Electronics for Tomorrow
April 1955 Popular Electronics
Cooling devices based on the Peltier effect were first demonstrated by French physicist
Jean Charles Athanase Peltier
when he noted the presence of heating or cooling at an electrified junction of two different conductors
types (opposite of a thermocouple). Widespread commercial use depended on finding efficient materials
that could be produced inexpensively. Music synthesizers, to be practical, needed to await the
availability of miniaturized electronics like transistors and memory elements. Light amplification
similarly depended on affordable sources to be anything more than a laboratory curiosity. Fortunately,
by the mid 1950s such entities were becoming reality. This article reports on a few of those items.
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Electronics for Tomorrow
Music, television, recording, and air conditioning are major fields expected to benefit from new electronic developments
recently demonstrated by RCA. Revealed to the public for the first time are an "Electronic Music Synthesizer," an
"Electronic Light Amplifier," a new TV tape recorder, and an all-electronic cooling system.
Brigadier General David Sarnoff, RCA head, watches demonstration of "Electronic Light Amplifier."
The "Music Synthesizer"
is an elaborate device that generates any tone produced by the human voice or musical instruments, as well as tones
beyond the capabilities of these sources, including tones never heard before. Capable of solo or ensemble effects,
it is expected to open new horizons for composers who could take advantage of its almost limitless possibilities.
Another use of the synthesizer could be in phonograph record production. Since the unit can produce any sound
imaginable, it may be used to rejuvenate old pressings into new records with full tonal range and complete freedom
from noise and distortion.
In addition, the synthesizer can provide remarkably authentic renditions of older
music since it can produce accurately the tones of the old instruments for which many great composers wrote. For
music lovers, scholars, and historians, this feature should prove of great value.
Research and development
of the synthesizer is under the direction of Dr. Harry F. Olsen, Director of Acoustical and Electromechanical Research
at RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center, Princeton, N.J.
Equally sensational as a major development in a field followed by millions, but still largely experimental, is RCA's
"Electronic Light Amplifier." Described as a new form of illumination, "electronic light" (also called "cold light")
does not depend on combustion or incandescence as does conventional light. Rather it results from the excitation
of electrons in certain luminescent materials. By using greatly amplified values of "electronic light," RCA engineers
hope to perfect - by late next year - a new type of video known as "mural television" in which the present TV picture
tube will be replaced by a thin, flat screen that can be hung on the wall like a picture. This development, combined
with a wider use of transistors, is expected to eliminate the need for all electron tubes in TV sets and reduce
its size to that of a small box, containing all the circuitry and controls needed to enjoy programs on the wall
RCA's Dr. Harry F. Olsen operates keyboard of the new "Electronic Music Synthesizer."
Electronic light and its amplification have potential applications in other fields such as
radar and x-ray work, but details on these are not yet available.
Heralded as a major step into a new era
of "electronic photography" is RCA's new TV tape recorder, now installed for field tests at the National Broadcasting
Company. Both color and black-and-white telecasts can be recorded on tape, and an unlimited number of copies made
quickly and cheaply. Ultimate uses of this device are forecast in the motion picture industry which could use the
process to make movies without any photographic developing. Pictures can be viewed the instant they are taken. The
new device will also aid telecasting, education, and industry in general, to say nothing of its tremendous potential
for home use. TV tape recorders are expected to become as widely used as sound tape recorders.
electronic wonder at hand is an air conditioner that works without any moving parts, motors, or compressors - a
completely noiseless machine. Prototype of this development is a small electronic refrigerator in which cooling
is achieved by the so-called "Peltier effect" in which current through two dissimilar materials produces a cooling
effect in the region of the junction, like a kind of reverse thermocouple effect. The problem here is largely one
of researching the right materials to do the job.
October 15, 2013