Ahead of its time
Tour of a Very Early TV Station (Nov, 1931)

Operating a TV station using electro-mechanical equipment looks really hard. That camera looking thingy at the bottom of the page is not in fact a camera, but an arc lamp. In front of the lamp is a spinning disc with holes punched in it which scans the light across the subject. The “camera” is actually composed of those six light-bulb looking things in front of the subject. They are just ordinary photo-electric cells.

And to view it at home? Here’s what you need:

“you will require a 60-hole scanning disc, revolving at 1200 revolutions a minute, giving 20 frames a second. Further, you will need two short-wave receivers, if you desire to pick up both image and voice frequencies. The images are transmitted on 107 meters, and the sound is sent out from W2XE’s shortwave transmitter on 49 meters.”

Latest Television Broadcast Station

CHICAGO, Toronto, Boston and Washington have recently reported the regular reception of both “sight” and “sound” signals from the new Columbia television station W2XAB, and its accompanying sound transmitter W2XE. The Columbia “telecasting” station was opened on July 21 last, when the Hon. James J. Walker, mayor of New York City, lifted the curtain from the photo-electric cells; which formally marked the opening of the station. The television transmitting apparatus and antenna systems are adjacent to the studio, which is located on the 23rd floor of the Columbia Building at 485 Madison

First Surround Sound – 1934 (Apr, 1934)

And it only took us another 50 years or so before it became commonplace.


“Three-Dimensional” Sounds Created

LIKE pictures on a screen, the best of public-address amplification and loudspeaker reproduction hitherto available has lacked reality. It is not that the instruments are defective in their reproduction of pitch and volume; but the ear is a fairly selective instrument, and hard to deceive when aided by the eyes. The sounds are right, but the directions from which they come are wrong. However, a recent demonstration, staged by telephone engineers, has the astonishing effect of overpowering the testimony of the eyes. Unseen players, singers and dancers seem to move tunefully or noisily across an empty stage.

Invents Wrist Watch Camera (Jul, 1939)

Invents Wrist Watch Camera
A WRIST watch camera is the brain child of Jujiro Ichiki, Japanese inventor. It takes real pictures, making 36 exposures with one loading, and is equipped with an f .4.5 lens. The focusing scale graduates from one foot to infinity. What a wonderful device this would be for a spy!

Clock Phonograph (Oct, 1931)

Hmm, for some reason I don’t think these ever really cought on.

Clock Wakes Sleeper with Music

THE violent hatred which humanity has for alarm clocks, especially around the hours of daybreak, may be mitigated somewhat by the invention of a combination phonograph and clock which awakens a sleeper with the strains of music from his favorite orchestra or singer.

Both phonograph and clock motor is contained in a box the size of a large camera, and the hour for the morning serenade is set by knob as in an alarm clock. When out of use the case is folded up to make a neat and attractive table or mantel ornament.

There’s plenty of room at the bottom (Nov, 1960)

This is a condensed version of a talk titled “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” that Richard Feynman gave in 1959. It is generally considered to be the first speech about nanotechnology.

There’s plenty of room at the bottom, says noted scientist as he reveals —
How to Build an Automobile Smaller than this dot -> .

At 42, Richard Phillips Feynman, Ph.D., enjoys world renown as a theoretical physicist, local fame as a “marvelous” performer on the bongo drums, and campus admiration as a man with a pixyish humor that turns a lecture on quantum electrodynamics into a ball. You’ll see why when you read his impassioned and witty plea to think small.

This tall, slim, dark-haired scholar helped importantly in developing the atomic bomb and watched its first test explosion. In 1954 he won the $15,000 Albert Einstein Award, one of the nation’s highest scientific honors.

Fire Alarm Talks Over Telephone (May, 1935)

Fire Alarm Talks Over Telephone
A PERFECT fire alarm, when heated, lifts a telephone receiver, dials the operator, informs her as to the exact location of the fire, and rings a guiding alarm.
The device is ingeniously controlled by a thermostat. When heated to the danger point, the thermostat sets the machinery in motion. A screw plate rises to lift the receiver, a metal finger dials the operator, and the phonograph starts repeating the directions, which, together with the loud gong, bring the firefighters directly to the scene.


This reminds me a lot of that Robotic Pack Mule video that’s been going around.


An Original MI Design by FRANK TINSLEY

IMAGINE, if you can, machines that walk—articulated mechanical “mule trains” that could thread a tortuous path through boulder fields and forests and negotiate mountain passes with heavy loads of freight. Sound crazy? Well, our Armed Forces and Space Authority are dead serious about it. Right now engineers are perfecting pilot models that are already walking around laboratories and testing grounds.

One of these devices is the solar-powered Moon Rover vehicle intended for remote-controlled reconnoitering of the moon. Designed by the engineers of Space-General Corporation, the Moon Rover will be lofted to our lunar satellite by an Atlas-Centaur rocket. Upon landing, the six-legged explorer will unfold, raise its panel of sun batteries and, with the power thus generated, march off about its business at a brisk three mph, picking up geological samples with pincer-like fingers, analyzing them and flashing the information back to earth.

FORD ATMOS (May, 1954)

ONE of the wildest “dream” cars ever to roll out of a Michigan experimental laboratory is the creature shown above, the FX-Atmos—built by Ford and backed up by the determination that “it shall never be built for sale.” This, say the engineers, is purely a “car of the future,” however
it represents styling concepts that could easily appear in the Fords of a few years from now, if the general public accepts them. The engine design and other mechanical factors were not included in this project. Wheelbase is 105 inches; length: 220.58 inches; height: 48.1 inches.

Flat Screen TV in 1958 (Jan, 1958)

I’m not sure this was real. It seems like if it really worked, we’d all have them. This is a Cnet article from 2004 about brand new flat CRTs and they are 16″ deep…

Update: This was real. It looks like it got abandoned more because of licensing and a standards battle than anything else. Here is a really interesting interview (pdf) done with the inventor from 1996.

AIKEN: “They finally agreed to a license. But, at the last minute, I guess at a Board of Directors’ Meeting for the final approval, somebody on the Board of Directors’ of RCA said, “Wait a minute, we’ve forgotten something. How are we going to explain to our stockholders that we wasted millions of dollars on the wrong tube?” And there was silence. And that did it. They said, “No, we will not take a license.”

Thin Tube Foretells Wall TV and Sky View for Air Pilot

BECAUSE OF NEW TECHNIQUES in the field of electronics, airplane instrument panels and home television sets may soon have something in common—a rectangular picture tube less than three inches thick. The thin cathode-ray tube was invented by William Ross Aiken and developed in the Kaiser Aircraft and Electronics Corporation laboratories. Military uses for the new TV tube were developed for the Douglas Aircraft Company. For the aircraft pilot, the thin TV tube will serve as an electronic windshield, showing an artificial picture of the terrain and sky conditions about him. For the TV viewer at home, the new picture tube may result in new designs for sets, with screens mounted in any wall or hung like picture frames. The picture tube, only 2-5/8 inches thick, is made of two rectangular pieces of plate glass with about an inch of space between them. The edges are sealed with powdered-glass solder to hold the vacuum. The surface of the thin tube is the equivalent of a 21-inch conventional screen. In the thin tube, the electron beam is injected at the bottom of one side. Deflection plates along the bottom edge bend the beam upward between the front and back glass walls. The inside of the front wall is coated with a new transparent phosphor which is said to improve the contrast. The thin TV tube also is reported to have sharper focusing properties. A new method of printing electrode elements on the inside surfaces of the glass eliminates the need for assembled metal parts. Printed circuits are used in the tube controls. The thin tube will replace many of the instruments needed for blind flying of an airplane and can be operated by a small electronic computer. A similar control system was developed by Allen B. Dumont Laboratories, Inc., for Bell Helicopter Corp.

Typewritten Flag (ASCII Art) (Jul, 1948)

What are the curved characters?

Typewritten Flag

Anyone can draw an accurate picture of the American flag on a typewriter, according to Menno Fast, a relief worker in Poland. Fast read a recent Popular Mechanics article on drawing pictures with a typewriter. He submits a drawing of the flag as proof that it can be made on an ordinary typewriter using standard spacing. The flag, with a full 13 stripes and 48 stars, appears to be rippling in the wind.