FROM THE ARCHIVES: Television makes its midwest debut at plant of Farnsworth Corporation

F. M. Smith, Technician, watches reverse side of control panel (at left) and (at right) salesman witnesses a televised image on screen on front side of panel. (News-Sentinel file photo)
Left to right, Don Pyke, Assistant Director; Thelma Thompson, accordianist; R. B. Gamble, Program Director; During Telecast. (News-Sentinel file photo)

This was a story which originally appeared in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel on August 9, 1939

Sound motion pictures of events while they are happening, with images and voice as clear and undistorted as those in a motion picture house, are available to the public in the form of television programs. It was demonstrated to distributors of the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation Tuesday afternoon at the Farnsworth plant here, during the first telecast to be staged in Fort Wayne or the Midwest.

The small size of the image — about five by seven inches — is forgotten in the accuracy of detail with which it is presented. Every minute change of expression in the performer’s face, his slightest movement of head or body — all are brought out by the 20,000-watt Kleig lights, caught by the super-sensitive camera of “image dissector,” transferred by a maze of wires and radio tubes through a mammoth control board and finally presented on the screen of the television set.

Expressions of wonderment were heard at the showing, which was the feature of the first annual convention of Farnsworth distributors.

The show was presented in the control room of the plant, and the distributors and company guests were privileged to “look in” at the show as it appeared on the control operator’s monitor screen, built into the control panel. At all times during the telecast, the operator has electrical control over the image dissector to keep it in perfect focus on the performer. An electric motor moves the lens to keep the contrivance always in focus.

Televising of several “still” shots opened the show. On one occasion the front page of a tabloid newspaper was thrown on the screen and was easily readable even though reduced to less than five by seven-inch size. Then followed some singing and accordion skits by two performers, after which members of the audience were asked to step forward t be televised. The tube used to show the image gives a blue cast to the entire screen, producing an effect similar to that of certain types of rotogravure section.

Heat was generated during the program to that about the same degree as that in a movie studio during a “take.” The intense light of the Kleig bulbs produced the effect on the male guests who appeared on the show of a growth of stubble beard on their chins. Technicians in charge of the show explained that during the actual telecast, performers wear a makeup designed to overcome the bearded effect.

Radio not challenged

Ernest H. Vogel, Farnsworth vice president, explained to the distributors prior to the telecast that it is not the belief of engineers or company executives that telecasts will ever supplant radio.

“We take our radio programs as an incidental part of our life,” he said. “We listen to a radio while playing bridge, reading the paper or even while conversing. In television, our habits must be changed. We must sit with it for an hour and a half or two hours, whatever the length of the program we wish to see. And we can do practically nothing else while that is going on. In other words, we will attend our television programs as we now attend moving picture shows.

“In London, they have brought into their programs the variety shows, and the almost unlimited talent is available for the purpose. Good musical shows have always had definite interest. A technique has been developed so that the video end of a good musical show is as interesting as the radio component.”

Operation reviewed

A brief review of the method of operation was the distributors by Mr. Vogel. He explained that to produce a television image on a screen requires the scanning of 30 complete pictures or frames a second. By means of a method developed by Philo T. Farnsworth, head of the company’s experimental laboratory, vice-president and director of the organization, the entire electronic image of the subject being televised is moving systematically to effect a scanning action before an aperture at the rate of 441 lines per frame, or 13,230 lines per second.

The action develops image potentials which are proportional to variations in light intensities along the successively scanned lines, thereby creating a stream of varying electrical impulses representing the light and shadow on that particular image on the camera. This signal, or current, is then amplified and impressed on a carrier wave which is transmitted into the ether. The carrier wave is effective over a radius of about 50 miles.

At the receiving end, a special radio circuit receives the carrier, takes it through many stages of amplification, detects the signal and then feeds it into a vacuum picture tube where the signal is translated into an electronic beam.