[Table of Contents]People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about
and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights re hereby acknowledged. See all articles from Popular Electronics.
Ironically, an RF Cafe
visitor just within the last couple days wrote about possibly getting his Amateur radio license in order to permit
live broadcasting of his kite-borne video camera system (known as "Kite Aerial Video" [KAV]),
or Kite Aerial Photography [KAP]). Slow scan television SSTV has long been a popular facet of Ham radio since
prior to broadband Internet connections; it was the only practical method available. Older equipment was large,
heavy, power hungry, and relatively expensive, but today you can buy a much improved camera for a few bucks that
transmits real-time via an unlicensed 2.4 GHz wireless link. That data stream can be recorded for later use
of streamed real-time to the Internet. As with so many other things, easy availability takes some of the challenge
out of it, but the world benefits from having all kinds of way-cool videos to watch!
Hams Go Video
Amateur TV - an exciting new hobby
By, Art Zuckerman
One day, in the not-too-distant future, the average ham may mean it literally when he asks a distant buddy,
"How do you read me?"
He will mean not "How well do you hear me?" but rather "How clearly can you read my test pattern?"
Ham TV today is admittedly a limited pastime, indulged in by a handful of dedicated adventurers using makeshift
equipment. But at least one electronics manufacturer, the Electron Corporation of Dallas, Texas, is determined
that things will not always be thus. Mort Zimmerman, the company's president, reasoned that when the Federal Communications
Commission set aside the 420-450 mc. band for amateur television back in 1957, it meant for the band to be used.
So he is marketing a complete ham video station.
Dave Baxter of Dallas, known in amateur circles as W5KPZ, is using the new equipment to telecast to several
other Dallas amateurs whose TV sets are equipped with special u.h.f. converters to receive him. And in Denver,
two ham clubs are buying the Electron Corp. gear on time, paying for it with a $6 monthly membership assessment.
The cost of the complete package at present is $2895.
TV ham Dave Baxter, W5KPZ.TV, is sandwiched between his gear. Dave works out
of Dallas, Texas.
Ham TV Pioneers. Though such commercial gear should do much to popularize ham TV, amateur
television has been with us longer than you might think. Its roots can be traced to the earliest days of video
experimentation. And just before World War II, the Radio Corporation of America actively encouraged amateurs to
jump on the television bandwagon it was then striving to get on the road. With the war, television went into mothballs
for five years. But when it ended, the Armed Forces unloaded tons of surplus radar and other electronic gear.
Sophisticated version of flying spot scanner. Older system involves putting
transparency directly against screen of TV set with raster reduced to size of transparency.
Some of the Armed Forces' surplus gear was snapped up quickly by a few of the more enterprising radio amateurs.
Many of these hams were operating on the West Coast, where probably the greatest concentration of video hobbyists
can be found today. On clear, bright days, small groups of these intrepid pioneers can be seen climbing up neighboring
mountains, loaded down with equipment with which to exchange test patterns and live images.
For transmitters these hardy hams generally use modified radar gear, though some build their own. The pickup
equipment is likely to be a primitive iconoscope camera originally built for wartime guided bombs, a Buck Rogers
type weapon tried by the Army Air Forces toward the close of World War II.
Unfortunately, these surplus iconoscope cameras provide considerably less than good picture quality, and they
gobble up light much too greedily. So the average member of the tiny TV ham fraternity is more likely to content
himself with transmitting slide shows. For this he uses a setup known as a flying spot scanner.
Flying Spot Scanner. This interesting device is actually made up of two separate items: .
an ordinary TV receiver and a photoelectric multiplier tube, such as the 931A. Together with a video amplifier
and a video transmitter, the flying spot scanner makes a dandy gadget for televising still transparencies. Here's
how it operates.
The TV set is tuned to an unused channel, so that its screen is lit up with the swept trace lines but shows
no picture. Its brightness control is turned up as far as possible. Next, a slide or other transparency is placed
against the face of the picture tube, and the set is adjusted until the trace lines just fill the part of the
tube covered by the slide.
Now the photoelectric multiplier is placed right in front of the slide. The light hitting the photocell, after
going through the transparency, is not just a blob of illumination; it is actually the scanning action of the
picture tube's electron gun. As this light hits the photoelectric tube, it generates a signal that is fed to the
video amplifier. The video amplifier, in turn, feeds either a monitor set, a video transmitter, or both.
Result: a neat reproduction of the transparency on the monitor and on the receiving set of another ham.
This technique can also be used to produce positive images with photographic negatives if their phase is reversed
in the video amplifier.
Tuning up the transmitter. Dave Baxter's station is believed to be the first
installation of commercially made (Electron Corp.) ham TV gear.
Two Typical TV Hams. Many of today's television amateurs, as might be expected, are actually
professional electronics engineers who like to tinker with video in their spare time. In New York, for example,
two TV hams are Arnold Proner, W2OMU, a television broadcast engineer with the National Broadcasting Company.
and Bill Ziner, W2MMY, an engineer in the research department of the Lewyt Corporation.
Working together, Arnie and Bill actually built their own vidicon cameras and amplifier-transmitter gear from
the ground up, copying standard circuits in commercial use. The cameras are patterned after an old RCA vidicon
design used for televising motion picture films.
For optics, Arnie Proner uses an f/1.9 50-mm. lens from a Leica camera. "It gives a slightly telephoto
effect on the vidicon," he will tell you, "but it does a pretty good job."
Before Bill Ziner graduated to the vidicon, he had worked out a really sweet version of the flying spot scanner.
"I took an old 35-mm. projector and rewired it, replacing the lamp with a photoelectric multiplier tube," he relates.
"So I had a perfect slide changer setup for my transparencies. Then I simply filled my entire TV picture tube
with scanning lines and focused the slide projector on its face. I worked out the focus by the focal length of
the projector's lens and checked it on the monitor. Airing slides with this rig was just like putting on a regular
slide projection show, only the process was reversed."
Home-built rig of Arnold Proner, broadcast engineer for NBC, includes rack-mounted
amplifier-transmitter, vidicon camera, and monitor. Most of the equipment is similar to early commercial circuitry.
Vidicon Simplifies Matters. The vidicon cameras turned the flying spot scanner into a child's
toy for Bill and Arnie. They still sent each other test patterns and other slides in transparency form, but now
they were also sending live pickups with ease. And transmitting slides was a much easier project.
They did it in two ways. Either they projected the slide on a wall and turned the vidicon camera on the projection
or they aimed a slide projector right into the vidicon camera's lens. This would give a reverse image which was
then corrected by electronic flopping in the amplifier.
Arnie also succeeded in transmitting movies. He did this by beaming an 8-mm. projector on a screen made of
translucent material and spotting the vidicon behind the screen. The vidicon picked up a reverse image from the
rear of the screen, and the image was electronically flopped.
Because their gear was not fully refined, Arnie and Bill found that they had to take turns transmitting to
one another on video. Their transmitters completely blanked out their own receivers. But this was normal radio
practice and presented no problem.
Arnie's gear once was put to a very practical use when he and his wife couldn't corral a baby-sitter while
they made a short visit next door. Arnie trained the vidicon on his sleeping infant and Bill did the baby-sitting
electronically at a distance of ten miles.
Rack-mounted ham TV transmitter manufactured by Electron Corporation is small
enough to sit atop a desk. Use of slides permits the equipment to be adjusted and serviced easily.
Commercial Equipment. Ham television is characteristically a strictly video proposition; because
hams have radio transmitters and receivers anyway, there is no need for TV audio circuitry. And amateur TV, as
practiced by these pioneers, is primarily a builder's hobby. There are few other video hams within reach of their
short-range equipment, and the challenge is mainly one of seeing if they can put together workable rigs.
However, the Electron Corporation, a subsidiary of Ling Electronics, Inc., hopes to change all that. Its new
equipment is ready assembled, specially designed for operation on the 420-450 mc. amateur television band.
Field tests by the company indicate that this equipment provides excellent reception at a distance of 18 miles.
The possibilities of relay transmission are being explored too. With a relay system, a string of hams spaced 18
miles apart could establish a network to cover real distance.
Electron Corp. officials are talking about the use of their equipment to bring amateur collegiate radio into
the television picture as a non-commercial educational service. Another possibility they envision - and one linked
with their hopes for college TV - is the purchase of converters and special antennas by the general public for
looking in on ham television.
The u.h.f. converter, incidentally, is price-tagged at $79.50, and the receiving antenna for it costs $12.50.
Television may eventually become an important adjunct to the ham in his traditional emergency service role.
Visual coverage of disasters could prove valuable in coordinating civil defense activities by adding "eyes" to
the "ears" of emergency radio communications.