Visions of 1946
December 1936 Radio-Craft

December 1936 Radio-Craft

December 1936 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.

December is traditionally the issue for magazines to sum up accomplishments of the ending year and make predictions for the next year. Radio-Craft magazine was no exception, but in 1936 they went ten steps farther and prognosticated a decade into the future - all the way to 1946! It is actually a tongue-in-cheek reprint from Pathe News magazine. However, note the drawing of 'professor teaches 2 million pupils,' where he is instructing via television and the railroad company boss checking in on the conductors en route via wireless teleconferencing. It might have seemed like a pipe dream in 1936, but now it is commonplace. Not only do we now have live classroom broadcasts, but millions of YouTube videos of instruction for performing just about every task and teaching every subject imaginable.

Visions of 1946

General Electric "sliding scale" mantel radio sets - RF Cafe

One of the latest General Electric "sliding scale" mantel radio sets, shown at upper-left, is shown at upper-right as being transformed into a television receiver in the latest Pathe News, "25 Years of Progress," Pathe, in its screen presentation, by a bit of movie magic gives the audience a thrill by showing the television insert in action in this "radio-vision set of the future."

By Robert Duncan

This humorous account, reprinted, by special permission, from "Today" magazine, contains scientifically sound predictions of the future of television! Davis Sarnoff, President of RCA, recently remarked that "far from being at the end, mankind is only at the beginning of the age of miracles!"

In 1946, I became a salesman, because television supplanted not only magazines but practically all printed matter except automobile licenses, passports and laundry lists.

I remember how, way back in 1936, I looked forward to the coming of television with eagerness. I patiently waited for those magic days when the entertainment I had to seek in a theater or a movie palace would be brought to my own home, not five feet from my own armchair.

But it turns out that there is another side to television, a practical, everyday side, which I wish I had known about in the days when my eyes were starry with anticipation. Let me tell you about it by quoting from my diary for August 22, 1946.

Tuesday: Got up at 7. Did not turn on television pep hour or calisthenics because (a) I must save my energy for the battle of business life, and (b) I have the impression that the blue-eyed, unbearably enthusiastic physical director who cavorts on the screen is watching my feeble motions with disapproval.

Just caught the 7:43 to town. Conductor tells me that there is a television receiving and sending set in the engine cab. The division superintendent can tune in at any moment, unbeknownst to the engineer, and see whether he is yawning, or smoking, or looking at the scenery instead of the track ahead of him. And every once in a while the grim face of the division superintendent flashes onto the screen in the cab, and gives the engineer orders and advice.

The grim face of the superintendent - RF Cafe

" ... the grim face of the superintendent ... "

Professor teaches 2 million pupils - RF Cafe

" ... professor teaches 2 million pupils."

Little rings through big rings - RF Cafe

" ... and little rings through big rings."



Took a taxi to the office. Suddenly, on a television screen in front of me, appeared an individual with a menacing finger and a voice like a pneumatic drill who wanted me to buy space, now, before it was too late in a community mausoleum. I asked the driver to turn him off, but the driver said his company had a special television publicity contract which forbade him to turn anything off. I shut my eyes, put my fingers in my ears, and finally stopped the cab and walked the rest of the way.

Usual office rush. At 10, we salesmen all gathered in Television Hall, where the president of the company gave us a fight talk. He is in Chicago, but his three-foot jaw on the huge screen made him seem to be with us in the room.

Noted air of attention and frequent applause and laughter (a little forced now and then) of my fellow salesmen. Not only do we see and hear the president, but he can see and hear us, way out in Chicago. And not only he, but half a dozen of the big shots are looking in too, and watching us. They say around the office that we are being watched for yawns and wandering eyes, and that each one of us is being rated by the personnel vice-president on our early-morning attitude.

Called on one of our clients, cashier of a big bank. He showed me latest improvements, of which he is very proud - television gadget in vault flashes picture and sound of what is going on there to screen in central protective service office. No chance of burglary. Thirty bank vaults on each circuit, flashing on and off in irregular rotation. Man who watches the screen for signs of trouble must be something of a genius. Was told he gets ten thousand a year. No robberies since system was installed.

Lunched in vast cafeteria. Huge television screen at end of room, showing busy scenes from immense spotless kitchen, varied with appetizing talk, by ex-movie star (all movie stars are "ex" nowadays), on the menu of the day.

Called on another client, bursar of city's chief university. Showed me two classrooms, listening to television lecture by distant professor (with highly paid television personality) who teaches two million pupils a day. I asked about discipline. Bursar said two-way television applies only to freshman classes, glimpses of which are thrown on screen before assistant disciplinarian, who notes names of spit-ball throwers and occasionally interrupts lecture with brief appearance on screen and his booming, terrifying calls for "Quiet! Order!" He used to be a famous Wagnerian baritone.

At four, returned to office for visual-selling audition. "Visuals" are the best-paid jobs on the sales force, and everyone tries to get them. It's much harder than the old radio announcing and selling jobs, because the public can see as well as hear you, and you can't read from a mimeographed script. After half an hour with the tailor and make-up man, I went into a little room, which looked like the parlor of an average American home. but much more attractive. I got through the ordeal pretty well, except for the fact that there was a slight draft from somewhere which raised the dickens with some of my rings.

Our company makes cigarettes, and to be a good "Visual" cigarette salesman you have to be not only personable, persuasive, peppy, well-dressed, with a good natural voice, but you must also be able to blow rings, both plain and fancy. I don't know who started this, but nowadays the television public won't tolerate a cigarette "visual" who can't blow rings, big rings and little rings, and little rings through the big rings. It's a hard life.

I won't hear about the results of this audition until tomorrow.

When I got home, to ease the strain of an extra-hard day, I took the old bus onto the highway and let her out. No cops anywhere, so I hit her up to 60. After a few miles a blue uniform came out of a booth and stuck his hand up. "You were doing 60," he said. "How do you know?" I asked him, flabbergasted. "Television," he answered, "we've just installed a unit on this stretch of road. Ten miles back the machine snapped you, license plate and all. Five miles later another snapped you again. As you were going over 45, I automatically got a television message to give a ticket to a black sedan with license number 101,391. But this all seems so new it ain't quite fair, so I'll let you off with a warning."

Sometimes I long for the quiet, dreamy, solitary days of the old-fashioned radio and the moving picture.

Radio-Craft's Television Receiver

In forthcoming issues of Radio-Craft: experimenters will find construction details of a modern cathode-ray type television receiver. (Parts cost, at mail-order prices: about $100.) Complete the sound-reception channel described in Part I and listen to Empire State Building's sound portion of the television program while you build the image-reception channel.



Posted March 21, 2023
(updated from original post on 11/25/2015)