February 1947 Popular Science
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early
electronics. See articles from
Science, published 1872-2021. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Those of us growing up
in the middle part of the last century remember reading predictions - even
promises - of fantastic products and systems that would become reality by the
end of the century (i.e., by midnight, December 31, 1999). Popular Mechanics,
Popular Science, Mechanix Illustrated, Science & Mechanics,
all of which I enthusiastically read, are prime examples. Examples include a
flying car in every garage, domestic robots performing tasks currently done by
housewives, a cancer cure in a pill, learning by electromagnetic programming of
your brain, another pill to control your weight, New York to Tokyo flights in
two hours, cross-continental underground bullet trains hitting 600 mph,
underwater cities, lunar colonies --- you get the picture. Some of the ideas did
manage to materialize, like this "Television on the Job" article in a 1947 issue
of Popular Science. It proposes many scenarios whereby what is now
called closed-circuit television (CCTV) is used in manufacturing processes,
education, security, and experimentation in hazardous environments.
Interestingly, Dr. K. Zworykin, "the father of television," is pictured in a
meeting sketching a plan for his "television bathysphere" which dispatches a
CCTV to extreme ocean depths rather than risking humans.
Television on the Job
Observer on deck of surface ship can use television to view deep-sea
wonders, and to guide diving sphere containing pickup camera.
By George H. Waltz, Jr.
It extends human vision beneath seas, into furnaces and throughout factories
Television is adding overalls to its dress clothes. Its sleeves are rolled -
it is ready to go to work!
To most of us, television has been a promise of armchair entertainment - a chance
to have choice seats at boxing bouts, football games, news events and stage plays
without budging from the budget or the living room. That phase of television is
here, but television's future goes far beyond the mere prospects of animated quiz
shows and soap operas you can see.
Television, like radio, is a versatile tool. A relatively small percentage of
the radio waves that flash around the earth today carry music and comedy to our
loudspeakers. Most of them have more important missions. Radio helps us go places
and do business. Without it, large-scale scheduled air travel would be impossible,
sea travel would be slowed, crime prevention hampered, news coverage cut down, and
international business and diplomacy limited.
Television likewise means much more to us than an amusing accompaniment for radio's
sound. Its workaday uses are even more dramatic than its role as an entertainer.
I found that out when I got a firsthand look into television's future at the
large modern laboratories of the Radio Corporation of America at Princeton, N. J.
There I put questions to Dr. Vladimir K. Zworykin, director of the laboratories'
program of electronic research - one of the men who helped raise television from
its flickering beginnings to its present status.
Getting Dr. Zworykin to talk about television was not a hard assignment. He thinks
it, dreams it, lives it, and talks about it with parental love.
Dr. K. Zworykin, right, sketches plan of his "television bathysphere"
for R. R. Macguire, PSM's art editor, left; George Waltz, and cover artist Ray Pioch,
Welding jobs on automobile bodies may be inspected by television
in the factory of tomorrow.
Hot metal pours into molds before one of the numerous "eyes"
at key points throughout the plant.
Activities extending over more thon 25 miles of production lines
may be controlled from a central point.
From a central television booth, below, one man may co-ordinate
all the activities of a great industrial plant. Image viewers enable him to watch
every step in transforming raw materials into finished product.
Remote control matches the pace of merging assembly lines, as
where body of a car meets chassis.
Viewers instantly detect fire of explosion, speeding alarms,
emergency measures, and first aid to injured.
His telephoned orders regulate the tempo of each department so
that all work smoothly together. Master switches at his fingertips permit him to
stop machinery, close fire doors and sound alarms.
A final checkup, before the product leaves the factory, is double-checked
by the television supervisor.
Only a few privileged spectators can look on from as close a
point of vantage as this, while a famous surgeon performs a delicate operation.
Medical students have had to watch from a distance.
Suspended directly above an operating table, a television transmitter
would be in an ideal position for observation, picking up and transmitting what
takes place beneath it without missing the smallest detail.
Reproduced upon auditorium screens, the television pictures of
the operation would give every member of the audience a view as clear and detailed
as that of the surgeon himself.
Television as a teaching aid has striking possibilities. A chemical
experiment performed before a small group, above, could be shared by students in
university classrooms from coast to coast, as shown below.
Reporter in field with televisor covers news event.
Editor in a central studio receives pickups of many reporters
and decides which to broadcast.
"Television," he explained, after he had shown me his laboratory, "is an extension
of our sight. It gives us a simple means of getting eyewitness views of things happening
in places too small, too distant, or far too dangerous for the average person to
observe. Properly applied, television can show us many things that we have never
seen before. It can open up whole new frontiers of research and knowledge.
"Undersea exploration is an excellent example. Few divers can descend more than
200 feet. Television, however, can put our eyes there without risk to our bodies.
By installing a television camera in a thick-walled metal bathysphere, lowered from
a survey ship, the deepest ocean floor can be explored safely and for hours at a
time by skilled observers seated comfortably in front of a direct-wire television
viewer on deck - or on dry land, for that matter, if the television signals from
the camera are radio-relayed from ship to shore."
As Dr. Zworykin enlarged on his idea I realized that the construction of such
a television bathysphere would present no great problems. It could be similar in
design to the diving ball that Dr. William Beebe used in his undersea observations.
With thicker walls to withstand greater pressures, it would otherwise be simpler,
since a television camera, unlike a man, requires no oxygen and would be unaffected
by the near-zero temperatures 600 feet under.
Since scenes have been televised from the dim light of a candle, illumination
would not be difficult. The modern television camera using the new Image Orthicon
tube, another Zworykin-guided development, is as sensitive to light as the human
eye, so floodlights for underwater television exploration would have to be no brighter
than those required for human observation. The bathysphere could be lowered by cable,
while remotely controlled motors built into a supporting gimbal could turn and tilt
its "eye" to scan the surroundings. The bathysphere could be used to aid underwater
salvage, guide the placing of for undersea oil wells, assist in rescues, and, perhaps,
even test the myth of lost Atlantis. The depths that could be plumbed would be limited
only by the strength of the sphere's metal shell.
Similarly, according to Dr. Zworyki television cameras can give us close-up views
of what goes on within chemical reviews of what goes on within chemical reaction
chambers, inside fiery furnaces and behind the thick lead walls that surround atomic-fission
experiments. It provides us with a third eye that is unaffected by lethal fumes,
heat or radiations.
What actually goes on inside smelting furnaces and glass furnaces is still pretty
much anybody's guess. The heat is so great that temperatures must be measured from
a distance with optical pyrometers, and quick glimpses through jet-black goggles
are the only observations possible. Any closer view would sear the flesh, blind
Television cameras at strategic spots inside the furnaces could flash pictures
of the mass to a viewer in the office of the plant engineer. He could watch the
process from beginning to end with no more bother than switching his viewer from
one camera to another. He could literally "walk around" inside the furnace. The
glow from the molten metal or glass would provide more than enough illumination,
and liquid cooled jackets would protect the cameras.
Dr. Zworykin also envisions television as a super-supervisor in the large factory
Television cameras set up in the various departments of a manufacturing plant
would allow one man in a central viewing room to watch, control and safeguard the
entire plant's activities. Rows of vision viewers would show him exactly what was
happening at nerve centers of the factory. His master control room would be an industrial
equivalent of the CIC (Combat Intelligence Center) rooms that co-ordinated our fighting
forces along the different fronts during the war. Such a system would speed production
and safeguard life and property.
A similar setup on a smaller scale could be used to control the flow of automobile
assembly lines. At present, it requires the services of a corps of men to supervise
the 25 miles or more of subassembly and main assembly lines that snake their way
through most big automobile plants. Television cameras set up at the feeder lines
and along the length of the main assembly line and wired to viewers in the main
supervisor's office could bring the entire problem under his eyes.
Television may well change our whole concept of educational techniques, Dr. Zworykin
believes. This is particularly true in medicine, where a student's view of an operation
consists of what he can see from his seat high in the operating-room amphitheater.
Television, however, can give him a surgeon's-eye view of the whole proceedings.
A television camera mounted in the cluster of lights over the operating table and
wired to screens in classrooms would not only give each student a close-up of even
the most delicate operation but would allow hundreds of students, instead of a few,
to watch the demonstration. If put on the air, an operation could be witnessed by
students in medical schools all over the country wherever television was available.
Long-distance diagnosis is another medical possibility. With the aid of television,
a doctor and his patient could take full advantage of the knowledge and skill of
a specialist a thousand miles away. Public health doctors could make actual television
visits to health clinics in outlying districts. Special health lectures could be
delivered simultaneously to widely scattered groups.
There is no reason why students some day will not get first-hand televised looks
at the moon and stars through the giant Palomar telescope, watch important experiments
in progress at the world's great research centers, sit in on the actual proceedings
at international conferences, or "attend" any of the firsts in science, exploration
and the arts. Famous lecturers and educators could be seen and heard simultaneously
in schools all over the country.
Television as a teaching aid was dramatically demonstrated in New York City during
the war when first aid and fire-bomb-fighting methods were explained to the city's
volunteer air-raid wardens via the television camera. Viewers set up at air-raid
posts throughout the city made it possible for a single group of civilian-defense
experts to demonstrate air-raid procedures to more wardens than ever could have
been jammed into the city's largest auditorium. And what is more to the point, every
warden had a close-up of the demonstration.
I asked Dr. Zworykin if he thought it would be possible to equip news reporters
with lightweight television cameras that would allow them to broadcast on-the-spot
views of accidents, fires, train wrecks and similar news events. As an answer he
showed me the compact, lightweight television camera that has been developed for
use in a guided rocket. Weighing only 34 pounds, and no larger than a suitcase,
it may well be the forerunner of the newscaster's "walkie lookie." It would have
to be changed only slightly. Its compact transmitter and power supply, stowed in
the reporter's car, would transmit the scene being televised to a main broadcasting
station. There a picture editor, seated before a bank of viewers showing the individual
pick-ups from perhaps a dozen reporters on their beats, could select the events
he desired and rebroadcast them to the station's television public.
Several department stores are experimenting with direct-wire television as a
means of displaying merchandise to customers. Fashion shows, displays and special
skits to demonstrate kitchen and garden equipment are televised and piped to viewers
placed in the store's windows and at eye-catching spots around the store. In a sales
test run by one large Eastern department store a poll of the customers showed that
nine out of 10 felt television was an aid to their shopping.
Television billboards are the latest advertising wrinkle. The plan, conceived
by a Boston, Mass., outdoor advertising firm, calls for a network of large outdoor
screens to display television sales programs broadcast by a central station. Set
up on roof tops and on the sides of buildings, the television billboards will offer
a variety of entertainment interspersed with commercials.
A New York bank is considering installing a direct-wire television system to
speed up and simplify the identification of customers. A viewer at each teller's
counter connected to a camera at the identification-card files will allow him to
verify signatures and bank balances without leaving his window. A similar network
for the nation's police forces would speed identification of criminals by photos
New developments still in the laboratory - such things as three-dimensional and
full-color pictures - will extend television uses even further, Dr. Zworykin believes.
Full-color television alone, for example, will greatly simplify the accurate matching
of colors in the paint, dye and textile industries.
Television cameras with cooling jackets can disclose what happens
in smelters, glass furnaces and other places where terrific heat precludes a direct
Cover. Undersea exploration with a pair of television bathyspheres. Painting
by Ray Pioch.
In the meantime, television as we know it today can go far to help industry solve
Color and Monochrome (B&W) Television
Posted November 9, 2023