Big City Sign (Oct, 1939)

Very cool article from 1939 about the first programmable electronic sign in Times Square (think the grandfather of the Jumbotron). Every single change of a light, and there are 27,000 of them, is punched as a row on a 160 column roll of paper that gets fed through the vast machine.

Oh, and in response to the question posed here:

“The paper is wide enough for 160 perforated holes across. One hundred holes to represent all the lights in each zone. Thirty to represent the zones in all the sectors. And nine to represent the sectors.”

“But that’s only 139 holes'” we remark brightly.

“Well, there are nine holes to erase the sectors.”

“That’s 148.”

“And nine for flashing the sectors on and off.”

“That’s 157.”

“And—” Mr. Latz scratched his head. “There’s three more for something else, but darned if I know what they are!”

The answers are:
158 – displays goatse
159 – displays Xeyes. Every platform needs Xeyes.
160 – reserved for pending MPAA DRM solution.

Big City Sign

“How does it work?” is the question most frequently heard, as New Yorkers and visitors gaze at the sign whose color and action make it one of Broadway’s most startling attractions.

27,000 light bulbs! 40 miles of wiring! 500,000 connections!

THESE figures are impressive, but an electric “spectacular” must depend on more than sheer size to attract attention in New York City’s Times Square, which has the most imposing collection of electric signs in the world. It must have action, color, and originality—and that’s just what the Wonder-sign, newest and brightest addition to the Great White Way’s signs, has.

“Radio Nurse” Watches Child (Jul, 1938)

Did you think that the baby monitor was a recent invention?

“Radio Nurse” Watches Child

A “RADIO NURSE” now brings the nursery into the living room, kitchen, or any other room desired. When a child is sleeping or playing in a room when no older persons are present, every sound within that room can be transmitted to any spot in the house. The outfit consists of a pickup unit, placed near the child to be “watched,” and a loudspeaker, which can be placed in any convenient location.

Robot Song Master Stimulates Sunday-School Singing (Nov, 1953)

Robot Song Master Stimulates Sunday-School Singing
Youngsters sing their lungs out to please a robot who draws big crowds to a Seattle Sunday-school class. “Sam” has eyes of radio tubes and light-bulb ears, a big square face and a grinning mouth. As the volume of singing increases, bulbs light up and Sam’s long red tongue wags back and forth. Besides functioning like an applause meter, Sam tells short Bible stories by means of a hidden tape recorder.

Exploding the Television Boom (Feb, 1939)

Very interesting (and long) article from the dawn of the TV era (1939) explaining all of the hurdles; technological, economical, political, etc that will have to be jumped before TV is widely available. A lot of it sounds similar to the current emergence of internet based video distribution. Just as they are today, the major movie studios and radio networks were unsure of how to handle this new beast. They feared it would replace them, so the bought in, then gave up, then bought in again, a lot like what we’re seeing with TV networks allowing their content to be distributed online.

According to the printed stories, Paramount will soon be set for big-scale television on a national basis, with transmitting stations on both coasts planned to give the public “this new type of entertainment”. When sound broadcasting began to loom as the movies’ first really serious competitor, Paramount bought an interest in the Columbia Broadcasting System, and then dropped it when they learned that there was nothing wrong with the movies that good pictures couldn’t cure. Now, apparently, Paramount is making another attempt to cover itself, and protect its stockholders by entering television in case it does materialize into something more than hot air.

There are also some interesting parallels to the DRM questions flying about today:

He will also make receivers—in fact, he’s making one right now for the Empire State signals—but under the Paramount set-up the new receivers will reproduce only his broadcasts, not the NBC or CBS ones!

And some funny assumptions about radio’s future:

No grade “A” broadcast station uses phonograph records; will they step down a notch and use “image records?”

The answer I guess was, yes. Though sattellite and streaming media are chaning this, for the last 50 years, TV and Radio content (with the exception of sports, news and talk radio) have been ruled by recorded programming.

Full article text after the break.

Sun Hat Has Built-in Radio (Jun, 1949)

I love the two little vacuum tubes sticking out on top.

Sun Hat Has Built-in Radio

No, that’s not Buck Rogers. It’s just Victor T. Hoeflich and his Radio Hat. The hat works, too—it keeps the sun off your head while you listen to radio programs. The Radio Hat contains a real radio receiver-two miniature tubes, the volume control,
and the antenna (which looks like an oil-can handle) stick out on top. The rest of the circuit is inside the hat’s lining.
The hat weighs only 12 oz. The 7-oz. power supply—a flashlight cell and a B battery—is carried in the pocket. Mr. Hoeflich’s company, American Merri-Lei Corp., Brooklyn, N. Y., makes the talking benny.

Transistor Ad (Jul, 1952)


A picture report of progress

A tiny amplifying device first announced by Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1948 is about to appear as a versatile element in telephony.

Each step in the work on the transistor . . . from original theory to initial production technique . . . has been carried on within the Laboratories. Thus, Bell scientists demonstrate again how their skills in many fields, from theoretical physics to production engineering, help improve telephone service.

Home Made TV Station (Aug, 1949)

Next time you bitch about trying to get your video blogging software to work, check out what this guy had to scrape together to get an amateur TV station running in 1949. He built a garage full of equipment and had three giant antennas.

Radio ‘Ham’ Builds TV Station

California amateur sends voice and picture over transmitter made from $500 worth of war-surplus parts.

By Andrew R. Boone

PULSING through the California skies from a weather-beaten back-yard shack, the image of a beautiful brunette flows into television receivers around San Francisco Bay. The boys who have seen her call the vision Gwendolyn.

Reproduced by a collection of secondhand tubes and war-surplus video equipment, Gwendolyn represents the first standard TV image broadcast successfully and repeatedly by an amateur. Soon, from the same station, W6JDI-TV, radio ham Clarence Wolfe, Jr. hopes to televise live images.

Things You Never Knew About Your Fountain Pen (Sep, 1956)

Things You Never Knew About Your Fountain Pen

A leaky 1884 pen let loose the flood tide of American ingenuity that has kept the world writing.

By Richard Match

FROM Murmansk to Timbuktu the American fountain pen, streamlined, durable and leakproof, is a symbol of U.S. technological excellence. After World War II our trim Parkers, Sheaffers, Watermans, Eversharps brought $400 each on the black market overseas. Today Japanese and Italian street vendors hawk shoddy counterfeits; the Russians turn out imitation Parker 51’s which cost more than the real thing. But American manufacturers make 75 percent of the world’s output—some 200 million pens a year.

Coin Operated Phone for Home (Mar, 1933)

Coin Operated Phone for Home
TO PREVENT excessive phone bills and to lessen the “Can I use your phone” nuisance, a coin-operated lock can now be obtained for either the French cradle type phone or the standard type. In operation, a nickel is inserted in the slot after removing the receiver from the hook and the plunger is pushed down with the finger.
The device can be applied in a few seconds to all types of standard phones. It is used in offices, stores and homes where, the meter system is employed.

“Tiny” Walking Radio (Feb, 1937)

Devise Tiny Walking Radio

A NOVEL radio transmitter is used by representatives of the Columbia Broadcasting System to conduct roving interviews. The device consists of an antenna and radio frequency oscillator mounted in a cane, a microphone on a wrist strap, batteries in a money belt, and an audio amplifier and modulator in a binocular case. Working range is one mile.