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The Television Age
August 1938 Radio-Craft

August 1938 Radio-Craft

August 1938 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.

Little did Hugo Gernsback know when he wrote this 1938 editorial in his Radio−Craft magazine 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 16 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 hearsay arguments.

The Television Age

By the Editor - Hugo Gernsback

The Television Age, August 1938 Radio Craft - RF CafeThe 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 as well.

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 fact.

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 February 4, 2022
(updated from original post on 11/19/2014)

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Kirt Blattenberger - RF Cafe Webmaster

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    Kirt Blattenberger,


RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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