December 1936 Radio-Craft
[Table of Contents]
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
December is traditionally the issue for magazines to sum up
accomplishments of the ending year and make predictions for
the next year. Radio-Craft 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
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
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!"
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
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
" ... the grim face of the superintendent
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.
" ... professor teaches 2 million pupils."
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.
" ... and little rings through big 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 November 25, 2015