World’s First Color Fax Machine – 1946 (Nov, 1947)

This is a pretty remarkable invention for it’s time. A color, plain paper, fax machine from 1946 that used colored pencils to print the output. The resulting image looks a lot like a printout from my first color inkjet printer. Sending a 7×10″ picture in full color took about 15 minutes, which seems pretty damn reasonable to me.

Tune In a Painting

PSM photos by Hubert Luckett

TAKE a good look at the front cover of this issue of your Popular Science Monthly. You are looking at something you have never seen before—a picture that was transmitted by radio in one operation and imprinted on a sheet of ordinary paper.

This is known as color facsimile. It is the product of years of effort to transmit an image by wire or radio and reproduce it perfectly on ordinary paper at the receiving point. It was developed by Finch Telecommunications. Inc., of Passaic, N. J. Finch labels it “Colorfax.”

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.

Water Wings (Oct, 1931)

Inflated Arm Bands Cut Hazards of Swimming Lessons
THE hazards and effort involved in learning to swim are greatly reduced by means of the novel inflated arm bands, or “side wings,” recently introduced at Los Angeles beaches. Wearing these wings, the novice can venture into deep water without fear and can rest when exhausted.

When pumped up with air, the wings, which are made of rubber and fitted on the arms near the shoulders, enable the swimmer to keep his head above water while he perfects his strokes, thus simplifying the ordeal considerably.

Each arm band is provided with valves for inflation. When blown up the wings are extremely light and in no way interfere with circulation of the blood.

How Lasers Are Going to Work for You (Jul, 1970)

How Lasers Are Going to Work for You

The light fantastic is no longer a scientific curiosity: It’s now being used for just about everything from moon measuring to tire checking

By C. P. GILMORE / PS Consulting Editor, Science

At RCA’s David Sarnoff Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., Dr. Henry Kressel handed to me what appeared to be an odd-looking gold-colored bolt about three quarters of an inch long. The threaded part was ordinary enough. But a small block perhaps a quarter of an inch long and half that thick was built onto one side of its flat head. A wire from the head arched up and connected to the side of the block.

“That’s the laser,” he said, pointing to where the wire joined the block. “This metal block?” I asked.

He took the device, walked into a laboratory next door, put it under a powerful binocular microscope, and peered into the instrument as he adjusted it.

Very Early Radar (Oct, 1935)

MYSTERY RAYS “SEE” Enemy Aircraft

AMERICAN and German War Departments announce simultaneously new rays capable of “seeing” enemy aircraft through fog, clouds, or dark, at distances of up to fifty miles. First tests in this country are being held at the Lighthouse Station near Highlands, N. J., by the War Department, the details of the invention being closely guarded by military police.

No larger than a penny match box is the German mystery ray machine, a highly-perfected ultra-short wave radio transmitter.

Groups of these transmitters, mounted along the border of a country and adjusted to send their “feeler” beams into the sky at a fixed angle, could be used for air defense. The 5 to 15 centimeter long beams act much like invisible light rays, and are reflected back to earth by aircraft.

Groups of ultra-short wave receivers stationed some distance from the transmitters would pick up one or more of the beams reflected. With each transmitter sending out a different type of signal, something like the interrupted signal produced by a dial telephone, and each receiver connected to the central switchboard, the distance and height of the plane could be calculated automatically and almost instantly by a machine built to interpret optical and trigonometrical formulas. With this data, air defense guns could be aimed accurately at the unseen targets.


Gee, adoption of a new technology in America held back by patent protectionism? Never!


Veil of secrecy keeps television from American homes while nearly 5,000 sets are in operation throughout Great Britain.

AMERICANS have always taken pride in their technical superiority. Our proven ability to excel other nations in the rapid development of new industries through the application of machines and scientific improvements has been recognized far and wide. And yet, in the very attractive field of television we are laggards. It is a strange situation and one that has been responsible for much comment by laymen and the press.

1956: World’s First Hard Drive (5MB) (Nov, 1956)

More at Wikipedia.

putting IDEAS to work — research at IBM

•Random Access Memory Accounting: RAMAC®, magnetic-disk memory storage, gives fast access to 5,000,000 characters. IBM Bulletin No. 400.
•Slanting Rain: “Shadows” created on a surface by its irregularities and discontinuities magnified 200,000 times through electron microscopy.

Random Access Memory Accounting
RAMAC, IBM’s newest data processing system, needed a unique memory storage system. Ordinary methods of memory storage—magnetic tape, drums, ferrite cores—couldn’t store enough “bits” of information. It took a research team of ours,withTriggNoyes and Wes Dickinson as key men at IBM’s San Jose Research Labs, to find the answer. The heart of this new idea: magnetic disks, played and replayed like the records in coin-operated music machines!

Very Early Drive-In Theater (Dec, 1934)

According to wikipedia this was the 3rd drive-in to open in the U.S.

California Autoists View Movies in New Open Air Theatre

LOS ANGELES motorists, movie bound, may now sit in their cars and enjoy the latest sound pictures in a giant open air theatre recently completed.

The frame which holds the 40 by 50 foot screen is a structure 72 feet high and 132 feet wide. Three huge loudspeakers, each 22 feet long and 7 feet across the mouth, are mounted on top of the structure. These loudspeakers are directed at the tops of the cars, whose soft fabric is said to make an ideal sounding board.

The fenced – in spectators’ area holds 450 cars which are parked in lanes graded at an angle so that the cars point up at the screen. This inclination enables back-seat spectators to obtain a unobstructed view of the screen. Projection machines are in a low building in front of the screen, said to be the largest in the world. Installed in a lov building in the second row, these machines work at an up-shot angle, instead of the customary down-shot used in indoor theatres.

Handle Opens One-Piece Razor (Jan, 1935) (Jan, 1935)

Handle Opens One-Piece Razor
HAILED as distinctly revolutionary in design, a new one-piece safety razor has been placed on the market.
Compactly built, the razor has no separate parts and is said to be extremely simple in operation. A twist of the handle opens the cap of the razor to receive the blade. Another twist closes the blade receptacle, preparatory to shaving. The appearance of the razor is enhanced by a plating of gold.

Megaphone Features “Mike” (Apr, 1939)

Megaphone Features “Mike”
OPERATED by batteries carried in a leather case slung over the shoulder by means of straps, as shown above, a new microphone-megaphone enables an announcer to speak in soft tones, yet have his voice heard by persons standing far away. Specially designed for use at stadiums and other places where crowds gather, the device has also proved valuable in helping policemen direct traffic.