Now that the inestimable
Bob Pease is no longer with us to enlighten and entertain, is
there a contemporary and immediately recognizable electronics technology
name you see on a magazine article, book, or presentation? Maybe
my tech literary world is pretty small, but nobody come to mind
as I write this (apologies to the many great
authors I am forgetting). In the early part of the last century,
you can be sure that when the names Edison, de Forest, Tesla,
Marconi, Bell, and Morse were featured in bylines, readers took
note. Lee de Forest's 1945 article on the state of the art
of television was an example. No doubt many reports on TV were written,
published, and passed over, but when one of the Greats of the industry
put pen to paper it will be noticed. It worked with me.
Television - As I See It
By Dr. Lee de Forest
noted inventor presents the many economic problems confronting the
In the Foreword of my recent book, "Television Today and Tomorrow,"
"To see from a distance details that defy telescopic vision;
to have sight through barriers, to recreate in the home, in a million
homes, not merely messages and music for the ear, but actual scenes
as they transpire miles beyond the horizon, across continents;
"To summon the apparition of loved ones far removed; to bring
into one's room an athletic field, a race track, a ship sailing
a far sea; in fireside comfort to meet and hear the nation's leaders
as they counsel, instruct, and inspire; to annihilate space and
separation, to enrich the home lives of modern millions through
the medium of the mightiest miracle which science has ever yet conceived
"This is Television!"
These glowing sentences briefly epitomize, in my opinion, the
future scope and humanitarian possibilities of this youngest and
most attractive of all the offspring of what now is known as Radio.
This child, after a discouraging and tedious infancy, was growing
into attractive adolescence - during the last years of the second
decade of the Electronic Era, when it was suddenly nipped in the
bud by the total blackout imposed by our entry into this World War.
But in a hundred research laboratories intense, war-incited work
along electronic lines closely akin to those involved in television
has been carried on, advancing the knowledge of phenomena and principles
needed for the vastly improved forms of television which science
and technology will present shortly to an eagerly waiting world,
once the obliterating war clouds have rolled away.
As was the case with radio after World War I, this war-incited
development will be found to have hastened by many years the advancement
of the television art, over what an orderly, peacetime evolution
would have registered.
So we shall find shortly that the new television picture, like
a butterfly, has broken out from the small conical-shaped glass
chrysalis of the cathode-ray tube, and spread its newly formed wings
wide upon the screen wall, there to be beheld, not by a few huddled
heads, but in the comfort of arm chairs and sofas at convenient
distances, in the living rooms of ten million homes. And like a
gorgeous butterfly, the new television picture will glow in brilliant
natural colors - not always - there will be abundant black and white
scenes - but from the more elaborate, somewhat costlier sets will
be projected those fascinating motion pictures in color which now
make Technicolor productions and Kodachrome home movies so incomparably
more natural and attractive than drab black and white can ever be.
How, you ask, can these things come to pass? By the enlightened
rulings of the Federal Communications Commission which will give
to the telecasting industry coveted niches in the upper regions
of the radio spectrum, away from a great deal of interference which
formerly plagued its audiences, regions where there exists abundant
room for video band frequencies 20 or more megacycles wide. This
calls for video carrier-wave frequencies well above 150 megacycles,
perhaps as high as 700, or even higher. It now has been proven that
powerful television transmitters operating on such frequencies not
only can be constructed, but these have demonstrated a radiation
efficiency in excess of those heretofore attained with much longer
wavelengths, of the standard order of 5 meters.
The receiving antenna for use with these new fractional meter
wavelengths are smaller, less conspicuous, and more readily erected
and serviced. They therefore can be located more easily and shielded
from stray radiations which produce the annoying ghost images upon
some television-receiver screens. Also, these small antennas are
more immune to pick-ups from extraneous, manmade interferences.
From them small coaxial cables will lead the picture and audio
ether signals down to the receiver cabinet whence the picture will
be projected to the viewing screen; either a trans-lux one, attached
to cabinet for "rear projection" from the Kenetron tube, or on to
a beaded screen hung upon the wall, or suspended from a tripod,
as with the home-movie projector.
Baseball game being televised. All major sports events will
be brought directly to the home via television.
This new-era television probably will grow up alongside of the
old fashioned prewar type and standards (a 525-line picture radiated
on what we now must regard as "long" wavelengths - of the order
of 5 meters). The existing "television plant," comprising those
large companies, which deserve much of the credit for developing
this art from its inception, have many millions of dollars invested
in their prewar transmitter stations. Also there are some thousands
of prewar receivers, and the radio manufacturing companies are all
set up to turn out their "archaic" types of television receivers
in mass production, to operate with existing transmitters. The evolving
situation, however, will resemble much the manner in which FM is
growing up alongside of its older brother, AM, there being identical
programs on both. Telecasting stations will send out the same picture
program from both the old and new type of transmitters, low- and
high-carrier frequencies; moderate definition pictures for direct
tube-end viewing; and high definition, 700 to 1000 line, pictures
for screen projection, comparable in every way with our 16-mm. motion
pictures. The prewar standards are wholly ill-suited for three-color
pictures, whereas color attachments for use with the new, projection
type of c.b. tubes will be so small and simple as to add but slightly
to the cost of the black-and-white receiver instruments. Synchronism
has proven to be no problem.
So it would appear that the not-too-distant future of television
in the home is indeed promising. We know now how this vastly important
advancement of the art actually can be realized. Only the element
of time required for its realization remains undecided. But we know
this need not be long. Two years should be more than ample; 1946
should witness this vastly significant transformation.
And now a word as to the economics involved. Lacking a highly
desirable, well-deserved, governmental "lend-lease" television policy,
the new industry obviously must "lift itself up by its boot-straps."
I mean, before it can pay for the live spot entertainment that will
cause millions to view, and continue to view, their television screens,
the industry must go into the financial infrared. The high cost
of producing good, live, nightly shows, creditably enacted by skilled
name artists - shows which are perfectly rehearsed at high expense,
then flashed on the screens of but a single city, or even two or
three, only once, and then vanish forever - such cost would swiftly
bankrupt any broadcasting organization. This situation would last
at least until the audiences could be built up, by relay and coaxial
chains, into the millions which alone will interest lavishly paying
sponsors. And each telecasting chain will cost enormously in coin
The economic solution of this "insoluble" paradox is quite simple
- to some executives uninterestingly commonplace and undramatic.
It resides in celluloid! The necessary telecasting chains exist
already - the postal service, railway and air express - and the
humble tin film-carrying can!
And here is where the motion-picture industry stands complete,
all ready to help solve this ridiculous riddle. Erect television
transmitters (new type) in 50 cities (already more than that number
of applications are before the FCC). Produce your entertainment
in the motion picture studios - shorts and semilongs, all of good
quality - made perfect for presentation by cutting and splicing,
like in any moving picture. Ship the prints to every transmitter,
to be used whenever desired and as often as desired, passing them
on from city to city so that the rapidly swelling audience volume
will be kept entertained constantly. Thus, any television picture
will be viewed by such numbers as to be interesting to the commercial
sponsors. The cost per viewer thus will be so reduced that profits
in the making and telecasting processes soon will become apparent-and
Nine-tenths of television entertainment will be from film - which
factor at once eliminates a host of problems, financial and otherwise.
Spot news, athletic games, horse racing, unusual events, providing
these chance to occur at suitable hours, will prove intensely interesting
to theater audiences, of course, as well as the viewer at home.
But this quality of "simultaneity" in television has been vastly
overstressed. Who fails to be interested or delighted in a motion
picture simply because they know that the figures on the screen
had enacted that scene many months before? Far better a good picture
than a low-quality show. The film is certain to play in television
an even more vitally important role than does the transcription
and phone-record in broadcasting. Vastly more, for upon film entertainment
will depend the very life of television.
One word more covering television in the theater. Cinema screen
television pictures have long been a demonstrated fact - in New
York by R.C.A. and in London by Scophony and Beard.
The new projection tubes now under development will throw upon
the theater screen pictures almost as brilliant as we now see thereon.
I have in mind one such tube which will permit the use of the regular
theater projection arc light, instead of depending on a terrifically
bombarded, short lived, fluorescent projection area.
Such an optical device will enable us to place brilliant pictures
in all the richness of living, natural colors before the eyes of
large theater audiences. For color in television will soon dominate
that art, even as Technicolor is now rapidly assuming a capital
importance in the motion picture industry. For the theater also
it will readily be possible to register the incoming telecast picture
upon film, so that the evening audiences may witness the same exciting
horse-race finish, or football game which had thrilled the afternoon
audiences a few hours earlier. Thus, the home owner will have a
permanent record, perhaps an exclusive one, for his ensuing audiences.
The possibilities along these lines are a challenge to our imagination.
Science will provide all the needed implements. It will be up
to the motion picture industry amply to employ them.
Therefore it well behooves the great motion picture industry
to look well, and now, to television. For this new instrument is
most emphatically certain to play a heavy role in that industry,
and at an early date. They had best book this show, for it can help
or harm them ,"colossally"!
Like the sound-on-film, television cannot be suppressed, dare
not be ignored. Let the film magnates forget not the lesson learned
in the late twenties, or television will cost them plenty!
Posted November 7, 2014