The Early History of Television Through Visual Images!
Copyright 2001. All Rights Reserved Steve Restelli. 174 Merchant St.,
Barre, VT., 05641, USA. All Rights Reserved
Recipient of THE NATIONAL MEDAL OF SCIENCE 1966
This page is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Vladimir Kosma
Zworykin (1889 -1982). Dr. Zworykin received our nations highest scientific honor, The National Medal of Science in 1966 from President Lyndon B. Johnson.
were his personal record of the experimental days of television at RCA. Most of these were never published, only a few examples were published by RCA Technical Press in 1936-37 in their "Television" booklets, Volumes 1 and 2.
By the time WWII came even these low quality half tone images plates were destroyed and recycled into war materials.
This collection, having been privately held by Dr. Zworykin, is of outstanding quality and shows such detail that even the lines in the screen (kinescope tube) can be counted.
These screen image photographs below are the only ones known to exist, and were taken from the kinescope receiving tube. The descriptions and dates were hand written by Dr. Zworykin. So enjoy this opportunity and click on the pages below to see the original photographs the world has never seen before! The receiving tube (kinescope)was the single most important technical advancement in electronic television.
I am always adding to the collection. If you have a related NBC, RCA, Zworykin photograph, article, paper, book, letter or any item to sell please contact me. If you have information about these photographs please eMail me or write your comments in
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The Personal Photographs of Dr. Vladimir Kosma Zworykin, Television
RCA's first experimental television transmissions began in 1929 by station W2XBS(New York) in Van Cortlandt Park and then moved to the New Amsterdam Theater Building, transmitting 60 line pictures. A 13" Felix the Cat figure made of paper mache was placed on a record player turntable and was broadcast using a mechanical scanning disk to an electronic kinescope receiver. The image received was only 2 inches tall, and the broadcasts lasted about 2 hours per day. By 1931 the station became part of NBC and began to transmit from 42nd St. These early broadcasts consisted of objects like Felix the Cat or early test patterns and photographs.
During the first half of 1932, an experimental television system had been used in New York using a studio scanning apparatus. This consisted of a mechanical disk, flying-spot type, for an image of 120 lines. Even for small areas of coverage and for 120 lines, the resulting signal amplitude was unsatisfactory.
In the Camden system, an iconoscope was used as the pick-up device. The use of the iconoscope permitted transmission of greater detail, outdoor pick-up, and wider areas of coverage in the studio. Experience indicated that it provided a new degree of flexibility in pick-up performance, thereby removing one of the most technical obstacles to television. 1
After many years of research and development an all-electronic television system emerged from the laboratory in 1933 for actual field tests. These tests were carried out at Camden (New Jersey), using a video transmitter and connected to it by a coaxial line. Iconoscopes (television cameras) were used to pick up scenes both in the studio and out-of-doors. A scanning pattern of 240 lines made it possible to obtain a picture with good definition, but as the frame frequency was 24 cycles, without interlacing , flicker was quite noticeable.
The following year (1934) the number of lines was increased to 343, and an interlaced pattern having a field frequency of 60 cycles and a repetition rate of 30 frames per second was adopted. The results of these tests were so satisfactory that it was decided to continue them in New York City, the site of earlier RCA tests using a mechanical scanner. The advantage of the new location was that transmission studies under more nearly the conditions encountered in actual broadcasts were possible, in particular, with respect to noise and reflection from buildings. This move was made in 1935, tests followed the following year. The New York studios were located in Radio City. The transmitter was installed in one of the upper floors of the Empire State Building, with the antenna on the mooring mast, 1285 feet above street level. Two links interconnect the studio and transmitter. One of these is an underground coaxial cable approximately a mile in length. An ultra-high-frequency radio relay link operating at 177 megacycles serves as (an) alternative for interconnecting the two units. In order to increase the flexibility of the system, and to permit outdoor and indoor pickup from remote points, a mobile unit consisting of a pickup truck and transmitter, which operated at 177 megacycles, was placed in service in 1938. Approximately one hundred receivers were built and located at various points within a radius of 50 miles of the transmitter. These, together with field strength measurements, gave detailed information as to the effect of the terrain on the received pictures. They also facilitated obtaining data on the reaction of a great variety of people to different types of programs. 2
1. E.W. Engstrom, "Television"; "An Experimental Television System"
RCA Institutes Technical Press, pp. 253-254, July, 1936.
2. V.K. Zworykin, G.A. Morton, "Television, The Electronics of Image Transmission," John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pp. 567-568, 1940
The screen images below are time exposure photographs of the picture on the kinescope in the monitoring rack in the main control room. Some were taken with stationary frames of moving picture film projected upon the iconoscope by a standard moving picture machine. Others are actually the pictures transmitted with the iconoscope camera in the studio and outdoors.
I would like to thank Les Flory for his help in the identification of many of these photographs. Without his help, many of the names here would not have been known!
Click on the hypertext to the right of the page numbers to view these early images.
1933 Earliest Television Screen Images of Baseball and Football. Only the baseball photograph was published in "Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers", December 1933, page 1642. The Football Image was never published and was previously not known to exist.
1933 Top; Elmer "Shorty" Engstrom, Head of
RCA Research (later President of RCA). Bottom; Photograph of a Woman that was published in "Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers", December 1933, page 1642.
1932 Top; Iconoscope Captures a Solar Eclipse. Left; An Image of this Eclipse. Right Top; Gregory N. Ogloblinsky (left), Richard Campbell (center), and Dr. Zworykin on the roof of the RCA victor plant in Camden prepare for a solar eclipse, August, 1932. Botton; Adjusting the Lens During the Eclipse (visable in background). Les Flory was present taking the photographs.
1937 Top; An Early Main Television Signal Room Control and Switching Panel, Lesley E. Flory at left, Charles Banca to his right. Studio and Motion Picture Image Selection as well as Audio are made and forwarded to the Radio Transmitter. Note Image on the Screen. Bottom ; Arthur W. Vance, an expert in electric circuitry, pictured to the right.
1937 Top; Bob Goodrich on left inspects a Y-Shaped Image Intensifier Tube connected to a vacuum pump system and baking oven. Insuring that there are no leaks it is then throughly outgassed by baking the tube. The metal in the tube is also heated at a high temperature with a high frequency bombarder.
1934 Top; Dr. Zworykin at his desk Bottom; Gregory N. Ogloblinsky, physicist and engineer, at his desk, RCA in Camden, N.J. "Oglo" was instrumental in the development of the Iconoscope (Camera) Tube. He was killed in a high-speed automobile crash while vacationing in France, in 1934.
1934 Top; Raymond Davis Kell, who formerly worked with Dr. E. F. W. Alexanderson at General Electric, is shown scanning film for television with a "Nipkow" type scanning disk and a Powers Cameragraph (model 6B or 6A) with a modified motor drive. This projector would have been considered to be an antique even in the 30's. The film used with this projector would have been made of nitrocelulose and quite flamable; it is interesting that the room in which it is being used does not appear to be a regulation fireproof projection booth as required by law. A second lens was placed behind the film to focus on the photo electric pickup tube for satisfactory results. The light source shown is from a Edison-Mazda lamp, gas filled and quite bright. Bottom; The First Iconoscope Camera Transmitting a Test Pattern (see page 2 above to view the actual screen image).
November, 1940; A Gathering at Rodman Smith's Farm. According to Les Flory, "Rodman Smith was a friend of Dr. Zworykin, not associated with him in his work. I believe they were members of a flying club."
1940 Camden, N.J., Top; Dr. Edward G. Ramberg, physicist: his papers have been deposited at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. With him is Dr. James Hillier (b.1915), his work on the electron microscope began at the University of Toronto. He and a fellow graduate student built a working model in 1937 that magnified 7,000 times. Modern Electron Microscopes can magnify up 2 million times. Dr. Hillier was a research engineer at RCA Laboratories from 1940 to 1953, at which time he joined Melpar Inc. as research director. He returned to RCA in 1954, where he became the general manager (1957) of laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey. He retired in 1978, as Executive Vice President and Senior Scientist of RCA Labratories. Dr. Hillier holds 40 patents. Bottom; Dr. George A. Morton, co-inventor of the first commercial electron microscope.
1940 Top Left; Dr. Ladislas Marton and Golzaff, in front of the Electron Microscope. Dr. Marton preceeded James Hillier in studying the Electron Microscope. Top Right; Earnest Massa, an expert on Electro-acoustics who started working at Victor Talking Machine Co in the late 1920's and Robert R. Goodrich view the top of the first Commercial RCA Television Receiver (TRK-12). Bottom; J.F. Bender, Electron Microscope research engineer. (all of RCA)
1940 Top; Browder J. Thompson (1903-1944), Zworykin's co-director of RCA Laboratories when they opened in Princeton in 1942. Thompson died in Italy, July 4-5, 1944 while evaluating working conditions for radar when the Germans shot down the plane he was in. In Dr. Zworykin's office at RCA the walls did not display any of his some 50 awards, they were bare, except for one thing--this small photograph of B.J. Thompson. Miss Gale is at Top Right. Bottom; Dr. P.T.
Smith (at Harrison Facility)
1940 Top; Dr. R. Nelson, Bottom; L. Garner at
Harrison, N.J. RCA Facility. Harrison was formerly a Westinghouse tube plant acquired by RCA for the purpose of making research tubes, like the iconoscope ready for manufacture.
1940 Top; H. Floss, Bottom; Harley Iams ,at Harrison, N.J. RCA Facility. Started out as a student engineer at Westinghouse to work on phototelegraphy (facsilile machines). He later became Co-director at HRL Labs"
1943 Camden, N.J.; Dr. V.K. Zworykin (seated left, co-inventor), Dr. James Hillier,(seated right, co-inventor) and Perry C. Smith (standing, RCA Victor Design Engineer)display Electron Microscope, in console desk size which is capeable of magnifying up to 100,000 times.