Radio and Television, a Peep into the Future of 1930 from 1929

 JF Ptak Science Books   Post 2740

Pop Mech 1929 radio of the future

The odd thing about this odd speculation for an odd look advancing a single odd year into the future is that it is so, well, odd. Here on page 1009 of the January-June volume of Popular Mechanics the editors speculated on what the approaching year might bring in the evolution/revolution of the radio. Radio as a popular medium was relatively new-ish in 1922 and the in six quick years very much developed for wide use, and so it must have appeared not too long a leap to jump into a radio for 1930 that offered images to accompany the broadcast. The idea of “seeing by wireless” was already upon folks back then, or at least the technology was.

Since the vision of the future of 1930 was that of the radio, I’m assuming that the image that “the feminine football fan” was seeing in 1930 was a static image of someone punting–the capacity for that already existed, so I suppose that what Popular Mechanics was expressing was the general distribution of this new wireless set.  Perhaps “television” wasn’t mentioned because this was a speculation on radio.

As a matter of fact, television as an invention was already established by 1929–deeply so. There was already a television station  (established in 1928, WRGB), which already was several years after John L. Baird’sfirst public demo of his mechanical tv at Selfrdige’s department Store in London on March 25, 1925. And by 1926 Baird had made a successful demonstration of a moving image, which was well documented in a 62-page book months later by Alfred Dinsdale, Seeing by Wireless, in which “television”  is elegantly described as an invention where “we see what is happening at a distance while it is happening”. (There is a famous and relatively creepy image that is described as the first photo of a moving image transmitted via television, a death-mask-like portrait of Baird’s business part, Oliver Hutchinson, and which first appeared in The Times on January 28, 1926.)

In the same period a D.C. man, Charles Francis Jenkins, was having success with his electronic television, where by 1925 he had already publicly demonstrated a transmission of silhouetted images (and this following a dozen years after his first publication on the subject, “Motion Pictures by Wireless” in 1913).  Two years later (April 7, 1927) yet another very successful demo was made by Herbert E. Ives and Frank Gray (both of Bell Labs). A year later, on September 3, 1928, the beautifully-named Philo Farnsworth was far enough along with his invention that its public demonstration on that date is recognized as the first electronic television demonstration.

In any event, I wanted to note some of the events in the development of television that occurred around the time of the publication of this issue of Popular Mechanics to show how much work and how far along the new medium had come to give  a little background into the question of why this photo essay would stand by a static-image radio while a moving image electronic television was being shown to be so successful. I’m a little stumped.


1. I don’t know where else to hang this tidbit, so here it goes: it is just interesting to note that two Scots–Alexander Graham Bell and John Logie Baird–gave ears and eyes to human communication, one with the telephone and the other with the television.  There are many others who made very significant contributions to both developments, but I thought that this was worth a mention.

Also, Frankenstein’s “monster” may not have been flesh and blood, but a moving picture of it. Here’s the work of one Frankenstein with a patent relating to the development of the media monster, television: “VON JAWORSKI, W. und FRANKENSTEIN, A., “Verfahren und Vorrichtung zur Fernsichtbarmachung von Bildung und GegenstÄnden mittels Selenzellen, Dreifarbenfilter und Zerlegung des Bilden in Punktgruppen durch Spiegel”, Brevet allemand, 172 376, 20 August 1904.”

The background to television is long and deep, and reaches back into the 19th century. There are several good bibliographies on the subject (an excellent online effort is, which I used extensively to pull the parts of the store holdings on tv together)–even the early Dinsdale book has a good historical section (though without footnotes). To give you an idea of the reach of tv, I’ll share below some examples of works that I have in the bookstore–mind that this is only a small sliver of the overall corpus.

  • “The Telectroscope”, Nature, Vol. XIX, n°482, 23 January 1879.
  • “The Telectroscope”, Scientific American, 40, 17 May 1879.
  • PERRY, J. and AYRTON, W.E., “Seeing by Electricity”, Nature, 21, 21 April 1880, p.589.
  • GORDON, J.E.H., “Seeing by Electricity”,  Nature, 29 April 1880, p. 610.
  • “Visual Telegraphy”, Engineering, 7 May 1880, 361/2.
  • PERRY, J and AYRON, W.E., “Seeing by Telegraphy”, Nature, 13 May 1880, p. 31.
  • “Seeing by Electricity”,  Scientific American, 42, 5 June 1880.
  • SAWYER, W.E., “Seeing by Electricity”, Scientific American, 42, 12 June 1880, p.373.
  • BELL, A.G., “Selenium and the Photophone”, Nature, 22, 23 Sept. 1880.
  • “Bell’s photophone”, Scientific American 44(1), 1 January 1881, pp.1-2.
  • BIDWELL, S., “Tele-photography”, Nature, 23, 10 February 1881, pp.423-424.
  • SENLECQ,  “The Telectroscope”, Scientific American Supplement, #275, April 9, 1881.
  • du MONCEL,  “Sur le microphone, le radiophone et le phonographe”, s’exprime en ces termes :…”, Comptes rendus , 19 June 1882.
  • BRILLOUIN, M., “La photographie des objets à très grande distance”, Revue générale des sciences, 2, 30 January 1891.
  • LE PONTOIS, L., “The Telectroscope”, Scientific American Supplement, 35, 10 June 1893, pp.14546-14547.
  • ARMENGAUD, J., “The Dussaud Teleoscope”, Scientific American Supplement, 46, #1174, 2 July 1898.
  • COBLYN, J.H., “La vision à distance par l’électricité”, Comptes rendus…, Paris, vol 135,  1902, p.684-685
  • KORN, A., “Uber Gebe und Empfangsapparate zur elektrischen Fernubertragung von Photograophien”, Physikalische Zeitschrift, 1904, 5 (4), pp.113-118.
  • DIECKMANN, M., “The Problem of TeleVision – A Partial Solution”, Scientific American. Supplement, 68, #1751, 24 July 1909, pp.61-62.
  • GRADENWITZ, A., “La première solution réelle du problème de la télévision”,  Revue générale des sciences pures et appliquées, 20, Paris, 1909, pp.727-728.
  • von CZUDROCHOWSKI, B., “Das Problem des Fernsehens” ,Zeitschrift für Physik und Chemie, 4, July 1909, pp.261-265.
  • “An Important Step in the Problem of Television”, Scientific American Supplement, 105, 23 December 1911.
  • GRIMSHAW, R., “The Telegraphic Eye”,  Scientific American, 104, 1st April 1911, pp. 335-336.
  • “Prof. Rozing’s ‘Electric Eye’ – A New Apparatus for Television”, Scientific American Supplement, 71,  #1850, 17 June 1911.
  • RIGNOUX, G., “Dispositif pour la vision à distance”, Comptes Rendus..., 1914, p. 301.
  • ARAPU, R., “The Telephotographic Apparatus of Georges Rignoux”, Scientific American Supplement, #2055, 22 May 1915.




By: JF Ptak Science Books
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