olsen operates keyboard
of the new "Electronic Music Synthesizer."
Equally sensational as a major development in a field followed
by millions, but still largely experimental, is RCA's "Electronic
Light Amplifier." Described as a new form of illumination, "electronic
light" (also called "cold light") does not depend on combustion
or incandescence as does conventional light. Rather it results
from the excitation of electrons in certain luminescent materials.
By using greatly amplified values of "electronic light," RCA
engineers hope to perfect - by late next year - a new type of
video known as "mural television" in which the present TV picture
tube will be replaced by a thin, flat screen that can be hung
on the wall like a picture. This development, combined with
a wider use of transistors, is expected to eliminate the need
for all electron tubes in TV sets and reduce its size to that
of a small box, containing all the circuitry and controls needed
to enjoy programs on the wall mounted screen.
Electronic light and its amplification have potential applications
in other fields such as radar and x-ray work, but details on
these are not yet available.
Heralded as a major step into a new era of "electronic photography"
is RCA's new TV tape recorder, now installed for field tests
at the National Broadcasting Company. Both color and black-and-white
telecasts can be recorded on tape, and an unlimited number of
copies made quickly and cheaply. Ultimate uses of this device
are forecast in the motion picture industry which could use
the process to make movies without any photographic developing.
Pictures can be viewed the instant they are taken. The new device
will also aid telecasting, education, and industry in general,
to say nothing of its tremendous potential for home use. TV
tape recorders are expected to become as widely used as sound
The fourth electronic wonder at hand is an air conditioner
that works without any moving parts, motors, or compressors
- a completely noiseless machine. Prototype of this development
is a small electronic refrigerator in which cooling is achieved
by the so-called "Peltier effect" in which current through two
dissimilar materials produces a cooling effect in the region
of the junction, like a kind of reverse thermocouple effect.
The problem here is largely one of researching the right materials
to do the job.
Posted October 15, 2013