September 1934 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.
Once again, electronics and overall tech visionary Hugo Gernsback prognosticated in the 1930s what was then a pipe dream but what is today commonplace - remote control of multi-functioned apparati via secure wireless digital communications. Adolph Hitler had risen to power a year earlier and precursors of what would officially become World War II in 1937 had nations thinking about what kinds of technologies would be necessary should the little mustachioed dictator decide to invade his neighbors' countries in an attempt to rule over the Earth. That this was so is apparent in many magazine articles in the decade of the 1930s: The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Popular Mechanics, and even Good Housekeeping.
An Editorial by Hugo Gernsback
ONE of the branches of the radio art-although one of the most spectacular-is very seldom heard of, even among radio technicians. This is to be regretted, because there is a great future in store for this particular branch of radio. By Radio Telemechanics is meant that art whereby it is possible to perform work at a distance, without the presence of man.
Not so many years ago, the United States Navy sent one of their obsolete battleships from shore, out into the ocean, without a single human being on board the ship, Yet the ship was made to run in any direction desired; it could turn to port or starboard, in a circle; the stoking of its boilers was attended to; guns were discharged all from shore, without a human being on board having anything to do with the entire operation of the vessel. It all resolved itself into impulses sent by radio to the ship, where they were correctly interpreted and the ship made to obey these impulses. The same thing can, of course, be done with airplanes the French government, having experimented extensively with this idea, frequently sending airplanes aloft without anyone being on board. The airplane, in these tests, was made to undergo its usual routine of rising, heading into the wind, circling about at will; later on returning and making a perfect landing, all by radio control from the ground.
Fundamentally the idea is simple. Radio impulses are sent out, which are received on a certain wavelength over an especially engineered radio set. A small motor continues making contacts at certain stated intervals; in a series which must be known to the control operator on the ground. By using either a different wavelength or different impulses, the desired effects are translated into action, on board a ship or airplane as the case may be; a relay mechanism operated by the impulses performs, in turn, the required work demanded by ship or airplane, etc.
Radio technicians will also be interested to know that lately experiments have been made whereby it is possible to do all this on a single wavelength or frequency, by means of tuned audio amplifiers. In other words, suppose we have a special receiving set installed on an airplane. The man on the ground, with his transmitter, will have a half-dozen tuned whistles, which he will blow in front of a microphone. Each sound is interpreted by the receiving set on board the plane; the sounds being filtered from each other so that each separate sound can be used as a directing means.
While all this may seem complicated, in practice it really is not so. In fact, the art is becoming simplified more and more. Naturally, the thought comes to everyone that in wartime such a radio-controlled airplane would not be of much use, because the' enemy could interfere by sending similar impulses. That is not necessarily so.
The well-known inventor, John Hays Hammond, Jr., has a number of radio patents on this particular branch of telemechanics, whereby it becomes possible, by locking mechanisms, to prevent the receiving set from operating unless a certain sequence of signals is sent at certain intervals; and without that key, you cannot do much damage because, no matter what the interference would be, you would still not be able to interfere with the correctly keyed radio impulses.
There are many applications in industry and the sciences for radio telemechanics. For instance, high-tension switches can be operated, if necessary, over great distances, when the necessity arises. Doors can be opened, elevators can be run; as a matter of fact, almost anything that you can think of in mechanics can be accomplished at a distance should this become desirable, all by radio telemechanics.
In wartime, of course, the operation of small war vessels such as submarines, torpedo boats, bombing planes, etc., all can be operated without any senseless cost of human life when it becomes necessary to so operate war weapons. The same is true in the case of tanks, mines, and other war machines.
No doubt, it will also occur to most readers immediately, that, in the instance of an airplane, the radio control does not mean much if you cannot see what the airplane is doing. For example, if you were to send an airplane aloft, how would you keep it from dashing into a mountainside, if you could not see where it was going?
The answer to this is television. Many years ago, I made the proposal of a war airplane which I termed "The RadioControlled Television Airplane." In this particular instance, the airplane is radio-controlled from the ground. In addition to the radio impulses, the airplane also has on board a television outfit which sees in six directions simultaneously. This is easily accomplished by a system comprising photoelectric cells, and lenses, one looking upward, one downward, and one, each, looking east, west, south, and north. These "photoelectric lenses" are all connected with the television transmitter. The television impulses are then sent from the plane to headquarters where an operator sits in front of a screen divided into six parts. From this, he will see exactly where the airplane is at any time. He not only will see over what territory the plane is moving, but he also will see if there is another airplane overhead attacking it. By means of his radio-control mechanism he can thus guide the plane in any manner he sees fit. He can bring it back to his own lines, or he may send it over enemy lines, or he may make the airplane perform any duties he sees fit.
The same instrumentality can, of course, be used in connection with submarines, warships, tanks, automobiles, etc., and to be certain, a like instrumentality can be applied to peacetime uses as well. There is, in fact, no limit to which the system cannot be applied.
Radio telemechanics is a comparatively new art. It is a most fascinating branch of radio, one that will become of great importance as time goes on.
It has many uses which have not, as yet, been dreamt of.
Posted July 29, 2015