April 1955 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
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 1955 Popular Electronics magazine article reports
on a few of those items.
Electronics for Tomorrow
Brigadier General David Sarnoff, RCA head, watches demonstration
of "Electronic Light Amplifier."
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 cooling system.
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.
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, Princeton, N.J.
RCA's Dr. Harry F. Olsen operates keyboard of the new "Electronic
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 tape recorders.
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 July 8, 2022
(updated from original post on 10/15/2013)