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.”
“And nine for flashing the sectors on and off.”
“Andâ€”” Mr. Latz scratched his head. “There’s three more for something else, but darned if I know what they are!”
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 originalityâ€”and that’s just what the Wonder-sign, newest and brightest addition to the Great White Way’s signs, has.