Music Sheet Has Radium Notes for Television Artists (Apr, 1932)

Music Sheet Has Radium Notes for Television Artists

TELEVISION performers, working in almost complete darkness, except for the flying spot, have found difficulty in reading music when they were broadcasting a program. To remedy this difficulty and enable the performers to see better the music manuscripts from which they are singing, Elliott Jaffee, a New York recording artist, has devised a luminous manuscript on which the characters are painted on black paper with radium paint. This invention eliminates one of the greatest difficulties the performers have encountered. Now, however, the music is as plain in the darkness as the figures on a radium watch.

  1. Casandro says: May 21, 200811:41 pm

    Ohh, is that a flying spot scanner in the background? Those were commonly used for television in some countries. They were the ones that required total darkness in the studio.

    However what I wonder is: Why didn’t they just place the musicians in another room?

  2. Anne says: May 22, 20085:21 am

    I’m sure they were in the same room so they could see what was going on and be able to play the right music at the right time. TV screens were, what, tiny things? (5-10 inches in a huge cabinet?) Having them in another room, watching those tiny TVs would have been fairly inefficient, I think.

  3. Al Bear says: May 22, 20086:49 am


  4. jayessell says: May 22, 20087:33 am

    We in the 21st century can’t imagine television without a CRT.
    Now, you don’t have to!…

    When did the image pickup become all electronic?
    At first they had to wear clownish makeup due to the weird color sensitivity
    of the tube.

  5. cks2008 says: May 22, 20089:23 am

    I think the late 1920s/early1930s, the all electronic TV system was invented. I believe the 1936 Olympics used electronic cameras.

  6. JMyint says: May 22, 20081:50 pm

    Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first image dissector September 10, 1928 in San Francisco. He was 21 at the time but he had the original idea when he was 14. All television systems were based on his and Vladimir Zworkin’s patents. Zworkin invented the electromagnetic deflection crt in 1929. Prior to these two inventions television as we know it did not exist. There is an article on this site about Farnsworth.

  7. Max says: May 22, 20082:26 pm

    This sounds like the music manuscripts were created using the same stuff that made watches glow in the dark. It’s hard to believe the glow would have been bright enough to make the music legible.

  8. Blurgle says: May 22, 20082:41 pm

    I wonder if the guy who made the music boards had problems in later life, or perhaps he didn’t have to do it for long enough for it to become a health problem.

  9. jayessell says: May 22, 20083:40 pm

    The quantity of Radium on each page was probably nanoscopic.

    The stuff was over a million dollars a pound!

    (Now someone will look it up and tell me how wrong I am.)

  10. Torgo says: May 22, 20086:44 pm

    This is fascinating. I never heard of this before. It’s like a half-step between mechanical television, and fully electronic television.

  11. Blurgle says: May 22, 20089:45 pm

    jayessell, you’re right about the minuscule amount used, but you’re wrong if you’re assuming small amount = safe. Radium is dangerous to work with even in infinitesimal amounts, and drawing with it – which often required the user to do something called “lippointing”, or using the mouth to moisten the brush so it would keep a point – could result in ingestion of toxic doses of radium.

    During World War I, watch manufacturers began to paint watch hands and numbers with radium so as to make them readable in dark foxholes and night battlefields. The fad caught on, and by the 1930s almost all watches and even some clocks were painted with radium. Even given the tiny amount of radium in the paint, workers were exposed to so much of it because of lippointing that a huge percentage suffered from bone loss (especially in the jaw) cancers, and miscarriages.

    Interestingly, by 1931 the danger of drawing with radium was known, but it wasn’t until 1935 that companies were forced to be more careful.

  12. jayessell says: May 23, 20084:28 am

    Thanks Blurgle.
    I mentioned some of that in a previous Radium post.
    By the way… 50 million a pound in 1930ish dollars.

  13. MKremer says: May 26, 20083:23 pm

    Makes me wonder just how popular it was (in broadcast studios), and how many might have ultimately suffered from radiation exposure diseases (mostly among the staff/musicians constantly handling the sheets day-to-day) starting well after the periods of time involved.

  14. jayessell says: November 1, 20097:52 pm

    Your post was deleted, but they knew Radium was dangerous.
    Here’s a magazine article from 1932:…

    PS: Television technology evolved so rapidly the need for glow-in-the-dark
    sheet music didn’t last long.

    At YouTube there are many clips from late 1930s BBC TV experiments.
    YouTube search for Alexandra Palace Television Society

  15. Firebrand38 says: November 2, 200912:42 am

    Some people had to learn the hard way… who died in 1932 of radium poisoning after drinking 1400 bottles of Radithor…

    http://www.museumofquac… &…

    So yeah, they knew….

  16. blokeice says: February 19, 20102:28 pm

    of course once they found out how dangerous radium is, the marketing department had to scramble for a new way of selling it, they came up with such unsucessfull marketing points as: great for a musician who doesnt want kids”, “works as a glow in the dark hair remover”, and of course who could forget: “do it yourself cancer treatment kit”

  17. Paul Lindemeyer says: February 10, 201110:05 pm

    This was taken in the CBS-TV experiment studio. I recognize the white painted electric eye array form another photo.

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