May 1956 Radio-Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
As with most things technical,
Hugo Gernsback, editor of Radio-Electronics magazine, was ahead of the
curve when he wrote of remote classrooms (Teleducation, as Gernsback dubbed it)
in this 1956 article. He was a big proponent of the
MPATI systems which employed an airborne broadcast platform for providing instruction
to classrooms across hundreds of miles. That was in the era predating satellites
(Stratovision) and the point where satellites could be used for other than specifically
designed purposes (MPATI). By 1956, though, transcontinental cable and microwave
relay systems had been built that did facilitate widespread broadcasting. Many regions
were still bypassed, but all major cities where universities and larger technical
schools were located had the capability of one-way and two-way hookups to a teaching
The Elements of Teleducation
By Hugo Gernsback
The threat to our future can be met ...
The economy of the United States now rests squarely upon technical progress.
For decades our know-how was second to none in all technical endeavors. We are no
longer in this fortunate position. Indeed, we are now running in second place, having
already surrendered our rank to the Soviet Union. In the graduation of technicians
and engineers, particularly in electronics, we are threatened with a further decisive
setback. Not only is our economy thus threatened seriously, but our defense and
our very existence are challenged.
Unfortunately we cannot now quickly reverse this disastrous trend by supplying
the nation with nonexistent and competent teachers, the supply of which is constantly
shrinking. Only one other means is left open to us to ameliorate the condition -
technical education via television - teleducation. The present teacher shortage
need not be an insurmountable obstacle. We have sufficient good teachers to reverse
the downward trend in a few short years.
The writer has spoken of this situation often and feels it necessary, due to
the present emergency, to bring it up once more. Here is the plan briefly outlined:
1. Russia has now definitely overtaken the United States in teaching and graduating
of future technicians. They turn out far more vital technicians than we do.
2. We have a disastrously low supply of technically competent teachers, who,
due to inadequate pay, constantly defect to higher salaried industrial or other
3. The number of technical students has declined constantly and will continue
to until our shortsighted teaching methods are reversed.
4. Paradoxically, we have more good teachers than we actually need if we only
will use their talents intelligently to fit present-day technical growth. Why use
an outstanding teacher to teach 100 students in a single institution if the same
teacher can instruct 500,000 or more simultaneously?
5. We have the technical facilities today to achieve this via closed-circuit
6. In short, without going into details, this is the way the proposed system,
outlined by the writer in 1945, works: From a central point or points the best technical
and science teachers in the land instruct via large wall projection color television
all the classes in the land. If the instructor of the moment is at Yale, the rest
of the country is connected to that point. The next lecture may come from MIT in
Massachusetts, from Caltech in California or from any other point because all institutions
of learning are tied in to the national teleducation, closed-circuit hookup. Such
lectures will not be merely talk. The teacher - be he a physics, chemical, electrical
or electronics professor - will instruct directly from the laboratory all important
experiments and make clear any technical point by actual physical demonstration.
7. Technicians and engineers, however, are not created overnight. We must implant
the seed of scientific adventure into the very young mind - before age 10. Country-wide
teleducation must start in grade schools and be followed up with more intensity
in high school.
8. During the present educational emergency, only the Federal Government has
the means to finance a National Teleducation Network. The Government would build
the network just as it has built roads in the past, the cost to be prorated to the
states over a span of years. The Government would not be in the teaching business,
however, and would have no voice in any educational program. To guard against abuse,
the teleducational closed-circuit network could be supervised through a special
commission or similar agency.
9. Teleducation via the national closed-circuit network does not do away with
the teacher in the classroom - supervision will still be needed. But why waste an
Einstein type of educator on a 50-pupil class when a secondary teacher or qualified
supervisor can do the paper work and all other necessary classroom routine?
The writer is fully aware that such a revolutionary teaching system will meet
some resistance from orthodox pedagogues as well as the heads of many of our institutions
of learning. Communications to us relating to universal country-wide teleducation
seem roughly equally divided for and against. We have space for only two here:
"I was very much interested in reading your article 'Tec-Teleducation.' We are
at the present time teaching a large class located in three different rooms by television.
We have gone one more step by teaching by discussion method. We have a talk-back
system so that students remote from the studio can ask questions and enter into
discussion. This is at present an experiment and we have selected a course that
we feel is most challenging to this type of teaching, Comparative European Government.
"I doubt if our nontechnical people can see as far into the future of this thing
as the technical people can. Our educators are usually too complacent once they
have made a small gain. They are not inclined to expand the scope of what they have
"C. D. Phillips
"State University of Iowa"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Thank you for sending me a copy of the letter you received recently from Mr.
Phillips of the State University of Iowa. Certainly the arrangement he describes
is a very interesting one. Such an arrangement is, I fear, a luxury in which only
an institution supported by public funds can indulge.
"However, as I indicated to you last week, our plans for the future include the
development of a lecture hall designed for the use of television, and we look forward
to an opportunity to experiment with this valuable adjunct to established educational
"Assistant Dean, College of Engineering
"New York University"
10. As the safety of the nation depends more and more on advanced technicians,
engineers and scientists, such men should not be drafted for military service, but
should be placed only in technical defense work. - H. G.
* Tame, December 1945; Newsweek, December, 1950; Radio-Electronics, September,
1951. Also Tec-Teleducation, Forecast, December, 1954, and Radio-Electronics, February,
Posted March 16, 2022