April 1934 Radio-Craft
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics.
Radio-Craft was published from 1929 through 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged. See all articles
Writing about 'outdated' methods of radio-based facsimile machine
implementation in 1934 seems a bit incredible considering how
relatively new both technologies were at the time. Nevertheless,
Radio-Craft editor Hugo Gernsback reported on the new era of
fax machines that were on display at the 1933 World's Fair in
Chicago. Of course fax machines of that time were not exactly
desktop models that could be located in a corner of your office
or cubicle (not that cubicles were common). If you substitute
transistors for vacuum tubes, stepper motors for simple DC motors
and solenoids, and solid state lasers and LEDs for incandescent
light sources, the fundamentals have not changed much.
Radio Set Prints Newspaper!
There can be no question that the future of radio holds forth
the best and most promising inventions - and, amongst those
that will probably be seen in the not too for off future - will
be a complete newspaper received and printed by the radio receiver,
with illustrations, text, and probably advertising. It is even
possible to construct such a set now, since equipment in present
use for facsimile picture transmission may be readily adapted
for a "radio newspaper" unit. These methods and associated equipment
and their adaptation ore described in this article.
I have frequently observed - the great radio inventions are
still to come. So far, the proverbial surface has not been scratched.
As the radio technique advances, and we obtain better instrumentalities,
it becomes possible to do a lot of things which have not even
been dreamt of before.
The radio set of the future has been envisioned many times,
but not even the most audacious thinkers, who have projected
themselves into the future, have imagined the final radio set
- if indeed there is to be such a thing as a final radio set
in the dim and distant future.
There has been, ever since the advent of radio, a feud between
radio broadcasters and the newspapers. Originally, newspapers
gave radio a tremendous amount of publicity; but, of late, the
newspapers have felt that radio has become their greatest competitor.
Consequently, they have cut down a good deal on the space allotted
to programs until in many cities, particularly in the Middle
West, no free programs are printed at all in the newspapers.
These newspapers argue that this is free publicity and, if you
wish to have your program printed, the station must pay for
it. Indeed, in some of the Middle Western and Southwestern states,
this system is now in vogue and the radio stations are indeed
paying for their programs.
A recorder employed by RCA Communications
for picture facsimile reception.
Recently, a new step was undertaken by the Columbia Broadcasting
network to checkmate the newspapers; and Columbia now has its
own newsgathering service which extends nationwide and abroad.
Every night, a news service is put on the air; the information
is, frankly, only "spot" or early, incomplete news; and the
network is careful always to have a "by-line" which is as follows:
"See tomorrow's paper for complete news." It is believed
that in the future the rift between newspapers and radio broadcasters
The idea of using your radio set in your own home, to print
a complete tabloid newspaper and deliver it to you, is not original
with me. The idea has been mentioned by many well-known radio
engineers ever since 1925, and perhaps even before that. There
is, therefore, nothing novel in the idea itself; but the project
so far, has not been translated into actuality. From the technical
standpoint, it is perfectly possible to build, today, a radio
set, for use in your own home, which will deliver to you, early
in the morning, a small newspaper, and do this regularly, every
day in the week. So far, the only drawback has been, in my estimation,
the price. Such a set is expensive to build, and somewhat complicated
and costly. If, however, the country wants a Radio-Newspaper
Receiving Set, the radio industry is, no doubt, in a position
to furnish such a set on short order. Indeed, I will be considerably
surprised if such sets are not on the market within the next
The same unit as shown on the left, but in
schematic form with explanations of operation.
While none of these sets have, as yet, been built, I have
outlined in these pages the technical details of bringing it
about; and, though the system which I show here may not be the
only practical one, I have selected it because a similar method
is now in use by the Radio Corporation of America in their picture-transmitting
devices which are in operation twenty-four hours a day throughout
A scanning unit used in the transmission
of photographs, by RCA.
Let us now see what the future radio newspaper set will look
As our cover illustration shows, it seems very much like
any other radio set, but with certain attachments. These are,
chiefly, a panel which pulls out, and upon which, in the rack
provided, you will find a newspaper ready and printed in the
morning. Remember, too, this will not be a bulky 64-page newspaper!
it will be, probably, a 4- or 8-page tabloid, giving you condensed
news and pictures of the important events, similar to that shown
in the cover illustration.
An ink-pen arrangement that was employed
some time ago, but discarded in favor of improved methods.
The cabinet contains the usual broadcast and short-wave set,
as we have them today. In addition to this, there is a separate
special short-wave set, to take care of the reception of the
news, and which will be described later. The set also contains
a clock which is set for, let us say, 2 A.M. At this time, the
clock disconnects the broadcast set from its aerial and ground
and in its stead, switches on the special short-wave set; and,
at the same moment, the electric motor (which has to do most
of the work in printing the newspaper) is also placed into the
circuit. A few seconds later the radio signal impulses begin
to come over the special short-wave set, and the newspaper is
now being "printed."
A photo is mounted on a rotating cylinder
and scanned, impulses amplified and transmitted.
In the particular method which is shown here, for the first
time, there is no "printing" being done as we know "letterpress"
printing today; it is all done by a special method, both sides
of the paper being acted upon at the same time. I will explain
details further on.
The electric motor, which feeds the newspaper roll, advances
the roll little by little until, in an hour or less, the entire
newspaper is printed. When it is finished, the paper is folded
by an automatic folding attachment, and the newspaper, still
moist, drops into the holder out of the set. No matter how early
you rise in the morning, you will find your newspaper ready
and waiting for you. The expense of the newspaper, it may, be
stated, is very slight. The paper, chemicals and the electricity
consumed in manufacturing the newspaper only amount to a few
cents - much less than it costs to produce a standard newspaper
An obsolete method of recording, a solenoid
controlled shutter modulates a hot air stream.
The question arises immediately, why should the broadcasters
set in motion their transmitting machinery, as well as their
news-gathering agency, the collecting of "spot" photographs
of current events, etc.? The answer is that it will pay them
to do so. They will probably accept a limited amount of advertisements
and, if they obtain a sufficient amount of these, the enterprise
can be made to pay for itself. Remember that, of course, we
are speaking of the future when, we premise, there will be several
millions of these sets in use. The advertising revenue from
such a large circulation will be quite heavy, and the broadcasters
will, no doubt, be able to get a sufficient amount to make it
worth their while.
As to technical details, let me first state that, whatever
I have said here, comes strictly within present-day radio technique.
The apparatus which I illustrate is simply an adaptation of
that now in use by RCA, and open to public traffic at the present.
The original apparatus now used was devised by Capt. R. H. Ranger,
formerly research engineer with RCA. The receiver, or picture
reproducer, during the past few years, has gone through a number
of changes. At one time an ink-pen arrangement was used with
a special waxed paper. Later on, a jet of hot air was used,
the force of the jet being modulated or varied in accordance
with the light and dark parts of the picture, all by means of
an electromagnetically operated valve, built into the air jet.
The chemically-prepared paper, on which the image was reproduced,
was wrapped around a cylinder, driven by a specially synchronized
motor rotated in perfect step or synchronization with a similar
cylinder containing the original picture at the transmitting
station. The hot jet air apparatus has been abandoned in favor
of the present ink-vapor jet, which is now being used; since
it gives better details than the former hot-air jet. We recently
saw pictures, measuring 8 1/2 x 12 ins., being recorded on a
21 meter wavelength transmitted over 2,500 miles (from San Francisco).
The same apparatus is used to handle commercial orders for pictures,
received from Europe, on short waves day or night; the day wavelength
being about 21 meters and that for night 30 meters or more,
depending upon atmospheric conditions.
A complete RCA facsimile receiver used at
the Chicago World's Fair in 1933.
At the transmitting end, the photograph is rotated on a cylinder
which is kept in perfect synchronization by special synchronizing
means, including a temperature controlled tuning fork and a
powerful concentrated pencil of light; the latter scans the
photograph, line by line, as the cylinder on which it is mounted
rotates in front of a pair of concentrated-filament headlight
bulbs and a pair of lenses. The light reflected from the photograph
being scanned passes through a small black tube and a diaphragm,
into a photoelectric cell connected in a special bridge circuit.
Before the photoelectric cell's impulses are sent over the line
or by radio waves to the receiver there is imposed on the "image
signal" a special accurately-timed interruption signal which
has the effect of breaking up the dots constituting the image
at the receiver, and serves to produce the well-known halftone
In some picture-facsimile systems the width of the line is
modulated; but in the RCA system the length of the dots is changed
in accordance with the highlights and shadows of the image being
transmitted, and as previously mentioned, the dots are furthermore
split up into fractional dots so as to get a better halftone
effect, as has been found to be the case in practice.
Posted November 1, 2015