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Editorial: Radio-Light
June 1945 Radio-Craft

June 1945 Radio-Craft

June 1945 Radio Craft Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Craft, published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

You might think that being concerned about the inefficiency of traditional Edison type incandescent light bulbs is a recent thing. However, as this 1945 Radio-Craft magazine editorial by Hugo Gernsback points out, it was known early on that only about 10% of the energy consumed by those bulbs actually create light while the rest is dissipated as heat. The difference is that at the time, the "science" was telling us we were headed for a new Ice Age, whereas nowadays the same science is telling us we're headed for planetary death by Global Warming. He postulates a world that will someday be powered by the conversion of solar energy to electricity, and also predicts communications via visible light rather than radio waves. Vacuum tubes would operate at and emit visible light signals to eliminate cables. Of course during the daytime the ambient light from the sun would be a problem to be reckoned with. Surprisingly, Mr. Gernsback, for all his amply demonstrated ability to predict the future and suggest devices and methods to accomplish those goals, did not prior to the announcement of the transistor's invention discuss much about the role of semiconductors in future electronics.

See The Radiolight "Talking Beam," April 1933 Radio-Craft.

Editorial: Radio-Light

Hugo Gernsback Editorial: Radio-Light, June 1945 Radio-Craft - RF Cafe... We are still at the very beginning of the radio and electronic arts. The greatest and undreamt of applications lie as yet in the future. There is still much unknown territory in the electromagnetic spectrum which holds out great promise ...

Hugo Gernsback

Every time you turn on an electric light of the filament type, over 90% of the electrical energy goes to waste in heat, which you do not want.

Even the much more efficient fluorescent lamps still waste over 50% in unwanted heat effects.

What is true in electric light is also true in a measure in our present day radio equipment. It is still extremely wasteful because most of the things we do now-a-days are done in a round-about manner. We have not yet learned to exploit nature's forces with a minimum of loss. All of our steam, electrical, and other power generators are extremely wasteful and we recover only a fraction of the prime energy which we put into them.

Coming to radio, we are slowly emerging out of the darkness and our various instrumentalities are gradually becoming more efficient. As is well known, it took Marconi hundreds of horse power of electrical energy to transmit the first weak signals across the Atlantic by wireless. Today we easily span the earth to its furthest corners by short waves, using as power a few dry cells, while the entire transmitting equipment can be carried in a small satchel. Still engineers are not satisfied, because the electromagnetic spectrum contains unknown regions which have as yet not been fully exploited.

As we all know, electricity, radio, heat and light waves are all one and the same thing. They are all electromagnetic waves and differ only in their frequency, or wave lengths.

Originally, the discoverer of radio waves, Henrich Hertz, used ultra-short waves in his experiments. When radio was very young these waves were not thought to be useful and we used lower frequencies clustering above and below 1,000 Kc for radio broadcasting. During the past 15 years we reverted to Hertz and began to use the higher frequencies again, jumping from the low wave-band to broadcasting to around 10 MC (megacycles) for our short wave communications. Then FM followed around 50 MC, with television already heading toward the 100 MC mark. The ultra high frequencies for radar and other military purposes are well above the 100 MC mark. That, however, does not satisfy our research men, who see a great future in the still higher frequencies. Thus the Klystron and Magnetron radio tubes can produce oscillations up to 10,000 MC and over.

But from 50,000 MC to 1,000,000 MC not much has been done. From 1,000,000 MC and above, we pass into little known frequencies and from that point up to 100 million MC we are brought into the region of radiant heat. From 100 million to 1,000 million MC we step from radiant heat into the region of infra-red and then into light, ending up in the ultra-violet spectrum.

What does all this mean to the radio technician? I believe that it is possible in the future, that electronic radio tubes will be built which instead of putting out invisible radio waves, will radiate actual light waves, at an incredibly efficient rate.

You may ask "why do all this if an ordinary electric light bulb gives us excellent white light right now?" The answer is - as I pointed out at the beginning of this article - that we are getting our light now at the cost of a shameful waste of energy. With future electron tubes, the story probably will be entirely different. But that of course does not end their usefulness. Once we produce electronic tubes that can give us oscillations at the rate of 1,000 million MC, our whole present concept of radio will most likely be revolutionized.

Take only one application of such a tube - television. With a 1,000 million MC tube it may no longer be necessary to scan as we must do today, because no other and better means for television transmission is known now. But when electrical impulses can be turned into light at will, the situation will be entirely different and undreamt of results may be had when these instrumentalities are perfected.

It has long been the scientists' dream to utilize solar heat for man's emancipation from sweat and labor. But light and heat are closely related in the spectrum, yet man has not learned to tap solar heat except in a most round-about manner. Thus, the radiant light which falls upon the city of New York would not only be sufficient to run all of its transportation, elevators, electric lights, power for all of its factories, etc., but would leave a substantial amount of energy over. But so far we have not exploited this great store of power. The main reason is, that we do not know enough about the unknown regions in the spectrum and do not possess the key to unlock the solar energy directly. We can do it only through expensive transformation of the sun's heat, such as ancient coal deposits, waterfalls, etc., which we turn into electrical energy. But this is most wasteful on account of heat effects and undesirable losses while the energy is piped over long distances.

Radio waves and light waves are one and the same thing. The sooner we can fully explore the unknown regions in the electromagnetic spectrum, the sooner man will approach the utopia of his dreams. Note: According to data supplied by the General Electric Co., efficiency of tungsten-filament lamps may run from 6 to 12 percent - that of a 40-watt fluorescent is approximately 45 percent.



Posted November 2, 2021

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