It is certainly no surprise that with the many advances in size and quality of television pictures, there has been a step backward in the quality of the sound, of course due to space available for the speaker systems that now must offer stereo, increased high and low sound ranges and now the introduction of surround sound. In this day of “home theatre,” I can remember conversation that it wasn’t that long ago, when the pride of the living room was a floor model “Atwater-Kent” radio. A model that had concealed the speakers in the base of the all wood cabinet replacing the earlier version with the large visible horn on top. Of course, in more modest situations, there was the “Philco” with its three dials, volume, tuning and short/long wave selection. On the rear of both makes, you could find connections for an additional antenna and ground connection. In those early days, radio broadcasting was really in the experimental stage and many years usually in the daytime hours. The networks, as we know them now, were still in the future and programming was still local in origin.
I recall my mother telling that she, then living in Barboursville, traveled with a musical group to do a special musical program on a Huntington radio station. Years later, especially at night, we in West Virginia, could pick up stations bouncing off the hills from allover the United States, even those of the so called “super stations” aimed at the United States from Mexico advertising products not allowed to be broadcast by our local stations. One memorable event was that President Wilson ordered a radio broadcasting silence so that RCA (NBC) would have no interference in receiving the list of names of the survivors of the Titanic sinking being broadcast by Great Britain by short wave.
The two world wars brought tremendous advances in radio and the era of television began from the experimental in the 1930’s, with the introduction of home television, first in B&W and later in color. Not only did a whole new visual world develop, I remember the NBC Hundey-Brinkley telecast of the East and West Coasts shown together on a split screen as they pointed out, was the first ever, we on Earth saw both coasts at the same time. An odd fact is, that David Sarnoff, head of NBC, issued instructions that all of their stations were to make application to be placed on the Channel 4 designation, nationwide, and it was done.
Experiments in broadcasting color were conducted by NBC/RCA and CBS. The CBS picture quality was thought to be better than that of the NBC/RCA image but its process would have required all viewers to purchase a new television set where as the NBC/RCA could be received on existing sets, the governmental regulatory (FCC) nod went in their favor. Put to one side, the reason you had to purchase a new Hi-Def set, the federal agencies were, a few years ago, a bit more consumer friendly. CBS took the decision just as you would expect of a rejected suitor refusing to purchase any of the new required electronic equipment from RCA, choosing instead, for many years and it may still be true, manufactured by “PHILLIPS” (Netherlands).
In the present, with the advances of broadcasting, previously recorded entertainment it is now possible for families to create an area where they can all find something to hold their leisure time interest. It also offers an opportunity for one member of the family to take control of the sound level. Speaking for myself, when my wife said “It’s too loud,” I knew I had found the sweet spot, jacked it up one more click, saying “Yes Dear” as I put the remote down smiling inwardly to myself.
Jack D. Ballard