From the Archives
Invented Earlier than You’d Think – Pt. 3 – Television

RADIO Movies in Color (Nov, 1929)
This one was another surprise, apparently Bell Laboratories had a working color television in 1929. It’s pretty damn impressive that someone managed to make an electro-mechanical color television. It sort of reminds me of a reverse version of a DLP chip.


Pay Per View TV (Oct, 1947)
This is the earliest example I’ve seen of Pay Per View TV. The picture would come in blurred from the station and the receiver would get the decoding frequencies over your phone line and the charge would appear on your phone bill.


Color VCR and Flat Screen Television (Sep, 1954)
This article from Colliers magazine has a bunch of stuff that was really ahead of it’s time, but the two best are this picture on the left of the playback from a color VCR and this amazingly modern looking flat screen television on the right. Seriously, doesn’t that look like a 23″ LCD?

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Flat Screen TV in 1958 (Jan, 1958)
While the flat-screen above looks pretty amazing, the article was a little short on the details of how it worked or if it actually worked at all. The one below is the real deal, check out the article and the linked 1996 interview with the inventor, William Ross Aiken.


Recorder stores TV stills (Jan, 1964)
Well, it’s not exactly pausing live television with a  Tivo, but this nifty device from 1964 could record up to 10 still frame grabs on a big metal foil disc spinning at 3,000 RPM.


Invented Earlier than You’d Think – Pt. 2 – Answering Machines

If you missed it, check out the first post of the series: Fax Machines

I’d seen a lot of answering machines in later magazines but I was pretty surprised to see this one in a 1924 Popular Mechanics. It even features a dial indicator that shows how many calls the owner has missed.


Device Answers Phone and Tells Caller When You Will Return to Office (Aug, 1932)
This later product called the “Ansophone” is a an answering machine in the literal sense of the word. It will answer the phone and play a message to the caller, but it doesn’t record any incoming messages.


The Perfect Secretary—a Machine (Apr, 1933)
This gigantic contraption seems to be functionally equivalent to the first machine above. You’d think after almost a decade that the technology would allow a smaller device, not a bigger one. I’m guessing that it probably worked a lot better though.


Invented Earlier than You’d Think – Pt. 1 – Fax Machines

Here is the first installment in a series I’ll be posting this week that goes by the oh-so-clunky name “Invented Earlier than You’d Think”.  In this series I’ll be taking a look at early examples of modern technologies that are not as modern as they seem. In this part we’ll be looking at a some of the early innovations in fax machines.

The earliest fax-like machines actually predate these by quite a bit, but these are all culled from this site, so that’s what you get. There are more fax related articles available available here.

Secret Documents Sent by Radio (Jan, 1932)
Early fax machines all seem to have one thing in common: they weren’t really fax machines in the sense that we use it to day. The early examples are all radio-fax systems. They don’t transmit over a normal telephone line. This machine however, does have the added bonus of apparently encrypting your image.


New Radio Pen Reproduces Pictures Put on the Air (Jul, 1934)
In the 1930’s the idea of the radio-newspaper was everywhere. I have literally dozens of articles about them. This one was obviously way ahead of it’s time since you can clearly see an early print version of a Mac vs. PC ad on the left.


Television Will Carry the Mails (Mar, 1935)
While the device pictured  is another radio-fax machine, the linked article does also talk about telephone based faxes as well. As with all new technologies, pictures of scantily clad women lead the way.


Telegraph Kisses Are New Fad (May, 1938)
Now we’re getting somewhere. Long before cybersex, there was the much more low key, though decidedly more stylish telegraphisex.

“Mail Box” for Telegrams Transmits Messages (Jun, 1939)
This actually seems like a really handy machine. You write your message on a form, drop it in the slot, and it automatically gets faxed… somewhere.


Pictures by Radio (Jun, 1939)
Another radio-newspaper system, though this one actually was actually put into production and had available content for a time.

The left picture gives you a good view of the printing mechanism and picture quality. On the right is the rather handsome looking home receiver. Though with a print speed of three feet per hour, you better hope that lady is a very slow reader.

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World’s First Color Fax Machine (Nov, 1947)
This article just floored me. You really have to look at the full size images to appreciate it, but this machine is gorgeous. The left image is of the print mechanism which is composed of a rotating set of actuated color pencils. And just to make sure you knew which pencil went where, they made the rollers out of colored velvet. You don’t get style like that in fax machines anymore.

The print quality is actually pretty stunning considering, you know, its a friggin color fax machine from 1946.  The output reminds me a lot of a mid 90’s era color inkjet printer.


Desk-Size Facsimile Machine (Jun, 1952)
This is the closest thing to a modern fax machine, although all of your calls have to be routed through a central switchboard.


Weird Beauty Devices

These old magazines are full of devices for improving women’s appearance. 90% of them are completely useless, and some are even dangerous. Here are a few of my favorites:

According to the article this machine, designed by Max Factor, will measure the beauty of a woman’s face. I’m not really sure how that’s supposed to work, but the picture looks like a scene right out of a Frankenstein meets Hellraiser movie. Here’s another article that provides different view of this instrument of torture beauty.


Woman Invents Dimple Machine
I guess this would work. If you consider annoying red welts to be dimples.


14 Smoking Accessories that Nobody Should Own

Double-Barrel Cigarette Holder
First up, we have this double-barrel cigarette holder. Makes perfect sense, right? You’ve got two lungs, gotta have two cigarettes. Of course if you used this I don’t think you’d have two lungs for very long…

Whole Cigarette Factory Contained in Single Tobacco Can
I’m not entirely sure that’s tobacco he’s rolling up there.

How to Drown Yourself DIY Style

One of the things you notice when reading these old magazines is that liability law did not really seem to exist in the first half of the century. Some of the activities and devices promoted by these magazines are just plain dangerous. We’ve covered crazy schemes to give city kids fresh air by hanging them out of apartment windows, playground equipment that seems designed to crack heads open, electric baths and children’s car seats that look like they’ll catapult the child through the windshield. Modern Mechanix in particular seemed to love publishing ingenious ways to drown yourself. Here are a few of my favorites:

Cooky Jar Diving Bell

These two brothers both made homemade diving helmets. Their first model used a water tank and their second, designed to increase visibility, used their mother’s pilfered cooky jar.
Cooky Jar Helmet