Published On: Fri, Nov 22nd, 2013

Memories of technology

Dear Editor:

A tip of the “thinker’ cap” to Jonathan Wright’s column in the Mountain Messenger prompting as I have said before, “that reminds me of a story.” So with the kind permission of the Editors, “close your lap tops, turn off the I Phone and turn your chairs to face the blackboard.”

In the 1930’s pioneer television experiments conducted by RCA (NBC) and Dumont (Fox) were broadcast to fewer than, perhaps, 30 specially built receivers in the residences of company executives and other influential persons. As an aside bit of information, motion picture film for professional use was manufactured and quality controlled by Eastman Kodak while most of the patents for sound recording were held by RCA. Some of the photo hobby market used the German product ANSCO but during WWII, as a foreign property, it was placed under control of the Alien Property Custodian (U.S. Government) unlike the BAYER Corporation, also a German company, who changed their home office from Germany to Latin America (a neutral area) for the duration.

(That may answer the question as to post WWII, so many “persons of interest disappeared from Europe and resurfaced working for Volkswagen, S.A.)

WWII placed great demands on the manufacture of recording elements as well as film and the emergence of the idea of combining the two into one composite medium. Efforts to combine video and audio had been successful although still in the initial stages required not only new equipment and techniques but also massive amounts of recording tape traveling at a high rate of speed in both the recording and playback modes. In the meantime, the television industry standard method of recording and playback at a later time was using a system called KINESCOPE, that was basically a film recording of a televised image and as is said about a straying spouse, “not much, but better than nothing.”

In the efforts to improve over the standard KINESCOPE, several companies had begun experiments in a new technical approach that would offer an advance in industry standards. One such company, AMPEX, was well on its way although, like many other new ideas, they had to come up with more money to continue research. Enter, Bing Crosby, who had for years resisted television appearances because he realized that if his performance was not live and instead recorded, his image would suffer due to the poor quality of the presentation to his audience. Hearing of the hopes of the AMPEX company and what they were trying to achieve, caused him to investigate and with the conclusion being, becoming a large investor in their research efforts. This venture proved to be successful and brought financial rewards to him and his heirs, even unto the present day, as progress continued until the introduction of Beta and VHS for professional and home use.

I am certain Mr. Wright and I agree on progress, we just need more storage room.

Jack Ballard

Lewisburg