April 1960 Radio-Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Lots of interesting topics
were reported in News Briefs from the April 1960 issue of Radio-Electronics
magazine. One that is relevant even today is the assigning of new numeric prefixes
tera for a trillion; giga for a billion; nano for a billionth, and pica for a trillionth.
If you have read vintage science and engineering publications, you know that, for
instance, what is now called pica (a la pF, 10-12) used to be written
(a la μμF, 10-6x10-6 = 10-12). Here
is an example of μμF being used. Less commonly seen was something like
which is 10-3x10-6 = 10-9, now known as a nanoamperes,
nA. A new television picture tube which used a solid state electron emitter in place
of a heated cathode was announced for portable TVs, potentially doubling battery
life. Did you know that in 1960, the South African government felt that TV would
be detrimental to children and "the less developed races," thereby justifying its
anti-TV policies? Following on the results of the International Geophysical Year
(IGY) discoveries, atmospheric ducts for radio signal transmission propagation were
being found worldwide. Who made the first transistorized portable TV's - a Japanese
company? Nope, it was Philco, with the
The first reflection of radio signals from the sun was achieved by the Radioscience
Laboratory of Stanford University... and there's more!
New Briefs: 11/1957
| 8/1958 |
The National Bureau of Standards and the International Committee on Weights and
Measures have adopted four new prefixes. These prefixes, in common use in Europe,
are: tera, meaning trillion; giga, meaning billion; nana, billionth, and pica, trillionth.
Sample uses of the prefixes are: 1 terawatt or 1,000,000,000,000 watts; 5 gigavolts
or 5,000,000,000; 3 nanoamperes or 0.000,000,003 ampere; 7 picofarads or 7 micro-microfarads
or 0.000,000,000,007 farads. These prefixes now become part of the list of prefixes
in more common use which include micro, mega, kilo and milli.
Long Telephone Cable
A new pair of telephone cables now connects West Palm Beach, Fla., and San Juan,
Puerto Rico. The system, 1,250 land miles long, was built by American Telephone &
Telegraph Corp. and Radio Corp. of Puerto Rico, a subsidiary of International Telephone &
Telegraph Corp. (ITT). The system has 59 amplifiers. Each amplifier contains 3 tubes
and 60 other components. The units, spaced about 44 miles apart, amplify voice currents
about 1,000,000 times. About 1,500 volts are required at each end to operate the
system. The cables can carry 48 two-way phone calls at one time.
New Products for Portable TV?
Two components, which rumor says are soon to appear, may make portable TV better
and should revolutionize the picture-tube and battery business.
The first is a picture tube with a solid-state emitter. The cathode and heater
of standard types are eliminated, and a little block of a semiconductor material
fills the gap. When 25 ma at 6.3 volts is fed through it, enough electrons are supplied
to put a picture on the screen. High voltage for the 8-inch version runs 7,000 volts.
The peak-to-peak video driving signal is 20 volts. A 118° deflection angle makes
for a very short tube indeed. G-E and Sonotone are said to be dickering for this
Another item portable TV manufacturers want is a battery being developed by a
leader in this field. The silver-mercury cell, said to be in late stages of production
and expected on the market in about 6 months, combines the best features of mercury
and nickel-cadmium types. It has the capacity of a mercury cell and the rechargeability
A simple comparison shows its ability. A rechargeable nickel-cadmium battery
rated at 1,000 ma hours is the same size as a mercury battery that has a 2,400-ma-hour
rating. The same size in a silver-mercury battery is rated at 2,000 ma hours and
can be recharged as often as a nickel-cadmium cell. In Philco's portable TV (they
are a prime bidder for the new battery), it would last twice as long as the one
now used - 8 hours without recharging instead of the present 4-hour limit.
South Africa Wants TV
The TV Society of South Africa has been formed to fight the Government's anti-TV
policy. The Government feels that TV would be detrimental to children and "the less
developed races." The society intends to get one-half million signatures on a petition
for TV and submit it to the government. The London Observer reports that "tests
have been made by the South African Broadcasting Corp. that would enable TV to be
speedily introduced if the (South African) Cabinet were to sanction it."
Experiments on a frequency of 220 mc confirmed the existence of a radio-wave
duct between the West African coast and Brazil. From ground level to 5,000 feet,
the air temperature gradually drops. At about 5,000 feet there is a sharp rise in
temperature. About 500 feet above this level, the temperature drops sharply again.
This creates two reflecting surfaces for radio transmission. This duct carried a
100-watt signal from a Navy airplane over Brazil to another plane 1,430 miles away.
It is believed that there might be three other ducts, one each in the North Atlantic,
North Pacific and South Pacific areas.
TV Production Up
Manufacturers produced 6,349,380 TV sets in 1959 as compared with 5,748,676 sets
in 1958, according to figures released by the Electronics Industries Association.
Also up were radio production and TV sales. There were 15,622,357 radios produced
in 1959, as against 11,817,243 in 1958. Stereo phonographs outsold monaural phonographs;
stereo, 2,744,720; monaural, 1,653,137.
Some New York City police cars have "bugs" in them. The "bugs" are small tape
recorders that go on when the car's transmitter is turned on. The department is
using them in an attempt to find out which of the patrolmen in the cars sing or
yodel or use improper language on the air.
Japanese Make Transistor TV
Transistor TV set from Japan may provide competition for Philco, Emerson and
others with an 8-inch screen. Weighing 23 pounds, and 6 1/4 x 8 x 8 3/4, inches
overall it operates from a 12-volt rechargeable battery or house ac power supply.
Price has been tentatively set at near $200, but is expected by the producers, Sony
Corp., to drop at least 10% after about a year. It has 23 transistors, 14 diodes
and a whip type antenna.
Signal Reflected from Sun
Signal reflected from sun
Solar contact has been made by the Radioscience Laboratory of Stanford University.
The 40,000-watt transmitter used by the group of experimenters was turned on and
off in 30-second pulses for 15 minutes, then kept silent while waiting for the echo,
due to arrive in 17 minutes from the time the first pulse was sent. The frequency
used, 25.6 mc, was chosen to minimize absorption by the sun's corona.
The contacts were recorded on tape at daybreak on the mornings of April 7, 10
and 12, 1959. Months were required to separate the echoes from solar "background
noise, which was 50,000 times stronger,
The graph shows the solar echo by dotted line, the way the perfect echo should
look by the solid line.
Dr. Peter J. Isaacs of Sperry Gyroscope Co. at the Long Island, (N. Y.) Electronic
Manufacturers Council predicted that computers will be built that can handle 10,000,000
calculations a second, as compared with today's 250,000 rate. He also said that
if these high-speed units were put to work on weather prediction problems, computer
forecasts would be available before the expected weather instead of after it.
Sunspot Peak Definitely Past
The sunspot maximum period, which stretched out long after its theoretical peak
early in 1958, showed a clear decline in the last 3 months of 1959, sunspot activity
in December being lower than at any time since early 1956, Activity remained high
so long after the expected peak that for many months observers believed that the
peak might be still to come. Looking back over the period since March, 1958, however,
a decline can be seen. The decline was so slow that the average sunspot number for
1959 is above 160, higher than at the maximum of any earlier sunspot cycle.
If the present rate of decline continues, the sunspot number for 1960 is expected
to be around 115, with a corresponding lowering of the maximum frequencies usable
for long-distance radio communications.
Posted March 23, 2023