Television History - The First 75 Years
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Mechanical Television Broadcasting in the United States (1928-1939)

  •   There were 16 stations (in ten states) broadcasting various forms of mechanical television in the United States, between the years 1928 to 1939. 

  •   All broadcasts during this period were considered 'experimental' -- and never reached commercial status.

  •   The earliest station was W2XB operated by General Electric, from Schenectady, NY, in 1928 at 24 lines resolution, and 15 frames per second (FPS).

  •   3 stations: W9XK State University of Iowa, W9XG Purdue University and W9XAK Kansas State College, all were the last to broadcast mechanical television, halting these broadcasts in 1939.

  • Some of the different mechanical broadcast standards were:
      24 lines / 21 FPS
      45 lines / 15 FPS
      48 lines / 15 FPS
      60 lines / 20 FPS
      60 lines / 24 FPS
      80 lines / 20 FPS
      96 lines / 20 FPS

    1931 W2XCR - WGBS Television Studio - New York City

         1931 WGBS Mechanical TV Studio NYC  (84K bytes) (84K) - Close-up scan

The photograph above shows Miss Sue Weman in a live mechanical television broadcast, on May 4th, 1931.  She stands in front of a WGBS microphone, with two banks of photocells on each side, while the Jenkins flying-spot scanner peeks through a hole in the wall behind her.

Early History of WGBS

WGBS began broadcasting on October 24, 1924, on 950 AM, in New York city, and was owned by the Gimbel Brothers Department Store.

WGBS is believed to be the first radio broadcaster to originate a program from an airplane.

On October 10, 1931, WGBS was sold to William Randolph Hearst, who in January 1932, changed the call letters to WINS, which stood for Hearst's International News Service, then one of the nation's three major wire services.

During the period early part of 1931, but before the call letters were changed to WINS, the station began experimenting with mechanical television broadcasting, operating a Jenkins mechanical scanner through the experimental transmitter, W2XCR.

The station used both 48-line / 15 FPS, and 60-line / 20 FPS standards during 1931.

In July 1932, WINS moved out of the old WGBS studios in the Hotel Lincoln to a Park Avenue locale at 110 E. 58th St., the Ritz Tower.


Later History

WINS switched to 1010 AM on October 30, 1943.

Hearst sold WINS for $2 million in 1946, to the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation

In August 1957, WINS moved its studios to 7 Central Park West

On July 28, 1962, Westinghouse purchased WINS for $10 million.

On April 19, 1965, the station went to an all-news format.


Technical Explanation of Mechanical TV Frequencies - Courtesy Steve McVoy

Mechanical TV broadcast in the AM radio band (550-1600 kHz) in 1928 and 29. With 24 and 30 line systems, only about 10 kHz of bandwidth was needed, so standard radio channels could be used. Some stations also broadcast in the shortwave band. Beginning in 1930, the 2-3 mHz band was used for television, with 100 kHz channel width. 60 line systems required about 40 kHz of bandwidth. TV broadcasts could be identified by their distinctive sound.

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