August 1938 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Little did Hugo Gernsback know when he wrote the 1938 editorial about the potential of television just how
prescient he was - particularly in the realm of eventually enabling remote commerce and banking. His vision
involved having a camera-phone type device that would allow real-time interaction between shoppers and
depositors, respectively, without either party needing to meet face-to-face. 76 years later we are not at that
point (at least on a widespread basis); however, the advent of online shopping and banking has fully permitted
the kind of impersonal transactions that Gernsback foresaw. Even with the growing popularity of Skype camera
phones, society still is far from the point where human-to-human transactions are commonplace. Maybe at the
century point (2038, a mere 23 years away) such a system will be ubiquitous. There
are probably some legal hurdles that will need to be resolved before full implementation, with the concern being
more on the sales side since permanent, irrefutable records of promises made will be on record in the case a
dispute arises. It will completely remove
The Television Age
By the Editor - Hugo Gernsback
The curious thing about all modern inventions is that they have a
habit of changing our every-day lives to such a tremendous extent that
it is sometimes difficult to visualize how much certain inventions have
really changed not only our lives, our habits, but much of our civilization
The Railroad can be cited as a good example. It has not only enriched
the entire world tremendously but has changed the face of the world
to boot. It opened up entirely new countries and did away with untold
drudgery as well. The Telephone again changed much of our mode of living.
Instead of transporting ourselves from office to office or from house
to house we do our communicating, our business and our social friendly
chats over the telephone thereby gaining time which may be used for
other purposes than the walking or riding necessitated by personal calls.
The Motion Picture, and lately Radio, have had similar profound changes
on humanity. The motion picture has taken the place of the theatre in
many respects while Radio has brought the poor man his entertainment.
It is no longer necessary to go to a concert or to a show when he can
stay at home and get much better amusement than he possibly could at
most small town theatres.
What will Television do when it finally penetrates into our homes
as far as we ourselves are concerned? Adding Sight to present-day receivers,
Radio - up to now blind - will again take a leap forward that cannot
fail to change much of our mode of living in the future.
Of course, television is usually thought of as merely an instrument
of entertainment. This, of course, is wrong, because television has
other functions besides entertainment. Thus, for instance, television,
when it first was thought of was usually pictured as a means of communication
whereby sight was added to sound on our telephones. When television
will finally come about it is almost certain that our telephones will
have Sight as well. The telephone, while admittedly a valuable means
of communication, cannot be used in many instances. For instance, if
I wish to buy a certain article I will, in most cases have to transport
myself to the store; unless of course, I am intimately acquainted with
the article. But suppose I wish to buy a lady's hand bag at a department
store. I cannot do so over the telephone today because I cannot see
a selection of bags over the telephone. In the future this will be changed
entirely because I will be able to shop not only by sound but by sight
as well. The large department stores will have special departments whereby
articles will be shown to customers over the television-equipped telephone
so that we can make our purchases without leaving our homes or our offices.
Salesmen will be able to sell their prospects in a like manner. The
bank clerk who is hesitant in cashing a check for an unknown person
can call up the maker of the check and show him the check over the wire
and so get an OK. There are thousands of other uses that can be easily
pictured and from this it will be seen how tremendously our lives will
again be changed when Television-equipped telephones are an accomplished
Television in the home, for entertainment purposes, will also change
our lives profoundly if present-day Radio is any barometer. It is almost
a certainty that television will prove to be a powerful rival to the
motion pictures. Indeed the motion picture interests have a case of
the "jitters" every time television is mentioned. While I do not believe
that television will ever displace the motion pictures it certainly
will have an effect upon the magnitude of the motion picture theatre
attendance, and while it is not likely that complete motion pictures
such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" will ever be shown from start
to finish to over a home television set, yet it will probably pay the
motion picture interests to show previews of coming pictures as a good
piece of business. Television will encroach upon motion pictures, only
in its capacity as a powerful magnet to keep people home where they
can enjoy television, programs, which as I said before, have no connection
whatsoever with the motion pictures at all.
The reason is a fundamental one rather, and that is that people who
go to motion pictures maybe 2 or 3 times a week, now-a-days, may then
not wish to go more than once a week or maybe not even that frequently,
feeling that the television shows which they can get at home for practically
nothing will be every bit as enjoyable as going to a motion picture
theatre and seeing perhaps a poor picture.
One thing television when it comes will probably do, is that it will
help to make motion pictures a great deal better. Today there is much
dissatisfaction on account of the poor entertainment value of many motion
pictures. The coming of television, therefore, will be a powerful stimulant
to "clean house" as far as the motion picture Industry is concerned.
They will then be forced to make the pictures so good and so entertaining
that people will wish to see motion pictures rather than television.
From a purely educational standpoint television will do much to increase
not only our knowledge but I do believe a higher education will be obtained
via the television screen. We will be transported to every nook and
corner not only in our own country but we will travel abroad as well
and see scenes which most of us probably would never have been able
to actually see without television. This will be a forceful stimulant
not only to the imagination of the young but the old as well. Just as
Radio has opened up new worlds in music to the average man who, in distant
corners of the country never was able to hear good music in a lifetime,
so television will bring sight to the most humble as well as to the
rich and we will be enabled to tour the entire world at a pace never
believed possible before.
These are only a few of the television uses. There are of course,
hundreds of others, impossible to enumerate in a short article of this
type, but whatever it will do, television will open up an entirely new
world to all of us. A world that even the most daring imagination of
today can hardly encompass.
Posted November 19, 2014