From the collection of the
San Francisco, California
THE STORY OF
THE LIFE OF
Philo T. Farnsworth
THE STORY OF
THE LIFE OF
Philo T. Farnsworth
By GEORGE EVERSON
W W NORTON Gf COMPANY INC New York
COPYRIGHT, 1949, BY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FOR THE PUBLISHERS BY THE VAIL-BALLOU PRESS
HELEN and JESS
1. A BOY'S PURPOSE 15
2. FRUSTRATION AND DISAPPOINTMENT 29
3. PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 36
4. THE GREEN STREET LABORATORY 74
5. CRUDE BEGINNINGS THE FIRST TELEVISION PICTURE 84
6. TELEVISING MOTION PICTURES 97
7. THE GROWTH OF SPECULATIVE VALUE 101
8. CLEARING THE IMAGE OF SMUDGE AND BLUR 104
9. FIRST DEMONSTRATION TO BACKERS 113
10. TELEVISION BROADCASTING AND TRANSMISSION OVER
TELEPHONE WIRES 118
11. FARNSWORTH MOVES TO PHILADELPHIA 128
12. MULTIP ACTOR TUBES DEMONSTRATED 137
13. TELEVISION SHOW AT FRANKLIN INSTITUTE 142
14. FARNSWORTH VISITS ENGLAND AND GERMANY 146
15. PATENTS 152
16. CROSS-LICENSING ARRANGEMENT WITH A.T. & T. 155
17. EXPERIMENTAL BROADCASTING STATION 160
18. PHIL AND His FAMILY 170
19. FINANCIAL PROBLEMS UNEXPECTED BANKING SUP-
20. TELEVISION NETWORK POSSIBILITIES 188
21. STANDARDS PROPOSED FOR TELEVISION BROADCAST-
22. PROGRAM EXPERIMENTS 199
23. FACSIMILE AND FOG PENETRATION 212
24. DEFENSE OF THE PATENT DEPARTMENT 218
25. PUBLIC DEMONSTRATIONS IN Los ANGELES AND SAN
26. MANUFACTURING PLANS COMPLETED 235
27. R. C. A. LICENSES 242
28. TELEVISION STANDARDS AGREED UPON 248
29. AT LONG LAST COMMERCIAL TELEVISION 254
30. RESEARCH GOES ON 261
Philo T. Farnsworth, the Inventor of Electronic Television, at
Work in His Laboratory 160
The First Television Camera Set Up in the Green Street
Farnsworth Operating His First Portable Television Trans-
mitter Unit 161
One of the First Image Dissectors 192
Recent Version of the Image Dissector 192
First Design of the Multipactor Tube 192
Recent Design of the Multipactor Tube 192
Pictures of Photograph through Screens of Varying Mesh,
Showing Resolution Obtained 193
THIS BOOK is a tribute to the inventive genius of Philo T. Farns-
worth, one of the greatest yet least publicized scientists of our
generation. It also stands as a tribute to the American way of
life, in which ingenuity and progress are encouraged by our
system of free enterprise, and to the courage, vision and faith of
modern pioneers of American industry such as George Everson
and Jesse McCargar.
This story of Philo Farnsworth, who through perseverance
and unending research rose from an obscure farm boy with an
idea to a famed inventor with a discovery that is enriching our
living, contains all the elements for a Horatio Alger tale. But
the story of Farnsworth is true. Moreover, it didn't take place in
the days of Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and other
great inventors a period when America was "growing up" and
when the vast field of science was first opening to historic dis-
coveries. This story has occurred entirely during the twentieth
century; it belongs to our generation.
Farnsworth was a teen-aged youth when in 1922 he conceived
his scientific ideas for an all-electronic television system the
system that provides the basis for television in use today. At the
1 2 INTRODUCTION
age of fifteen he astounded his high-school science teacher by
explaining in logical manner, with diagrams on the schoolroom
blackboard, how he planned some day to transmit and receive
images over distances of many miles. The fact that such a con-
cept could be propounded by a high-school freshman in a
remote town in Idaho was amazing enough, but it is all the
more astonishing when it is remembered that this youth had
never been close to a research laboratory or a radio broadcast-
Ironically, it may be that young Farnsworth's isolation from
scientific centers and his lack of knowledge as to experiments
then being conducted in television were a help rather than a
hindrance to him. For at that time, in 1922, television experi-
ments going on throughout the world involved the use of scan-
ning disks or other mechanical means for transmitting and
receiving pictures. This Utah-born farm lad proposed to tele-
cast pictures through the use of electronics, with no moving
parts, and it was this concept that was eventually adopted and
put into practical use. Where learned scientists in foreign coun-
tries as well as the United States had failed, Farnsworth suc-
ceeded. And he did so while the world's great scientific thinkers
were saying that it could not be done.
However, the path between the conception of an idea and its
fruition into reality and common use is often a long one. Farns-
worth learned that as year after year went by without his in-
vention being successfully completed. Lack of funds to carry
out his objective was, as is so often the case, the big stumbling
block. In fact, it was four years later, in 1926, before he was
able to get any financial assistance and start building the first
working model of his television system.
That assistance came from George Everson, at that time a
community chest campaign organizer, who hired young Farns-
INTRODUCTION 1 3
worth to assist in a business survey in Salt Lake City. The two
soon became close friends, and it wasn't long before Farns-
worth impressed Everson with the importance of his television
idea and gained the latter's assistance in forming the research
laboratory that was to chart the future course of the new tele-
In this book, as told so capably by Everson, is the complete
story of Farnsworth's long struggle, from his early days to his
eventual success and recognition as the "father of television";
his experiences in originating and having credited to him more
than 100 electronic and television patents; his constant battle
to protect and retain rightful credit for his discovery; his battle
against illness and financial hardships.
It has taken more than two decades of constant, painstaking
research to bring television to its present state of excellence. It
has been a costly project involving millions of dollars. It would
have disheartened the average man to invest so much time and
energy in developmental work whose completion was "just
around the corner" for so many years. But the small group
which blazed the television trail nurtured it through its forma-
tive and trying years of the 1920*8 and 1930*5 was not com-
posed of ordinary men. They shared a conviction and foresight
with which most of us are not endowed.
Philo Farnsworth often has told me that he has always felt,
and still feels, that there is no problem which cannot be solved
by man if he intelligently applies himself to the task long
enough and diligently enough. As the pages of this book reveal,
the men who backed the youthful inventor in his early work
likewise believed there was no such thing as an insurmountable
obstacle. George Everson and Jess McCargar, a California
banker and friend of Everson, succeeded time after time, often
against overwhelming odds, in raising the vast sums of money
required to finance his research. They gave him their full con-
fidence. And ten years ago they took the lead in forming the
company that now bears his name. Both men have continued
to help guide the company by serving as directors. The millions
who will receive the benefits of this new medium of communi-
cation owe to them a debt of gratitude.
There is no person better qualified than Everson to serve as
Farnsworth's biographer. He not only was the "discoverer" of
Farns worth, but he has been a loyal friend and adviser for nearly
a quarter of a century. He has shared with the inventor the
many disappointments, successes, and problems that have ac-
companied the incalculable number of hours spent in develop-
ing and perfecting electronic television.
Although anecdotes about Farnsworth have been a popular
topic for writers and speakers, the full story of his historic work
in television has never before been told. It is given in its entirety
for the first time in these pages. It is, I believe, a particularly
fitting time for it to appear in print. For television has now truly
arrived, bringing with it new concepts of education and enjoy-
ment. Television receivers are already installed in several hun-
dred thousand American homes, and programs are being viewed
daily by millions of persons throughout our nation. This amaz-
ing new science has now taken its place alongside the other
great scientific discoveries that are enabling all of us to enjoy
finer, fuller living.
And it all boils down to this story of a young man with an
idea in a land of liberty and opportunity and a group of far-
sighted men who were not only permitted, but encouraged, by
our thriving system of democracy to help that young man make
his idea work.
EDWIN M. MARTIN
A Boy's Purpose
PHILO T. FARNSWORTH, the son of Lewis and Serena Bastian
Farnsworth, was born on a farm near Beaver City, Utah, on
August 19, 1906.
Both the Farnsworth and Bastian families had been Mor-
mon pioneers. The inventor's paternal grandfather, for whom
he was named, was one of Brigham Young's lieutenants. He
assisted in the erection of the Mormon Temple in Nauvoo,
Illinois, which was destroyed in 1848, and thereafter followed
Young on the long migration to the promised land of Utah.
Having gained a reputation for endurance, good judgment,
and loyalty, he was commissioned to establish the Beaver City
community in the southern part of the territory. Later he be-
came the Mormon Bishop of Beaver City, probate judge of
the county, and a member of the Territorial Legislature.
The inventor's mother's forebears were of equally rugged
stock. His maternal grandfather, Jacob Bastian, was a member
of the Mormon colony from Denmark. At Iowa City he joined
the band of Mormons and pooled his resources with them for
the western journey. Jacob could not speak English, but his
wife was an accomplished linguist. While he had sufficient
l6 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
funds to fit his own family out with a wagon train, others of
the band were not so fortunate. When all of the resources were
thrown together for common use, there was just enough to fit
out each family with a pushcart for the difficult trip over the
plains and mountains to the West. Only seventeen pounds of
luggage were allowed each member, so many of Jacob's cher-
ished household possessions brought from the old country had
to be abandoned.
It was a heartbreaking and possibly a foolhardy venture.
Many perished by the wayside. Jacob Bastian and his wife ar-
rived at the promised land after 1,300 miles of hardship, but
his wife died shortly afterward. He married again, his second
wife being a girl of fourteen who had also come to Utah with
the pushcart pioneers. They settled in Moroni, where he be-
came the expert carpenter of the community.
The home in which the grandson of these pioneers was born
was a modest farm dwelling just one step beyond the log-cabin
stage. The livelihood of the family was gained from the produce
of irrigated acres. When the farm work slackened, the
father added to the family's income as a teamster with his
sturdy draft horses.
Lewis and Serena Farnsworth were indulgent with their
children and eager to give them as many educational advan-
tages as their limited circumstances would permit. They sub-
scribed to one or two popular technical magazines which were
often the center of family interest, and which afforded subjects
for discussion and speculation in the long evenings where there
was no radio and where books were at a premium. There were
the Horatio Alger-like accounts of inventions that stimulated
the imagination and led Philo, at the age of six, to make his
bold declaration of intention to become an inventor. His father
A BOY S PURPOSE 1J
encouraged this ambition by keeping up the subscriptions to
the periodicals and listening interestedly to the child's imagina-
tive flights about building things and making them work. At
the age of twelve, Philo's interests had grown to such an extent
that he entered a contest in one of these magazines. He
won the $25 first prize. With it he bought his first long pants.
In 1920 young Philo's uncle persuaded the boy's father to
join him in taking over a ranch in Idaho. A caravan was made
up of livestock and farm wagons to carry the family furniture
and belongings to the northern location. As they trekked slowly
through the streets of Salt Lake City, the fourteen-year-old
Philo, called Phil by his family, stood in the back of one of the
wagons and gazed in open-eyed wonderment at the city through
which they were passing. As good Mormons, they stopped in
respectful curiosity to wander through the grounds of the Tab-
ernacle and the Temple and to gaze at the beautiful monu-
ment to the sea gulls which legend credits with saving the first
Mormon crops from destruction by grasshoppers.
Most eager and curious of the migrants was young Philo.
Here at the center of the Mormon faith he first saw the great
Tabernacle and Temple as living symbols of what the energy
and industry of man can build if he has a purpose.
Leaving Salt Lake City, the farm caravan moved north over
the rough and barren terrain of northern Utah and southern
Idaho to the eastern section of the state, which borders Yellow-
stone Park. Among the household goods were a few of his
greatly prized possessions the products of his early inventive
With the long journey from southern Utah to the upper
Snake River country ended, Phil's father and his uncle and the
family settled on Bungalow Ranch in Rigby, Idaho. It was a
large hay and grain farm with two big white houses, huge
l8 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
granaries with automatic elevators, and all sorts of outbuildings
for farm use, Phil's uncle was buying the ranch, and his father
was helping in the undertaking.
Among the things which engaged the interest of young Phil
was a Delco lighting system, which was used not only for light
but as a source of power for many of the household and barn
chores. This power plant was new to Phil, and it completely
engrossed his interest. It was his first hand-to-hand contact
with any type of electrical equipment. He was the only one in
the family who knew how to run it successfully, and it became
his pleasant duty to keep it in repair. He was the happiest when
it was out of order and needed fixing. In fact, there is a suspicion
that Phil often put it out of commission in order to have an
opportunity to take it apart and put it together again.
Phil was constantly thinking up new ways to utilize the
resources of the plant. Most of them remained in the realm of
his youthful imagination. One, however, was reduced to practi-
cal use and great personal advantage. He devised a motor to
harness the power of the lighting system for his mother's wash-
ing machine to relieve himself of the drudgery of operating it
At the opening of the school year Phil entered the local
school to prepare for high school. On his graduation he regis-
tered at Rigby High School. Upon entry he had a long talk
with the school superintendent, Justin Tolman. Tolman was
one of those fine men who dedicated their lives to teaching.
He was quiet-spoken and firm but profoundly understanding.
Phil in his eager way wanted to encompass the essentials of the
whole high-school course in one big gulp of educational assimi-
lation. Tolman told him that he thought it would be wiser to
take the first-year course as prescribed and supplement his work
A BOY'S PURPOSE 19
by outside reading. He suggested that there were a few books
in the library that might be of interest to him.
Phil took Tolman's advice and registered as a freshman,
but he soon found that the prescribed courses were not suffi-
cient to keep him busy and interested. As Tolman had sug-
gested, Phil ransacked the library for books on scientific sub-
jects and found an electrical encyclopedia which he eagerly
pored over to supplement the electrical knowledge he had ob-
tained by reading the amateur technical magazines his father
had secured for him. He talked with students in the higher
grades to find out the gist of their work.
One morning Phil came to school early and approached Tol-
man, who was sitting at his desk busily preparing for the day's
work, and asked to join the senior chemistry class, which was
taught by Tolman. The request was an astonishing one, since
entering the class in the middle of the term would require that
he make up the first three months' work of the course. Tolman
told him that he would have to wait until his senior year, that
it would be folly for a freshman to think of doing the work of
a senior. The boy left, and Tolman thought he had seen the
last of him in the chemistry class for three years. But he was
mistaken: the next day Phil appeared again and asked the
privilege of just sitting in with the group. The request was
granted, and Farnsworth soon proved a worthy student. His
questions were so penetrating that he often stayed after school
with Tolman to thrash them out. It finally resulted in his com-
ing early and staying late and getting special tutoring from
Tolman beyond the requirements of the senior-class course. In
fact, his hours before and after school were so long that it
brought a complaint to the school authorities from the janitor.
Tolman had the true teacher's delight in leading a young
2O THE STORY OF TELEVISION
and active mind into new fields of knowledge. The after-school
tutoring, therefore, became not only hours of work, but periods
of pleasant and friendly understanding out of which the teacher
got as much pleasure and profit as the pupil.
It was not extraordinary, then, that Phil confided in Tolman
his purpose to become an inventor and gave it as the principal
reason for his eager pursuit of scientific knowledge. As a result
their discussions went far beyond the chemistry textbook.
Because of the intellectual companionship he enjoyed with
the teaching staff, Phil was often put in charge of the high-
school study hall. One day Tolman broke in on the study hour
unexpectedly and found Farnsworth giving the assembled stu-
dents an exposition of the Einstein theory of relativity. Tol-
man remained quiet and listened as Phil unfolded the mystery
of the theory with simple clarity and dramatic force. Here, as
always, Phil was a good salesman. He made the scientific con-
cepts live and glow with his own enthusiasm. Later Tolman
said that it was the best discussion of the theory of relativity he
had ever heard or read.
For one of his years Phil had an amazing grasp of scientific
subjects. Treatises in encyclopedias gave him the same thrill
that a Nick Carter story held for most boys. His curiosity on
technical matters knew no bounds. Reading about one led to
interest in others. It was fun sleuthing through abstract pages
of scientific exposition to get at the meat of things. He had the
rare gift of visualizing theoretical concepts and making them
live in his imagination. The electrical encyclopedias were not
to him forbidding volumes of lore to be avoided; they were
mines of interesting facts and theories to be understood and
utilized they were the Arabian Nights of the world of learn-
From them he learned about the electron theory. As his
A BOY'S PURPOSE 21
studies progressed, the little vital units that scientists had given
the name of electrons became realities in Farnsworth's mind.
He inquired into their properties, what influenced their be-
havior, and how by harnessing them men were sending and
receiving audible messages and music through the air.
Again and again he returned to the device that, according to
the book, changed light energy into electrical current, and its
counterpart that changed a beam of invisible electrons into a
glowing light. The first was the photoelectric cell; its opposite,
the cathode-ray tube. The key to understanding all this was
mathematics. It meant study, but study that was fascinating
Phil continued to enjoy astonishing his young brothers and
sisters with his vivid descriptions of what he had learned of this
and that in science, how he was going to make great things
from his knowledge and become famous. The two new instru-
ments were additional wonders to explain to them. In the midst
of one of his eloquent expositions Phil became pensive. A con-
ception was taking form in his active mind. He saw the photo-
electric cell and the cathode-ray tube as teammates, one trans-
lating light into electrical energy, and the other changing
electrical current into glowing fluorescence.
The next day he returned to his encyclopedia to study. He
walked alone to give his imagination free play with the de-
scriptions of the two tubes, to visualize more clearly what elec-
trons might be made to do within them. Here were two instru-
ments made to order for the transmission of pictures over great
distances, whether by wire or through the air. It was a perfect
field for the exercise of inventive genius, a God-given oppor-
tunity for study and development.
The idea of television itself was not new in the realm of the
human mind, but Phil Farnsworth's conception of harnessing
22 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
the photoelectric cell and the cathode-ray tube in a simple tele-
vision system was new and original. At this time he was not
aware of what had gone before in the efforts to transmit pic-
tures. He knew that, through the telephone and radio, sound
could be transmitted almost instantaneously around the world
by electrical means. Why, then, he thought, with the aid of
the photoelectric cell and the cathode-ray tube would it not be
possible to do the same thing with visual images? Eagerly he
concentrated on the problem.
He thought it through, working out each step in a careful
diagram, planning how he would handle the variations of light
and shade in a picture, translate them into their electrical coun-
terparts, send the varying current through the air, and restore it
in proper sequence at the receiving end in glowing light. His
conception of the sending tube resulted in the dissector tube,
which became the heart of the Farnsworth television camera.
Essentially it was a simple but revolutionary device. This idea,
produced by a youth of fifteen, was later characterized by Dr.
Herbert E. Ives, of Bell Laboratories, as the most daring inven-
tion of which he had knowledge. Though it was years later
that Phil named it the dissector tube, at this early date he
clearly had in mind how it would function.
The scheme became an obsession with him. He must tell
someone about it. He must discuss it to clarify the details in
his own mind. Tolman was the logical confidant. Finally, when
he felt he had the plan well worked out, he determined to re-
veal it to his mentor.
The study hall with the large blackboard at the front was
usually vacant during the last period of the day. With the
routine work for the day accomplished, Phil would repair to
this room to prepare himself for the after-school session in
chemistry with Tolman. This seemed to him the logical place
A BOY S PURPOSE 23
to reveal to Tolman the details of the television scheme that
had been driving him during most of his waking hours for the
past months. With the sense of the dramatic which was grow-
ing to be an essential part of his personality, he planned to
surprise his instructor by drawing a full outline of his scheme
on the blackboard before Tolman came in.
When Tolman entered the room, the boy was not in his
customary seat poring over a book, but was finishing a blue-
print type of diagram that covered half of the blackboard which
stretched across the front wall of the room.
Tolman stepped to the front of the study hall and sat down
to watch the boy as he completed his diagram with nervous,
almost fidgety strokes. When he had finished the drawing he
placed chalk and eraser on the base of the blackboard, walked
over to the end, and picked up a pointer. Returning to the
center in front of Tolman, he announced with eager, half-
suppressed excitement that this was his new television system.
Tolman asked what this had to do with chemistry. Phil then
went on to explain that this new invention of his had really
been occupying his thoughts for a long time and he wanted to
explain it to him.
With that as a start he went through the whole diagram,
giving Tolman, with glowing enthusiasm, a clear, concise ex-
planation of how the whole television scheme would work to
bring pictures of living scenes from a distance into homes, as
sound radio was then beginning to be brought to the homes of
America. Tolman listened with rapt interest. He had had
enough experience with Phil to know that what he was saying
must have some basis in science or the boy would not have
worked so hard on it.
There was not time between the close of the school session
and the supper hour to go into all the details of this scheme as
24 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Phil visualized it. It took many more evenings. In these sessions,
chemistry was forgotten and Phil stood before the blackboard
posing the problems and solutions embracing the general sys-
tem of television. It must be remembered that this plan was
unfolded evening after evening in the Rigby High School by a
fifteen-year-old boy in 1922, when sound radio was yet in its in-
Getting down to details, Phil asked Tolman why it would
not be possible to focus the image to be transmitted on the
photoelectric surface in the vacuum tube. If this were done
under proper control, each point of the image would give off a
flow of electrons representing the strength of the light focused
on that spot. By this simple device could he not build up within
the vacuum tube an electron image which would correspond
exactly to the picture image focused on the surface?
This was indeed a startling conception as yet unknown to
science. It is true that the electron image within the vacuum
tube would be invisible, but nevertheless it would be an exact
reproduction of all the lights and shades of the actual image
in unseen electrical units.
In thinking the matter through, Farnsworth concluded that
unless he prevented it the electron image would unquestionably
become blurred. His knowledge of optics told him that light
beams could be focused; therefore, why could he not provide a
magnetic lens, or solenoid, to control the electrons and keep
the unseen electron image sharply focused? This magnetic fo-
cusing was the second essential in the development of his tele-
In the transmission of pictures, Farnsworth knew that he
must break up the image and transmit it a unit at a time. In
other words, the image had to be scanned in much the same
manner as the eye reads a page of print. In considering the
A BOY'S PURPOSE 25
problem, the shape of the tube became important. He con-
ceived that the tube must be a cylinder closed at each end by
flat surfaces. The front of the tube would be an optically clear
window through which the picture would be projected onto
the photosensitive coating of the rear plate of the cell. The
impact of the varying light intensities of the picture on the
photoelectric surface would release an electron image. This
would flow forward to the front end of the tube, where the
scanning process would take place.
To accomplish the scanning Phil devised an anode finger
projecting up in the tube to act as a "collector of electrons/'
He thought of it as a small metal cylinder about the size of a
lead pencil, with a pinpoint aperture into which the electrons
would flow and be carried out as varying electrical current.
This would constitute the picture signal.
To control the flow of the picture elements into the aperture,
means had to be provided for scanning the image across the
He would do this, Farnsworth told Tolman, with magnetic
scanning coils, which by attraction and repulsion would oscil-
late the electron image back and forth in an orderly fashion
over the anode slot. He realized that two sets of coils would be
necessary, one acting rapidly to scan the image a line at a time
in a horizontal direction, the other, at a slower pace, to move
the image up by degrees as the lines were scanned. By this
method the picture signal would flow out from the tube
through the anode in orderly sequence.
Such was Farnsworth's original conception of a television
camera. In it a picture was translated from light values into
a ribbon of electrical variations which then could be handled
exactly as any other electrical current. Patiently he outlined
step by step each part of the transmitting mechanism so that
26 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Tolman could see what he was driving at, as eagerly he strove
for approval. Tolman understood and told the boy that it
Then came the problem of receiving the image in the home.
Farnsworth's idea was to build a receiving set around the
cathode-ray tube. To do this it would be necessary to devise
means by which the picture signal radiating through the ether
could be detected by the household television set in a manner
similar to that used in sound radio. Amplifiers would be re-
quired to build up the electrical current representing the pic-
ture values and feed it into the cathode-ray tube.
The tube which Phil proposed to use as the heart of the
receiving set was a pear-shaped vacuum bulb with a slender
stem. A current flowing through and heating a filament in the
stem gave off the electrons which formed the invisible cathode
beam. Phil visualized this beam as proceeding in a straight line
to bombard the fluorescent surface lining the opposing bulb
end of the tube, thus causing it to glow. This completed the
cycle of translating electrical current back into light values,
which in turn would reproduce the original image for viewing
in the home.
To provide the lights and shades of his picture, Phil reasoned
that if he put a shutter in the stem of the cathode-ray tube to
control the flow of the beam it would be possible to use the
varying picture current coming from the transmitter to operate
the shutter, or grid. However, it would be necessary to focus the
beam and oscillate it for scanning. Here again Farnsworth's
inventive mind provided a magnetic lens in the form of a coil
around the stem of the tube to bring the beam to pinpoint
sharpness. Magnetic scanning coils similar to those at the trans-
mitter would also be provided. Operating in exact synchronism
with the pulses at the transmitter, these coils would control
A BOY S PURPOSE 2J
the beam so that it would etch an exact reproduction of the
original picture on the cathode surface. Because of the per-
sistence of vision, the varying light intensities created by the
moving pencil of electrons would give the illusion of a perfect
This was Farnsworth's conception of modern television, and
it was this that he conveyed to Tolman.
One can visualize the eager youth evening after evening
sketching out drawings of the scheme as he conceived it. One
can hear his mentor asking pointed questions and raising doubts
here and there as the plan was unfolded. One can catch the
impetuous flow of explanations in Phil's anxious bid for ap-
proval, and later the quiet discussion of the plan, a point at a
time, searching for holes in it.
Many such hours of discussion must have taken place, be-
cause six years later, without any intermediate discussion or
coaching, when Tolman appeared as a witness in a patent suit
he sketched from memory in accurate detail the television
scheme that is now the basis of the whole Farnsworth system.
Day after day, when the advanced chemistry lesson had been
completed, teacher and pupil continued to discuss the all-
absorbing idea of Phil's television scheme. It was something
made out of whole cloth from the imagination and ingenuity
of a boy's inquisitive brain. In theory they worked out the
scheme, anticipating the difficulties they would meet and over-
coming them in imagination when they seemed insuperable.
Gradually it became the consuming interest in the boy's life. He
talked it over with his parents, who had more than sympathetic
interest in their son's chosen profession of invention.
Farnsworth had other schemes that he thought patentable,
simpler devices than the television system. His father advanced
money to file a patent application on the one that seemed most
28 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
likely to bring immediate returns. The thought was that if this
were successful the revenue from its exploitation could be used
to further the plans for television. Phil's idea was forwarded to
a Washington firm of patent attorneys advertising in an ama-
teur's magazine. The case should not have been filed, for the
idea had little commercial value. In addition, it was handled
badly, so that nothing but additional expense and disappoint-
Phil's interest in invention and scientific subjects did not
prevent his being quite a figure in high-school activities. He
was a violin player in the high-school orchestra and a leader in
the social activities which centered around the school. He also
learned to play the piano by the "hunt and pick" system. To
this day he enjoys nothing more than to scrape away at his fiddle
or improvise at the piano. His music teacher was so impressed
with his ability as a violinist that she urged his father to en-
courage Phil to take up music as a profession, but Phil was one
not easily influenced; he had a mind of his own, and a purpose.
Music to him was a diversion from the concentration of
thought centered on his invention.
Farnsworth's genius and his great ability to concentrate had
its inception in the period spent at Rigby High School. He set
about to train his mind in constructive thinking and purpose-
fully worked out a plan of mental discipline that gave him an
enormous capacity for quick comprehension and ready adap-
tion of new ideas and information to the purpose in hand. He
had a habit of waking up an hour before rising time and think-
ing through the problems that were puzzling him, because in
the morning his mind seemed to be clearer and more readily
responsive to constructive effort This habit of mental con-
centration has been carried on throughout his career.
Frustration and Disappointment
PHIL'S FIRST YEAR in high school was one of great intellectual
growth. The seminars with Tolman, the technical encyclope-
dia, and his regular classroom studies gave him some inkling of
the vast scope of scientific knowledge. New fields were open for
conquest, and he delighted in accepting the challenge. It came
to an end all too soon, for at the close of the spring term it was
necessary for the family to move to a part of the general ranch
holdings which was outside the school district. He therefore
could not continue his high-school work in Rigby without pro-
hibitive tuition fees. The distance to and from school was also
too great for the rigors of the winter months. The educational
facilities within the new district were not up to the standards
that Phil required.
There seemed to be no point from which he could proceed in
a practical way with the ideas that were teeming in his brain.
His father was keenly interested in the boy's future and sym-
pathetic toward his television inventions. He encouraged him
to persevere, but there was no money for further patent attor-
neys' fees, or for the filing of patents. Worse still, opportunity
30 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
for further study seemed to be denied. It was a hopeless situa-
One of his half-brothers was then working in the railroad
shops at Glen's Ferry, Idaho. Finding himself blocked in his
efforts to further his education, Phil packed up such books as he
could lay his hands on and went to Glen's Ferry, where he got a
job as an electrician with the Oregon Short Line. One of his
duties was to see that the locomotive headlights were focusing
properly before the train left the station. He speaks feelingly
even to this day regarding the frightening experience of crawl-
ing out over the boiler to adjust the headlight when the engine
was in motion as it switched around the yards. For a sensitive,
frail youth this was an ordeal, particularly if there was a blinding
snow or rain storm.
Phil was the oldest of a family of five children, having two
sisters and two brothers. Phil's disappointment in the educa-
tional facilities available, and the need for better school advan-
tages for the other members of the family, led the father and
mother to take counsel concerning the future of their family.
After careful consideration they determined to give up the
ranch and move to Provo, Utah, the seat of Brigham Young
University. Phil followed the family to Provo and entered the
high school there in 1923 in preparation for entrance to the
university. There is a close relationship between the high school
and the university, so from the time he entered Provo High
School he had the run of the university research laboratory.
Brigham Young University is sponsored by the Mormon
Church. For a school of its size, its faculty is exceptionally well
qualified, particularly in the field of science. Some outstanding
men have been developed by this small but excellent university.
It has preserved the originality of thought, the attention to
FRUSTRATION AND DISAPPOINTMENT 3!
essentials, and the development of initiative among its students
that have made the Mormons so successful in conquering a
pioneering country under most adverse conditions.
While it was necessary for young Farnsworth to complete
his high-school course before formally entering the university,
he was able to pursue studies in higher mathematics by work-
ing with his cousin, Arthur Crawford, who was enrolled as a
regular student. After a year of work, Phil finished the high-
He had been unable to make any progress in exploiting his
television ideas during this time, however. He chafed at the
limitations that necessity placed around him. When the school
year ended he was not successful in finding employment for the
summer. In the desperation of frustrated youth he and one of
his schoolmates were attracted by a recruiting campaign put
on by the Navy in Provo. Here he saw a way to prepare himself
for enrollment in Annapolis.
The Bay of San Diego, the sea, and Navy life were all new
and exciting to Phil in the beginning. However, as time went
on, the routine became irksome and uncongenial to the young
inventor, whose main interest was in science. The more he
learned what might be ahead of him, if assigned to the Naval
Academy, the less it seemed suited to fit him for the career he
While he enjoyed the association of the boys at the station,
his best friend was the chaplain, who soon recognized Phil as
a youth of exceptional ability. With him he had long discus-
sions on how he could best be fitted for a career of scientific
invention. To the chaplain it seemed that training Phil for the
Navy was something like putting a spirited race horse to draft-
horse duty. Therefore, in spite of his loyalty to the Navy, the
32 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
chaplain had to counsel Phil against training at the Academy
and gave consideration to taking steps to have him released
from the Navy to return to Brigham Young University.
Then a crushing blow fell upon the Farnsworth family. Phil's
father contracted pneumonia and died shortly before Christ-
mas of 1924. Phil's mother sorely needed the help of her oldest
son, and through the efforts of the naval chaplain and a family
friend, his release from the Navy was secured.
Upon his return to Provo, Phil and his mother worked out
plans to keep the family together and provided for. He got
part-time work to contribute to the family income, and by
careful planning he was able to enter the university as a special
student. Here he spent every spare moment in scientific studies.
It was a great opportunity, and he made the most of it.
With the fear, common with inventors, that the idea might
be stolen from him, Phil was very careful whom he told about
his television scheme. He did feel, however, that he should
discuss it with someone who might give him additional help.
He talked with his cousin, Crawford, who advised him to dis-
cuss the matter with some of the faculty members of the
university. This was one of the first things he did after enroll-
ment. The faculty members were most sympathetic and help-
ful. They permitted Phil to take the mathematics and elec-
tronics courses that would be helpful in perfecting his inven-
tion. They also gave him the run of the laboratories and
allowed him the use of the meager facilities. This was heaven
In his classwork he specialized in mathematics, since it
seemed to be the most necessary subject for him to pursue in
order to develop a basic understanding of the physics and elec-
tronics involved in his venture. He was a very apt mathematics
student and was the delight of the faculty who acted as his
FRUSTRATION AND DISAPPOINTMENT 33
mentors. Two of the professors in particular considered him as
their special protege. They took interest in feeding his in-
quiring mind and opening paths into new fields of knowledge.
It was here that Phil first came in contact with the Bell
Laboratories journals and their content of abstruse papers on
electronics. Here he first learned of Hamilton, the great
scientist in the theory of light. One test in the laboratory
proved that a beam of electrons could be deflected magnet-
ically. This was one of the fundamentals of his scheme. The
proof that a beam could be deflected gave Phil added con-
fidence in his plans.
As they followed Phil's ideas on television, the faculty mem-
bers became more and more interested. As he went along in
his studies, they led him into new scientific works and text-
books bearing on the subject with which he was wrestling. In
the laboratory they watched with interest as he made use of
Here in Provo he conceived other ideas for simple inven-
tions which he hoped might be exploited to finance the tele-
vision development. One was a vernier dial. Another was a
clever type of ignition lock. None of them was successfully
commercialized, and there seems to be a record of only one of
them being patented.
The television scheme became an absorbing interest to the
faculty members to whom Phil gave his confidence. There
were many sessions of discussion as to how the thing could be
exploited, but nothing practical came out of the talks.
As in Rigby High School, Phil was active in the social do-
ings of Brigham Young University and of Provo in general.
He played the violin in the school orchestra and was first
violinist in the Chamber Music Orchestra. It was here that he
met Elma Gardner, an attractive girl of his own age, who had
34 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
wit and intelligence to match his own. They were leaders in a
group that enjoyed music, dancing, hiking, and the general run
of social activities in the Mormon Stake to which they be-
longed. A Mormon Stake is a local unit of the Mormon or-
ganization which, as Vice-President Thomas Marshall once
observed to Mormon President Heber Grant, corresponds al-
most identically to the ward in the Tammany organization in
New York City. Life at this time was interesting and intense
for young Farnsworth, divided as it was between his inventive
activity, his school work, his violin, and the normal fun-making
The school term, which began in January, seemed too short.
He had enjoyed this first experience of university life, and he
wanted to continue. To assure his next year's education he
lined up a janitor's job for the following school session.
At the end of the term Phil joined his brother in a lumber-
ing operation in Payson Canyon. He worked hard all summer
and returned to Provo two days before the opening of the fall
term in 1925 to find that his janitor's job was not available. In
spite of this setback, he enrolled in the university and did such
odd jobs as he could find along with helping his mother in her
effort to keep the family together. This proved not to meet
their needs, and he finally realized that his opportunity for
further school work was blasted.
This was in the comparatively early days of radio when there
were few technicians qualified to install and service radio sets.
Phil's technical studies gave him some knowledge of the sub-
ject. Talking it over with his mother, he decided that the new
field should offer opportunities for work and advancement.
Practical acquaintance with the technical problems of radio
also might afford chances for furthering his television scheme.
With these considerations in mind, he went to Salt Lake City
FRUSTRATION AND DISAPPOINTMENT 35
early in 1926 to get a job in radio. It was not easy to find what
he wanted. Finally he set himself up independently in a radio
Cliff Gardner, brother of Elma, had just finished high
school, and he joined Phil in the Salt Lake venture. It was a
hand-to-mouth existence. In spite of the demand for radio
service and the excellent work done by Farnsworth, he found
himself always in debt to the man who provided the meager
headquarters for his business operations.
Since the art was new, the installation of a radio set, to give
good reception and dependable service, was a real job. Phil did
the work well and gave general satisfaction to his customers.
However, his efforts and those of Gardner hardly sufficed to
keep them in food and shelter. They lived in a furnished apart-
ment and cooked their own meals. The situation became so
desperate that it was obvious that this was not the way for him
and Gardner to make their livelihood.
In the spring of 1926, in an effort to better his condition,
Phil registered with the employment agency at the University
of Utah. He was not discouraged, but he was faced with the
problems of immediate necessity and of giving consideration
to the future comforts of the widowed mother and younger
brothers and sisters.
Promise of Financial Help
IN THIS SAME spring, Leslie Gorrell and I were driving from
San Francisco by way of Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert to
spend two months in organizing and raising the first year's
funds for a community chest in Salt Lake City.
While we were crossing the desert a bearing burned out, and
my car had to be abandoned at St. George, Utah, forty miles
from the nearest railroad. We took a bus from there to Beaver
City and proceeded to our destination. The car was to be
brought on by a mechanic when the repairs were finished.
Upon arrival in Salt Lake City we got the preparations under
way for the campaign. As a detail of organization it was neces-
sary to make a business survey. Following our usual custom,
university students were sought for the work
Philo T. Farnsworth was one of those who came to the Com-
munity Chest headquarters from the employment office of the
University of Utah. He and several others were engaged. For-
tunately, Farnsworth was placed in charge of the survey crew
of six students.
Farnsworth found out that the Chest headquarters needed
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 37
an office boy, with the result that his friend, Cliff Gardner, ap-
plied for and received the job.
A room was set aside for the survey work, maps were drawn
of the business district and plans laid out for a careful door-to-
door check in order that all of the business houses and their
employees should be tabulated for the prospect list of the fund-
raising campaign. It was necessary that young Farnsworth have
some clerical assistance. In discussing it Phil volunteered, "Mr.
Everson, I know just the right person for this job."
"Bring her in," I said, "and let me talk to her."
"She's down in Provo," Phil replied. "She can be up here in
a day or so if you are sure there is a job."
"Just the right person" was Miss Elma Gardner, who came
up from Provo two days later. She turned out to be most capa-
ble, and, aside from his personal interest, Phil's selection was
properly in the interest of efficiency and good office manage-
Shortly after Phil came on the job, word came from St.
George that my car had been brought as far north as Beaver
City by the mechanic. There the bearing had again burned out,
and the car was being held at a garage for further instructions.
I telephoned the garage again to make the necessary repairs and
to notify me when it was finished. I told them I would then
send someone for it, as I needed it badly in the campaign work.
The local young men on the campaign staff learned of the
situation. Several of them offered to fetch it. Young Farnsworth
particularly wanted to go, and with his characteristic purpose-
fulness, he got the job. Two days passed with no word from
him. Finally at the end of the third day, when I was almost
distracted with worry about him and the car, a long-distance
telephone call from Provo came in. It was Phil.
"Where are you?" I asked with some impatience.
3 8 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
"Pm in Provo," he replied. "The bearing burned out again.
I couldn't get it fixed, so I pulled out the piston and have limped
in to here on five cylinders. Pll be in late tonight."
I told him I wouldn't wait up for him but would see him in
The next morning Farnsworth impressed me as knowing
more about the car than the man who made it, so I asked him
to go along with me and give instructions to the mechanic for
its repair. Needless to say, the car was successfully repaired and
gave no further trouble. This event brought young Farnsworth
and me closer together and opened the way to a long series of
conversations about his hopes and dreams of that then-fan-
tastic idea television.
A fund-raising campaign at best is strenuous and nerve-
racking. If the campaign effort is to be successful, everything
must function according to a prearranged schedule. Phil didn't
quite understand this necessity. I had given him the responsi-
bility of getting out a mailing on a certain day. When closing
time came it was hardly begun. With some impatience I asked
him why he hadn't followed instructions.
"Oh," he said, "we'll get it out tomorrow."
"But that won't do, Phil," I replied, "it must go out tonight.
The only thing to do is to get a hurried supper, then we'll all
pitch in and get it out."
Phil was nettled about it, and the others, seeing his vexation,
came back after supper. The job was done by nine-thirty. The
girls went home, and then Farnsworth, Gorrell, Gardner, and
I leaned back in the chairs around the big mailing table and
started a sort of bull session.
I asked Phil if he planned to go on to school. "No," he said,
"I can't afford it. I've been trying to find a way to finance an
invention of mine but it's pretty tough. In fact, I'm so dis-
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 39
couraged that I think I'll write up my ideas for Popular Science.
I imagine I could get a hundred dollars if I worked it right"
"What is your idea?" asked GorrelL
"It's a television system."
"A television system! What's that?" I asked.
"Oh, it's a way of sending pictures through the air the same
as we do sound," said Phil.
"Where did you get that idea?" I inquired.
"I thought of it when I was in high school at Rigby, Idaho,"
Phil went on. "Then when we moved to Provo and I went to
Brigham Young University I told a couple of the professors
about it. They encouraged me and let me try out some things in
the lab to prove it would work."
We talked a little further about it, but neither Gorrell nor
I showed enough interest to encourage Phil to a very detailed
As we were about to break up and go home he seemed very
uneasy at having said so much. He cautioned us that he had
not disclosed this idea to anyone outside of his own family,
one of his high-school instructors, and his professors at Brigham
Young University, and he urged us to keep his confidences.
Gorrell and I regarded his story at the moment as little more
than the interesting daydream of an ambitious youngster. Later
he discussed it at greater length with Gorrell. Gorrell was so
impressed that he urged me to inquire further into the matter.
"This television scheme of Phil's has merit," Gorrell told
me. "You ought to talk to him about it. I know if it's sound
you can find the money to promote it."
"It is interesting," I said, "and just fantastic enough to be
real. Let's ask him to dinner tomorrow night and then take
him up to our apartment and really find out what it's all about."
As a result, the three of us went to dinner the next evening
40 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
for an extended discussion of Farnsworth's ideas. I looked
forward to the meeting with only casual concern, but it de-
veloped into one of the most interesting evenings I ever spent.
When the discussion began I hardly knew what the word
"television" meant. I had read somewhere that a man by the
name of Baird was doing some experimental work in the trans-
mission of pictures and that this new art was called "television."
Otherwise it seemed so far removed from reality I hadn't given
it any thought.
Young Farnsworth at this time looked much older than his
nineteen years. He was of moderate height and slight build and
gave the impression of being undernourished. His skin lacked
the glow of health that is typical of boys his age. There was a
nervous tension about him that was probably the result of
financial worry and frustration in making headway in his scien-
tific pursuits. Around the Community Chest office he had the
appearance of a clerk too closely confined to his work.
As the discussion started, Farnsworth's personality seemed
to change. His eyes, always pleasant, began burning with eager-
ness and conviction; his speech, which usually was halting,
became fluent to the point of eloquence as he described with
the fire of earnestness this scheme that had occupied his mind
for the last four years. He became a supersalesman, inspiring
his listeners with an ever-increasing interest in what he was
saying. Once he had outlined his general scheme, we considered
the practical aspects of the situation. I thought that if Farns-
worth, with little more than a high-school education and a
background of pioneer communities, had conceived this idea of
electronic television, surely the great laboratories such as Gen-
eral Electric and Bell unquestionably must have hit upon the
same scheme and were probably developing it in secret and had
it well along to completion.
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 41
I asked Phil, "Isn't it likely that General Electric or Bell
Laboratories have accomplished all you propose, and probably
have it nearly ready for use?"
Young Farnsworth accepted this statement as a challenge,
and launched into an exposition of what was going on in the
world of experimental television work. His statement was de-
tailed and accurate, as we found out later.
Farnsworth said that there were four experimenters in tele-
vision at this time Bell Laboratories under Dr. Ives, General
Electric Laboratories under Dr. Alexanderson, and the labora-
tories of Baird of London and Jenkins of Baltimore. He went
on to say that Baird had already transmitted rough but recog-
"They are all barking up the wrong tree," Farnsworth said.
"All these men are trying to transmit pictures by mechanical
means. This will never do. The speeds required for scanning
an image to produce a good picture are so great that there must
be no moving parts. The scanning-disk system they are all ex-
perimenting with can't possibly produce commercially accept-
I asked him, "How do you propose to get rid of all the
mechanical parts the others are using?"
"My system is entirely electrical," Phil answered. "The neces-
sary speeds will be achieved by manipulating the velocity of
light and of electrons. If mechanical parts are used, the results
will be crude and blurred."
"How do you propose to harness your completely electrical
system?" I asked. "What instruments will you use?"
"I propose to do it all by manipulating electrons within vac-
uum tubes," Phil said.
Then in enthusiastic and convincing words he went on to
explain the use of the cathode-ray tube, the photoelectric cell,
42 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
and the magnetic manipulation of electron beams. It was all
so highly abstruse, yet told with such conviction, that although
I was in no position to evaluate the merits of the invention, I
was tremendously impressed with the amazing knowledge of
the youth and his certainty that he could accomplish what he
As the evening passed I probed more deeply to gauge the
authenticity of Farnsworth's knowledge and to get a basis of
judgment as to whether this was a visionary dreamer with a
fantastic scheme, or whether here was truly a genius charting
the plans for a new and revolutionary invention.
"I should think the telephone company would have devel-
oped this idea," I commented. "The devices you propose to
use would seem right down their alley. Are you sure they haven't
"Oh, I'm sure they haven't," Phil replied with emphasis. "At
B.Y.U. (Brigham Young University) there is a file of the Bell
Laboratories journal. I've gone through most of them. I'm sure
they haven't anything but the scanning-disk system, or it would
have been mentioned in the journals."
"Well, then," I continued, "what about General Electric?
Are you sure they haven't something wholly electrical? Are you
certain that someone hasn't broken away from the scanning-
Phil answered, "Dr. Alexanderson, who is in charge of G.E/s
television work, is definitely using the scanning disk a big one.
He considers it an interesting gadget but not practical. I'm sure
they have nothing else."
Every answer he gave to these and many similar questions
emphasized Phil's remarkable knowledge of the electronic art.
His easy discussion of the technical aspects of his proposed
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 43
system disclosed a grasp of mathematics that was phenomenal
considering his lack of formal training. During the conversation
Farnsworth marshaled an astonishing array of authorities to
his defense and spoke with familiarity regarding scientific works
of which the average college science student was hardly aware.
I knew nothing about the procedure for patent protection.
Farnsworth had a general notion, and, like most lone inventors,
he was extremely fearful of his ideas being stolen.
"The idea hasn't been patented," he said, "because I haven't
had the money. Every time I pick up a scientific or amateur
journal I'm afraid I'll see that someone has turned up with the
same ideas I have."
He continued moodily, "There should be a foundation to
which inventors could submit ideas and get backing for worth-
while inventions. I believe such a foundation would make
"Actually," I asked, "have you anything to patent yet? Don't
you have to make a thing work before you can get a patent on
"Yes," said Phil, "there is something in patent regulations
regarding reduction to practice, as they call it."
"What do you think it would cost to build up a first model
of your scheme?"
"I don't know," Phil replied, "but it shouldn't cost too
"Well, think it over," I concluded, "maybe if the cost isn't
too great we can find the money to do it."
The prospect of getting someone actively interested in his
venture renewed the young inventor's enthusiasm. His mind
led him on into eager expositions of how it could be developed.
His interest was not solely scientific, for he saw in the practical
44 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
exploitation of television the open sesame to great wealth with
its attendant power to pursue research in other fields. It was
long past midnight when the session broke up.
A community chest campaign office is always a busy place,
and as a campaign progresses the activity increases. There was
little time for Gorrell and me to talk at any length with Farns-
worth in the following days, yet every time there was oppor-
tunity for the three of us to get together we earnestly discussed
ways and means of promoting the idea. None of us had ever
had any experience in research development or the promotion
of an invention. None had ever been inside a well-organized
research laboratory. While Farnsworth had filed a couple of
patent applications through correspondence with Washington
patent attorneys who advertise in amateur mechanical maga-
zines, he had never had first-hand discussion with a properly
qualified patent attorney. Neither Gorrell nor I had to our
knowledge met a patent attorney, so the three of us were about
as ill-prepared for the venture under consideration as anyone
possibly could be.
Yet through all the conferences snatched here and there
during the busy campaign weeks there developed a determina-
tion to do something about promoting Farnsworth's idea. Phil,
with superb salesmanship, snatched every opportunity to give
us further details of his plans. Any scrap of paper would suffice
for him to draw out scratchy designs of some part of his system
Finally one day in a lull after a particularly enthusiastic
campaign meeting I asked Phil, "Just how much do you think
it would take to prove out your system?"
"It's pretty hard to say," Phil replied, "but I should think
five thousand dollars would be enough."
"Well," I said, "your guess is as good as any. I surely have
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 45
no idea of what is involved. I have about six thousand dollars
in a special account in San Francisco. I've accumulated it with
the idea that I'd take a long-shot chance on something, hoping
to make a killing. This is about as wild a gamble as I can imag-
ine. I'll put that up to work this thing out. If I win, it will be
fine, but if we lose I won't squawk."
Later in the week the three of us sat down around a table and
reached an agreement whereby Farnsworth was to give his
whole time to the development of his idea. Farnsworth was to
have one-half of the partnership and Gorrell and I were to share
the other half. The partnership was to be known as Everson,
Farnsworth and Gorrell the arrangement being alphabetical.
For his privilege of riding along, Gorrell was to pay me out for
his share if we lost. Gorrell drew up a form of contract which
was later checked by an attorney in San Francisco.
I pointed out to Gorrell that I had no knowledge that would
warrant passing judgment on the merits of the Farnsworth
proposition, but that I was willing to take a chance and gamble
five or six thousand dollars on the apparent genius, integrity,
intelligence, and industry of the boy. Surely my complete lack
of engineering training ill fitted me to pass any critical judg-
ment on what he was trying to accomplish.
Gorrell had graduated from Stanford in mining engineering
and was more readily able to follow the explanations given by
Farnsworth, but he had no more background in electronics than
I had, and consequently he was hardly better prepared to pass
on the technical aspects of the scheme.
Fundamentally it was faith in the ability of the boy inventor
that brought about the partnership. In addition, Phil knew
exactly what he wanted to do and outlined specific plans for
its accomplishment. Unquestionably his purposefulness and
modest self-assurance added much to my confidence in him.
46 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Since I was to put up the money, it was I who had to make the
Farnsworth's work on the business survey was completed
about two weeks before the close of the community chest cam-
paign. As we discussed the practical aspects of the partnership
agreement, it developed that Farnsworth wished to be in
southern California in order to have access to the California
Institute of Technology. This fitted in admirably with my
plans, as my next campaign was to be in southern California.
Then a new complication arose. Farnsworth disclosed that
before he left Salt Lake City he wanted to get married. He and
Elma Gardner had been engaged for some time, and he wanted
to take her with him to California. This contingency had not
been mentioned before in the discussions of the agreement,
but Farnsworth was very insistent about it, as he was about
anything he wanted to do. I raised no serious objections, since
I felt it would be better for Phil to have his wife with him in
California than to divide his interest between Los Angeles and
Provo. Also, I had high regard for Miss Gardner and felt that
she would be a helpful addition to the partnership.
"Where do you plan to be married?" I asked.
"In Provo, of course, where our families are," Phil replied.
"I suppose you have everything arranged."
Phil looked up rather sheepishly. "Yes, I have, though my
mother and Elma's family aren't very keen about it."
"Well," I said, "there's not much I can do about it, since
it's all settled. How are you going to get down to Provo, and how
long do you plan to stay?"
"We'll go down by train or bus, have the wedding, and then
come right back here to get the late night train for Los Ange-
"Since you did such a good job getting my car up from Beaver
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 47
City, why don't you and Elma drive down to Provo in it and
do things in style?"
Phil was delighted with my offer of the car and went ovei
to Elma's desk to apprise her of this pleasant turn of events.
Consequently it was arranged that Phil was to be married the
following week and that immediately thereafter he and his
bride were to leave for southern California. On May 27 they
drove to Provo as planned and were married before a Mormon
Both Phil's mother and Miss Gardner's family had strong
misgivings about the future of the young couple. Phil has since
confided that he too had misgivings, but was determined to
take the step.
As a part of the agreement, Farns worth was to receive $150
a month for living expenses. Also he was to have sufficient funds
for the trip to Los Angeles and to get settled in an apartment
On the evening following the wedding Phil and Elma drove
back to Salt Lake City to return my car and to say good-by
before taking the train to Los Angeles.
About midnight I was awakened by a frantic knocking on
my apartment door. "Who's there?" I mumbled sleepily.
"It's me Phil!" came the anxious reply.
I stumbled to the door and let him in. Phil seemed much
out of breath and worried. "What's the matter?" I asked.
"I don't think I've got enough money to go on," Phil blurted.
"I guess I figured too close."
After a brief explanation on Phil's part, I wrote out a check
for the additional amount and gave him the address of my
business partner, Lynn D. Mowat, who was then conducting a
financial campaign in Los Angeles, telling Farnsworth that he
could arrange to have the check cashed in Los Angeles by Mr.
48 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Mowat. I again wished Farnsworth luck and sent him on his
way. Gorrell and I remained in Salt Lake City to complete the
Upon arrival in Los Angeles, Farnsworth and his wife went
to Santa Monica for a week's honeymoon, and then visited
Lynn Mowat and got his advice about where to find living
When Gorrell and I reached Los Angeles two weeks later,
we found Phil and Elma well established in a four-room fur-
nished apartment at 1339 N. New Hampshire Street, Holly-
wood. The apartment was one of two in the building. There
was a garage in the rear.
Phil had already appropriated the dining room as his research
laboratory and had purchased considerable apparatus with
which to begin his experimental work. He had established a
motor generator in the garage. Quite a lot of electrical equip-
ment was set up in a closet leading off the dining room.
On the day Gorrell and I arrived, Farnsworth was greatly
concerned about getting some glass blowing done so that he
could build the first model of his proposed television trans-
mitter tube. Having some free time to spend before going to
work on the new campaign assignment, Gorrell and I set to
work to be as helpful as possible in furthering Phil's plans. We
spent several days with him in going around to the various
electrical supply houses and other sources, securing needed
materials and equipment.
The question of finding a glass blower stumped us completely
for some time. Finally a scientific glass blower was found in
one of the downtown office buildings.
"This is what I want/' said Phil, as he sketched a rough pic-
ture of the tube he had in mind. "I want the inside of one end
of this tube coated with a photoelectric material. It should be
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 49
very sensitive. Then I want this collector at the other end with
a lead wire out from it"
'That's a tough assignment," said the glass blower, "but 111
see what I can do/'
We returned three days later to pick it up. The glass blower
hadn't got quite the flat end on the tube that Phil wanted, but
Phil thought it would do.
This was to be the first electronic television transmitter tube
ever built. When completed, it was a strangely shaped vacuum
cell, bulbous in formation and with one end considerably
larger than the other. It was coated at one end with the photo-
electric surface, and there was an electrical lead out of each end.
With sufficient imagination one could recognize it as the early
progenitor of the present image dissector tube, which is now
the heart of the Farnsworth television camera.
As we waited in that shop for the precious tube to be care-
fully wrapped in cotton batting, Phil said, "Now we must get
some copper wire for the focusing and deflecting coils; I've
figured out what size copper wire we must use. We've also got
to find some instrument for coil winding."
By great good luck the glass blower directed us to an electrical
shop where we not only got the wire we wanted but found a
manually operated apparatus for winding coils.
"Now we must have a counter on this to keep track of the
windings," Phil said.
The clerk rummaged around and found one. Then there was
shellac to be procured and heavy paper strips to separate the
layers of windings.
It was early June in Los Angeles. The weather was perfect,
so we set up the coil-winding operations in the back yard in
front of the garage.
"Can't I wind these coils?" I asked Phil.
JO THE STORY OF TELEVISION
"Sure, but it's a dirty, sticky job," he replied.
"I don't mind that; let's get started," I said.
So the operations were getting under way, and I, with my
own hands, wound the first focusing and deflecting coils for
the wholly electronic television system.
It was, as Phil prophesied, a dirty, sticky job, and I, with my
awkward, amateur ways of handling the wire and shellac, got
all stuck up with the stuff. And I must say that the coils, like
the first dissector tubes, were crudely made. For several years
afterward they lay around the laboratory as evidence of my
awkwardness and lack of technical skill. I don't know what ever
became of them, but I surmise that Phil's pride got the better
of his historic sense and he threw them in the trash can.
To one of my background, who had had no experience in
electronics, the search for the elements Phil wanted in setting
up his miniature research laboratory was most engrossing. We
found nichrome wire at the Roebling sales branch, we got
copper wire of varying diameters, we searched a lapidary shop
for a crystal Phil wanted in an experiment requiring polarized
light. We bought radio tubes, resistors, and transformers where
we could find them to meet our needs.
As we went from store to store in the Los Angeles area, some-
times driving miles from one point to another, the subtle humor
and imaginative quality of Phil's original thinking cropped
out. There was a constant flow of conversation about the possi-
bilities of the television system and about other developments
On one of these excursions he confided to me that he believed
that thought was a manifestation of electricity and that if we
had electrical recording instruments of sufficient sensitivity,
an accurate record of human thought could be made. He went
on to visualize how whole libraries would be electrically re-
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 51
corded; young people would be put to sleep by some drowsing
process and the records turned on; they would then be given a
liberal education in the course of a week or so of sound slumber,
during which facts would be recorded in the subconscious mind
for use in the art of living. It has since been proved by men of
medical science that thought is an electrical manifestation and
that sight is recorded in the brain by the photoelectric process.
It still remains for medical science to carry out the fanciful
Farnsworth conception of a liberal education by electrical re-
The work in Los Angeles was begun in May and carried on
through the summer. During this time Gorrell and I spent as
much time as possible at the apartment laboratory. During the
day the curtains in the dining and living rooms were drawn in
order that Farnsworth could work under controlled light. From
time to time my roadster would drive up with large bundles of
material to be carried into the house. These strange activities
excited the curiosity of the neighbors.
As the experimental work got under way and the motor gen-
erator in the garage was put into operation, the neighbors had
strange disturbances in their radio reception. All of this stimu-
lated interest and engendered suspicions as to what was going
on in the apartment at Number 1339. This was during the
prohibition era. When people became suspicious of anything
unusual going on in a neighborhood, their first thought was
that it might be the operation of a still. It was not surprising,
therefore, that one noon when both Gorrell and I were at the
Farnsworth apartment and all were at lunch, the front and
rear doorbells of the apartment rang simultaneously. Phil went
to the front door and Elma to the rear door. To their surprise,
each faced a burly policeman.
The policemen were polite but firm. They stated that they
J2 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
wanted to search the house because there had been a report
from a neighbor that a still was probably being operated on the
premises. The house was duly ransacked. Nothing of an alco-
holic nature was found, but the police were greatly impressed
and seemed to feel that maybe they had uncovered something
more sinister than an alcohol plant. They guardedly asked what
all the activity was, pointing to the assorted experimental ap-
paratus around the dining room. When Phil told them he was
working on a television system, one of the policemen said,
"Well, I'll be darned!" Then they both left mumbling their
The experimental work was not without its minor tragedies.
In the course of setting up one of the tests I had bought $54
worth of tubes, which were put in a chassis in the closet.
The motor generator was turned on and all stood around ex-
pectantly, hoping to see the results of a beam of electrons de-
flected by magnetic coils. Farns worth had not guarded against
the overloading of the line due to the surge as the motor gen-
erator started. The result was that when it did start, more power
was turned into the tubes than they could handle and the
whole batch were burned out in a split second.
As the summer wore on it became apparent that PhiTs pre-
diction regarding his ability to get at least a semblance of a
picture began to fade. At best it became obvious that the only
thing that could be accomplished with the funds and time
available was to prove out one or two of the major principles
There was a time limit to these preliminary activities because
money was running short. Furthermore, by the first of Septem-
ber I was scheduled to be in El Paso, Texas, on a campaign
contract. Therefore, late in July, after a careful discussion of
future plans, it was determined that Farnsworth was to write
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 53
up a complete description of his proposed television system
with schematic drawings to accompany it. A stenographer was
engaged, and Leslie Gorrell and Elma Farnsworth set to work
preparing the finished drawings of the system from Phil's rough
Elma, or "Pern," as Phil called her, did some of the most
difficult of the drawings. They were excellent and reflected her
keen and active interest in Phil's work. She made it a point to
carry on her mathematical studies in order to understand more
fully what he was trying to do. In these early days, and in the
years to follow, Pern Farnsworth equipped herself to follow
the fundamental principles underlying her husband's television
system. By tutoring with Phil and by independent study she
maintained an intelligent grasp of the invention on which he
In the preparation of the outline of his plans Farnsworth
again reflected his intellectual abilities. Phil's English style was
clear and concise. His scheme was presented in logical and
orderly sequence. After several days of intensive work a brief
embracing the entire Farnsworth television system was finished
and Elma Farnsworth's and Leslie Gorrell's drawings were in-
corporated. It was understood that when this was finished we
would make an effort to enlist the support of adequate financial
With the completion of the memorandum the next neces-
sary step seemed to be to get as much patent protection as pos-
sible and to secure some authoritative judgment as to the merits
of the proposed television system. Leslie Gorrell had some
college friends who were attorneys in Los Angeles. I asked him
to get in touch and secure from them the name of a reliable
patent attorney in southern California. The firm of Lyon &
Lyon was recommended. Leonard Lyon, the senior partner,
54 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
had been a lecturer on patent law at Stanford University, and
his brother, Richard, was a graduate of the Massachusetts In-
stitute of Technology.
I called on Leonard Lyon and told him the story of the Farns-
His reaction was, "If you have what you think you've got,
you have the world by the tail; but if you haven't got it, the
sooner you find it out the better, because you can waste a lot
of money on a scheme of this kind.
"We have arrangements whereby we can call on the Cali-
fornia Institute of Technology for technical advice and con-
sultation. You bring your young genius in here, and my brother
Richard will bring in some qualified person from Cal Tech to
join with him in passing judgment on the merits of what this
young fellow has."
Arrangements were made for an appointment the following
Wednesday. At two o'clock in the afternoon the conference
was held with Leonard Lyon, Richard Lyon, Dr. Mott Smith
of Cal Tech, Farnsworth, Gorrell, and myself present.
Farnsworth was hesitant at first but finally got into his stride
and with great clarity and sincerity outlined the scheme he had
in mind. As the conference progressed, it became apparent to
me that Farnsworth knew more about the subject in hand than
either of the technical men, and this was no reflection on their
scientific training or abilities. Farnsworth completely over-
whelmed them with the brilliance and originality of his con-
ception. During the conference Richard Lyon often got up
from his chair and walked the floor, pounding his hands to-
gether behind his back and exclaiming, "This is a monstrous
idea a monstrous idea!" The conference carried on until six
o'clock in the evening.
At the end I said, "Gentlemen, if we are to go any further
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 55
with Farnsworth's idea it is necessary that we approach some
people whom I respect, and whose good opinion I wish to re-
tain, and ask them for financial help. I don't wish to do so
unless I am completely sure of this proposition in my own
mind. Therefore, I want to ask you three questions. First, is
this thing scientifically sound?"
Dr. Smith said, almost bemusedly, "Yes/'
"Second, is it original?" I asked.
Dr. Smith replied, "I am pretty well acquainted with the
literature on the subject of electronic developments, and I
know of no research that is being carried on along similar lines."
Richard Lyon said that he knew of no patents along the lines
of Farnsworth's scheme, but both stated that naturally they
could not know of all the developments being carried on pri-
vately or in secret by individual investigators or by the large
Leonard Lyon stated that a patent search would be advisable
as a measure of safety, and I authorized him to send Farns-
worth's memorandum to his firm's Washington correspondent
for a patent search before filing a patent application.
My third question was, "Is this thing feasible can it be
worked out to make a practical operating unit?"
Richard Lyon replied, "You will have great difficulty in do-
ing it, but we see no insuperable obstacles at this time."
Then I turned to Dr. Smith and explained that I was not
satisfied with the judgment of a four-hour conference and
asked him to take a copy of the memorandum home to his
Pasadena laboratory and give it such thought and attention as
he could during the following week. I stated that at the end of
the time Farnsworth and I would drive over to Pasadena and
see if he was still of the same mind. Dr. Smith agreed to do this.
Then I asked him what his fee was for the conference.
56 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
He named his fee and said, "I'm afraid I will have to add to
that the amount of a fine for parking overtime, because I left
my car on the street and came up here feeling sure I could
throw this scheme into the discard in a half hour/'
A week later Phil and I visited Dr. Smith at the Cal Tech
laboratories. We found him more enthusiastic about the idea
than he had been at the first conference.
In Phil's memorandum covering his system he had an al-
ternate scheme of scanning in which he proposed the use of a
quartz crystal. In our experiments with it we had called it the
"magic crystal." In the discussion at Pasadena Dr. Smith told
Phil that the mathematical background of the proposed opera-
tion of the crystal was not quite clear. Phil said, "That dates
back to Hamilton's work in Dublin in 1886. Have you a text-
book on light?"
Dr. Smith reached for one in the file of reference books on
the back of his desk.
"Turn to the chapter on coaxial crystals," Phil said.
Dr. Smith found the chapter and shoved the book over to
Phil, who thumbed through the chapter to where there were
two pages of mathematical formulae. Pointing to an equation
in the middle of the right-hand page, Phil said, "There it is."
Dr. Smith smiled and said, "You're right; I should have seen
During the following week much time was given to the dis-
cussion of ways and means of getting additional financing.
Farnsworth was sure that a year's time and $12,000 in cash was
all that would be required to enable him to produce a satis-
factory television picture. Later developments proved Farns-
worth to be the typical optimistic inventor, because it actually
took more than $1,000,000 in money, and thirteen years in-
time, before his invention was ready for commercialization. It
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 57
is doubtful that either Farnsworth or I would have had the
courage to undertake the venture had we known what was be-
fore us. Both were equally ignorant of the many problems which
lay between us and the final accomplishment of our ends.
In discussing future plans at this time Farnsworth felt confi-
dent that if he had available $1,000 a month for a period of
one year he could produce results that would enable the group
to secure recognition of his invention. I was aware that $6,000
had been spent in the short span of three months. I had also
observed that Phil's concentration on his inventions made it
difficult, if not impossible, for him to realize how quickly money
could be spent on an undertaking of this kind.
While I had no knowledge or experience to go by, I instinc-
tively felt that it would be better business to talk in terms of
twice that amount, though Phil in his eagerness and assurance
visualized the accomplishment of the whole project in a few
months' time. I wanted to have sufficient funds available so
that the work would not be handicapped by constant worry
over lack of money. It was finally agreed that an effort should be
made to secure backing up to $25,000 to underwrite the re-
search work. It was left to me to work out plans to secure it.
I had managed several satisfactory campaigns in Santa Bar-
bara and was well known there. Among my good friends there
was George Clyde, who at that time was manager of the local
branch of a national brokerage firm. Mr. Clyde was a man of
means and of excellent connections. I also knew James D.
Lowsley, vice-president and general manager of the First Na-
tional Bank of Santa Barbara. Therefore it was decided that
I should first go to Santa Barbara to see what could be done.
Nothing but my compelling belief in Farnsworth could have
induced me to undertake a mission to procure money for a
scheme so highly speculative as this adventure in television. I
58 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
had raised millions of dollars for the unfortunate and under-
privileged. Now I was seeking a few thousand dollars to prove
and support the inventive abilities of one whom I considered a
I first visited James Lowsley at the First National Bank at
Santa Barbara. He had been a member of a campaign com-
mittee when I organized the community chest of Santa Bar-
bara. I told him the story and let him read Phil's outline of the
television scheme. There is something of the gambler in every
banker that I have known. Jim Lowsley was no exception. He
immediately visualized the possibilities. Of course, it was noth-
ing he could recommend to the bank. But it appeared to him
to be a sporting chance for someone who had lots of money.
"It would do no harm to talk to Max Fleischmann about
this/* he said.
I had met Mr. Fleischmann once or twice but didn't feel that
I knew him well enough to tackle him cold.
"I'll call him up," said Jim, and reached for the phone.
Mr. Fleischmann was in and asked me to come right over.
On the way over I reviewed all of the fine things Fleischmann
had done for Santa Barbara, and remembered how he had been
a leader in large subscriptions to the community chest. It all
made me a bit diffident in presenting a speculative scheme like
our television system to him. I made some remark to this effect
as I entered his office. He put me at ease immediately and then
listened most attentively as I told my story.
After an hour of interested questioning and discussion, when
I felt that I was getting somewhere, Mr. Fleischmann paused
and leaned back in his chair in deep thought. After a few min-
utes he leaned forward and said, "If it were bacteria you were
dealing with instead of electronics I would be interested. I
wouldn't know an electron if I met it on the street. The whole
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 59
field, though fascinating and most tempting, is completely out
of my range of experience. We have made a success of yeast.
Bacteria I know, but electronics I would be lost in trying to
follow what is going on. Fm sorely tempted, but my judgment
says that I'd better stick to bacteria."
Before I left he made several suggestions as to who might be
interested, but nothing came of them.
When I discussed the matter with George Clyde, he sug-
gested a prominent financier in southern California, a member
of a group of capitalists who had set aside a special fund for the
furthering of scientific research development. This seemed to
be made to order for the Farnsworth scheme, and both Clyde
and I had high hopes of getting some support from that quar-
Mr. Clyde made arrangements for me to meet the gentleman
in Los Angeles, and I submitted the memorandum which
Farnsworth had prepared. The capitalist stated that he would
have it checked by properly qualified engineers and scientists
and would give his report in a week's time. Phil was elated at
the prospect of getting backing from such a group. It was just
the type of foundation which he himself hoped one day to es-
When I called to get the results of the investigation it was
stated that it would be futile to pursue the Farnsworth scheme
further because Western Electric, a wholly owned subsidiary
of the American Telegraph & Telephone Company, had ex-
tensive patents on television and probably had complete con-
trol of the new art. This erroneous report is interesting in view
of the fact that years later, in July 1937, after a searching
analysis of the Farnsworth inventions, the American Telegraph
& Telephone Company entered into a cross-licensing arrange-
ment with the Farnsworth company. It is possible that the
60 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
investigator who made the report had seen the Nicholson
patent on a television system which was controlled by A.T. & T.
(This patent, as was later found out by Farnsworth, had some
broad claims that read generally on almost any electronic tele-
vision system, but they were by no means controlling in all
phases of the art.) This was a most discouraging report, be-
cause the Pasadena group of capitalists had access to a fund of
engineering advice. In addition, A.T. & T. loomed in my im-
agination as a powerful company to oppose.
I immediately went out to see Farnsworth and held a council
of strategy. For some reason or other, neither of us was greatly
disturbed by this report, because it seemed so completely at
variance with the Bell Laboratories research program on tele-
vision which, as far as could be gleaned from the Bell Labora-
tories journal and other publications, was devoted exclusively
to the scanning-disk method. It seemed reasonable to believe
that if Western Electric controlled all of the patents on tele-
vision, they were probably patents covering the mechanical
method. We felt strongly that they could not possibly be in
conflict with the revolutionary electronic method that Fams-
While not frightened by the report that the telephone com-
pany had control of all television patents, the financial outlook
was anything but encouraging, because here was an outfit that
seemed made to order for the development of the Farnsworth
invention, but whose door was closed to us.
Phil felt very strongly about the novelty of his invention,
but that did not change the minds of those who controlled the
most likely prospect for help that I had yet uncovered. I was
frankly worried and told Phil so.
"I've raised lots of money, Phil/' I said, <r but this is a tougher
one than I thought it would be. It's a lot easier to raise money
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 6l
for social welfare than it is to find backing for a speculation/'
Whatever my misgivings, there was nothing to do but to
continue in my efforts to find money.
"Jim Lowsley is a hardheaded banker/' I told Phil. "He is
sincerely interested, so there must be a way out somehow. I
think I'll go back to Santa Barbara and talk things out with
Upon returning to Santa Barbara, Mr. Lowsley introduced
me to a Montecito resident, the son-in-law of the late great
railroad builder, James J. Hill. This gentleman, who lived on
a beautifully landscaped estate, was an enthusiastic amateur
photographer and had had some unusually lovely color pictures
printed in the National Geographic Magazine.
After some discussion he took me into a large drawing room
with a screen at one end. The room was furnished with rows of
beautiful French design chairs done in petit point. Here he
entertained me for an hour with fantastically beautiful color
photographs, probably among the finest that had been pro-
duced up to that time.
After he finished showing the slides we went out into the
patio by a lily pool. "This is where the nudes were posed," he
said. "Color photography is a passion with me. It is yet in its
infancy." Then after a pause, "If you can produce television
in color I am interested. But if it's just black-and-white repro-
duction I can't help you."
"I have talked of color with Farnsworth," I replied. "He
seems to think color is possible, but as he has described it to
me I think it is a long way off. To promise that we could trans-
mit color would be stretching things too far. Our immediate
concern is with pictures in black and white."
In this, as in the interview with Max Fleischmann, I was
learning much about rich men's interests and hobbies and the
62 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
limits of such interests. I could not honestly say that we pro-
posed television in color, so this prospect was lost.
Naturally a great many of my friends had taken an interest
in my venture in television. All were fascinated by the possi-
bility of the new art, but they were afraid that I had been led
astray by a fantastic scheme that had hardly one chance in a
million of success. However, there was something about Farns-
worth's sincerity and the glamour of the idea of television that
made them, against their wills, join in the bizarre hopes that the
thing might be a success. In fact, there was so much interest
expressed that a business associate and I drew up plans for a
syndicate in which a group of our friends were to provide the
necessary $25,000. This sum was subscribed on a contingent
basis. While both Farnsworth and I felt that such a method of
financing was to be used only as a last resort, it did give me some
sense of security as I made plans to explore other possibilities.
Somehow I felt that $25,000 with no more money in the back-
ground was not the kind of backing that was necessary. It
seemed to me that it would be much more advantageous to get
the backing of more substantial interests. With this end in
mind, it was decided that I should go to see some of my friends
in San Francisco.
My first thought was to discuss the matter with Mr. Jesse B.
McCargar, vice-president of the Crocker First National Bank.
Mr. McCargar had been chairman of the fund-raising cam-
paign for Californians, Inc., which I had managed. While I
had no thought of being able to get any backing from the
bank, I felt that Mr. McCargar's advice on the venture would
On the morning of my arrival in San Francisco in mid-
August, I went into the Crocker Bank and approached what I
called "the throne," on which all the executives of the bank sat.
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 63
Mr. McCargar was not at his accustomed place, and one of
the attendants told me he was away on vacation and would not
be back for a couple of weeks. Since I was due in El Paso on a
campaign contract within that time, I was much disturbed and
inquired further regarding the possibility of McCargar's earlier
James J. Pagan, executive vice-president of the bank, ob-
served my anxiety as I passed his desk and asked, "What can I
do for you, young fellow?"
I replied, "Mr. Fagan, I was looking for Mr. McCargar. I had
a matter to discuss with him."
"Can't I help you?"
"No, I don't think it is anything that would interest you in
the least. It is not an investment, it is not a speculation; it is
wildcatting and very wildcatting at that."
This seemed to intrigue Mr. Fagan, who at that time was
regarded as the soundest and most conservative banker on the
Pacific Coast. In fact, he was one of the very few remaining
bankers of the old school. He had lived through much of the
California bonanza era. With other bankers he had seen the
city through the disastrous days of the earthquake and fire and
had participated in its magnificent recovery. He was beloved
and revered by the clients of the bank. It was said that he could
smell a bad investment before it came in the door, and that he
had a sixth sense to detect a souring financial picture, or busi-
ness venture, long before there was any surface indication of
trouble and always had the accounts of such concerns out of
the bank months before a financial crisis appeared. On the
other hand, where there was personal integrity, industry, and
a high sense of obligation, no one was more patient in helping
a debtor to work out his financial salvation. It was this latter
quality in Mr. Fagan that not only made him a great banker,
64 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
but one much loved. He was the butt of many jokes regarding
the coldhearted, glassy-eyed guardian of the money bags. Every-
one said that anything approved by Mr. Fagan had to be good.
"Well, sit down and tell me about your scheme/' Mr. Fagan
said cordially and with a glint of humor in his eyes. So I sat at
his desk and told him the fantastic story of Farnsworth's de-
velopment as honestly as I knew how.
Mr. Fagan had a habit of drumming the opposing fingers of
his hands together as he looked over the rims of his spectacles.
With this characteristic gesture he looked at me and said,
"Well, that is a damn fool idea, but somebody ought to put
money into it, someone who can afford to lose it." I said that I
agreed with him and had come into the bank to talk the matter
over with Mr. McCargar to find out if there was a possibility of
getting someone interested.
Mr. Fagan, in a pensive mood, speaking as his train of
thought led him, surveyed the possibility of such backing.
"Well, there is Mr. , who has more money than anyone
has a right to have. He might be interested." Then after a mo-
ment's thought he continued, "But he isn't the man for it. He
wouldn't have the patience that a thing of this kind requires.
There is also a bunch of young fellows down the Peninsula
friends of my son Paul. Those men throw away more money in
a year's time than you would need, but they would be unstable
and difficult to deal with, so I don't think that would work
Mr. Fagan sat in quiet musing for a few minutes. Then he
said, "I know a man who sometimes has money to put into ven-
tures of this kind. If you will come in tomorrow about this time
I will try to arrange an appointment for you."
The next morning Mr. Fagan sent me over to see an engineer
at the branch offices of a large eastern industrial concern. I told
the engineer what I had in mind and showed him a copy of the
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 65
memorandum covering Farnsworth's scheme. Upon introduc-
tion he told me that it was not he that had money to invest.
The executives of the Crocker Bank often had speculative ven-
tures put up to them, and when such ideas seemed to have
merit they occasionally sent them over to him to investigate
and give an opinion. In this case he said that Mr. Fagan had
asked him to look into the Farnsworth television for him.
The engineer was greatly interested in the Farnsworth memo-
randum and asked to see young Farnsworth as soon as possible.
I arranged immediately for Phil to drive my car up from Los
Angeles. In the meantime Mr. Fagan had talked the matter
over with W. W. Crocker, son of W. H. Crocker, head of the
Crocker family of San Francisco. Mr. Crocker was very much
interested and suggested that he would like to have Roy Bishop,
an engineer and capitalist, look into the matter. Arrangements
were made for a luncheon meeting with Mr. Bishop a few days
In the meantime Farnsworth had come to San Francisco.
Because of his consuming interest in his invention and his
meager finances, Farnsworth, sartorially, was not a very well-
turned-out individual. His clothes were shabby and ill-fitting,
and generally speaking he had the appearance of a poor in-
ventor. Both Farnsworth and I thought this situation should
be corrected, so I took him to a good shop, where he was com-
pletely outfitted with a new suit, hat, and haberdashery.
The meeting with Mr. Bishop was to be held at the Palace
Hotel, and since Farnsworth had never been at lunch in a hotel
of this kind before, he was a bit worried. To allay his feeling of
stage fright we took breakfast and dinner at the Fairmont Hotel,
which was on the opposite corner of the street from where I
The day of the luncheon arrived, with Mr. Bishop, Farns-
worth, the engineer, and me present. Bishop was greatly in-
66 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
terested in the television plan as it was unfolded by Farnsworth.
I need not have been worried about Phil's self-consciousness,
for it completely disappeared as he became engrossed in the
discussion of his invention. Mr. Bishop, who had just lost his
son, told Farnsworth that one of the things he had done for
the boy during his illness was to fit up a workshop where he
could experiment on his own ideas. Bishop said that this fact
made Farnsworth's ideas doubly appealing to him.
The luncheon discussion continued for two hours and then
adjourned to Mr. Bishop's office, where it continued until after
five o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Bishop's experience led him
to believe that Farnsworth's estimate of the time and money
involved to bring the development to a conclusion was inade-
quate. He went on to say, "I am convinced that the idea is
sound, but doubt your ability to work it out commercially/'
From then on it became apparent that in spite of his interest
Bishop was reluctant to do anything with the Farnsworth
Farnsworth has always had some of the fundamentals of a
good salesman. As this attitude on Mr. Bishop's part became
evident, Farnsworth rose from his seat, walked over to the
desk, picked up his brief case and with a courteous gesture
thanked Mr. Bishop for his kindness in spending so much time
discussing the matter and expressed regret that he could not
see the possibilities that we saw in the invention.
As Farnsworth and I were about to close the door behind
us Bishop said, "Wait a minute/'
He and the engineer held a whispered conversation, after
which Bishop said he would like to have an engineer at the
Crocker Research Laboratories, by the name of Harlan Honn,
look into the matter.
"Honn is a hard-boiled, competent engineer," Bishop ex-
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 6j
plained. "If you can convince him that your proposition is
sound and can be worked out, I think we will find ways of back-
Honn was called on the telephone and arrangements made
for him to meet Farnsworth at my apartment.
Within half an hour, Honn, Farnsworth, and I were in
earnest discussion of the television plans. Honn promptly
grasped the significance of Phil's ideas.
After he had read the specifications for the system and had
had some pertinent questions answered to his satisfaction, he
turned to me and said, "Why, sure this system will work. I
think very well of it."
There was further discussion, and after dinner I asked Honn
to call Mr. Bishop and give him his findings. Later Honn made
a formal report in writing to the McCargar-Fagan-Crocker
The matter was then held in abeyance until Mr. McCargar's
return from his vacation. Immediately thereafter it was agreed
by the banking group that if a satisfactory agreement could
be reached with the Farnsworth partners, they would take a
flier at the Farnsworth scheme to the extent of $25,000. With
this arranged among themselves, McCargar asked Farnsworth
and me to meet with the financing group in the directors' room
at the Crocker First National Bank the following afternoon at
When Farnsworth and I arrived at the bank the group was
gathering in the directors' room to talk things over. In the
meantime we sat on a marble bench at the foot of "the throne"
waiting to be called. Within a few minutes Mr. McCargar came
over, put his arm across my shoulder, and said, "I think we are
going to back you boys," and invited Farnsworth and me to
join the group.
68 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Mr. Bishop acted as chairman of the meeting. He asked
Farnsworth to outline the method of procedure he thought
necessary to pursue the work he had in mind. In simple terms
Phil gave a general sketch of his television scheme, emphasizing
in particular the absence of moving parts in the system. Be-
cause he was completely self-assured and modest in his presenta-
tion, Farnsworth made an excellent impression.
There has always been some quality about Phil that has en-
abled him to fire the imaginations of those with whom he talks
about his inventions. As he talked to the banking group his
expressions had a clarity which, coupled with a quality of ob-
vious genius, stimulated the enthusiasm of his listeners without
any apparent effort on his part. It became clear that the group
would back the invention.
Phil began by saying that he proposed to do for vision what
radio was doing so successfully for sound.
"It isn't a magic carpet where whole scenes are sent as a
unit instantaneously from one place to another. It is much
more complicated than that. We must tear the pictures down
into thousands of bits for transmission and then put the pieces
together again in perfect sequence at the viewing end. All this
must be done in split seconds in order to fool the eye."
"Hasn't this ever been done before?" McCargar asked. "Tele-
vision is not a new art, is it?"
"No," said Phil, "the concept of television goes back to the
discovery of the selenium cell, when they found that the elec-
trical resistance of this metal varied when varying light inten-
sities were focused on it. With this discovery scientists first
conceived the idea of transmitting the varying light values of a
picture by electrical means. They thought that by scanning
an image by some mechanical means they might be able to pick
it up a point at a time, transmit the varying intensities one by
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 69
one, and restore them by a reverse process at the receiving end.
No, television is not a new art. Its conception dates back more
than fifty years."
"If that is the case/' somebody asked, "why hasn't someone
made it practical long before this?"
'That is a long story/' Phil went on. "Many tried to do some-
thing with it. They all attempted to break down the image for
transmission by using mechanical devices. The first really half-
way practical approach was in 1884, when a Russian named
Nipkow, working in Berlin, took out a patent on the 'scanning
disk.' In his apparatus he used a rapidly revolving disk with min-
ute holes along the outer edge to accomplish the scanning. In
1889 an inventor by the name of Weiller used a wheel with
convex mirrors of highly polished metal on the periphery for
"Since the turn of the century the Nipkow and Weiller de-
vices have formed the basis of practically all television experi-
ments. This is what Dr. Ives of the Bell Laboratories is work-
ing on. Jenkins of England has succeeded in transmitting a
fairly recognizable, crude image with the scanning disk. All of
them are trying the impossible. It can't be done by mechanical
means. I propose to do it by wholly electrical means by manipu-
lating the speed of electrons."
This was pretty strong medicine for the bankers, but they
were used to exploring new fields. They pressed Phil for more
details. A newspaper was lying on the directors' table before
Mr. Fagan, who sat next to the inventor. Phil reached over and
spread it out before him. "If you had a reading glass you would
see that this picture of a girl is made up of many small dots.
They are produced by a screen on the cut from which the pic-
ture is taken. The fineness of the screen determines the quality
of the picture. In a good magazine picture the mesh is much
70 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
finer. There are probably 250,000 dots or units in such a repro-
duction. To transmit a picture of like quality over television,
each of these dots must be picked up separately and sent in
sequence. To fool the eye, all this must be done in a fraction
of a second. To get smooth motion as in motion pictures, we
must probably send the pictures at the rate of 30 a second. In
other words, to do the thing successfully we must register and
transmit 250,000 variations every thirtieth of a second. That
means something like 7,500,000 changes in intensity every sec-
ond. Such speed cannot be achieved by mechanical means."
"What are you going to use to break down and restore the
image?" Mr. Bishop asked.
"I shall use a photoelectric cell to change the picture image
into an electron image. Then I will scan the electron image a
line at a time with great speed. The picture signal or current
will flow out from the scanning anode carrying the electrical
counterpart of the light and shade values of the picture to a
broadcast unit for modulation onto a broadcasting frequency
for transmission through the air. At the receiving end I propose
to use a cathode-ray tube, where the scanning process in reverse
will be synchronized with the scanning at the transmitter."
"It all sounds pretty complicated and way over my head
technically," Mr. Pagan commented to Phil dryly. "I guess we
will have to take Engineer Honn's word for it that your scheme
will work." Then turning to the others, he continued, "The
boy sounds as though he knows what he's talking about, though
I can't follow him."
Then turning to the more practical aspects of the moment,
Mr. Bishop asked, "How much do you think it will take to
produce a recognizable television picture?"
"I believe with $1,000 a month for twelve months I can get
a satisfactory result," Phil replied. "But to be on the safe side
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP yi
I would like to have $25,000 to work with. We may run into
some difficulties that I haven't foreseen yet, so we might have
to have a little leeway to go on/'
"I think it isn't enough/' said Bishop, "but I'll take your
word for it."
Then there was discussion as to where the laboratory should
be established. It developed that a loft at 202 Green Street was
used by Mr. W. H. Crocker in some ventures he was backing.
These developments were coming to an end, so the space would
"I think the rental there is $75 a month. There's plenty of
power handy, too/' said Bishop.
Phil enumerated a few simple instruments he felt he needed,
and he was told he should get what he needed so long as he
stayed within his $1,000 monthly budget.
"Shouldn't we supply this young man with a competent
consulting engineer?" Mr. Willis, one of the bank executives,
"I don't think so," Mr. McCargar replied. "This is Farns-
worth's show. We are betting on his ability. What he is propos-
ing is not orthodox. What he will do would probably give an or-
thodox engineer heart failure. This is not engineering we are
backing, it is invention. If Phil here succeeds, he must do the
thing his way, no matter how cockeyed it would seem to a well-
trained engineer. If we back this boy we've got to go the whole
way. He must be the boss of what he is doing."
Phil took great encouragement from this, and as the discus-
sion progressed he was led into explaining in considerable de-
tail how he planned to proceed. When he had finished, Bishop
turned to Phil and me and said, "Well, young man, and you,
Mr. Everson, this is the first time anyone has ever come into
this room and got anything out of us without laying something
J2 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
on the table for it." Then turning to the other members of the
group he said, "We are backing nothing here except the ideas
in this boy's head. Believe me, we are going to treat him like a
It was agreed that the financial group was to have 60 per cent
in the newly formed syndicate in return for acting as trustees of
the venture and supplying the funds. The remaining 40 per
cent was to be divided between Farnsworth, Gorrell, and me.
It was arranged that Farnsworth would be given an allowance of
$1,000 a month for the laboratory, out of which he was to re-
ceive a salary of $200. As outlined in the earlier discussion, the
work was to be carried on in the Crocker Research Laboratories
at 202 Green Street, San Francisco.
After the meeting broke up, Farnsworth, Bishop, and I ad-
journed to the office of Herman Phleger, an attorney, to draw
up the necessary papers.
In the discussion it came out that Farnsworth was not of age.
Since his mother lived in Utah, it would be necessary for him
to have a legal guardian in California, whereupon steps were
taken for my appointment as his guardian until he became of
age. The formal contract, therefore, was not signed until some
time later, owing to the delay in getting the guardianship papers
Phil and I were elated with the setup. It seemed almost too
good to be true. Later, as I have told the story to people who
knew Mr. Fagan, many have said jokingly that wonderful as
was Farnsworth's youthful genius, the fact that Mr. Fagan
bought the idea was even more miraculous.
Farnsworth then returned to Los Angeles to arrange for the
shipment of his laboratory equipment and to bring his wife and
personal belongings to San Francisco. The roadster was pretty
well loaded with baggage as Farnsworth and his wife drove
PROMISE OF FINANCIAL HELP 73
north. A large suitcase containing most of their clothing, in-
cluding Farnsworth's new suit, was on the running board.
When they stopped at King City for lunch, someone stole the
suitcase. As a consequence, Farnsworth arrived in San Francisco
with only the shabby clothes he had put on for making the
trip. He hunted up my friend, Harry Cartlidge, and borrowed
a hundred dollars to re-outfit himself.
In the meantime I had proceeded to El Paso to fulfill my
contract with the community chest in that city. Phil was left
to his own devices in San Francisco to get things started. A
great weight was lifted from my shoulders by having his idea
backed by a strong financial group.
All his life Phil has been a reluctant correspondent. During
my six weeks' stay in El Paso I learned how deficient he was in
this respect. After my procuring for him his heart's desire in
the way of financial backing, it never occurred to him that I
might like to have occasional reports on how he was getting on.
So the first news I had from him came from Cartlidge, who
wrote me that he had loaned Phil a hundred dollars to replenish
his wardrobe after the theft. For further details I had to wait
until I returned to San Francisco for a personal visit.
By the first of October everything was in readiness to start
work at the Green Street laboratories.
The financial backers wisely followed Mr. McCargar's coun-
sel that Farnsworth must be in complete control of his research
without the handicap or help of a supervising engineer. They
recognized that if his work was to be valuable, it must be the
product of genius, rather than engineering, and that he should
therefore be in complete command of the enterprise. They had
faith in Farnsworth's integrity and industry, and in his enthusi-
asm for his work.
The Green Street Laboratory
MY CAMPAIGN contract in El Paso made it impossible for me
to stay on in San Francisco to be with Phil when he took pos-
session of the quarters at the Crocker Laboratories on Green
Street. The word "laboratories" was a flattering name for a
large second-story loft over a garage.
The building was directly at the eastern foot of romantic
Telegraph Hill. The rear windows of the loft faced the barren
rocks of the precipitous side of the hill. High above were apart-
ment houses and single dwellings overlooking San Francisco
Bay. It was not uncommon, after severe rainstorms, for loosened
rocks to come tumbling down the hillside. On such occasions
fragments of stone would sometimes hurtle through the win-
dows or land on the roof with a great clatter.
Theoretically the best location for any research laboratory
dealing with television and ultrashort waves, the radio carriers
for television, would be some high elevation free from sur-
rounding buildings or hills and far removed from possible inter-
ference by electric power lines and motor-driven machinery.
The Green Street laboratory was just the opposite of this theo-
retically ideal spot. The building was practically at sea level
THE GREEN STREET LABORATORY 75
and at the foot of a steep hill with power lines all about. Across
the street in one direction was a large publishing plant with
many motor-driven presses. On the opposite corner was a ship
repair plant. However, the roof of the lab had a clear view of
the Bay to the east and a fairly clear outlook on downtown San
Francisco to the south.
The initial equipment and personnel of the Farnsworth labo-
ratories were a few hundred dollars' worth of electrical equip-
ment and experimental apparatus shipped up from Los Angeles,
a long bench, a desk and a few chairs, and the inventor, Philo
T. Farnsworth. Out of this little nest egg was to be hatched
a complete electronic television system.
It should be remembered that at this time Farnsworth had
just reached his twentieth birthday and that he had never seen
the inside of a research laboratory, or, for that matter, any large
electronic manufacturing plant.
The development of the tubes he had in mind was to require
the greatest skill and subtlety known to the glass-blowing art.
The timing of the pulses in the electrical equipment to be
devised must be accurate within less than one seven-millionth
of a second. Since the speed of electrons is nearly equal to that
of light, Farnsworth felt that they must naturally be amenable
to a corresponding astronomical precision of control. In pro-
ducing a picture it would be necessary to manipulate electrical
strength represented by single electrons to produce amplifica-
tion to the millionth power.
Farnsworth was conscious of the problems facing him, but
he did not let them trouble him. He attacked the whole assign-
ment with no engineering experience and little engineering
knowledge, but to compensate for these inadequacies he had
courage and genius. The courage was not the foolhardy type
born of ignorance. His was the real courage of the pioneer who
y6 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
knows the goal but has little knowledge of the intervening ter-
rain. He had no idea that the problem was going to be as diffi-
cult and complicated as it proved to be, yet he had the confi-
dence to believe that his conception could be made to function
Since there were no glass-blowing facilities on the Pacific
Coast equipped to make the transmitting tube that Farnsworth
dreamed of as the core of his television camera, the first step
he took was to send a wire to his brother-in-law, Cliff Gardner,
to come to San Francisco immediately to set up the glass-
blowing laboratory. Gardner's total training for this was a high-
school education, a boldness comparable to Farnsworth's,
dogged perseverance, and no knowledge of the subject.
The explanation of this strange choice of an assistant lies in
three traits of Phil's character that have persisted throughout
his career. First, his Mormon training made him cautious, and
in getting Gardner to help him he was sure he had someone
whom he could trust implicitly. Second, he was afraid to em-
ploy engineers or technicians who were better equipped techni-
cally than himself. Third, he always liked to have members of
his own family associated with him in his work. All these traits
were serious handicaps to Farnsworth in his development work.
Often he and an inferior assistant spent months in solving
problems that were at the fingertips of more fully trained engi-
neers. This quality was a source of both strength and weakness.
It contributed greatly to his originality of thought, but it re-
tarded his ability to get things done in a practical way.
In due time Gardner arrived, and with consulting help from
a member of the University of California faculty, work was
begun on building a vacuum pump and glass-blowing table for
tube construction. As soon as the tools were ready, Gardner
got down to the business of learning how to make electronic
THE GREEN STREET LABORATORY JJ
tubes. He studied with avidity all of the literature on the sub-
ject and after months of painstaking effort was able to make a
beginning in the art of building the tubes required as the heart
of Farnsworth's television system.
When Gardner got into the work, he found that the vacuum
pump initially constructed was not adequate for the difficult
job of building a television camera tube. Therefore, with Phil's
consulting assistance, he set about building one that would
meet their needs. It was fearfully and wonderfully made. We
joked about its being something copied from one of Rube
Goldberg's cartoons. Fantastic as it looked, it did the work.
Electric ovens had to be included to heat the elements in
the tube while on the pump to drive off impurities in the metals.
This was necessary to prevent troublesome stray gases from
developing in the tubes to spoil the vacuum. While this equip-
ment and procedure was commonplace in any well-established
electrical research laboratory, it was all new to Phil and Cliff
Gardner. They had to learn what tools were necessary and
build them as they went along.
During Gardner's learning period Farnsworth was particu-
larly fortunate in enlisting the assistance of Herbert Metcalf, a
radio engineer and physicist who had had some experience in
cathode-ray tube developments with Dr. Joel Kunz at the Uni-
versity of Illinois. He had also had experience with photoelectric
cells built by Dr. Kunz for the use of Metcalf s father and the
astronomer Joel Stebbings in measuring the light of stars.
Metcalf and Cummings, the consultant from the University
of California, built the first transmitter tube for Farnsworth to
use for testing purposes, thus enabling Farnsworth to carry on
the other avenues of his experimental work while Gardner was
learning the art of glass blowing.
To assist him in building the radio circuits two radio techni-
y8 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
cians were employed and set to work by Phil in the design of the
transmission and receiver apparatus. They were not trained
engineers. They, like Gardner, learned of the problems in tele-
vision as they went along.
The transmitter tube, which was to break down the picture
and convert it into an electron image for transmission, was
Farnsworth's first concern. As I have already mentioned, he
conceived it as a cylinder about the size of an ordinary Mason
jar with an optically clear window sealed into one end and a
photosensitive plate at the other end. As they got into con-
struction on this tube, two major difficulties were encountered.
One was the art of sealing in an optically clear flat disk of glass
at one end of the tube without leaving stresses and strains in
the glass that would cause cracks under hard vacuum when the
tube cooled and was subjected to varying temperatures. The
other was the distillation of the photosensitive substance on
the plate at the rear of the tube. Incidental to these two major
problems was the difficulty in getting the right type of electrical
leads in and out of the tube so that it would operate as the
inventor had planned.
Phil decided that the tube was to be known as the Farnsworth
"dissector" tube. This name was chosen because it was de-
scriptive of the process that took place in breaking down the
image for transmission.
Potassium hydride was used as the photoelectric surface in
the early dissector tubes. Since potassium combines with oxy-
gen when exposed to air or water, the potassium pellets came
from the suppliers submerged in kerosene. Gardner had to
learn the art of distilling the pure potassium from the com-
mercial pellets and sealing it in airtight glass tubes for future
use. To deposit the potassium on the rear plate of the tube as
the foundation for the photoelectric surface, in building the
THE GREEN STREET LABORATORY 79
dissector tube the capsules of potassium were sealed to the lead
into the tube and driven in by the application of heat. Then
hydrogen gas was introduced in such a way as to insure its com-
bination with the potassium surface to form potassium hydride.
This gave a good photosensitive surface. It was an intricate and
exacting operation, better suited to the abilities and background
of experienced chemical engineers than to the capacities of a
boy fresh from high school.
The fact that Farnsworth and Gardner devised the technique
and successfully built the tube that the inventor had in mind
is a tribute to their ingenuity and perseverance, and to the
tutoring of Herbert Metcalf .
Such problems delighted Phil. He reveled in the simple labo-
ratory facilities provided for him and, like a boy with a new
mechanical toy, enjoyed showing "house of magic" stuff to
the uninitiated. Liquid air, for instance, was one of the essen-
tials for operating the vacuum pumps. When visitors came to
the lab Farnsworth took boyish pleasure in removing the cap
of the liquid air container and inserting a piece of rubber hose
for instant freezing. Pulling it out, he would break the brittle
frozen rubber. Igniting pellets of crude potassium by throw-
ing them into water was another of his favorite stunts.
Instinctively Phil enjoyed enlisting the interest of people in
his ideas. There was something of the evangelist and propa-
gandist in his make-up. He delighted in people's approval and
interest in what he was trying to do and used these simple
showman tricks to arouse it.
Farnsworth spent a great deal of his time in studying the
mathematics involved in his invention. He had a peculiar genius
for thinking in mathematical terms as clearly as the ordinary
student thinks in terms of language. He also had a gift for visu-
alizing the behavior of electrons within a vacuum tube. Though
8O THE STORY OF TELEVISION
all of the actions of electrons were completely invisible, he
seemed able to see them as one would a swarm of bees buzzing
about. His mathematical ability came into full play as the physi-
cal setup for the television system began to take tangible form.
He would literally devour a new branch of mathematics in one
gulp if it was needed in the solution of the problem at hand.
He was a tireless worker. Mr. McCargar often said during the
early days, "Phil Farns worth hasn't a lazy bone in his body/'
Phil followed through on his self-imposed regimen of school-
ing himself in constructive thinking. He had great faith in the
ability of the subconscious mind to solve difficult problems.
When completely stumped in his effort to see his way clear to
the solution of a problem, he would purposely postpone it to let
his subconscious mind work on it. Phil often said that he
charged his mind with a knotty problem just before falling
asleep, and then set the alarm to awaken him the following
morning an hour before rising time. This extra hour would be
spent in bed in quiet thinking. Usually this would bring the
solution of the problem that had occupied his attention and
baffled him the previous day.
It was at this time that Farnsworth recognized the impor-
tance of the design of the focusing and magnetic coils which
were to control the electron image within the dissector tube.
The old ones that I had wound in such a daubing mess were
far from adequate. Fairly good facilities were installed for wind-
ing new coils that really looked like something.
His original patent application stated that he would use elec-
trostatic focusing of the electron image within the dissector and
would deflect it for scanning by electrostatic plates. However,
when he set about to make up the equipment he decided to
return to the use of magnetic coils for focusing and scanning.
In high school the study of optics had always fascinated Phil.
THE GREEN STREET LABORATORY 8l
The works of the Irish scientist, Hamilton, particularly engaged
his attention; therefore, when Phil became interested in elec-
tronics, he carried over to it some of the ideas gleaned from
the field of optics. He conceived the idea that he could focus
his electron image in the dissector by use of a coil acting as a
magnetic lens. Similarly he believed that he could control the
scanning by use of magnetic coils to attract and repel the elec-
tron image. By this orderly attraction and repulsion he would
sweep it across the anode of the dissector a line at a time. Two
sets of coils would be used, one to move the image rapidly from
side to side, the other to move it up slowly so that each line
would be brought in place for scanning by the more rapid lateral
In his original conception of the magnetic lens Phil thought
that as the current increased the focus would become sharper,
but early experiments showed this was not the case. The focus
sharpened to a certain strength, but then if more current was
applied the image again became blurred.
This magnetic lens was another original contribution to
electronics. It provided Farnsworth with an important patent
in television scanning.
The design and placement of the magnetic coils around the
dissector tube became an essential factor in the production of
a clear, undistorted image. In his early experiments Phil was
not fully aware of the significance of these factors. Later they
remained to plague him with what was called a pincushion
effect and an "S" distortion across the field of the pictures.
These requirements came later, but in the beginning he was
concerned principally with the timing of the pulses and their
steadiness to get an orderly scanning of the image.
As he got into actual work two practical problems presented
themselves. The first one was that of the sensitivity of the
82 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
photoelectric surface in the dissector tube. Experiments proved
that wide variations existed in the number of electrons released
by different metals, or combination of metals, in the photo-
electric process. In other words, he found that while a nickel
alloy gave off electrons when light was focused on it, the num-
ber of electrons per unit of light intensity was much less than
the number released by other metals.
Potassium hydride served well enough as the photoelectric
surface in the first dissector tubes when Phil and his helpers
were striving to prove that the system would actually transmit
an image. That simple fact had to be proved before he went on
to any refinement. However, he knew from the beginning that
to achieve satisfactory results development of more sensitive
photoelectric surfaces must be one of his major lines of investi-
After constructing several dissector tubes with the potassium
surface, he determined to change to cesium oxide, but here
again he found that there was great variation in the electron
emission of seemingly identical cesium oxide coatings. The
emitting surface was a most baffling and elusive problem. It
was destined to harass him and his assistants for many years be-
fore the production of cesium surfaces approached uniformity
and dependability. By some strange luck most of the earlier
dissector tubes possessed remarkably good sensitivity.
The second problem, and one that was equally baffling, was
that of getting an amplifier of sufficient power and stability
to step up the infinitely small electrical currents produced by
the scanning of the image within the dissector tube.
In 1926, when Farns worth began his work, radio technicians
were just beginning to realize the importance of amplification
in getting high-fidelity reproduction in sound. The amplifiers
were crude and of low power in comparison with those in use
THE GREEN STREET LABORATORY 83
today. In the original conception of his scheme Phil had no
means of knowing how hard it would be to overcome the sensi-
tivity problem and to produce adequate amplifiers, nor did he
realize what a fertile field of research lay before him in the
solution of these difficulties. He did know that if he was to
succeed with his plans he would have to find more efficient
means of amplification. Even before he was well settled in the
San Francisco laboratories his inventive mind was searching
out new and unorthodox methods. In working the problems
through he came to recognize the importance of their solution
in other fields of electronics.
Crude Beginnings the First
SOON AFTER Farnsworth was established in the Green Street
laboratories it became obvious that it would be too expensive
and quite unsatisfactory to have the patent work in the hands
of Los Angeles attorneys. Consequently the patent file was
transferred to the offices of Charles S. Evans in San Francisco.
Donald K. Lippincott, a graduate of the University of Cali-
fornia in radio engineering, and former chief engineer for the
Magnavox Company, handled the radio patent work in the
Evans office, so that the Farnsworth account naturally fell to
Shortly before that Mr. Lippincott had been consulted by
his friend and engineering associate, Herbert Metcalf, regard-
ing his reaction to Farnsworth's ideas. Lippincott looked upon
them with cool indifference as being the fantastic dream of
a visionary youth, his main objection being that there were no
usable radio channels broad enough to carry the television sig-
nal required for adequate detail in the received image. (The
ultrashort waves now assigned to television were then entirely
CRUDE BEGINNINGS THE FIRST TELEVISION PICTURE 85
out of the range of practical engineering as channels for radio
When the Farnsworth account was turned over to Lippincott
in the Evans office, he naturally made a close study of the in-
ventions. It was not long before he became an enthusiastic con-
vert to the Farnsworth ideas of television, and there grew up
between Farnsworth and Lippincott a fast friendship and mu-
tual respect that contributed greatly to the success of the
Farnsworth venture. Lippincott had an active interest in science
for its own sake. This, combined with an amazingly retentive
memory and a fine sense of humor, helped to endear him to
Phil as a friend and confidant.
Lippincott, a man of unusually broad learning and mathe-
matical ability, has often remarked that early in their associa-
tion he found it necessary to give Phil help in his endeavors to
master the branches of mathematics required in solving certain
television problems. He relates that in a surprisingly short time
Phil had gone far beyond him in his knowledge of mathematics
and that he found it difficult to follow him.
Not long after the Farnsworth account was turned over to
the Evans office, Lippincott established patent offices of his
own. Naturally Farnsworth wished Lippincott to continue han-
dling his work, as did Mr. McCargar and the other backers of
the venture. As a result, the account was transferred to the
office of the new firm, Lippincott & Metcalf, and Farnsworth
continued to have the advantage of Lippincott's friendship and
counsel as his patent attorney. Since Herbert Metcalf was the
other partner in the firm, Phil also continued to have the advice
and consulting help of this very practical scientist.
Lippincott's knowledge of electronics enabled him to see the
value of Farnsworth's research work not only in relation to
television, but in its application to other devices of radio. Con-
86 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
sequently, Farnsworth's research into the problem of amplifi-
cation and of improving the sensitivity of the dissector tube
became very fertile fields from which Lippincott gleaned much
valuable material for patent applications. This resulted in ex-
tending the Farnsworth patent structure from its original idea
of one broad patent covering his television scheme to a whole
mass of interrelated patents reaching into many fields of elec-
As Phil progressed in the solution of his problems the Lippin-
cott office became increasingly busy with the filing and pursuit
of patent applications in the Patent Office for Farnsworth and
his associates. The Farnsworth laboratory came to be recog-
nized as an important electrical research laboratory. Phil had
an unusually good nose for patentable material. With the
assistance of Lippincott's broader experience he developed a
practical sense for what was novel in the electronic field. From
the very first, therefore, he laid the foundations for a broad and
sound patent structure.
After the first dissector tube was completed and the mag-
netic and scanning coils adapted to it, there came the problem
of the design and building of the necessary electrical equipment
to generate the wave pulses for scanning the image. It had to be
built from scratch by the cut and try method. Neither Phil nor
his technicians had a broad orthodox training in electrical
engineering, so they were not handicapped by orthodox proce-
One set of coils was necessary to control the oscillation of the
electron image back and forth laterally so that it could be
picked up a line at a time by the anode in the front of the
dissector tube. The other pulse was necessary to swing the
picture up and down at a stated frequency of so many times
per second in order that the lines could be picked off in regular
CRUDE BEGINNINGS THE FIRST TELEVISION PICTURE 87
sequence and a sufficient number of pictures could be scanned
to give the illusion of motion.
In developing the circuits required for this accurate scanning
work, as well as for the construction and testing of tubes, a
variety of meters and test equipment was necessary. Since
neither Phil nor Cliff Gardner had had any technical experience
up to this time, it was necessary for them to find out not only
what equipment was needed but also to learn how to use it
effectively. This was no mean assignment. They had to feel
their way and learn as they went along. It was here Phil first
found that while $1,000 a month for laboratory expenses looked
large before he was located in the Green Street quarters, when
it came to stretching it over salaries, rent, radio parts, batteries,
chemicals, and so forth, there was not much available for high-
priced test equipment.
The result was that from the very first Phil never seemed to
have all of the facilities the task required. He often spoke of
this as an advantage, since it made for resourcefulness and in-
vention and often led to a simplicity and directness of approach
to a problem that might otherwise have become too deep.
Once the transmitter circuits and tubes were under way,
Phil attacked the problem of the receiver set. The picture was
to be received on the fluorescent surface of a specially designed
cathode-ray tube. The ordinary cathode tube in use at that
time could not meet the requirements for the television re-
ceiver, so Farnsworth made a design for a pyrex glass envelope,
which he sent to the Corning Glass Company in New York
State. In due time a limited supply of these glass envelopes was
obtained as the basis for building the tubes upon which the
image was to be received.
With these pyrex blanks as a foundation, Gardner was put
to work to develop a tube for the receiving end of the system.
88 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
It followed the exaggerated pear-shape design common to all
cathode-ray tubes. The stem of the pear was a narrow cylinder;
the other end was a bulbous flask with a nearly flat surface for
the reception of the picture. It was necessary to coat the inner
side of the flat surface with a fluorescent material that would
meet the requirements for the reproduction of a television pic-
ture. This meant that it would have to be very sensitive to the
bombardment of a beam of electrons and that each point of
the surface must be able to turn the light on and off in a split
fraction of a second to give clarity to the image. In other words,
once the point had been bombarded by electrons, it could not
hold the glow over any appreciable period without destroying
the detail of the reception.
Many silicate combinations were used for experimentation.
Finally willemite was found to be the most effective. Great
pains had been taken in making the compound, and batch after
batch was made before satisfactory results were secured. In
one instance a special grinding apparatus was set up in order
to reduce the willemite particles to the needed fineness.
The design of the electron gun within the stem of the tube
was an equally difficult and delicate problem. Before Farns-
worth started his research work no cathode-ray tube had been
developed that focused an electron beam with sufficient sharp-
ness to etch a well-defined fluorescent image on the willemite
surface. Here the Farnsworth genius, and a great deal of pa-
tience on Gardner's part, produced the electron gun and focus-
ing coil that gave a satisfactory tube for experimental use.
Finally a usable receiver tube was developed. This was chris-
tened an "oscillite" by Farnsworth because it produced a glow-
ing image on the end of the cathode-ray tube by the oscillation
of a beam of electrons under the influence of the focusing and
CRUDE BEGINNINGS THE FIRST TELEVISION PICTURE OQ
Once the receiver tube was completed, it was necessary to
build the remainder of the receiving set. This required appa-
ratus to synchronize the scanning coils at the receiver with
those at the transmitter, and amplifiers to build up the received
signal to the required strength for introduction into the
cathode-ray tube for scanning.
Naturally at this stage all transmissions were by wire. No
effort was made to send a picture by radio. Also in the early
stages of experiments the synchronizing pulses were sent over
a separate line. Developments necessarily proceeded a step at
a time. The first effort was geared to prove that an image could
be transmitted by wholly electronic means. Wired transmission
was used because it was the simplest.
After all these problems had been worked out painstakingly
one at a time, they were to be put together in the first edition
of the Farnsworth television system. In one room the dissector
tube with its coils and amplifiers was placed on a small stand
before a windowlike aperture in the room. The room itself was
copper-lined. The dissector tube was hooked up to some panels
containing the scanning generators. Leads were fed into a black
box containing the amplifier. A copper tube led out of the
amplifier into the receiving room, where another box contained
the receiving tube and the necessary receiving set apparatus. It
was all very handmade and crude-looking. Then the tests were
It must be remembered that up to this time the best tele-
vision work that had ever been done in the world had been
accomplished by Baird of London with his mechanical scan-
ning-disk apparatus. He had succeeded in transmitting an im-
age of what was termed 40-line fineness, which really meant a
very blurred sort of picture, owing to the lack of detail. A 40-
line picture would mean that there were only 1,600 elements
90 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
in the image, as compared to the minimum of 250,000 elements
now considered necessary in television transmission.
When Phil connected up his first transmitting and receiving
apparatus in the fall of 1927, he had no illusions about the
quality of the image it would produce. It was possible that the
whole scheme wouldn't work and that no picture would be
transmitted. If an image was produced it was expected that it
would be nothing but a crude outline of the simplest sort. The
first problem was to prove that electronic scanning would work.
The transmission of any picture, however simple, would suffice
for the test.
Phil chose the most elementary image for the first trial. He
painted a black triangle on a clear piece of glass for the initial
tryout. I knew what was going on and asked Phil to let me be
present. After much adjusting and days of planning, Phil
phoned that all was in readiness. I went to the lab. We all felt
something of the historic importance of the occasion and were
keyed up in anticipation of what might take place.
I went into the room that Phil used as his office. He was
doodling over some electrical circuits.
"I think we will have a picture as soon as the boys get the
new circuits wired up," he said. "It won't take long." Then
after a pause, "I don't know how good it will be. The signal
is very low, and we may not be able to get it out over the
After a few minutes we strolled out into the lab. Cliff Gardner
was tinkering around the crude boxlike television camera, and
the other boys were in the receiving room fussing around with
the amplifier. The light source was a carbon arc. Finally, when
all seemed to be ready, Phil took a glass slide with a black tri-
angle painted on it and laid it beside the camera.
"This will be our first picture," he said.
CRUDE BEGINNINGS THE FIRST TELEVISION PICTURE 91
Cliff Gardner stayed at the transmitter. Phil and I went
into the receiving room. The cathode-ray tube with its auxil-
iary apparatus was mounted on an oblong box of imitation
mahogany. Here was our first television receiving set. We
watched as a square luminescent field of bluish cast appeared
on the end of the receiving tube. A series of fairly sharp bright
lines was unsteadily limned on the screen, which was about
four inches square.
"Put the slide in," Phil told Cliff.
Cliff did so. The luminescent field was disturbed and settled
down with a messy blur in the center. By no stretch of the
imagination could it be recognized as the black triangle that
we were supposed to see. Phil and I looked at the blur with a
sickening sense of disappointment.
Phil suggested some adjustments on the amplifier and the
scanning generator circuits. There was a lot of feverish putter-
ing around with no improvement in the results. I felt that I
was making the fellows nervous, so I went back to Phil's office
to wait. Phil was so certain he was going to get results that I
didn't have the heart to leave the lab.
Finally, after a couple of hours of struggle, Phil came to the
door and announced, "I think we've got it now/'
We again went into the receiving room. Things were turned
on again. The bluish field lighted up. Cliff put the slide in
again. A fuzzy, blurry, but wholly recognizable image of the
black triangle instantly filled the center of the picture field.
This was our first television picture! Phil and I gazed spell-
bound for a while and then with a deep sense of satisfaction
shook hands silently.
This interlude of satisfaction endured but for an instant.
Then Phil burst forth with a shower of ideas, telling the boys
in hurried, feverish words of changes to be made.
Q2 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
I was greatly encouraged. Poor as the results were, we now
knew that the principle was sound. It was visual proof that we
were on the right track.
It had been my chore to keep Mr. McCargar, Mr. Pagan, and
the other backers of the venture informed regarding the prog-
ress being made at the laboratories, since all thought it best
not to visit Phil until he had some definite evidence of progress
to show them. Whenever I returned from an out-of-town cam-
paign engagement I would first visit the laboratory and then
go into the Crocker Bank to have a chat with Mr. Pagan and
Mr. McCargar regarding Farnsworth's progress.
Very often I would be greeted by Mr. Pagan, who would
make rings around his eyes with his forefingers and thumbs.
Peering through them he would ask, "Have you seen any dollar
signs in that Farnsworth tube yet?" As a result I thought it
would be appropriate to transmit a dollar sign so I could tell
Mr. Pagan I had actually seen one in the tube.
When the excitement had died down a bit after the trans-
mission of the triangle and the boys had made some of the
adjustments that Phil had suggested, I told Phil and the rest
about Mr. Pagan's dollar sign.
"Can't we paint a dollar sign on a piece of glass and use it
instead of the triangle on the next try?" I asked.
"Sure," said Phil. "Cliff, can you fix one up?"
In a few minutes the dollar-sign slide was ready. Again we
went in to see what would happen. As the slide was put in,
the dollar sign fairly jumped out at us on the screen. The
changes that Phil had suggested really did make a difference.
The image was much less fuzzy and more clearly defined.
The next morning I dropped in at the bank and told Mr.
Fagan and Mr. McCargar that I had actually "seen a dollar
CRUDE BEGINNINGS THE FIRST TELEVISION PICTURE 93
sign in that tube." I didn't gild the lily, so both of the bankers
decided to wait until Phil was a little farther along before they
went down to see his picture.
When I visited the laboratory a few days later I found that
Phil was using some negatives of photographs of Pern, his
wife, and of Cliff Gardner. They had little density so far as light
values were concerned. As a consequence, they televised much
better than the solid black triangle and dollar sign.
"Here is some real progress!" I thought. I was so fascinated
that I stayed around all afternoon.
Later Cliff was puttering around the camera with the field
left on. I was at the receiver waiting for what might show up
next when I saw a wraithlike cloud pass across the picture
screen. As I stood there it would fade out and then come back
on the field. I was puzzled as to what it was. Then for a second
the end of a smoking cigarette came into the lower right-hand
corner of the field. It was very distinct. I knew now what the
cloud effects had been. They were the smoke from Cliff's ciga-
rette as he worked bent down in front of the television camera.
I called to Phil to come and look, but Cliff had moved away.
"Cliff, smoke your cigarette in front of the camera," I yelled.
He obliged, but the heat from the arc light made it difficult.
First he tried the end of the cigarette, and smoke curling from
it, and then the profile of the mouth and nose of the smoker
were brought into the picture.
One day when I was at the laboratory they tried the transmis-
sion of a pair of pliers in my hands, but the picture of the pliers
did not work out so successfully as the smoker, owing primarily
to a lack of experience in lighting and handling sharp contrasts
at different focal strengths.
The fact that any image at all could be transmitted by this
94 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
crude apparatus was positive proof to Farnsworth and me that
his television system would work. Our enthusiasm grew with
each new improvement in the image.
The most convincing picture at this time continued to be the
one of the cigarette smoke. The smoker had to stick his nose
close to the transmitter tube, and because the lights were very
bright, care had to be taken to avoid a blistered nose. How-
ever, this small success served to bring home emphatically the
magnitude of the problems ahead. The question of sensitivity
and of amplification became major considerations, and plans
were made to develop the necessary apparatus.
The amplifier developments were the most heartbreaking
ones. I would leave San Francisco with high hopes of Farns-
worth's latest plans for an amplifier that would be satisfactory,
only to return to learn that much had been expended in work,
salaries, and materials with results that were desperately dis-
The black box in which the amplifier was housed came to be
a Jonah or, to change the figure, a yawning maw into which
thousands of dollars were thrown without results. Upon one
occasion when I returned from an out-of-town trip, I found
the laboratory staff ripping out the contents of the black box
and salvaging such tubes and equipment as could be used again.
This was all that was left of months of work and $5,000 in
funds. There seemed no end to the building and discarding of
these expensive experimental amplifiers, but finally, after
months of tedious work and the expenditure of thousands of
dollars, one was operating "flat to 300 kc." as the engineers
Previous to the advent of television there was no need for
the broad-band amplification that is the first requisite in pic-
ture broadcasting. Sound broadcasting was successful without
CRUDE BEGINNINGS THE FIRST TELEVISION PICTURE 95
it, and consequently radio engineers had not concerned them-
selves with the problem. Therefore, no amplifiers were yet de-
veloped that would meet the demands required by Phil in his
experiments. The "black box" was the first step in the long
road to adequate amplifiers for transmission of the broad band
of frequencies necessary to produce the full detail in a television
It was this problem of amplification and broad wave band
requirements that led Lippincott in his first analysis of Phil's
plans to the conclusion that the whole scheme was fantastic and
could not be made practical. I think in the beginning Phil was
not wholly aware of the difficulties in this regard. With my
limited knowledge I was blissfully ignorant of this seemingly
hopeless limiting factor. Had I known as much about it as I
do now, I doubt whether I could have gone into the scheme as
wholeheartedly as I did.
As the problem loomed in Phil's mind, he attacked it with
great courage and initiative. Lippincott followed along, con-
fident that between Phil's genius and the rapid developments in
electronics a solution would be found. On the part of both of
them it was a splendid example of faith and courage.
In his efforts to develop better and better amplifiers, Phil, as
usual, attacked the problem on several different fronts. He felt
that if he could devise some new means of controlling the ac-
tion of electrons within vacuum tubes he might find what he
needed. Therefore, he studied the action of electrons. Among
the phenomena that came to his attention was that of second-
ary electron emission, in which new electrons were released
from the surface of metals when bombarded by primary elec-
trons. Out of this grew his multipactor tubes, which came into
prominence several years later.
At this time he began to work on what he called an "admit-
96 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
tance neutralized amplifier," a device which became very use-
ful. Both of these principles were revolutionary when he first
started experimenting with them. In the development of am-
plifiers, necessity truly became the mother of invention for
Phil. Out of it grew several practical and valuable patents ap-
plicable to the broad field of radio.
Televising Motion Pictures
THE LACK of sensitivity in the transmitter tube made the pickup
of objects from life very difficult. Farns worth therefore deter-
mined that the next step in his program was to transmit motion-
picture film successfully. This presented many and varied prob-
lems. The characteristics of the scanning process of a television
transmitter tube and the operation of a motion-picture projec-
tor had to be reconciled. It was found that it was not feasible
to transmit motion pictures by the use of the "shutter" type
of motion-picture projector.
To those unfamiliar with the operation of the motion-picture
projector it is necessary to explain that the action is produced
by flashing onto the screen, at the rate of twenty-four pictures
per second, the individual frames which make up the film. The
film is fed into the projector a frame at a time at the rate indi-
cated. Each separate frame stops momentarily while it is flashed
on the screen. While the next picture is being brought into
place the screen is darkened by a shutter, so that during two-
fifths of the time in the ordinary projection of cinema film the
screen is dark. The eye, which continues to register the image
98 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
for a fraction of a second after it disappears, does not perceive
this interval of darkness.
When the shutter was down and the screen darkened, the
scanning went on over the darkened surface, a line at a time in
the same manner as over the image. This brought intermittent
black flashes on the television receiver tube which gave to the
eye the appearance of a violent flicker. The fact that the pic-
tures were scanned at the rate of 30 per second while the pro-
jector ran them at the rate of 24 per second added confusion and
made the flicker more unbearable. Consequently, to televise
them successfully means had to be devised to scan the picture
with the film running continuously. Since the picture was trans-
mitted one scanning line at a time, the shutter could be elimi-
nated. With this done, the film flowed evenly across the scan-
ning area and the picture elements were transmitted for repro-
duction to the received without interruption. This eliminated
the major difficulties of the flicker. The operation required nice
timing and precision. Here again Farnsworth's great ability in
thinking and actually visualizing an operation in mathematical
terms made it possible for him to develop a new system to satisfy
The purchase of an old motion-picture projector for use in
the experimental setup was one of the first times when it be-
came imperative for Phil to overstep the limit of $1,000 set as
his monthly allowance. The staff of the laboratory also had to
be increased to meet the expanding program of research. In this,
as in subsequent enlarged expenditures, the financing group
were lenient and co-operative.
While work was going on in the reconstruction of the mo-
tion-picture projector, changing and testing was carried on day
in and day out throughout the whole embryo system. The
black figures painted on glass, the photograph negatives, and
TELEVISING MOTION PICTURES 99
cigarette smoke were discarded for more complete images.
Better lighting, as well as amplifiers and dissector tubes, con-
tributed to the improvement. A special wide-angle lens was
needed in the television camera to project the image onto the
photoelectric surface in the dissector tube. The procuring of
the best lens for this purpose, and its proper mounting, also
required much patient testing.
I returned to San Francisco from a campaign assignment and
visited the laboratory to find the operators about ready to trans-
mit motion pictures. They had been testing for days. I was
told that operations would probably begin the following day.
Needless to say, I was there the next afternoon to see what they
had to show. The motion-picture projector was an old rattle-
trap secondhand machine. It had been overhauled and the
gears retimed to meet Phil's requirements. As for still pictures,
a carbon arc was used as the source of light. As I stepped into
the copper-shielded transmitter room everything was in readi-
ness. After explaining the setup Phil took me into the darkened
receiver room where we viewed for the first time the actual
transmission of a motion-picture film by electronic television.
The picture was one of a hockey game. The players were
quite blurry, but one could definitely see them as they scooted
from one end of the rink to the other, or as they sprawled in
the rough-and-tumble before the goal. The rink was brilliantly
lighted. The contrast between it and the dark figures was ex-
cellent. I was particularly delighted with the clarity and pre-
cision of the motion, though in the first transmission of the
film it was not possible to see the puck.
We ran the film through several times. Here, I felt, we had
made another giant stride in our progress toward practical tele-
At first not all film was usable for our television purposes.
1OO THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Farnsworth secured several reels from a local film exchange
and ran them through to pick out excerpts that were "tele-
genic." Through a North Beach motion-picture house one of
the boys got hold of a bootleg film of the long-count episode in
the Dempsey-Tunney fight at Philadelphia. It was used prin-
cipally for laboratory demonstration purposes. Another piece
of popular test film was an excerpt from the Mary Pickford-
Douglas Fairbanks picture The Taming of the Shrew, in which
Mary Pickford combed her hair at least a million times for the
benefit of science and the development of television.
This loop of film was especially suitable for test purposes
because of the detail in the picture. In the beginning Miss
Pickford's features and the lovely glowing strands of her hair
were brought through reasonably well defined, but the back-
ground, such as the items of her attire and the frame of the
casement window, were not so readily distinguished. It was
fascinating to see the improvement from day to day, from week
to week, and from month to month by the amount of detail
that could be seen on the screen as this loop was scanned.
The Growth of Speculative Value
SHORTLY AFTER Condi's and my return from the El Paso and
Tucson campaigns late in 1926, Gorrell married and decided
to give up the roving life of a campaign organizer and settle
down in San Francisco. Here he secured a job as research ana-
lyst for a brokerage house and got into the swing of the dying
gasps of the bull market in the era of beautiful nonsense.
One day a year or so later he took one of his former Stanford
schoolmates, who was now a stock salesman, down to the labo-
ratory. The stock salesman was immediately set on fire by what
he saw. He visualized its great speculative possibilities and set
about doing something about it. The first I heard of it was in
a letter which Gorrell wrote to me in Santa Ana, where I was
managing a campaign, telling me that he had sold a tenth of
his 10 per cent of the Farns worth company for $5,000. This
was heady stuff for Gorrell. Some time later, when I returned
to San Francisco, I visited him in his office. He informed me
that the price of his holdings had doubled since he last wrote
me, and that he was going to sell a substantial portion of what
he had and try to make a real killing in the market. The market
broke badly for him, and he lost heavily. As time went on he
102 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
disposed of all his Farnsworth holdings at what appeared to
him to be attractive prices.
In the meantime Phil had taken advantage of the situation
and sold enough of his holdings to purchase a very comfortable
house on the Marina facing the Presidio and to furnish it quite
handsomely. From this time on Phil supplemented his modest
salary by additional funds realized from small sales of his capital
holdings. This was Phil's first opportunity to have anything
beyond the simple necessities of decent living. When he first
started work in the laboratory on Green Street he had found a
modest place in Berkeley, where he and Pern stayed for a while.
Then he moved to a rather bleak apartment in the Hyde Street
area of San Francisco. My most vivid memory of the place was
that it had a fireplace that smoked outrageously whenever Phil
and Pern tried to use it.
When a little more money was available, Phil arranged for
his mother to come and live with him in the new house in the
Marina. Later she acquired an establishment of her own. Phil
was always thoughtful of his family's welfare, and in due course
all of his immediate family were established near him in San
Francisco. He was reticent about the extent of financial help
he gave them, but it was generally presumed that it was con-
Pern particularly enjoyed having a home of which she could
be proud and a few of the simple luxuries and niceties in dress
that she had longed for. She was a lovely girl and is now a
beautiful woman. She had instinctive good taste and fine feel-
ings for gracious living. Phil was inordinately proud of her and
was happy to give her the means to dress well and have a fine
When word got to Mr. Bishop, who was acting for the financ-
ing group in their relations with Farnsworth, Gorrell, and me,
THE GROWTH OF SPECULATIVE VALUE 103
that some of the interests had been sold he tallied up the
amount the group had spent to date on the television develop-
ment. Finding that it was more than double the $25,000 origi-
nally agreed upon, he called the three of us into his office in
the Crocker Building and told us that under the circumstances
he felt that we should now bear our pro rata share of the assess-
ments for the developments. In fairness we had to agree with
him, and from that time on we put up our portion of the funds
More and more news of what we were doing got noised
abroad in the San Francisco financial district until practically
all of the investment houses had knowledge of what we were
doing. As a result it was not difficult to find men who were
willing to take a flier in this highly glamorous speculation when
we needed money to meet expenses.
Clearing the Image of
Smudge and Blur
OBSERVING advancement in the quality of the picture over a
period of time could be compared to adjusting a pair of binocu-
lars to view a distant scene. As the adjustments were made the
picture was brought more sharply into focus. It was the day-
long, day-after-day patient experimenting, adjusting, refining,
and testing of the electronic apparatus that brought increasing
sharpness to the image.
Farnsworth and his assistants were pioneering in a new field.
What they were doing had never been tried before. In their
work his helpers were led into strange new fields of electronic
exploration. Here the working of Farnsworth's mind was at
its best. He never attacked a problem in the orthodox fashion,
but always found some new way of startling originality to
Farnsworth in these days usually appeared at the laboratory
at about ten o'clock in the morning. His entrance was like a
fresh wind bringing an argosy of new ideas to be tried out by his
assistants. In conference with them and Lippincott, Farns-
CLEARING THE IMAGE OF SMUDGE AND BLUR 1OJ
worth's ideas were often found worthy, but more often fallacies
would become evident and the ideas would have to be dis-
carded. But it was the repeated method of trial and error with
new and untried ideas over months and years that assured the
slow but certain progress in the improvement of the television
Film for test purposes had a definite life span. The Mary
Pickford film was the favorite, and as a result scores of prints
from it were used. Whenever I went into the laboratory it
seemed that the Mary Pickford picture was running. It was
fascinating for me to have Farnsworth point out the various
elements of betterment in the detail of the image since the last
time I had seen it.
With the improved picture the faults of transmission could
be more closely analyzed. Study of the clearer reproduction
showed that much of the blurriness that clouded it was due
to a double image, which created the appearance of a sort of
shadowed reflection. In addition to the double effect there was
a black splotch, or cloud, down through the center of the pic-
ture as though someone had taken a dirty finger and smudged
it from top to bottom. These were two fundamental faults in
the image which, if not corrected, would prevent television
from ever having entertainment value. They were matters of
major concern and, as time proved, became controlling factors
in the development.
Farnsworth was quick to recognize the situation and set
about to analyze the picture and find means of correcting the
fundamental faults. He discovered that both difficulties were
due to the electrical wave form that controlled the scanning of
the image at the transmitter and at the receiver end.
The normal electrical wave form is what is known to en-
gineers as a sine wave. That is, the motion of the wave flows up
106 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
to and away from the crest in exactly the same pattern, form-
ing the normal shape of the wave as is indicated below. If it
is understood that the length of the sine wave is measured in
time, it is apparent that in the steep portion of the wave the
distance covered in the same interval of time is greater than
on the flatter portion; therefore, in this section the motion is
accelerated. Since this wave form controls the lateral scanning
of the image, the rise in the wave operates the scanning from
right to left, and the fall in the wave regulates the return scan-
Actually the sine-wave scanning motion proceeded across the
image a good deal as a pen would move back and forth across a
sheet of paper in writing exercises, giving a barrel-like pattern.
It was found that this sine-wave scanning back and forth caused
the double-image effect, the front bulge of the barrel being the
main reproduction and the back of the barrel being the blurring
shadow. The front image represented the pickup from right to
left and the second image or "ghost" was the return line, or
Also it was found that the accelerated motion in the scan-
ning by the sine wave at the steep portion of the course caused
the black blur down through the center of the picture. The
steep slope of the wave represented the scanning at the center
of the image. Since the scanning was faster during this part of
the cycle, fewer electrons were released from the surface and
CLEARING THE IMAGE OF SMUDGE AND BLUR
the generated current was therefore weaker. This resulted in the
dark smudge across the center of the picture, which represented
a composite of all the steep parts of the many sine waves that
accomplished the complete scanning of the image.
This effect was anticipated by Farnsworth in his first patent
application. With his amazing ability to visualize the paths of
electrons and their effects, he had in the early theoretical con-
ception of his television scheme recognized that the ordinary
sine-wave scanning pulses would not be adequate for his pur-
pose. In this early document he stated that he would use a
straight-line, or saw-tooth, wave form for scanning purposes.
Such a wave form was much easier to describe in a patent ap-
plication than it was to produce by his generating panels. How-
ever, faced with the reality of a blur across the center of the
picture, the production of straight-line scanning, which would
give even values all the way across the field, offered the only
means of correcting the blur through the middle of the image.
Saw-tooth wave pattern
The saw-tooth form of wave, with a ratio of at least ten to
one between the length of the upsweep of the wave motion and
that of the downsweep, was necessary to eliminate the double
image. In other words, the ratio in time between the scanning
from right to left and the scanning from left to right was ten
to one. This effectively blanked out the ghost image due to the
The solution of the problem was first worked out mathe-
matically; then months and months of patient effort were de-
voted to the development of the saw-tooth wave form. This
1O8 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
method is now in universal use as a generating pulse to control
television scanning. Along with the initial conception of his
electronic television scheme, this achievement ranks among
Farnsworth's greatest contributions to television. By the genera-
tion of the saw-tooth wave form he had succeeded in clarifying
the television image and freeing it from blur and smudge.
The pursuit of this elusive wave form was one most fascinat-
ing to the observers of the progress Farnsworth was making in
his television image. The results obtained were easily discernible
from week to week. In the beginning the efforts seemed to be
hopeless, but gradually the smear down the center of the pic-
ture disappeared, the ghost image faded out, the picture field
cleared, and the image became sharper.
During the period of Phil's intensive work on this problem
he had two scanning chassis built. One illustrated the sine-wave
scanning and the other the saw-tooth wave he was striving to
perfect. The problem he was struggling with was clearly pointed
out to me on one of my visits to the laboratory in the early part
of the development
Stepping up to one of the panels Phil turned on the sine-
wave scanner. "See that ghost image there?" he asked.
It was unmistakable. There was a second image in the back-
ground whose brilliance in comparison with the primary pic-
ture was reminiscent of the relative light values of the primary
and secondary rainbows in the sky.
"If you'll look closely," Phil said, "you'll see that the scan-
ning lines have sort of a circular path. The ghost image is in
the return lines. We've got to get rid of it by straight-line scan-
ning and by cutting down the time of the return scanning so
that this ghost disappears."
Then he turned on the image on the panel generating the
CLEARING THE IMAGE OF SMUDGE AND BLUR lOO,
saw-tooth wave form. The picture was relatively clear, though
there was still a shadow of the ghost image.
"We are scanning now on about a seven-to-one basis/' Phil
explained. "We hope to get the time ratio of the trip across to
the trip back down to ten to one. Then I think the ghost will
be out entirely/'
The next problem to be tackled was the refinement of the
picture to enable the television image to compete favorably in
sharpness and clarity with photographic reproductions in maga-
zines and motion pictures. About this time Farnsworth had
added to his staff three or four qualified engineers, who were
of great value to him in carrying out the details of his research
program. To one of these was assigned the problem of finding
out what refinement would be required to make television
comparable to motion pictures.
Farnsworth hit upon the scheme of taking pictures of a
photograph through screens of varying mesh. Facing page 193
are the results of this test. It will be noted that the picture
taken through a 5o-line screen is very blurred indeed. This,
however, was somewhat better than could be accomplished by
the mechanical methods used by Baird and Jenkins, who were
then operating on 4<D-line detail pictures. The clarity increased
with the number of lines in the mesh of the screen through
which the picture was photographed. It will be observed that a
4co-line mesh gives a t reproduction somewhat comparable to
the original. With this chart before him, Farnsworth and his
staff set somewhere around 4oo-line detail as the goal for tele-
vision scanning. It was decided further that because of the 60
cycle current it would be advantageous to scan the pictures at
the rate of thirty frames per second instead of the twenty-four
used in the projection of motion pictures.
HO THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Newspaper reproduction of pictures is achieved by the use
of a screen of fine mesh in the etching process. In television it
is well to visualize the scanned image in the same way. To scan
a picture of 4OO-line detail the picture must be broken up into
160,000 units a number which represents the square of 400.
If the pictures are to be scanned at the rate of thirty pictures
per second, we must multiply 160,000 by 30, which gives
4,800,000 units per second that must be recorded electrically,
transmitted through the ether, and restored at the receiver end
in their precise order to achieve the transmission of a satis-
factory television picture. To accomplish this without blurring
or distorting the image, the synchronization must be tuned to
four-millionths of a second. The speed involved is astronomi-
cal. This is why the Farnsworth conception of electrical tele-
vision, as against any mechanical method to produce the same
results, is so fundamental.
The controlling factor in increasing the clarity of the image
was the sensitivity of the photoelectric plate within the dissec-
tor tube, because it is obvious that the finer the units into which
the focused image is broken up for transmission, the smaller will
be the electrical emissions from the individual scanning areas.
For instance, the electrical emissions from 1/2,500 of an image,
the unit in scanning a jo-line picture, would be far stronger
than the emissions from 1/160,000, which would represent the
scanning units of a 4oo-line picture.
Tests proved that potassium hydride was inadequate as a
cathode surface. A beginning had been made with the use of
cesium oxide, and while it showed promise, Phil hoped to find
a surface that would be better. Russell Varian, who has since
achieved fame as the inventor of the Klystron tube, had just
joined the laboratory staff. Phil gave him the assignment of
CLEARING THE IMAGE OF SMUDGE AND BLUR 111
finding the most sensitive photoelectric surface. Tests were
made of every conceivable material for its photoelectric prop-
erties. It was a seemingly endless effort. After testing hundreds
of elements and compounds nothing more sensitive was found
than the cesium oxide.
Great skill was required on Gardner's part to get a uniformly
even coating of cesium oxide theoretically not much more
than one molecule thick over the emitting surface within the
dissector tube. Care had to be exercised that none of the com-
pound was scattered over the glass or other elements within the
cell. It was not an easy assignment for a novice handicapped
with the meager facilities of the Green Street laboratory, but
study and experiment brought some improvement. Purity of
the elements involved was a prime consideration.
Scientific laboratories have developed a means of determin-
ing the sensitivity of various photoelectric compounds by meas-
uring the intake of light and the output of electrical current
as so many microamperes per lumen, the microampere being
one millionth of an ampere, and the lumen being the light of
one candle at one foot distance. Farnsworth was successful in
securing dissector tubes with surfaces giving around twenty
microamperes per lumen in his best products. This was adequate
for the time being, though the maximum sensitivity appeared
in the infrared or heat portion of the spectrum. The tubes were
not so sensitive to the usable cold lights.
The percentage of waste in tubes was very high because of
the necessity of maximum sensitivity. Farnsworth and his staff
were discouraged and baffled by their inability to standardize
the production of dissector tubes. However, as the years rolled
on and other laboratories reported the results of their experi-
ments in this direction, it became apparent that the percentage
112 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
of good tubes produced in the Farnsworth laboratories was
somewhat higher than that in some other more prominent
American and foreign laboratories. 1
The pursuit of sensitivity in the dissector tube led Farns-
worth into many avenues of research, because he recognized
it was the bottleneck of television. Among other things, he
sought ways and means of increasing the electrical signal gen-
erated within the dissector tube before it left the envelope. The
research in this followed two major lines: one was that of storing
up the electrons on the individual points of the cathode surface
during the thirtieth of a second consumed in scanning each
frame; the other was the use of secondary emission properties
of metals to build the signal before it left the tube. These two
methods will be discussed in detail in a later chapter.
1 The Farnsworth Television & Radio Corporation laboratory has installed an
air-conditioned room in which to build these tubes; this has greatly reduced the
First Demonstration to Backers
WORK AT THE Farnsworth laboratories had proceeded quietly.
No effort had been made to publicize what was going on. In
fact, it seemed to Farnsworth and his backers that it was best
to say little about what was being attempted until some con-
crete results were obtained. Work went on in this manner until
Farnsworth was able to transmit a motion picture with detail
of somewhere between 100 and 150 lines at a frequency of 30
pictures per second. This gave a creditable television demonstra-
tion if great care was taken in the selection of the subject mat-
Pictures with too great density of color were difficult to trans-
mit. Where there was too sharp contrast the results were not
satisfactory. In the latter case the apparatus had a tendency to
"overload." This is an engineering term to indicate that too
great variations of light and shade are not easily handled. How-
ever, the results obtained with carefully selected film were
Phil had concentrated so intensely on his work that it was
quite a shock to him to realize that two years had passed and
more than double the money agreed to in the beginning had
114 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
been spent. He was grateful for the consideration of the backers,
but felt uneasy because he had so greatly underestimated the
time and money required.
Late in the summer of 1928 Phil talked the matter over with
me, and it was determined that his picture was good enough
for formal showing to the sponsors. Mr. McCargar was away
on vacation, so Phil called Mr. Bishop and invited him and his
associates to come to the laboratory.
Phil put on an excellent demonstration. It was the first tele-
vision picture they had seen, and all seemed pleased and happy
that their flier had turned out so well. Mr. Bishop, speaking
for the backers, expressed their pleasure. He went on to say that
up to this time about $60,000 had been spent on the laboratory
work, that it was far in excess of the commitments made origi-
nally, but that he felt the results obtained justified the outlay.
At the completion of the demonstration we all gathered in the
office, where Mr. Bishop became quite formal and said, "Phil,
I congratulate you on the success of your accomplishment.
You have done what you set out to do and we feel that thus far
you have fulfilled your contract. Speaking for the trustees, we
feel that we, too, have lived up to our contract. Now it is a
question of what shall be done with this development. It is my
opinion that it will take a pile of money as high as Telegraph
Hill to carry this thing on to a successful conclusion, and I feel
that we should take immediate steps to place it with one of the
large electrical companies where there will be adequate facilities
for its development. I think it is time to incorporate this under-
taking and then take steps to dispose of it in some way or
While Farnsworth did not answer Mr. Bishop at the time, I
knew that he was chagrined at the prospect of selling, and I
said that I thought it would be well to postpone any action until
FIRST DEMONSTRATION TO BACKERS 11 5
Mr. McCargar's return. Phil felt as I did, that the results were
yet far from perfect and that it would be difficult to interest any
of the large electrical companies at this juncture. However,
things went along as before for several months, even after Mr.
About this time some articles appeared in technical journals
about the Farnsworth television developments, and these were
followed by varied comments on the part of engineers and
scientists. The general reaction was one of discouragement.
One article in particular pointed out at some length the insuper-
able difficulties in the path of the successful accomplishment of
the transmission of pictures by purely electronic means. The
Jenkins laboratories and Baird of England were receiving con-
siderable publicity on their scanning-disk development. The
work of Dr. Ives of the Bell Laboratories, and Dr. Alexander-
son's demonstration at Schenectady, New York, had also
created widespread interest. All stressed the use of the mechani-
cal scanning disk. Electrical engineers and scientists generally
were not yet ready to accept Farnsworth's revolutionary theory.
Among the technical help at the Green Street laboratory
was Harry Lubcke, a recent graduate of the University of Cali-
fornia. He was an able engineer and a good mathematician.
Lubcke had an unusually keen publicity sense for one in scien-
tific pursuits and got Farnsworth's permission to write some
articles for the technical journals. These further publicized the
work going on at the Farnsworth laboratories.
With the increase in the staff, the laboratory expenditures
mounted accordingly, and the backers were beginning to feel
concerned as to where it was all leading. Finally it was deter-
mined to go ahead with the incorporation of the venture.
On March 27, 1929, the venture was incorporated as Tele-
vision Laboratories, Inc., under the laws of the state of Cali-
Il6 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
forma, with an authorized capitalization of 20,000 shares. Ten
thousand shares were issued to the trustees and the original
partnership of Everson, Farnsworth and Gorrell.
This was the era of wonderful nonsense in the financial
world, and there were many promotional proposals made to
Mr. Farnsworth and his associates in an endeavor to bring the
public into this speculative venture. Television was a magic
word, and to any promotionally minded person the viewing of a
television picture fired his imagination with visions of infinite
profits. It is to the great credit of Mr. McCargar, in particular,
and the others associated in the company, that at no time were
they influenced by such proposals. We all felt that the under-
taking was highly speculative. We felt we should pocket the
loss if we failed, and be in a position to garner the profits if the
venture should be successful.
By this time some of the local newspapers had inquired into
what was going on at the Green Street laboratories, and several
stories were published regarding the television developments.
This increased the ever widening interest in the glamorous ven-
ture among San Francisco people. The coupling of conservative
Mr. Fagan's name and his associates with the genius of the
young Utah inventor was an intriguing story.
The expenditures of the laboratory were conservatively han-
dled, and the backers at all times felt they were getting full
value for the money being expended. They recognized that
there must of necessity be a great deal of money spent in the
futile efforts of experiments. The very nature of the venture pre-
supposed that many trials and failures would have to be chalked
up to arrive at success in an untried field. In his enthusiasm
Phil undoubtedly made many expensive experiments that could
have been avoided by a more judicial approach to the problem
in hand. He was young, and the generosity of the backers in
FIRST DEMONSTRATION TO BACKERS
giving him a free hand did not tend to increase his appreciation
of the value of money.
It is difficult to give any conception of the period of tedious
development that followed Farnsworth's first successful demon-
stration to his backers. It was patient, day-in-and-day-out con-
struction, tearing down, testing and revising, month after
month with no appreciable daily improvement but with dis-
tinctly discernible advance over an extended period.
Television Broadcasting and Transmission
over Telephone Wires
AFTER THE successful accomplishment of picture transmission
by wire, the problem of the wave bands required for television
came to the fore as a major obstacle to be overcome. The elec-
trical engineering profession as a whole was quietly skeptical of
television because of the breadth of wave band needed. It be-
came apparent that in order to transmit a picture of sufficient
detail and clarity to give entertainment value, the wide range of
variations involved would require space in the radio spectrum
comparable to that used by a hundred commercial radio sta-
tions for sound.
At this juncture in radio development there were no such
channels available for use in the new art. While it was recog-
nized that they might become available if the ultrashort waves
could be made usable, no tubes or circuits had yet been devised
to enable engineers to put them to practical use.
This matter was of major concern to Farnsworth. He recog-
nized it as something that must be overcome before television
could possibly be a commercial reality. If there were no channels
TELEVISION BROADCASTING OVER TELEPHONE WIRES
available it would be automatically barred from the air. Phil
determined to do something about it. For some time a mathe-
matical conception had been taking form in his mind. To work
it out he absented himself almost completely from the labo-
ratory for a period of three months, spending the time in his
study at home working with his wife over a scheme for narrow-
ing the wave band. His theory was that the wave-band require-
ments for television could be successfully narrowed and the
picture signal f unneled into a portion of the spectrum similar to
that required by sound broadcasting. This theory was based on
abstruse mathematical calculations.
One morning Farnsworth asked me to meet him at the labo-
ratory. When I arrived he showed me two sheets of engineering
drawing paper with curves plotting the mathematical base of
his wave-band scheme. Later I learned that these two simple
curves represented the solution of literally thousands of mathe-
matical equations which he and Pern had worked out together
in the three months' period at home.
Farnsworth threw the two sheets on the desk and said,
"George, there is your narrowed wave band." He asked me not
to tell any of the boys in the laboratory about it until he had
made a "breadboard" setup to demonstrate it.
He got one of the boys to help him prepare the equipment,
but did not disclose what he had in mind. Within two hours
he had it completed and hooked into the circuit between the
transmitter and the receiver. Then he called in all of the labo-
ratory staff and told them what he was attempting to do, and
the test was made over the wired lines. The results were exactly
as predicted. Lippincott was called in consultation and ap-
proved the work. Later the matter was submitted to some con-
sulting engineers for further checking; they also could find
nothing wrong with the mathematical calculations.
12O THE STORY OF TELEVISION
A short-wave engineer was put to work to prove it out over
the air. This proof was never achieved, though a great amount
of effort was expended on it over many tedious months of test-
ing and experiment. It was one of the big failures in Farns-
worth's development work, and it later became a source of
considerable embarrassment. While it has not yet been proved
by anyone to my knowledge that there is an error in the mathe-
matical calculations, the thing did not work, and it has never
been made to work. No one ever approached a problem more
earnestly or with more sincerity, or spent more intensive effort
to find a successful conclusion, than did Farnsworth. The
theory worked in a test demonstration over wires, but some-
where along the line Phil felt that there was a fundamental
fallacy which prevented his getting results in sending the signal
through the ether. It was a bitter disappointment to him, both
from the practical standpoint and from the standpoint that his
genius for mathematics had failed him.
Farnsworth never sought the solution of a problem exclu-
sively in one direction. He always had alternate schemes in
his mind if one should fail. He had a happy faculty of forgetting
failure and looking about for new ways to succeed. As one al-
ternative he had studied the possibility of its transmission over
telephone wires for the short distance between the substation
central and the home phone. He felt that the attenuation of
the signal over the ordinary wire would not be sufficiently great
to prevent its being sent from the central's location into homes
in the neighborhood.
To test this theory a room was leased on one of the upper
floors of the Hobart Building in San Francisco, about a mile
distant from the lab, which necessitated the signal's passing
through two telephone exchanges. Test receiving apparatus
was installed and the telephone connection made with 202
TELEVISION BROADCASTING OVER TELEPHONE WIRES 121
Green Street. Telephone Company engineers seemed amazed
that such an attempt should be made.
Several months were spent in working out the test, but the
Farnsworth laboratory did not have at its disposal the experi-
ence or the facilities to carry out such an ambitious experiment.
While the results were not satisfactory, a picture was actually
transmitted. At first it was complicated with a great deal of
distortion and "noise." Later the image cleared somewhat, but
the expense involved precluded carrying the work further. This
was the first time that an electronic television picture was sent
from one location to another through the ordinary commercial
Shortly after this a setup was made in the Merchants Ex-
change Building, also about a mile distant from 202 Green
Street, but in plain sight of the roof of the laboratory. A low-
power radio transmitter was installed with a directional an-
tenna, and a picture was sent through the ether from the roof
of the laboratory to the Merchants Exchange Building. To my
knowledge this was the first picture ever transmitted through
the air by electronic television.
Earle Ennis, a special writer for the San Francisco Chronicle,
became interested in the Farnsworth developments. Besides
writing his popular "Smoke Rings" as a daily feature, he had
long had an interest in radio as an amateur. He and his son had
quite an elaborate "ham" transmitter in the attic of his
Berkeley home. The Farnsworth developments fascinated him.
As a result of this he wrote a delightfully clear, popular article
about Phil and his television system. The account was featured
as a front-page story in the Chronicle. It created widespread
local interest in the laboratories and was the beginning of con-
siderable notice of Farnsworth's developments by the local and
122 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
The Ennis article made us aware for the first time of the
possible commercial repercussions of our developments on the
radio industry in general. A day or so after his story appeared
we were called on by a committee of the San Francisco Radio
Dealers Association, who indicated that publicity on television
had a very definite effect on sales of home radio sets. The com-
mittee also called on the newspapers. This was the beginning of
a long series of episodes where our efforts to promote public
interest in television seemed to run contrary to the sales pro-
motion campaigns of radio manufacturers and dealers.
It is not surprising that after Earle Ennis' article and other
news stones, the sponsors of the Farnsworth company were
overrun with various promoters trying to get a foothold in
what they deemed a fabulous new art with unlimited financial
possibilities. Some of the promoters brought what seemed to
be legitimate interest into the picture. Representatives of many
of the larger corporations of the country came to San Francisco
to see the results obtained at the Farnsworth laboratories.
One of the most interesting episodes resulting from the ef-
forts of volunteer promoters was the visit of Mary Pickford.
One of the volunteers had secured the permission of the Farns-
worth management to arrange for a demonstration for Miss
Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and his brother, and Joe Schenck,
the movie producer. The party arrived at 9: 30 on the Lark from
Los Angeles and went directly to the Mark Hopkins Hotel to
await a call from the laboratory.
The preceding day Farnsworth had shown the promoter an
excellent demonstration of television. However, Farnsworth,
as was always the case, was not fully satisfied with the picture.
He felt he had just made a discovery that would easily make a
vast improvement. Consequently in the afternoon he and his
staff set to work to make the necessary changes. The result was
TELEVISION BROADCASTING OVER TELEPHONE WIRES 123
that he put the whole system out of commission, and after
having several engineers work all night, there was no picture to
be shown the motion picture people when they arrived.
Phil and the boys worked feverishly through the day, with
the promoter frantically calling the laboratory every hour or
so in an effort to get a demonstration for the important group
from Hollywood who were cooling their heels at the hotel.
Finally at five o'clock in the afternoon the laboratory staff had
a picture of sorts, but nothing comparable to the results shown
the day before.
Miss Pickford and the others were brought down to the labo-
ratory for the showing. The loop of film of Miss Pickford comb-
ing her hair was used. The long-count episode of the Dempsey-
Tunney fight was also shown, but they were not able to demon-
strate transmission from life. To one who had never seen a
television picture before, any demonstration which showed a
picture was a revelation. However, it was a bitter disappoint-
ment to everyone, excepting Miss Pickford's party, that they
were shown such a miserable image.
Farnsworth was particularly chagrined and disappointed. He
had the awe and adoration of a picture star common to all
those of his age. To have failed to put his best foot forward
was a tough experience for him. It will be to the everlasting
credit of Miss Pickford, so far as he is concerned, that on the
train home she penned a note congratulating Farnsworth on
his results. But his failure still rankled. This story, like many
others, had a happy ending. Several years later, after the labo-
ratories had been moved to Philadelphia, Miss Pickford was
playing an engagement at a theater there. Farnsworth was able
to invite her to his new laboratories and show her a first-rate
studio demonstration of television transmission from life.
As FarnswortrTs developments progressed, work on median-
124 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
ical disk television had also made rapid strides. Baird of Lon-
don had received a great deal of publicity on the work he was
doing. The Baird Company had started an experimental broad-
cast station at the Crystal Palace in London and had sold some
moderate-priced mechanical scanning-disk receiver sets to the
British public. Dr. Alexanderson of the General Electric Labo-
ratories, Dr. Ives of Bell Laboratories, and Jenkins of Baltimore
had all received continuing notices in the public press. The
Bell Laboratories had set up a simple demonstration in New
York. Dr. Alexanderson had shown to the press the results of
his work, and Jenkins was endeavoring to promote his develop-
ments commercially. The Jenkins activities particularly tended
to bring television very much to the fore. A financing of major
proportions had taken place, and its attendant publicity had
raised the hopes of the general public regarding the possibility
that commercial television would soon be introduced. The
public became greatly intrigued by the new art and every sign of
progress was received with widening interest.
As a result the Federal Communications Commission, then
known as the Federal Radio Commission, took cognizance of
the experiments in television and scheduled an informal hearing
on the possible assignment of wave bands for its use. The hear-
ing was set for December 1930. Farnsworth and McCargar at-
This marked Phil's first important public appearance. He
made a very favorable impression as an authority on television.
In addition he highlighted his testimony by disclosing his ill-
fated plans for narrowing the wave band for television broad-
casting. Phil's advisers were aware of the hazards involved in
such a startling announcement and had taken the precaution
of having Farnsworth's mathematics checked and approved by
the Naval Research Laboratories of Anacosta, D.C., before
TELEVISION BROADCASTING OVER TELEPHONE WIRES 12 J
allowing him to make any public statement regarding his new
discovery. It was an unfortunate disclosure, because later, when
his findings were found to be inoperative, despite their check-
ing and approval by experienced outside engineers, it did Farns-
worth a great deal of harm among the radio engineers, some of
whom even today speak slightingly of Farnsworth because of
His youth and the startling nature of his inventions brought
Farnsworth into the public eye to an extent that was somewhat
embarrassing to him and his sponsors. However, while the
publicity was generally not advantageous, it did bring the ac-
complishments of the laboratory to the attention of the en-
gineers and executives of companies of importance in the elec-
trical and radio business.
One morning when I dropped in at the lab I found Farns-
worth in a most jubilant mood because he had just received
word that Dr. Vladimir Zworykin, of Westinghouse and
R.C.A., was shortly to visit his laboratories.
Farnsworth had a high regard for the scientific abilities of
Dr. Zworykin, who, through his research and writings, had
achieved considerable reputation at the Westinghouse labora-
tories. In his work there Zworykin had had some success in the
transmission of pictures from film by the use of an oscillating
mirror at the transmitter and the cathode-ray tube at the re-
ceiver. At this time the research work of R.C.A. was being con-
centrated at Camden, New Jersey, and Dr. Zworykin had been
transferred from the Westinghouse laboratories to the new
R.C.A. laboratories at Camden.
Farnsworth had knowledge of Zworykin's work and told me
that there was no engineer in the country he would rather have
view his results. The coming of the scientist was therefore
awaited with much interest. Phil felt that here at last would be
126 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
someone from the outside who understood the language he
spoke and who had the proper appreciation of what he had
Upon his arrival Dr. Zworykin was gracious in his praise of
Farnsworth's results and seemed tremendously impressed with
what he saw. He was shown in detail all that had been accom-
plished. Sitting at Farnsworth's desk on the first day after his
arrival, in the presence of Mr. McCargar, Mr. Lippincott, and
me, he paid Farnsworth high tribute by picking up the Farns-
worth dissector tube and saying, "This is a beautiful instru-
ment. I wish that I might have invented it." This, of course,
made Phil very happy. It was the type of recognition that he
felt he must have if his efforts were finally to succeed in a sub-
Zworykin was astonished at the success Gardner had had in
sealing an optically clear disk of pyrex glass into the end of
the dissector tube. He asked Farnsworth how they came to
find out that such a thing could be done. Farnsworth replied
that it was necessary to have a tube of that kind, so they went
ahead and made it. Dr. Zworykin said he had consulted with the
best scientific glass blowers in the laboratories of both Westing-
house and R.C.A. and they assured him repeatedly that a seal
of that nature could not be made. He went on to say that he
would be greatly in Farnsworth's debt if he would ask Gardner
to let him see how he accomplished the sealing process. This
was later arranged, and Dr. Zworykin saw Cliff Gardner make
the dissector tube.
Dr. Zworykin spent several days at the laboratory. He and
Phil were constantly together checking and discussing the many
phases of the television development. The visit gave Phil new
confidence and enthusiasm for his work.
In the history of television the names of Zworykin and Farns-
TELEVISION BROADCASTING OVER TELEPHONE WIRES 12 J
worth lead all the rest. During the time that Farnsworth was
perfecting the first model of his electrical system, Dr. Zworykin
was working on his oscillating mirror system in the Westing-
house laboratories and later at the R.C.A. laboratories.
Previous to this time Zworykin sold a conception of elec-
tronic television to the Westinghouse Company. This inven-
tion was the forerunner of the system that was later developed
by Dr. Zworykin at the R.C.A. laboratories. The heart of this
system was the Zworykin iconoscope, which scanned the image
by electronic means, though in a somewhat different way from
that used in Farnsworth's dissector tube.
The Farnsworth disclosures helped convince Zworykin of the
practicability of the purely electronic method of television
transmission and reception and led to his devoting his entire
future effort to perfecting his own invention centering around
Farnsworth Moves to Philadelphia
WHEN DR. ZWORYKIN was invited to visit our laboratories,
Farnsworth and all of us recognized that we were courting
competition of the keenest sort. Farnsworth knew enough
through published reports and through interferences he had
encountered in the Patent Office to appreciate that a great risk
was being taken by making complete disclosures to the emi-
nent scientist. It was not fear that Farnsworth's ideas would be
stolen, but that it would spur Dr. Zworykin on to intensive
work that would be highly competitive. Yet, we reasoned, if
television was ever to become a commercial reality, it was felt
that R.C.A., one of the leaders of the radio industry, must have
a hand in it.
On the whole, the decision to show Dr. Zworykin everything
was a wise one. Though it did result in more active work on the
part of the Camden laboratories, it also brought a powerful ally
into the field of television research and development.
While the visits of Zworykin and others to the laboratories
were very exciting for the young inventor, he did not lose sight
of the importance of intensive effort in perfecting his invention.
He recognized that he was still a long way from commercial
FARNSWORTH MOVES TO PHILADELPHIA 12Q
television. The question of the sensitivity of the dissector tube
was the major problem always dogging his research activities.
For the successful transmission of pictures, infinitely small
electrical units must be detected and stepped up. He was con-
stantly seeking new avenues of experiment to bring about im-
provement in sensitivity and in amplification.
Ever since Lee De Forest invented the screen grid tube, elec-
trical engineers have been plagued by the phenomenon they
call ' 'secondary emission." It was learned that within a vacuum
tube every metal has in suspension on its surface free electrons
that are released when they are bombarded by other electrons
moving at high speed. In the operation of amplifier tubes ran-
dom electrons often released "secondaries" that were sources
of "noise" and other annoying reactions within the radio cir-
In canvassing the possibilities for greater and more efficient
amplification, Phil hit upon the idea that this disturbing phe-
nomenon might be put to practical use. Time and again he
wrestled with the idea, only to set it aside and return to it later.
If it could be harnessed, he believed, almost unbelievable ampli-
fication could be attained. The catch was to devise a harness
that would curb and put the fractious electrons to work. He
believed that if he could establish suitable circuits he could,
by bombarding properly charged plates with free electrons, set
up a multiplication of electrical energy that would proceed by
It was known that if a volley of free electrons was fired at a
photo-emissive surface, each bombarding electron would re-
lease from two to six secondary electrons, depending on the
metal used, thus strengthening the flow of electrons by that
amount of multiplication. Farnsworth conceived that if he
could oppose two plates within a vacuum tube, and bat elec-
130 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
irons back and forth from one surface to the other under proper
control, he could get almost infinite multiplication in a split
fraction of a second. In other words, each original electron,
upon hitting the first surface, would have a "litter of from two
to seven puppies/' These would be released at high speed and
proceed to the opposite plate with the parent electron and each
one of them, upon impact, would free another litter of electron
puppies. Since the speed of electrons is equal to the speed of
light, it was calculated theoretically that once this process was
set in motion, within a second's duration the multiplication of
power would produce as much electrical current as is now avail-
able in all of the electrical plants in the world. Naturally no
such power could be generated within a small vacuum tube
without destroying everything, including the tube itself; how-
ever, under proper control Phil believed it could be used as a
most efficient means of radio amplification and have far-
reaching effects in the entire realm of electronics.
The more Phil explored the possibilities of this conception,
the greater became his enthusiasm for it as a solution to his
amplifier problems. The method of stepping up the current
that it offered seemed so straightforward and right that he deter-
mined to tackle it as a major research problem. To accomplish
his ends two lines of attack seemed necessary: first, to determine
what metal was most efficient for the purpose, and second, to
design a tube that would harness the electrons for practical
Following the first line of attack, he knew that there were
great variations in the secondary-emission properties of metals.
Some metals released only one or two secondaries. Others re-
leased more. To achieve maximum results he wanted to find
the surface that would release the largest number of electrons.
Russell Varian, a well-equipped electrochemist, was set to
FARNSWORTH MOVES TO PHILADELPHIA 131
work to carry out original research on the subject. The problem
was somewhat similar to the one encountered in making the
photoelectric surfaces for the dissector tube. Over a period of
two years Varian, a thorough and resourceful engineer, tried
everything from common table salt to platinum. In the course
of his research he turned up many helpful suggestions quite
outside his direct line of experiment. It was finally determined
that cesium oxide on a coating of silver was the most effective
surface for this purpose, as well as in the dissector tube.
While Varian was working on the surfaces, Phil was devoting
much time to a design for a tube that would use the "second-
aries" to advantage in amplification. It was a baffling and tricky
problem. Farnsworth finally disclosed to Lippincott a strange-
looking device which later became known as the "pistol tube/'
The name was derived from the fact that the tube was shaped
somewhat like the ordinary pistol. It was the first successful
effort Phil had made in his endeavors to control and put into
service the electrons produced by the secondary-emission phe-
As was often the case in his research work, Phil abandoned
the project temporarily and turned to other things. He was a
great believer in letting ideas of this kind ripen for a while,
rather than artificially forcing the issue. As we shall see later,
the conception was not given up, but was simply held in abey-
ance to await the gestation of new thoughts regarding it.
Although the pistol tube did not help Farnsworth in the
solution of his amplifier problems at this time, it was the fore-
runner of later developments which became known as the
electron multiplier principle used in the creation of the Farns-
worth multipactor tubes.
Somewhere in his early reading on scientific subjects, Farns-
worth had been greatly impressed by the fact that De Forest
132 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
had won his most important patent suit by the introduction of
a laboratory notebook showing the conception date of the idea
in controversy. This made Phil extremely conscious of the value
of full and accurate laboratory notes and caused him to set up
an efficient laboratory notebook system for himself and his
associates. During the first three or four years of his work the
more important records on his inventions were transcribed from
the original books to bound leather-covered volumes. Most of
the early notes and sketches are in ink in Phil's nervously pre-
cise handwriting. These volumes, and twenty or thirty volumes
of original laboratory notes, constitute the background for the
Farnsworth patent structure.
In addition to having a proper respect for well-kept labora-
tory notes, Farnsworth had an unusual flair for sensing valuable
patentable material. As a result, very early in his career he and
his patent attorney had laid a broad foundation for a compre-
hensive patent structure covering the field of television, and in
addition, much pioneering in the field of general radio and
The months following the demonstration to the financial
backers were anxious ones for Farnsworth. His interest was
divided between the feverish activities of improving the pic-
ture and the uncertainty as to what the sponsors would do
with their interest. Phil did not want to sell out control lock,
stock, and barrel. He felt that it was premature. He was there-
fore greatly encouraged when in the spring of 1931 Mr. McCar-
gar and I succeeded in enlisting the interest of the Philco Com-
pany in the Farnsworth television developments.
Walter Holland, vice-president in charge of engineering for
Philco, came to San Francisco to inquire into the Farnsworth
developments after he had received a favorable report from
Larry Gubb, the company's sales manager. Mr. Holland was
FARNSWORTH MOVES TO PHILADELPHIA 133
so impressed that he remained in San Francisco several days
to work out with us the first draft of a Farnsworth licensing
arrangement to be presented to the Philco board of directors.
Following this, McCargar and Farnsworth went to Philadelphia
to complete the arrangements.
In June of 1931 the contract was formally entered into with
the Philco Company for the licensing of television receiver
sets. It was the first substantial recognition by a major radio or
electrical company of the Farnsworth system. Naturally Farns-
worth was elated by the tie-up with a company which at the
time was the largest manufacturer of radios in the country.
As part of the licensing arrangement it was agreed that Farns-
worth and his staff were to move the laboratory to Philadelphia
in quarters provided by the Philco Company at the Ontario
and C Street plant. It was decided that Phil's entire staff, with
the exception of the two engineers, would go with him. As a
measure of precaution, Mr. McCargar and I determined that
the Green Street laboratories should be continued with two
or three picked engineers to carry on development work sup-
plementing the operations at the Philco plant. However, a
major portion of the laboratory equipment was moved to Phila-
When the time for departure arrived there was great com-
motion at the laboratory. The packing of the tubes and equip-
ment needed to be done with great care. No one realized the
bulk of it all until it was packed in boxes and ready for loading
The move to Philadelphia made an equally great change for
Phil's family, consisting of his wife and their two little boys.
Phil and Pern had become much attached to their California
home, and it was therefore with much reluctance that they
moved out of it for an unknown future in the East.
134 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Upon arrival at the Philco plant Phil found that a penthouse
laboratory had been provided on the roof of the manufacturing
building. To a group used to the cool San Francisco summers,
the change to the stifling July heat of Philadelphia, accentuated
by the radiation from a wide expanse of glaring sun on the roof
around the penthouse, was quite a hardship. The quarters were
much smaller than the Green Street laboratories, and the ad-
dition of several men made them somewhat cramped.
At the Philco plant Phil made his first acquaintance with a
large manufacturing operation. He was required to fit his budg-
eting and laboratory requisitions into the routine of factory
Little was heard from Phil regarding the progress being made.
Again his complete deficiency as a correspondent became evi-
dent. His concentration on his work made it impossible to
recognize the necessity of keeping his associates informed. Mr.
McCargar and I bore with this failing with good grace, feeling
certain that no news was good news and that if Phil got into
serious difficulties we would hear from him.
At the end of the first year's operations the Philco executives
asked Mr. McCargar and me to come to Philadelphia. The
visit was most interesting and pleasant. We found Phil's work
surrounded with the greatest secrecy. So strict were the safe-
guards that Mr. McCargar was prompted to remark that he
doubted if the Philco executives talked even to themselves. No
one except Mr. Holland, the vice-president in charge of engi-
neering, Mr. Grimditch, under whose department the labora-
tory functioned, and Mr. Skinner, the president, were allowed to
visit Phil's sanctum. This complete isolation had no doubt con-
tributed to Phil's reticence in writing to us in San Francisco.
I am inclined to think that the policy of secrecy was designed
more to prevent annoyance and interruption by the curious
FARNSWORTH MOVES TO PHILADELPHIA 4 135
than to prevent competing interests from learning what was
At the Philco plant Mr. Holland and Mr. Skinner had taken
an understanding attitude toward the uncertainty and unpre-
dictability of the research program, and Phil had found the
atmosphere most congenial. Here for the first time he met face
to face the practical commercial problems involved in the in-
troduction of the new art of television. It was determined that
experiments should be made with actual broadcasting over the
air. This made it necessary to apply to the Federal Communica-
tions Commission for an experimental broadcast license. After
several months of delay, the license was granted to the Philco
Company. This added new aspects to Phil's problem and neces-
sitated broadening the field of research.
Here also Phil had his first chance to observe the work of a
rival inventor. Through their receiver set in the penthouse he
and his staff often picked up the Zworykin pictures being broad-
cast from the R.C.A. laboratories at Camden. At first they made
Phil uneasy and nervous, but later he got in his stride and took
advantage of Zworykin's broadcast to study it for checking and
evaluating his own developments. When Mr. McCargar and I
arrived in Philadelphia, the reception of the R.C.A. pictures
was among the first things Phil discussed with us. He praised
the Zworykin results, and they seemed to act as a stimulant to
his own work.
During the second year at the Philco plant it became ap-
parent that Farnsworth's aim in establishing a broad patent
structure through advance research was not identical with the
production program of Philco. So at the end of the second year
the Philco Company established its own laboratories and, after
careful survey of the situation by Mr. McCargar, Farnsworth,
and me, it was determined to establish our own laboratory in
136 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
the Philadelphia area. It seemed advantageous to have our
main operating base close to the center of the radio industry.
This was in the summer of 1934, in the midst of the depres-
sion years. Phil agreed to a budget of $1,500 a month as a start,
since that seemed to be all we could afford in addition to the
rapidly mounting costs of maintaining the necessary patent
Quarters were leased in a quiet section of Chestnut Hill, and
Phil and his staff settled down to work again. Immediately ex-
penses began to mount, and almost before we were aware of it
the monthly budget of the Philadelphia plant was running
around the $5,000 mark. In spite of all the efforts of Mr. Mc-
Cargar and me it seemed impossible to cut down the opera-
tions. There seemed no other course than to meet the expand-
ing costs by broadening the interest in the company. With the
consent of the Corporation Commission, small blocks of stock
were sold privately from time to time to meet this increased
cost of operation.
Multipactor Tubes Demonstrated
AT THE Philco plant Farnsworth again attacked the problem
of harnessing the secondary-emission phenomenon for use in
his amplifiers. After his initial attempts in the San Francisco
laboratory, which resulted in the pistol tube, he allowed this
idea to remain dormant over a period of a couple of years.
The urgent need of more efficient amplifiers drove him to
another attempt at amplification by the use of the electron
multiplier idea. He was convinced that the principle would
work if he could design the right tube structure. After much
experimentation and mathematical calculation he constructed
a cylindrical tube sealed at each end with two disks of metal
coated with cesium opposing each other at equal distances
from the ends. He placed this tube in a controlled magnetic
field and turned on the current.
The thing worked! Farnsworth was truly astonished at the
Each of the cathode plates operated cold. When the tube
was in operation there was no sign that it was alive and function-
ing, yet it produced amazing amplification of power, apparently
coming from nowhere. In an enthusiastic report to Don Lippin-
138 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
cott on the success of the experimental tube, Farnsworth said
that it "was like getting something for nothing," that the cath-
odes, operating cold, seemed to pick up amplified power from
nowhere and deliver it for use. Because the tube achieved its
gain in power by the multiple impact of electrons, it was given
the name of the Farnsworth "multipactor."
Some weeks later Farnsworth sent one of these multipactors
to the San Francisco laboratory. It was here that Earle Ennis,
of the San Francisco Chronicle, saw the tube function. Perhaps
a clearer understanding of the device may be gleaned from Mr.
Ennis' newspaper description of the operation of this tube:
Development of an astonishing new radio-television tube that not
only transmits television impulses, but may be used as an amplifier,
detector, rectifier and multiplier tube as well, and may make obsolete
all known forms of radio tubes, was announced yesterday by the
Television Laboratories, Inc. The new tube, according to the labora-
tories, is the long-sought "cold cathode" tube which has been the
goal of laboratories the world over. It is a multiplier of current to an
astonishing degree and because of its five-fold function it is of world-
wide scientific interest.
To make plain the operation of this child Titan without going
into a technical description, it must be understood modern radio
tubes are all of the "hot cathode" type. The source of the electrons
is a filament When this filament is heated by passing a current
through it, the electrons are "boiled off' by high temperature. The
process is scientifically ineffective, as a comparatively large amount
of power is required to obtain a small number of electrons.
In "hot cathode" tubes filaments burn out, vacuums vary and be-
cause of mechanical difficulties tubes seldom are the same. In other
words, little or no standardization is possible.
The "cold cathode" tube, long sought as a solution to radio
troubles, is one that has no filament or grid, and so has nothing to
burn out. It has no instability due to changes in gas pressure and is,
in a sense, perpetual and indestructible. In a "cold cathode" tube
there are two plates between which the electrons pass. In the Farns-
MULTIP ACTOR TUBES DEMONSTRATED 139
worth tube they are "bounced" with terrific force on the two plates.
In this "bouncing" lies the secret of the tube's amazing new powers.
The "bouncing" process knocks additional electrons from the
cathodes, and these in turn are bounced against the electrodes,
which, in turn, have more electrons knocked out of them. As each
electron may be bounced 100 times to i/i,ooo,oooth of a second,
the tremendously rapid growth of electron progeny may easily be
In the Farnsworth tube a single electron will build up or
coo,ooo,ooo,ooo,coo,ooo electrons, all in the space of i/i,ooo,oooth
of a second. Each of the "children" is a perfect electron, with all the
properties and speed of the parent. This, it easily can be seen, pro-
duces a terrific multiplication or increase of current, so great in fact,
that if it is not drawn from the tube inside of the 1/1, 000,000 th of a
second, the tube electrodes melt.
The multipactor tube was hailed by scientists and engineers
as a major development in electronics. The first public demon-
stration of the tube was given in San Francisco at the plant of
Heintz & Kaufman, with a power multipactor which Phil had
sent out to Mr. McCargar and me for the purpose. Ralph
Heintz placed it in the transmitter circuit of the Globe Wire-
less station. Members of the Signal Corps of the Army, mem-
bers of the faculties of Stanford University and the University
of California, and other scientists around the Bay region, were
invited to witness the showing. When all were gathered, the
transmitter was turned on and the tube set into operation.
There were no visible signs of anything going on within the
tube, or without, yet when Ralph Heintz took an electric light
bulb on the end of a stick and placed it within the field of the
tube's power, the radiating power lighted the incandescent
globe, proving that the multipactor was operating and giving
out the power expected of it.
I was standing with Mr. McCargar and Dr. Leonard Fuller,
THE STORY OF TELEVISION
of the University of California, when Heintz placed the light
globe in the field of the multipactor tube. When it lighted up,
Mr. McCargar, not being sure of what was expected, turned to
Dr. Fuller and asked, "Does it work?" Dr. Fuller, who is more
reticent than the average cautious scientist, committed himself
to the extent of, "It seems to."
Not until long after this test did I learn through one of the
young engineers of Heintz & Kaufman's plant that the demon-
stration was made without preliminary testings. Ralph Heintz
had in his make-up something of the inventor's casualness as to
details. While arrangements had been made several days pre-
vious for the showing, he did not assign anyone to set it up
until the afternoon before the evening demonstration. Since a
special antenna had to be constructed, the whole setup was
not complete until after the crowd had gathered. So when
Ralph turned on the power it was actually the first test that had
Through the circuits set up a message was sent to Farnsworth
at Philadelphia, and messages from the San Francisco station
were received at different points around the Pacific. Sir Hubert
Wilkins picked up the broadcast somewhere in Australian
The new development added substantially to the sensitivity
of the dissector tube. Farnsworth and his associates designed a
minute multipactor no greater in diameter than a lead pencil
for use in the anode finger of the television pickup tube. By this
device they were able to increase the strength of the current
flowing from the picture scanning manyfold. This made the
dissector tube much more practical for picking up studio and
The multipactor tube was instantly recognized by Farns-
worth and his associates, and by the engineering profession in
MULTIP ACTOR TUBES DEMONSTRATED 141
general, as having broad applications to the whole field of radio.
There seemed to be so many fields in which it would be im-
mediately applicable that much emphasis was placed on it as a
major line of research. A wide variety of experimental tubes
were developed and tested. One tube was made to operate as a
complete radio receiver set. Attached to an auditorium loud-
speaker it brought in the local Philadelphia stations with blast-
ing intensity. This was probably the first time in the history of
radio that a one-tube radio receiving set had effectively brought
in a program from the air. Because there was only one tube for
amplification, there was a minimum of distortion in the re-
ception, which was astonishing in its clarity and fidelity of re-
production. For the benefit of Mr. McCargar and me this one-
tube radio set was duplicated in the San Francisco laboratories
in a demonstration set up by Bart Molinari, the brilliant radio
technician in charge of the San Francisco operations.
In Philadelphia a sound unit using a multipactor was built
for use in a motion-picture projection machine. This sound
pickup fed directly into the loud-speaker without intermediate
amplifiers and gave excellent fidelity in the reproduction of
sound from the film. This was but one more of the possibilities
that lay ahead in the adaption of the multipactor principles in
the field of electronics.
The tubes had one drawback: they seemed to require too
much of the surfaces in operation, so that they showed a tend-
ency to fatigue and deterioration when subjected to life tests.
Here again the cathode surfaces were a major problem, and
much research was done in an effort to rid the tube of "bugs"
before it could be used widely for commercial purposes.
Since then other laboratories in the United States and abroad
have done intensive work on the multipactor principle, and it
is being gradually adapted to commercial and scientific fields.
Television Show at Franklin Institute
WITH THE establishment of independent laboratories in Phila-
delphia, Farnsworth and his staff turned their attention to
building up a practical demonstration unit for television. De-
signs were made for a portable transmitter and receiver so that
it might be used outside the laboratory. In the summer of 1935
this was completed for demonstration purposes. While both
the camera and receiving units operated well enough, they
definitely had the appearance of homemade affairs. However,
the compactness and mobility of the transmitting units were
quite an achievement at the time.
Since his arrival in Philadelphia, Phil had made acquaint-
ance with men in scientific pursuits, and his accomplishments
in television were gaining recognition. As a result, the manage-
ment of the Franklin Institute, after a visit to the laboratories,
invited Farnsworth and his staff to make a public showing of
television at the Institute for a period of ten days. The invita-
tion was accepted. It was the first time that electronic television
had ever been shown for the general public to see.
None of our staff had any knowledge of programs or public
exhibitions. They had had a singer or dancer appear before the
TELEVISION SHOW AT FRANKLIN INSTITUTE 143
camera at the laboratory from time to time, and there had been
one or two demonstrations to the press, but aside from that
their experience was nil. They therefore had to make up the
program as they went along.
An improvised studio was set up with the television camera
unit on the roof of the Institute. Wire leads were brought into
a small lecture-room auditorium with banked seats. The room
accommodated about two hundred people. Because of the
seating arrangements, all had a good view of the television
The receiving set built by Farnsworth for demonstration
purposes was an astonishingly large unit. The received image
was approximately 12x13 inches. To produce this image a
cathode-ray tube fully as large as a ten-gallon water jug had to
The opening of the show was heralded with considerable
newspaper publicity. The mayor of the city and representatives
of the Institute gave short televised talks. The demonstration
was a success from the start. The programs, of fifteen minutes'
duration, were carried on from ten o'clock in the morning until
closing time in the afternoon. The entertainment consisted
largely of such vaudeville talent as could be found. A ventrilo-
quist was one of the most successful acts. Stoeffen and Shields,
the tennis stars, gave interesting demonstrations of tennis tech-
nique. Had there been a tennis court on the Institute roof, a
televised tennis game would have been well handled by the
camera. When there was nothing else to show, the camera was
pointed at the traffic in the street below and the statue of Wil-
liam Penn on top of the City Hall several blocks distant.
It was during the testing out of the equipment for the Frank-
lin Institute demonstration that, quite by chance, the moon
was televised. The engineers had worked late on a midsummer
144 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
moonlit night. As they were getting ready to leave, one of the
boys, remembering the special sensitivity of the dissector tube
to the infrared portion of the spectrum, said, "Let's try to get
a shot of the moon." It was tried, and a picture of the moon
came through beautifully. Next day Phil told a New York news-
paper correspondent about it. The reporter made note of it and
a press dispatch to a San Francisco newspaper read as follows:
First recorded use of television in astronomy was announced
yesterday in Philadelphia by Philo T. Farnsworth, young San Fran-
And it was the man in the moon that posed for his first radio snap-
Reproduction of the moon's likeness is just another sensational
achievement by the young inventor who has been working on his
television apparatus since the age of 15.
The picture of the moon was taken, according to Associated Press
dispatches, as the ultimate test of the supersensitivity of Farns-
worth's television invention.
And a "return performance" open to the public is promised by
Farnsworth for the benefit of all doubters. This "show" will take
place on the "first clear night."
To say that the Franklin Institute demonstrations were
nerve-racking for the Farnsworth staff would be putting it
mildly. To add to the anxiety attendant upon the demonstra-
tion and program material, it was the first time that the labo-
ratories had used the extra-large oscillite tube in the receiving
set. Because the tube was so large they were not sure that it
might not collapse under the stress of the rather high vacuum
with which it was operating. As a measure of prudence to insure
continuity of operations there had been brought to the Insti-
tute a couple of spare large tubes. None broke while in opera-
tion, but the staff found to their astonishment that one of the
TELEVISION SHOW AT FRANKLIN INSTITUTE
spares had burst in its box during the night without injury to
anyone or anything. This was the first and last time that an
oscillite tube collapsed. Farnsworth and the rest gave fervent
thanks that this breakage had occurred in a tube not in opera-
tion, and in the middle of the night when no one was around
Farnsworth Visits England and Germany
THROUGH THE activity of the Baird Company, far-reaching de-
velopments in television were under way in London. Over a long
period of time this company had been broadcasting television
by the mechanical scanning-disk method from the Crystal
Palace. Also there had been some sales of scanning-disk re-
ceiving sets to the public. In the meantime the Marconi Elec-
trical & Musical Industries had been doing extensive work in
electronic television developments stemming from the work of
Zworykin and his associates of the Camden laboratories of
R.C.A. Considerable criticism of the sale of scanning-disk re-
ceiving sets to the London public had developed, and the mat-
ter received the attention of the British Parliament. As a result
a committee was appointed by Parliament to study television
developments and to make recommendations as to what should
be done with this new art by the government-owned British
As the committee's exhaustive study of television progressed
it became apparent that the electronic method of transmission
and reception would be approved by the committee and recom-
mended for adoption by the British Broadcasting Company.
FARNSWORTH VISITS ENGLAND AND GERMANY 147
Since the Baird Company had built all its developments around
the mechanical scanning-disk methods of Dr. Baird, they found
themselves in a difficult situation.
Some time previously a young Englishman had called on me
in San Francisco and announced his desire and determination
to work in the Farnsworth laboratories. Upon finding that Mr.
Farnsworth was in Philadelphia, he flew east and made such a
nuisance of himself that Phil finally put him to work. Later he
went to London and joined the engineering staff of the Baird
Company at about the time that Parliament's television com-
mittee was making its study. His enthusiasm for Farnsworth's
work resulted in the Baird Company cabling Phil, urging him
to come to London at once, and to bring his demonstration unit
as a preliminary step in negotiating a licensing agreement. We
were not inclined to act without having some definite plan
worked out beforehand. As a result a Baird representative came
over and arrangements were made for Farnsworth and members
of his staff to take the demonstration equipment to London in
the fall of 1934.
Naturally Phil was greatly exhilarated over this step toward
international recognition. There was great hustle and bustle
to get everything safely crated for the trip.
Upon arrival Phil became the center of attention of the
Baird engineers and their associates. Haste was necessary to
prepare for the showing to the parliamentary committee. The
camera equipment was installed at the Baird Laboratories in
the Crystal Palace in London. A receiving set was placed in an
inn at a distance of twenty-five miles for the demonstration to
the committee. At the appointed hour the committee arrived
and a satisfactory showing was made.
Spark plugs of automobiles have long been recognized as a
possible source of interference in television reception. The
148 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
committee, being aware of this, instructed their chauffeurs to
drive slowly past the inn during the demonstration. Fortunately
the receiving set had been properly shielded against the short-
wave emanations of the spark plugs, and they gave no trouble.
Farnsworth's demonstration was an important factor in the
committee's findings, which resulted in a recommendation to
Parliament that an appropriation be made for the British Broad-
casting Company to establish television service for the London
area. The Baird Company and the Marconi E.M.I, were named
as the two suppliers for television equipment by the British
The action of Parliament put London at the forefront in
television news and developments. As part of their program of
publicity the Baird Company did considerable experimental
broadcasting of programs. One of these was a fashion show
which, among other things, showed the Duchess of Kent pur-
chasing a hat at one of the London stores.
The Baird Company enjoyed a close working arrangement
with the Fernseh A.G. of Berlin, a company owned jointly by
the German Bosch Company and the Zeiss-Ikon Company. It
was headed by Dr. Paul Goerz, who, though not a Nazi, had
been appointed as co-ordinator for radio and television for the
German Reich. At the suggestion of the Baird Company a
representative of Fernseh visited the Farnsworth group in Lon-
don. Later Phil and his associates went to Berlin. In due course
a licensing arrangement was entered into with Fernseh similar
to the one that had been consummated with the Baird Com-
pany. This provided for the proper introduction of the Farns-
worth principles in England and on the continent of Europe.
This trip to Europe was the first of several that Farnsworth
took in the interests of television. The experience was a broad-
ening one and gave him the opportunity to meet the leading
FARNS WORTH VISITS ENGLAND AND GERMANY 149
exponents of television abroad. The work of Fernseh was par-
ticularly impressive. The engineers of this company were apply-
ing the skill for detailed refinement that is so characteristic of
German scientists and engineers. Fernseh's laboratories were
located in the plant of the Zeiss-Ikon Company and had the
advantage of the tradition for fine workmanship that has made
them noted throughout the world for optical and precision
The Baird Company connection proved most disappointing.
At about the time the company was ready to install its trans-
mitting equipment, based on the Farnsworth developments, in
the Alexandra Palace for tests by the British Broadcasting Com-
pany, a disastrous fire swept the entire Crystal Palace. All of
Baird's fine studio and transmitting equipment was destroyed
in the flames. Farnsworth was abroad at the time. Upon his re-
turn to Philadelphia he showed me, with a wry face, a distorted
piece of melted glass with some wire protruding from it. It was
all that was left of the dissector tube of the television camera
the Baird Company had expected to install for tests during the
week in which the fire occurred.
The Fernseh Company, up to the time of negotiating the
licensing arrangement with Farnsworth, had concentrated on
the scanning-disk method of television. To achieve greater re-
finement in picture transmission they used motion pictures
almost exclusively. One of the most interesting of their develop-
ments was a television truck for the transmission of sports and
news events. This truck was fitted out with complete equip
ment for taking sound motion pictures. Also it had facilities
for the immediate development of film by a rapid process which
produced a developed film for television transmission immedi-
ately from the scene of action. This intricate and expensive
expedient was resorted to because it was not possible to get
THE STORY OF TELEVISION
good outdoor television pickup with the scanning-disk cameras.
At the time this process enabled the Germans to transmit pic-
tures from the scene of action with surprising accuracy and fi-
delity. Electronic television cameras have since made this resort
to intermediate motion picture film unnecessary.
On his last visit to Germany, Farnsworth, because of his
international reputation as an inventor, was put under close
surveillance by the Nazi police in order to be sure he did not
see anything of German scientific developments that they did
not want him to. This vigilance became so irksome that Farns-
worth threatened to leave Germany if it continued. As a result
Dr. Goerz made arrangements with the Nazi Government to
discontinue the vigilance. Also it was arranged that Farnsworth
was to be shown all of the Fernseh television developments and
be privileged to take out of Germany the scientific data to
which he was entitled under the Farnsworth contract with the
Arrangements also were made for full and complete exchange
of scientific data and information of technical developments
between the two companies. That arrangement continued with-
out interruption until a state of war with Germany was de-
As time went on, representatives of both the Fernseh Com-
pany and the Baird Company made periodic visits to the Phila-
delphia laboratories. Dr. Goerz and Dr. Moeller usually came
for Fernseh, and Captain West and Mr. Lance for the Baird
Company. In turn Phil, or some of our engineers, paid return
visits. Phil enjoyed such trips and gained much from them.
The visits back and forth, the exchange of research and en-
gineering discoveries and technique, were naturally profitable.
Warm personal friendships grew up and flourished. It was an
ideal international relationship. This was destroyed by World
FARNSWORTH VISITS ENGLAND AND GERMANY
War II. Dr. Goerz probably served at the German front. Cap-
tain West had served in the radio intelligence service of the
British in World War I; he probably acted in some such capac-
ity in World War II.
FILING A patent on an invention is like planting a crop and
waiting for it to germinate and then nursing it through a haz-
ardous season of growth to the harvest.
Phil's first patent application was filed on January 7, 1927.
Following that there was a steady flow of new ideas to the
Patent Office for protection. In important cases there were
anxious months of waiting for the first reports on allowances
of claims. Then there were other long stretches of uneasiness
when interferences might develop through others claiming
prior conception of the same ideas. Phil was aware of these
hazards as he followed the progress of his principal invention
through the Patent Office.
The interferences not only endangered the very substance
of that for which he was striving, but presented serious finan-
cial problems that were difficult to meet. The first important
one developed when Radio Corporation made an effort to
bring the dissector tube under R.C.A. patent domination. This
suit struck at the heart of the Farnsworth system. To lose it
would have been disastrous. Lippincott and an associate han-
dled the case for us. Two substantial volumes of testimony
were taken. It was necessary to hunt up Tolman, who was fi-
nally found in a school in Salt Lake City. Expert technical
witnesses were called on both sides. The whole procedure called
for expensive trips for attorneys to New York, Salt Lake City,
Kansas City, Washington, and other places. Winning of the
interference was of vital importance to our whole venture;
consequently no expense could be spared.
Phil was subjected to days of grueling cross-examinations by
R.C.A. attorneys and technical experts. Dr. Zworykin of R.C.A.
was put through an equally severe ordeal by Lippincott and his
associates. After weeks of careful preparation elaborate briefs
were filed by the contenders. The whole proceedings took many
months, anxious months for Phil and his backers. Finally all
the testimony was in. It had cost the Farnsworth Company
about $30,000, at a time when the country was struggling
through a major depression. To find money for such litigation
fell on Mr. McCargar and me. It was a difficult and exhausting
ordeal. After several months the Patent Office Board of Ap-
peals awarded the claims to Farnsworth.
The next recourse was to the Civil Courts. By law R.C.A.
was permitted six months to appeal the case. This period was an
added time of anxious waiting. If appeal were taken it meant
the hazard of a final opinion by a layman judge passing on a
highly technical subject. It also meant a difficult and expensive
court fight which would have been a heavy additional drain
on our finances. We all gave vent to a sigh of relief and a cheer
of exultation when on the last day upon which appeal could be
taken Lippincott rushed into the laboratory with the news that
R.C.A. had abandoned the appeal and the patent was conceded
It was a red-letter day for Phil when the patent on the first
application was issued. Appreciating the importance of the
154 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
occasion to Phil, Lippincott took it to the laboratory and with
due ceremony presented it to the young inventor. This patent,
No. 1,773,980, issued August 26, 1930 (more than three and
a half years after application was filed), broadly covered Phil's
system of television transmission and reception.
This first issued patent was followed in due course by others
covering different phases of the development. Simultaneously
applications were being filed for patent protection on all major
inventions in all the important countries throughout the world.
A stream of foreign patents began flowing in.
As work progressed at the laboratory it became apparent that
there were certain key inventions covering important phases
of television for which there was no alternative method or de-
vice. Then there were patent applications embracing the best,
though not the only, way for accomplishing important func-
tions in the system. There were many of these.
Because Phil was pioneering an entirely new field the road
was clear for most of his inventions. An unusually high per-
centage of applications resulted in issued patents with most of
the original claims allowed. In a majority of the scores of cases
no formidable interferences developed.
However, in two cases of major importance, one covering the
"blacker than black" synchronizing pulse, and the other cover-
ing the "saw-tooth wave" scanning, a long and difficult struggle
ensued. These involved protracted ordeals of testimony-taking
and cross-examination on technical matters for Phil, but they
were so important to his patent structure that it was necessary
to use every means possible to establish his claims. The op-
position was equally persistent. The proceedings dragged over
many years before the struggle ended and these vitally impor-
tant cases were conceded to Farnsworth.
with A.T. & T.
THE CONTRACTS made by the Farnsworth Company with the
British and German companies raised the young inventor in
the estimation of American companies interested in the elec-
tronic art. During this period I was staying in New York and
having almost daily contact with the Philadelphia laboratories.
One afternoon Don Lippincott came to my hotel and said he
had an appointment with George Folk, chief patent counsel
for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. I sug-
gested that he bring up the matter of a possible arrangement
between A.T. & T. and the Farnsworth company. I told him
that it might be advantageous to invite some of the engineers
from the Bell Laboratories to Philadelphia to see the Farns-
As a result of Mr. Lippincott's interview I received a call
from Dr. O. E. Buckley, president of the Bell Laboratories, sug-
gesting that he and some of the other scientists from their labo-
ratory would like to go to Philadelphia. Arrangements were
made for an appointment for the following week, when six of
156 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
the top-flight engineers of the Bell Laboratories spent the en-
tire day at our laboratories. Among them was Dr. Ives, who had
done extensive work in television. I was proud of Phil in his
conference with them. As always, he was modest in his presenta-
tion, but I could see that they were impressed with the bril-
liance and originality of his conceptions. Phil was greatly com-
plimented by this attention and hopeful that something sub-
stantial would develop from the visit.
Some days after their return from Philadelphia, Dr. Buckley
rendered a formal report to Mr. Folk covering their findings,
and Lippincott and I were called in to discuss what steps, if
any, were to be taken. Mr. Folk was very frank in saying that
the Bell Laboratories would like to have an opportunity to
inspect the Farnsworth patent portfolio and see if there was
anything of value to their company. He was very fair in point-
ing out that such an inspection carried certain hazards and that
we should not present for scrutiny any development which was
not fully covered by patent application or formal patent dis-
closures that would protect the Farnsworth priority.
This was an important decision for us to make. Up to this
time we had been careful to prevent disclosures of our portfolio
of patent applications to others interested in the art. We were
not fearful of pirating, but in this new art we felt that revealing
the trend of some of our investigations might lead others into
the same paths where nuggets of invention might be picked up
before we had reached them in our research.
After careful consideration it was determined that the pos-
sible gains outweighed the hazards involved. I asked Phil to
send the files up from Philadelphia to New York City.
The portfolio consisted of about a hundred and fifty patents
and patent applications. When they arrived one hot afternoon,
Lippincott and I bundled the heavy file of documents into a
CROSS-LICENSING ARRANGEMENT WITH A.T. & T.
taxicab. Because of their value we did not wish to let them out
of our sight. Together we lugged them into the Bell Telephone
Building on lower Broadway. After some struggle we got them
to Mr. Folk's office.
Mr. Folk received us most cordially. He told us that the
patent files would be parceled out by Dr. Buckley to the differ-
ent departments of the Bell Laboratories for study and report.
"It will take quite a little while to make up a final report for
me, probably a matter of four months/' he said.
"That will be quite a while for Phil to remain on the anxious
seat," I replied. "You know, approval of his work by the Bell
Labs has been one of the dreams of his life."
"The disclosures may set some of our boys to thinking," Mr.
Folk continued, "and thus Farnsworth may get some new
competitors in the fields in which he is working. As I said be-
fore, that is one of the risks you run in showing these things to
us at this time."
After some further discussion, Lippincott and I left with a
sense of real confidence in the fairness of the attitude of this
man who represented the interests of the largest scientific labo-
ratory in the world.
Phil felt deeply the importance of our decision. He recog-
nized the enormous impetus that would be given to his prestige,
and the Farnsworth company, if Bell Laboratories would place
the seal of approval on his work and the American Telephone
and Telegraph Company would enter into some sort of license
As Mr. Folk had anticipated, it took some four months for
Bell Laboratories to analyze the Farnsworth patents and make
a formal report. In the meantime Mr. Folk had retired from the
office of chief patent counsel for A.T. & T. and W. B. Ballard
had taken his place. It would be difficult to find anywhere in
THE STORY OF TELEVISION
the field of business two more fair-minded, kindly men than
Mr. Folk and his successor. The vast powers and ramifications
of the influence of their great company seemed with them to
set a standard of perfection in integrity and fair dealing.
The four months of waiting dragged on slowly for Farns-
worth and his associates. Farnsworth had such high regard for
the Bell Laboratories that it seemed to him almost too good
to be true that they should give formal recognition to the fruits
of his years of research and effort. One can readily imagine,
therefore, the elation of Farnsworth, and all of us, when word
finally came from Mr. Ballard that he had the Farnsworth re-
port in hand. He stated that the Bell Laboratories had found
much of interest to them and that he would be glad to discuss
the matter with us. This initiated a series of conferences which
finally resulted in the preparation of a formal contract between
the American Telephone and Telegraph Company and the
Farnsworth company giving each the privilege of using the
Then came the day when the formal contract was ready for
signature. It was agreed by his associates that Farnsworth should
be given the honor of signing this document. Phil arrived from
Philadelphia early in the morning and came to meet Lippin-
cott and me before going to Mr. Ballard's office. He was in a
high state of nervous elation.
When we assembled in A.T. & T.'s offices, on July 22, 1937,
Mr. Ballard was delightfully informal and friendly to Farns-
worth. He realized that this was really a great moment in Phil's
life and made some remarks in recognition of the situation.
Phil finally broke down and confessed that he didn't know
whether he would have a steady enough hand to sign his name.
Ballard, with delightful understanding of the situation, said
that he quite understood that this must mean a great deal to
CROSS-LICENSING ARRANGEMENT WITH A.T. & T. 159
Farnsworth after so many years of work, and in an informal,
pleasant way sought to put Phil at ease. Finally the documents
were brought in and the moment for signature arrived. Phil
fussed around quite a bit, but was able to affix a legible, though
squiggly, "Philo T. Farnsworth" to the important document.
Experimental Broadcasting Station
To KEEP PACE with the rapidly developing new industry it be-
came necessary for the Farnsworth company to make applica-
tion to the Federal Radio Commission for an experimental
television broadcast license. After months of delay the con-
struction permit for the station was granted. A location on a
high point, about a mile from the laboratory, was secured. To
Mr. McCargar and me it seemed that the station would never
be ready for operation. With Phil's characteristic desire to "try
out a new idea to make it work better," the station was always
just about completed, but "not quite ready." Phil's sense of
showmanship, and his desire to have a completely streamlined
studio, added to the expense and delay. In the back of his mind
Farnsworth had a lurking hope that this experimental station
would be a stepping stone to the company's entrance into the
commercial broadcasting field. It was a heavy drain on the fi-
nances of the company. A simpler setup would probably have
served our research purposes better.
This was only a part of the seemingly ever-increasing expense
of the laboratory. The monthly payrolls and other expenses
skyrocketed to an alarming degree. Circumstances required that
The first television camera set up in the Green Street laboratory
Farnsworth operating his first portable television transmitter unit
EXPERIMENTAL BROADCASTING STATION l6l
I be in New York to keep in touch with the Philadelphia opera-
tions and explore the possibilities of developing some plan for
Coincident with the Philco arrangements Mr. McCargar
had arranged the purchase of interests of all the original finan-
cial sponsors but Mr. Fagan and himself. From that time on
the only source of financing was the sale of the corporation's
stock. This task fell largely on me and on Miss Helen Baker,
who was in charge of the San Francisco office. Miss Baker had
long been Mr. McCargar's secretary. When the burden of the
Farnsworth development fell on Mr. McCargar and me, she
proved to be a tremendously helpful ally. A former Pacific
Coast tennis champion, she had a world of friends and influence
as well as brains and tact. In helping out with the Farnsworth
venture she used the same generalship that made her so diffi-
cult to beat on the tennis court.
It was a never-ending struggle to find enough money to meet
the expanding demands of the laboratory. Often it was only
the heavy load of responsibility we felt toward those who had
already put money into our venture that drove Jesse McCargar,
Helen Baker, and me doggedly at it to keep the venture afloat.
Phil knew that things were difficult, but we had always found
the money for him, and he seemed to have an abiding faith that
we always would.
The years in the Philadelphia laboratory were years of patient
development of the details of the system. It was here that all
of the requirements for successful television were brought into
sharp relief. Phil was particularly plagued with the inadequate
sensitivity of the dissector tube and was painfully aware that
the Zworykin iconoscope was superior to his instrument in this
regard. Very often on my visits to Philadelphia, Phil and I
would have long discussions regarding this deficiency. He recog-
162 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
nized that the dissector tube gave a much sharper image than
the iconoscope. However, nothing short of perfection seemed
to satisfy him. The one advantage of sensitivity was not his,
and to him it loomed larger than the comparable advantage of
sharpness and clarity that was abundantly in his favor.
In the transmission of motion pictures, where there was
plenty of light, the results achieved by the dissector tube were
much superior to those of the iconoscope. The contrast was
sharper and picture definition was better. However, in the ex-
periments at the studio the light requirements were in excess of
what seemed practical for commercial program work. In our
discussions Phil usually finished with the statement that neither
the dissector tube nor the iconoscope was the ultimate tele-
vision transmitter tube for studio and outdoor work. He recog-
nized the fact once pointed out by Paul Keston, vice-president
of the Columbia Broadcasting System, that to be practical for
all purposes the television camera must be able to pick up the
last quarter of a football game in the late autumn afternoon on
the shady side of the field. This meant that the television cam-
era must be as sensitive as the ones used for motion-picture
news shots, if not more so.
Farnsworth sought by various means to correct the deficien-
cies of the dissector tube. He attacked the problem in several
ways, the most promising of which was along the line that was
later followed by R.C.A. in the production of their orthicon
tube. This development was a pet for a long time and absorbed
much of Farnsworth's attention. Though he got some results
from it, they were not completely satisfactory. However, the
work in this direction did give him patent coverage of the im-
portant orthicon tube.
Another line of attack was what he called the image ampli-
fier tube, in which by a most ingenious and subtle process the
EXPERIMENTAL BROADCASTING STATION 163
whole electron image is greatly amplified within the tube before
it is scanned at the anode. Many other devices were tried and
Since then, by steady and continuing effort, the sensitivity
of the dissector tube and the effective gains in the amplifier
have been greatly improved. Also, some of the deficiencies of
the iconoscope have been corrected, and a highly sensitive or-
thicon tube has been developed.
In the Philadelphia laboratories Farnsworth employed from
twenty-five to forty technicians and engineers. This was quite
a different proposition from the old San Francisco laboratories,
where he had at most five or six men working with him. He was
loath to give up any executive responsibility, but soon found
that the management of so large a group of men was a full-time
job. This naturally slowed down the productivity of his own
inventions and research.
Mr. McCargar and I both realized the situation but found it
difficult to cope with. It took Farnsworth a long time to learn
that there are limitations to one man's time and effort, and
that there couldn't possibly be enough time available for him
to manage so large a staff and do maximum productive work
on his own account. It was a serious situation which it took a
long time to correct.
As time went on, Farnsworth became much more widely
known nationally and internationally. The laboratory seemed
to be literally overrun with people from all over the United
States, and in fact from all parts of the world, eager to meet the
young genius who was regarded as the father of television. It
was difficult for Phil to deny interviews to noted scientists from
foreign universities, or from American seats of learning, and
it was not possible to avoid making appointments with govern-
ment officials and representatives of foreign governments. It
164 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
seemed that they always came at the most inopportune time,
so that they broke up a carefully prepared schedule that Farns-
worth had arranged for himself and his associates.
Some of the situations that developed from the desire of
people to see Farns worth had their comic aspects. I remember
one afternoon the chief engineer of the Federal Communica-
tions Commission called from Washington to inform us that a
representative of the French government was on the train from
Washington to Philadelphia and asked if someone would meet
him at the specified time at the Broad Street station. Since the
Frenchman had met none of our people, and since none of us
had ever seen him, the question of identification presented an
awkward situation. Frank Somers was sent down to the station
to meet him, hoping that he might by some means be able to
spot the visiting official. He had no difficulty, because the
Frenchman was the only one who got off the train wearing a
frock coat and striped trousers.
On another occasion, in San Francisco, a representative of
the then great Mitsui Company, which had extensive offices
there, called me on the phone. He informed me in clipped
English that a learned scientist from the Japanese Imperial
University had arrived with letters to him asking that he arrange
for the learned doctor to visit with Farnsworth laboratories.
This had not been the first Japanese who had requested in-
troduction to Farnsworth and his work, but none had been
introduced with quite so much formality.
The Mitsui representative said he would like to have me and
Mr. Farnsworth join the Japanese scientist and some of the
company executives at luncheon at the Commercial Club. I
told him that Mr. Farnsworth was in Philadelphia but that
Mr. Brolly, our chief engineer at the San Francisco laboratories,
would probably join me in accepting their invitation.
EXPERIMENTAL BROADCASTING STATION l6j
At luncheon the Japanese scientist, whom we shall call Dr.
T., proved to be a toothy myopic fellow with little knowledge
of English. He was most agreeable, and with the help of his
countrymen the difficulties of language were met fairly well.
He made it plain to us that he was prepared to spend several
days at our laboratory if we would grant him the privilege.
Since we had little hopes of successfully exploiting our inven-
tions in Japanese markets we could see no harm in letting him
do as he wished.
On the second or third day after the visitor had seen the
television transmitter and receiver and had spent some time in
technical discussion, our engineer inquired of the Japanese re-
garding the progress of television in his country.
He replied, "We already make your receiver set. When I go
home we make your transmitter/'
We were not particularly disturbed by this surprising con-
fession, but we were a bit startled by his frankness in stating
During his visit Dr. T. formed quite a friendly attachment
to Brolly. He finally left after a visit of some four days. When
he arrived in the east he visited Farnsworth at the Philadelphia
laboratories. He returned home by way of Europe. En route
he kept Brolly and me posted as to his journeyings by sending
us post-card greetings from spots all the way around the world
on his way home. Some months later Brolly got copies of what
looked like Japanese scientific journals. The only thing we
could read was the name Farnsworth spelled out in English in
several places in the pages.
From time to time Farnsworth was called upon to make
public appearances before engineering societies and scientific
groups. He always regarded such occasions as a waste of time
and a tax upon his energies. If possible, he avoided them. He
l66 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
was obsessed with a passion for perfection in public appearances
and would never present a scientific paper without weeks of
preparation. Although an indifferent speaker, he was able to
hold a scientific audience by the brilliance of the subject matter
of his presentation.
One of the most difficult of his public appearances was one
in 1936 before a joint meeting of the New York Chapter of
the Institute of Radio Engineers and the Society of Electrical
Engineers. At this gathering he presented a paper and gave
demonstrations of his multipactor developments. He took a
great deal of pains in preparing this address and spent much
time making up slides of charts illustrating his work. He also
arranged to present actual demonstrations of his new tubes.
A whole stageful of electrical equipment was moved to the
Engineers' Club in New York and set up for visual demon-
stration of the various phases of the operations of the multi-
pactor principle. In fact, the platform looked very much as
though Houdini were about to perform.
When Phil and I arrived, about twenty minutes before the
appointed hour for the lecture, we were aghast at what we saw.
The entire stage was overrun with what seemed to be a good
share of the audience. There was hardly standing room around
the equipment. Naturally, for a demonstration of this kind
there were many wire connections strung about. We could only
hope and pray that something was not disconnected or put out
of commission by the spectators. Our fears were unwarranted;
they were all engineers and had proper regard for the equip-
ment, treading softly and touching nothing.
At the appointed hour of the meeting the hall was packed
with the ranking radio and electrical engineers of the New
York area. Phil's lecture was more than an hour in length and
EXPERIMENTAL BROADCASTING STATION 167
to me, a layman, it was too abstruse to be interesting. However,
it rated as a great success with the engineers. At the conclusion
the meeting was thrown open for questions and general discus-
sion. Phil was quick in his responses and generally gave a light
humorous touch to his answers. His extemporaneous remarks
were much more interesting than his formal lecture. There was
some good-natured heckling on the part of a few engineers from
competing laboratories, but in answering, Farnsworth came off
very much the victor, to the delight of the general audience.
Following the lecture the technical staff from Philadelphia
gave a demonstration under Phil's direction of the operation
of the equipment on the stage. A high-voltage unit had given
the engineers considerable difficulty during the afternoon.
There was some doubt in their minds as to whether they would
be able to give a successful demonstration of its operation. Bill
Eddy (now director of Television Station WBKB in Chicago)
had responsibility for this part of the program. As he hooked up
the connection and set the tube in operation he was apparently
the most surprised person in the room when it functioned with-
out a hitch. His under-the-breath exclamation of "My God, it
works!" was clearly audible throughout the room.
This appearance by Farnsworth led to many invitations to
address scientific and engineering groups in various parts of
the country. Only one, extended by a Chicago engineering
society, was accepted. Both the New York and the Chicago
lecture received favorable notices in the press on a plane that
added much to Farnsworth's reputation as an inventor.
Upon receiving a license for broadcasting from the Federal
Communications Commission, Farnsworth and his staff took
great interest in the development of television studio equip-
ment and the television transmitter, yet it seemed difficult for
l68 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
them to get a practical demonstration set up. Phil and mem-
bers of his staff were everlastingly trying out new ideas on the
unit being developed at the studio for demonstration purposes.
This situation was peculiarly exasperating to Mr. McCargar
and me. We were responsible for financing the venture, and
it seemed to us that if we were to continue the operations suc-
cessfully and bring things to a practical conclusion, we must
have some actual proof of the commercial value of television
in the form of a smoothly operating broadcasting unit with a
picture comparable in clarity to the ordinary movie. In a vague
way Farnsworth realized this necessity, but since money for the
laboratories had always been forthcoming without any effort on
his part, it seemed impossible for him to realize that there
could be any real difficulty in keeping up a continuous flow of
money into his research program without any tangible com-
mercial results emanating from it.
After months of work and many disappointing efforts on the
part of the research staff, and much worry and anxiety on the
part of Mr. McCargar and myself, a creditable demonstration
unit was brought into operation. This, however, was not
achieved without resorting to the drastic expedient of bringing
to Philadelphia from San Francisco the two engineers, who by
temperament and training were better able to get the maxi-
mum practical results from the fruits of our research.
Theoretically Farnsworth recognized the importance of em-
phasizing the commercial aspect of our development, but at
heart he was an experimental scientist and could never resist
the temptation to try some new idea before its predecessor had
been brought to its full development. It is not to his discredit
that this was so. It was an inherent quality in his genius as an
inventor. The difficulty we encountered was to stop at a given
EXPERIMENTAL BROADCASTING STATION 169
point in the experimental work, make up a unit representing
the maximum achievements to date, and maintain it as an
operating demonstration entirely separate from advance de-
velopments. It seems a simple and obvious thing to do until
one has tried it with a first-class inventor on the premises.
Phil and His Family
No SMALL PART of Farnsworth's success is due to his charming
and beautiful wife, Elma Gardner Farnsworth. She has always
been devoted exclusively to their home and the furtherance of
his career. There is something in Phil's relations to his home
that harks back to the old Mormon tradition of the head of the
family being the patriarch. Phil always has felt more than the
usual responsibility toward his brothers and sisters and their
families. In his early married life he carried this patriarchal re-
lationship into his own family to the extent of dictating his
likes and dislikes regarding hats and costume jewelry. Pern bore
this with a humorous good will and never took the father-of-
the-clan tradition too seriously. She has always been his match
in wit and good judgment as far as family matters are con-
His parental attitude toward his brothers' and his sisters'
families has probably done more harm than good. For a time
it engendered a dependence on Phil that was harmful to their
own independence of action and initiative. In this case, as in
most cases of a similar nature, generosity is likely to have some
of its roots in personal egotism. It often does the recipient of
PHIL AND HIS FAMILY
favors more harm than good. It is to the credit of Phil's immedi-
ate family that they did not impose on this generosity and
in due course of time shook themselves loose from its influ-
Phil, too, came to recognize the necessity of independence
on the part of his family. They in turn were aware of his great
genius and treated him accordingly, even to the extent of spoil-
ing him in many ways. It would probably have been better for
him if they had questioned his family authority more.
Phil is instinctively generous and kindhearted, so when his
television holdings came to have considerable value, he made
special effort to share with those near to him.
Phil and Pern Farnsworth's first child, Philo, Jr., was born in
San Francisco in September 1929. In 1931, shortly before they
moved to Philadelphia, their second child, Kenneth, was born.
Both children were moved to Philadelphia when the labora-
tories went to the Philco plant. Unaccustomed to the rigors of
the eastern climate, Kenneth contracted a streptococcus in-
fection of the throat. Although Philadelphia has some of the
best specialists for this kind of ailment in the country, they
strove in vain to save the child, and he died after an unsuccess-
ful emergency operation.
Phil was stunned and baffled by this tragedy. I remember be-
ing awakened at five o'clock one winter morning in San Fran-
cisco by the violent jangling of the telephone, which I answered
in a sleepy stupor. Phil's voice at the other end of the line in Phil-
adelphia wakened me as by an electric shock. From the very tone
of his voice I knew that something desperate had happened.
His first utterance was the anguished words, "Ken is dead." In
the confusion I misunderstood him to say, "Pern is dead," and
was stunned with the import to his little family. However, as
the confused and tumbled words of his tragedy flowed over the
1J2 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
wire I realized that it was his boy, rather than his wife, who had
This was during the difficult years of the depression, and
Phil and his family were living on the modest salary that we
were able to provide for him. I realized his need of funds and
assured him they would be immediately forthcoming. The
young parents wanted their child buried in the home soil of
Utah. Pem took the sorrowful journey alone and was met at
Provo by her father and other members of her family.
The loss of his younger son made an indelible impression on
Farnsworth and led him to study medicine as an avocation and ,
to follow with live interest the new discoveries having to do
with the deadly pneumococcus and streptococcus infections.
He formed warm friendships with some of the leading physi-
cians and surgeons in Philadelphia. His genius for readily under-
standing scientific subjects enabled him to acquire a broad
knowledge and facile vocabulary of this new subject that often
astonished his friends. His knowledge of medicine has led to a
certain amount of self-diagnosis that in one with less common
sense and good judgment might lead to hypochondria. In later
years I have sometimes wondered if this self-diagnosis has not
been somewhat harmful in the several sieges of illness that he
The fact that science could do nothing for his boy when the
relentless streptococcus infection closed the little throat left
Phil with a sense of the futility of science in its inability to meet
this simple emergency of life and death. As a result he spent a
great deal of time contemplating ways of adapting his inven-
tions in electronics to medical use. On different occasions Phil
discussed the subject at length with members of the staff of the
University of Pennsylvania Hospital. One of the doctors, who
was devoting his life to medical research, came to New York
PHIL AND HIS FAMILY 173
several times to see me regarding the possibility of raising funds
to finance a foundation to endow research work to adapt the
Farnsworth inventions to X-ray and therapeutic use. This doc-
tor's particular field was roentgenology, and he felt that such
a foundation could contribute much to the welfare of mankind.
Many of the Farnsworth inventions may eventually find use in
this field. It is a matter of providing the funds to finance patient
and painstaking developments.
About two years after the death of Kenneth, Russell Seymour
was born. This boy and Philo, Jr., the older son, have been
encouraged in original thinking and experimental work by their
father and mother. They were roistering, healthy youngsters.
When Phil and Pem first went to Philadelphia, they moved
into a two-story brick house of the old Philadelphia style, built
close to the next one, which was just like it. It had a deep but
narrow and quite pleasant back yard.
When the laboratory was moved from the Philco plant and
established in the Chestnut Hill section, Phil took a house
near by. It was a large, commodious, and altogether pleasant
house located in a fine residential district. It had the advantage
of a good lawn and a spacious garden and grass plot in the rear.
It was during this period of the middle 1930'$ that the trad-
ing value of the Farnsworth stock had its biggest rise. The paper
value of Phil's holdings went well over the million-dollar mark.
This value was largely created by the limited stock available
for sale and the constant newspaper and magazine publicity
regarding television. That this market value was quite fictitious
could easily have been demonstrated if any large amount of
the stock had been put up for sale.
The Farnsworths took advantage of this favorable financial
situation to expand their mode of living somewhat. Phil bought
a Packard car for himself and a coupe of the same make for
174 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Pern. Phil made an effort to take time off for recreation and
joined a near-by exclusive country club. He and Pem engaged
in a limited number of social engagements.
Pem hired a colored girl to help her with the children and
the housework. They also took occasional pleasure trips, the
most pretentious of which was a trip to Bermuda. On this jaunt
they took the children and a nurse. Altogether it was a pretty
Whenever Phil needed money for additional personal ex-
penditures of this kind he usually wired Miss Baker in San
Francisco asking her to sell sufficient of his stock to meet his
requirements. Since the market was limited, such requests
sometimes made it more difficult for us to find the necessary
money to meet the laboratory payroll. The most embarrassing
instance of this kind was when Phil, on this particular trip,
found himself short and telephoned Miss Baker from Bermuda
to sell quite a substantial amount of stock, in fact to realize
about the same amount that was required to meet the semi-
The market was very soft at this juncture. The laboratory
had been under some extra-heavy expenses. As a consequence
I was having difficulty in finding enough money to meet the
current needs. This added request from Phil for stock sales
was almost the last straw. Somehow between us Jesse McCar-
gar, Miss Baker, and I found the necessary money and Miss
Baker met Phil's needs. I was inclined to be critical of this
thoughtless request on Phil's part but cooled off before he re-
turned from Bermuda. When he got back he was much re-
freshed, and I thought it best to say nothing about it.
While in the Chestnut Hill house Phil made a determined
effort to get some recreation. He set up a badminton court in
the back yard and a croquet court in the front yard. Occasion-
PHIL AND HIS FAMILY 175
ally he would drive up to the Poconos for shooting and snow
sports. But he never really went at any of these activities as
though he meant it. He just nibbled at recreation; he never got
enough for real satisfaction.
He took his meals in much the same way. He was under-
weight, but try as Pem would to tempt his appetite, Phil usually
just picked at his food. He just didn't eat enough. I often
dropped in for lunch with the family. In observing his finicky
eating habits I often wondered if they were not a manifestation
of hypochondria or a sort of misdirected exhibitionism. It used
to worry me a great deal, and I often expressed my anxiety to
I knew that during the long periods of research work in San
Francisco and at the Philco plant, and during the first year of
his work in the newly established Philadelphia laboratory,
Farnsworth had never known what it was to take even a week's
time off for a vacation. For years his work was so engrossing
that even occasional week ends were no part of his calendar.
Such grueling and incessant effort finally showed its effects in
more ways than one. I was therefore happy that Phil was now
making an effort to take time out for recreation and relaxation.
By an involved chain of circumstances, during the depression
years a friend and I had acquired title to an abandoned farm in
Fryeburg, Maine. On one of his vacation tours through New
England Phil and Pem and the children visited this place and
immediately fell in love with it. With characteristic impatience,
he burned up the wires telegraphing me in San Francisco re-
garding means by which he could acquire the property. A
modest figure was named, and he took immediate title to the
ninety-acre farm, which I had never seen.
Phil seldom does things by halves, and immediately all sorts
of schemes were on foot to convert the farm into the Elysium
176 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
of his dreams. Here he would have a hideaway laboratory. He
wanted to raise pheasants and quail, and any other wild fowl
that he could propagate to grace the fields.
Each one of us has some pet foible or scheme, usually im-
practical, but very near to our hearts. Ever since I have known
Phil he has had a consuming desire to build an artificial lake.
A meandering stream that runs through the Fryeburg property
gave opportunity for the fulfillment of this ambition. The
brook was planted with trout, and plans were immediately un-
der way for the building of the cherished dam before the frost
came. The project was finished by the end of the summer.
I did not see Phil until sometime late in the fall, after the
equinoctial storms had brought a flood of rain. When I in-
quired about his artificial lake, he sheepishly admitted that in
his haste he had worked less effectively than the beavers and
that the fall freshets had washed his dam away. It was a rather
tender subject with him, as he prided himself on doing every-
thing with scientific precision, but in this he had overlooked a
few simple laws of hydraulics.
Later, after considerable expense, the dam was rebuilt, and
from all reports it is not likely to be washed out again so easily.
Farnsworth established a small but well-equipped laboratory
at Fryeburg and spent much of his time there in quiet and un-
interrupted research. In the Maine winters he and Pern reverted
to the sports that they had enjoyed so much as boy and girl in
The dam has provided the cherished lake of Phil's dreams,
but it was not earthquake-proof. Once when I visited him a
heavy shake had put two cracks in the structure and opened a
fissure under the foundation which let the water boil out be-
low. Later Phil assured me that it had been repaired without
PHIL AND HIS FAMILY 177
As the years went on, Phil, because of his health, came to
regard this Maine hideaway as his permanent home.
The laboratory and his study were the center of Phil's in-
terest. The study, of his own design, was a spacious room. A
great granite fireplace of native stones of his selection domi-
nated one end. Opposite it was a broad landscape window over-
looking a saddle in the blue everlasting Maine mountains. In
the center of the room was his desk. All about the room were
models of tubes that marked the progress of his research. It was
a workroom, yet it breathed an atmosphere of satisfaction in
achievement and a restlessness to forge ahead to new discoveries
in his chosen field of work. When I visited him there, an open
tablet was on the desk. Characteristically on the white page
were mathematical equations and squiggled drawings of cir-
cuits and tubes.
His laboratory was very simple but adequate to his needs. As
in the old San Francisco laboratory, the road between the con-
ception of an idea and its reduction to practical use was a long
and hazardous one.
On my last visit three major projects were well under way.
Each was as startlingly original and unorthodox as was his first
conception of the dissector tube. He was not certain that all
or any would turn out successfully.
The facilities of the laboratory were intentionally meager.
This was as Phil wanted it. He felt that this simplicity provided
him with the atmosphere best suited to original work. He had
lost his enthusiasm for a large and highly organized laboratory.
That may have been necessary for the refinement of the prod-
ucts of his original invention, but he wanted no part in its
The farm and other out-of-door interests gave him relaxation .
from the intense concentration that his research demanded.
178 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
As we walked about the countryside, the youthful enthusiasm
that carried him through the arduous years in San Francisco
still burned. His eager mind forged ahead to new discoveries in
the field of electronics.
Financial Problems Unexpected
THE FINANCING of the Farnsworth research program is of in-
terest here because it contributed to the success of the young
From the time of the original arrangement with Phil and up
to the present, it has never been necessary for him to give more
than casual consideration to the funds required for carrying
out his extensive development. He has been particularly fortu-
nate in having sponsors who, with a great deal of patience and
tenacity, have backed him to the limit with an unswerving faith
in the soundness of his idea and a vision of its potentialities.
Of course, when I first told the Farnsworth story to Mr.
Fagan, neither Phil nor I had any thought of such a long-drawn-
out program of research as actually developed. At that time we
were seeking $25,000. (Phil thought $12,000 sufficient.) With
that sum we believed it would be possible to develop a tele-
vision system capable of transmitting acceptable pictures for
public entertainment. Ignorance on my part, and Phil's inex-
perience, accounted for this foolhardy assumption. It took
l8o THE STORY OF TELEVISION
thirteen years and more than $1,000,000 in actual cash before
the goal was reached.
During the final years of research the Farnsworth laboratories
were spending monthly an amount in excess of the sum that
Phil, in May 1926, thought would be necessary for the produc-
tion of an operable television system.
The $100,000 necessary for research expense previous to the
spring of 1930 had been provided by personal contributions
from the original trustees and partners. The work had gone on
quietly in fact, almost secretly which was due to some ex-
tent to a sort of sheepishness on the part of Mr. Fagan and some
of the other backers in sponsoring such a wildcat scheme.
Shortly after incorporation of the company in 1929, there
developed in San Francisco a broad interest in the activities of
the laboratory. As a consequence the stock of the company as-
sumed tangible market value.
As stated previously, after Phil's first demonstration to the
backers some of the trustees, headed by Mr. Crocker and Mr.
Bishop, thought it would be prudent to dispose of the Farns-
worth interests, if possible, to one of the large electric com-
panies for a modest sum that would assure them a profit on
their original investment.
This thought was at variance with the desire of Mr. McCar-
gar, Mr. Fagan, Farnsworth, and myself. To prevent such ac-
tion Mr. McCargar secured an option on the holdings of the
other trustees. Later the option was taken up and shared with
Phil, Mr. Fagan, and me, which effectively put control of the
venture in our hands.
Upon the execution of the Philco contract, that company
relieved us of the monthly laboratory obligations, with the ex-
ception of the patent expense. After Phil and his staff left Philco
and established a separate laboratory in Philadelphia, the full
FINANCIAL PROBLEMS UNEXPECTED BANKING SUPPORT l8l
burden of the financing for the next six years reverted directly
to Mr. McCargar and me. The estimated program required a
monthly budget of $1,500 in the beginning, but a research
laboratory, like a government bureau, has a habit of growing,
and it was not long before operations were on the basis of
$5,000 to $10,000 a month, including the expense of the small
staff at the San Francisco laboratory and the fees for necessary
Because of the highly speculative nature of the investment,
it was not possible or advisable to resort to public financing.
Neither Mr. McCargar nor I was willing to make a stock-
jobbing enterprise out of it. There has probably never been a
more alluring opportunity for blue-sky speculative activities.
There was no overhead salary expense except for the neces-
sary accounting and simple bookkeeping. Miss Baker took care
of all this. All our funds went into research and patent fees. In
all the years of our association with the venture neither Mr.
McCargar nor I ever received any salary or fees as compensa-
tion from the company. The only reward for our time and effort
was the accretion in value to our original holdings in stock. Mr.
McCargar, as president of the company, had one inflexible rule
that we never violated: we never incurred any obligations, no
matter how pressing the need, unless money was on hand in the
bank to meet them.
As a California corporation, the company was subject to the
very rigid rules imposed by the Commissioner of Corporations
of that state. During all the ensuing years of development, and
up to the time that the Farnsworth company was expanded
into a manufacturing organization, the stock of the company
was held in escrow subject to the supervision and control of
the state commissioner.
From time to time officials of the company were permitted
l82 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
to offer small blocks of their individual stock for sale for re-
imbursement of advances made to the company. We had no
large reservoir of capital on which to draw to carry on our efforts;
it was necessary to interest other people to join with us in the
venture. Since all this was carried on through the depression
years, it was not always easy to find anywhere from four to seven
thousand dollars on the first and fifteenth of every month to
meet payrolls and patent expenses. However, it was done
quietly and so effectively that at no time was it necessary for
us to curtail the expenses of the laboratory because of lack of
Help often came from the most unexpected sources. The
participation of the great banking house of Kuhn, Loeb &
Company of New York City was an interesting story. It came
about in this way:
When I completed my course of graduate work in social
science at Columbia University many years ago, I got a job as
executive secretary of the Committee on Criminal Courts in
New York City. I was highly flattered when, six months after
my employment, I was told that I would be permitted to engage
someone to help me. I went about selecting this assistant with
the same meticulous care as one would take in selecting a col-
lege president, and finally determined upon a newly graduated
student from Columbia Law School.
One hot June day I had signed the letter of employment and
given it to the office boy for mailing when there breezed into
the office an eager youth by the name of Hugh Knowlton,
sweaty with zeal and impetuousness, fresh from Yale Univer-
sity and looking for new worlds to conquer. I was so captivated
by his engaging personality and brilliance of mind that I de-
cided he was the associate I wanted to work with me. I hustled
him out of the office in order to recover the letter of appoint-
FINANCIAL PROBLEMS UNEXPECTED BANKING SUPPORT 183
ment to the Columbia man before it could be mailed, telling
Knowlton to return the next day. In due course he was approved
by our director and appointed to the job.
This was the beginning of a close friendship that was inter-
rupted by World War I. The chairman of the Committee on
Criminal Courts, Bronson Winthrop, a noted lawyer in New
York and head of the firm of Winthrop & Stimson, took a great
liking to Hugh Knowlton and induced him to study law at
Harvard. Upon the completion of his law course Knowlton en-
tered on a brilliant career as an attorney in New York which
eventually resulted in his joining the banking house of Kuhn,
Loeb & Company as a partner.
After World War I, I went to the Pacific Coast, so over a
period of several years we had no communication with each
other. On one or two trips to New York I made unsuccessful
efforts to see him. At the time of his joining Kuhn, Loeb & Com-
pany as a partner I saw a news item about it in a San Francisco
paper. Later I learned through friends that he was also acting
as a member of the old Committee on Criminal Courts which
had originally employed us.
One time while in New York I dropped into the office of the
director of the committee and was invited to attend one of the
very formal monthly luncheon meetings which were held at
the old and aristocratic Down Town Association on Pine Street.
I was seated next to the chairman, Nathan Smythe, when Hugh,
who was rather late, came in and spotted me. At once he walked
to my place at the table and greeted me cordially as "my old
Following the luncheon meeting, we chatted and I arranged
to meet him the next day for lunch. In the course of the next
day's conversation, catching up on each other's activities dur-
ing our absence from one another, I told him the story of the
184 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Farnsworth development and my part in it. He became greatly
interested. When I made occasional trips to New York during
the next two years I usually saw Hugh, and he always inquired
for a detailed report on the Farnsworth activities.
One day, after a long luncheon in which Hugh had confined
the conversation almost exclusively to the Farnsworth situation,
we walked back to Kuhn, Loeb & Company's offices.
As I was about to leave him he said, "George, I believe you
are approaching the time when you will be in need of some
banking assistance. When the time comes I want to discuss the
matter with you."
As a result of this casual conversation I made it a point to
have Hugh meet Mr. McCargar the next time we were in New
York. It was a friendly and pleasant meeting, with no mention
of any kind of business relations. I wanted Hugh to understand
a little better the nature of the sponsorship of the venture.
Not long after that Hugh invited me to lunch with him in a
private room at the Kuhn, Loeb offices. A great part of the
afternoon was spent in discussing the history and progress of
the Farnsworth company. The next morning Hugh phoned me,
asking if I could meet him at his office. I went down immedi-
ately and was taken by Hugh into the private office of one of
the senior partners.
Hugh was somewhat excited. As soon as we were seated he
said, "George, I have taken up the matter of the Farnsworth
company with my partners this morning and we have decided
that if you wish we will be glad to put all of the resources of
the Kuhn, Loeb organization back of your venture. I believe
we can be of real service to you if we can find a fair basis for
participating in your company."
This seemed a little better than having one's dreams come
FINANCIAL PROBLEMS UNEXPECTED BANKING SUPPORT l8j
true, because I had vividly in mind the humble beginning and
years of patient striving that had led us to the point where one
of the great banking houses was voluntarily offering us a help-
Hugh went on to say, "I don't know what would be a fair
basis, and I suggest that you get in touch with Mr. McCargar
and have him come East to discuss the matter."
I said that I would write him immediately, and Hugh replied,
"I suggest that you wire him."
There are times when a stroke of good fortune seems a little
too good to be true. As I left the Kuhn, Loeb offices I found it
necessary to steady myself in the hallway by leaning against the
wall before venturing into the street. I had imagined that at
some time Hugh, or his firm, might offer some constructive
suggestion, but at no time had I anticipated or hoped that a
great conservative banking house would offer direct help or
participation by its partners in our venture.
As soon as I returned to my hotel I telephoned Phil the
astonishing news. He, of course, was elated, but he had some
reservations. "You aren't going to let them get control, are
you?" he asked.
I assured him that that was not the idea, but that we had
gained some powerful support. "I want you to meet Hugh," I
told Phil, and added laughingly, "You know he is one of my
finds and proteges, as you are."
Phil was eager to visit the offices of Kuhn, Loeb & Company
and meet Hugh, as I had suggested. This was another rung in
his ladder to success and he was anxious to step up on it.
Within a week Mr. McCargar came on to New York. He
and Hugh and I set about to work out a satisfactory arrange-
ment between the Farnsworth company and Kuhn, Loeb &
l86 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
Company. There was nothing in our discussions that would
justify the popular conception of the great banking house
swallowing up the little company from the West.
"What we want to do," said Hugh, "is pitch in and be of
some help to you. I am sure we can be very useful to you at this
juncture. We only want a small participation for the services
we render. We have just completed negotiations for a similar
group and have made a fine contract with the best company in
the field of their interest."
The plan suggested by Hugh was very simple, giving to Kuhn,
Loeb & Company a modest compensation for their services and
providing that the partners were to have an option on a limited
block of the Farnsworth stock at a fair price. This option was
later exercised at a time that was most advantageous to us in
our program of financing the activities of the company.
While the responsibility of meeting the constantly mount-
ing payroll still remained with McCargar and me, we felt that
at last we were headed somewhere in the eventual working out
of our plans to some practical conclusion.
From the moment the arrangements were made we were
always welcome callers at the Kuhn, Loeb offices. None of the
partners was ever too busy to sit down and discuss in great de-
tail the difficult and knotty problems of the company's develop
ment. Naturally most of the discussions were with Hugh, al-
though Louis Strauss spent a good deal of time with different
members of our organization.
From our experience with this firm I am convinced that
sincerity, untiring effort, and a meticulous integrity and honesty
of purpose have given it the position of power and influence
which it enjoys.
The association with Kuhn, Loeb & Company was interesting
and valuable to Phil. There were many enjoyable conferences
FINANCIAL PROBLEMS UNEXPECTED BANKING SUPPORT 187
at 52 William Street between the representatives of great fi-
nancial power and the young inventor.
Negotiations of the licensing agreement between ourselves
and American Telephone and Telegraph Company came up
shortly after the arrangement with Kuhn, Loeb had been com-
pleted. In this, as in other things, the help of Hugh and his
associates was most effective.
Television Network Possibilities
FARNSWORTH, in all his thinking regarding the commercial suc-
cess of television, considered that network broadcasting was
inevitable. He considered that this would come about as a
natural sequence once he had succeeded in making television
broadcasting and reception practical.
He was familiar with the history of radio and felt that tele-
vision would follow somewhat the same pattern. When radio
broadcasting was new, commercial sponsorship of programs
came as a surprise. Originally it was thought that broadcasting
stations and programs would have to be supported by the re-
ceiving-set manufacturers. However, soon after the first station,
KDKA, built by Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, went on the air,
commercial advertising automatically solved the problem of
paying for the station. It did not take long for shrewd men to
sense the great commercial possibilities of radio broadcasting.
In a short time far-flung networks of associated stations covered
the nation. Programs originating in New York, or other centers,
were piped by a telephone wire network to all the stations in a
national hookup. A radio broadcast requires seven voice chan-
nels to send a program from one station to another. These fa-
TELEVISION NETWORK POSSIBILITIES 189
cilities are provided over the wires of the American Telephone
& Telegraph Company on a rental basis.
Such service has been highly profitable to the telephone com-
pany. Phil reasoned that such companies as A.T. & T. and
R.C.A. were aware of the commercial possibilities of similar
services for television networks and would take the necessary
steps to provide them.
In television the band of frequencies required in the radio
spectrum is much broader than in sound transmission. In fact,
the channel required for the successful transmission of a 441-
line picture is comparable to that needed for 750 two-way tele-
phone conversations. Naturally, this constitutes a much more
difficult problem for station-to-station hookup than that of the
Farnsworth visualized the solution of the problem by two
methods; one by radio relay, and the other by a wired circuit.
Both methods presented difficulties quite beyond the facilities
of the Farnsworth laboratory; therefore, while it was an ever-
present source of some anxiety to Phil and his backers, they
intuitively assumed that either R.C.A. or Bell Laboratories, or
both, would provide the solution. It seemed in line with the
general trend of their communication developments. This faith
was well placed. Bell Laboratories have provided the coaxial
cable, and the research laboratories of R.C.A., in co-operation
with General Electric, have developed a very simple system of
broadcast relays from station to station so that there is now
available adequate means for chain television broadcasting
either through coaxial connections or through a network of
This development was a part of the general research plan of
Bell Laboratories to provide simpler carriers for the telephone
circuits. It is the result of a long, painstaking effort to put into
190 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
one single channel the facilities that make up the open-air tele-
phone lines from city to city.
The coaxial cable in its essence is a simple thing. It consists
of a flexible copper tube with a fine wire suspended in the cen-
ter and kept from contact with the tube by insulating washers
placed at intervals of a few inches. The terminal facilities are
much more complex. It is here that the skill of the Bell engi-
neers came into play to provide this new medium for intercity
communication. In addition it was necessary to develop stable
and efficient relay links twenty-five miles apart throughout the
length of the cable. Also, means had to be found to produce a
medium capable of meeting the exacting engineering require-
ments at a cost that would not be prohibitive.
A good deal of newspaper publicity attended the first ex-
perimental coaxial line, which was laid between New York and
Philadelphia. Considerable stress was placed on the enormous
cost involved in the laying of the cable. Those interested in de-
laying television seized upon this expense as one of the reasons
why television would not be practical for many years to come.
At this time Farnsworth and his associates were really the
only people in the radio or electrical industry whose particular
interest was directed solely at furthering the immediate com-
mercialization of television. In the middle 1930*5 sales of radio
sets were booming and practically all of the radio manufactur-
ers were making money. The broadcasting companies also
were operating profitably and, naturally, did not look with
particular favor upon any disturbance of this highly satisfactory
situation. Therefore, while the announcement of this cable gave
promise of a solution of the chain broadcast problem, it pro-
vided the proponents of delay with a tremendous weapon in
molding public opinion to the idea that television was "y ears
away." It is true that the expense of the initial cable from New
TELEVISION NETWORK POSSIBILITIES
York to Philadelphia was large, but there was no proof that the
development expense involved would be repeated when con-
nections were made with other cities.
Shortly after this first stretch of coaxial line was laid, Bell
Laboratories invited Farnsworth and some of his associates to
the Philadelphia Bourse Building to view a private showing of
the transmission of a television picture from New York to
Philadelphia. Several of the most eminent engineers of Bell
Laboratories were present, among them Dr. Ives, the great ex-
perimenter in television for the Bell System. We were ushered
into a small office where the picture was shown. The transmis-
sion was of a motion picture of a horse race. The received image
was of great clarity and surprising sharpness considering the
fact that for this test they were using somewhere between 200-
and 300-line detail. I remember particularly the sheen of the
flanks of the beautiful animal that won the race as he was led
up for the award.
After the demonstration Farnsworth and members of his
staff held quite an extended technical discussion with the en-
gineers of the Bell Laboratories. The Bell engineers showed us
a duplicate of the cathode-ray tube upon which the picture had
been received. They told us that this tube had cost the labora-
tories $10,000 to construct. It stood fully five feet high and had
the most astonishing array of apparatus in the stem. There were
all sorts of mechanisms to keep the vacuum constant, to check
the performance of every element in the tube, and generally,
to make the test transmission foolproof. To one who reads
casually in the newspaper the story of a demonstration of this
sort, there is no realization of the patience and skill that have
gone into the successful accomplishment of the results. In this
case the very expensive tube had been used instead of the ordi-
nary $25 or $50 cathode-ray television receiving tube because
THE STORY OF TELEVISION
they wanted to be able to trace exactly the cause of any distor-
tion or interference that might show up in the picture. It was a
perfect test of the efficiency of the cable and its relay stations.
In taking such meticulous care in an experimental test of
this kind the Bell Laboratories were only following the essential
routine that must precede commercial use of a new develop-
ment in order to make it foolproof and serviceable at all times.
In this demonstration we were aware that we were seeing one
of the early tests of a city-to-city transmission of television which
would undoubtedly be the forerunner of vast networks of simi-
lar cables that would cover the country and bring news events
instantaneously to vision throughout the land. As to whether
this is the ultimate solution of the television network problem
remains to be seen. It is possible that other and simpler means
may be devised.
It had been proved, first by our early experiments in San
Francisco, and later by the National Broadcasting Company,
that television programs can be sent for a short distance over
an ordinary telephone circuit. Farnsworth and his engineers be-
lieved that through the use of the multipactor tube open-wire
circuits could be developed to carry television signals long dis-
tances by the use of a simple relay system with booster stations
at frequent intervals. At the time some limited experimental
work along this line was done at the Philadelphia laboratories
in co-operation with engineers of the communications division
of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Demonstrations such as that given by the Bell Laboratories
were a source of inspiration to Farnsworth. As we drove back
to the laboratories from downtown Philadelphia there was a
constant flow of talk on the potentialities of this great new
development which we had seen. Farnsworth has always had a
great deal of respect for a wired connection and has often said
One of the first image dissectors
Recent version of the image dissector
First design of the multi-
Recent design of the multipactor
Detail = 50 lines, / 2,500 picture
Detail = 100 lines, / 10,000 picture
Detail 200 lines, / 40,000 picture Detail = 400 lines, / 160,000 picture
Pictures of photograph through screens of varying mesh, showing resolution
TELEVISION NETWORK POSSIBILITIES 1Q3
that there is nothing more dependable than a good wire. He
has never given up an early conception that he had of piping
television to the home either through the facilities of the light
and power system of a city, or over telephone wires. At this
time he was anxious to try out an experiment of piping a tele-
vision picture from our laboratories to the nearest telephone
exchange and then having it sent from the exchange by ordinary
telephone circuit into the subscribers' homes served by that
exchange. Certain experimental calculations that he had made
indicated that good reception could be had in any home within
a two-mile radius of the exchange. This experiment was never
carried through because of the press of other work, but Farns-
worth still thinks it may be a good idea.
Standards Proposed for
WHEN AUTOMOBILES were first produced there was no estab-
lished standard of performance which all manufacturers had to
reach before selling their product to the public. As soon as a
car was able to chug along a road on its own power it was offered
for sale in competition with other automobiles and with horse-
drawn vehicles. Sometimes they ran satisfactorily, often not.
Competition, engineering advances, and buyer demand for
improvements bettered the product from year to year. The re-
sult has been the healthy growth of a dominating industry
which has brought to us, at a reasonable price, a product of
surpassing excellence that has wrought marked changes in the
American way of living.
In varying degrees the pattern of the commercial develop-
ment of the automobile has been followed in the introduction
of most new inventions.
The very nature of the art prevented the introduction of tele-
vision from following the accepted pattern. In considering com-
mercialization it was fundamental that every receiver set sold
STANDARDS PROPOSED FOR TELEVISION BROADCASTING 195
should be able to tune in on programs broadcast from all trans-
mitters. It became apparent that to accomplish this definite
standards of broadcasting must be established by the federal
authorities in control of the air waves. It was wisely determined
that until such time as suitable standards could be set, tele-
vision broadcasting should be maintained on a wholly experi-
mental basis. This arrangement gave those engaged in the de-
velopment of the new art freedom to experiment with any and
all types of transmission. It provided testing grounds for proving
out what was best, whether it was by the mechanical scanning
disk, revolving mirrors, or purely electronic methods.
Another factor in establishing standards was the quality of
the picture. Through motion pictures the public had been edu-
cated to a high standard of excellence in visual entertainment.
It had forgotten how jumpy and how poor in detail the early
"flickers" were. Only when we see one of the old-time silent
pictures presented as a matter of comic interest do we recognize
how great has been the improvement. The public would not
now be satisfied with the low quality of picture that was preva-
lent when the first fabulous fortunes were made in the motion-
From the first Phil recognized that, to be successful, his
television pictures must compare favorably with motion pic-
tures in excellence of reproduction. As mentioned in a pre-
vious chapter, in the San Francisco experimental work Phil
and his staff made tests of photographing pictures through
screens of varying mesh to determine the amount of detail re-
quired in a picture to give the desired clarity. As a result of this
test he set somewhere between 400- and 5oo-line detail as the
goal to be achieved. The struggle to increase this picture sharp-
ness was long and difficult.
Phil's determination in this regard was his first effort at set-
ig6 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
ting definite standards for television transmission. Later it de-
veloped that this problem of picture clarity was but one of the
factors entering into those standards. As time went on and the
results achieved by the R.C.A. laboratories and others experi-
menting in television became known, the Federal Communica-
tions Commission gave recognition to television experimental
work. This was brought into sharp relief as the Commission
checked on the operations of the three principal experimental
television stations, those operated by Farnsworth, R.C.A., and
the Philco Company.
In the years from 1935 to 1937 the Radio Manufacturers As-
sociation began to take cognizance of television, and the Fed-
eral Communications Commission suggested to the Associa-
tion that a committee be appointed to recommend standards
of television broadcasting for adoption by the Commission.
Accepting this suggestion, the R.M.A. appointed a committee
headed by Albert F. Murray, chief of the television develop-
ments of the Philco Company. The committee was composed
entirely of engineers and was at first confined to representation
from five companies Farnsworth, Philco, General Electric,
R.C.A., and Hazeltine Corporation. Phil acted as the represen-
tative of our laboratories.
At its first meeting the committee established, as a funda-
mental principle guiding its deliberations, the rule that in all
standards they would adopt the device, or circuit, that would
give the most satisfactory picture regardless of the ownership
or control of the patent covering it. This rule was scrupulously
adhered to throughout the committee's deliberations. On some
points Farnsworth found himself in agreement with R.C.A.,
and on others he favored the principles proposed by Philco or
There were many points involved in setting up standards of
STANDARDS PROPOSED FOR TELEVISION BROADCASTING 197
telecasting to meet the rigorous requirements for public ac-
ceptance of television as a medium of home entertainment, but
there was little difficulty at this time in agreeing that a 441 -line
picture was adequate * and that transmission should be at the
rate of 30 pictures per second.
While standards had to do with broadcasting, the size and
shape of the synchronizing pulses depended on the design at
the receiver. The task of the committee was to select from the
developments of all those working in television the simplest,
most dependable, and best device for the specific function
throughout the whole system. Such questions as polarity of
transmission, background information in the picture, single
side-band transmission, spacing of sound carrier channel width,
and many others had to be determined. All took careful study,
fairness of judgment, and practical and experienced engineering
knowledge to decide what was best.
The standards were not arrived at hastily. Deliberations were
carried on in regular meetings held at intervals over a period of
more than four years. In addition to the formal meetings there
was much in the way of informal discussions and papers in en-
gineering publications. Whenever a meeting was called, Phil
always made it a point to call a meeting of our own engineers
and go over with them the technical aspects of the problems
coming up for discussion at the R.M.A. meeting.
As the work of the committee progressed, it became apparent
that the art had arrived at a point where it could be stabilized
and major standards crystallized without harm to future de-
velopments and growth.
Phil's dream of electronic television superseding the me-
chanical methods had been abundantly realized. The com-
mittee found no place in their discussions for consideration of
1 Later this was increased to 525 lines.
198 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
equipment involving mechanical moving parts. From meeting
to meeting different phases of the art were scrutinized closely.
As the months passed, sound conclusions emerged governing
the whole field of visual broadcasting and reception. It is doubt-
ful if the technique of a new art was ever arrived at with more
In later chapters we shall give further consideration to this
FOLLOWING Dr. Zworykin's visit to the Farnsworth laboratories
in 1931, we were honored by a visit from David Sarnoff, presi-
dent of R.C.A. At the time, Phil and Mr. McCargar were in
Philadelphia negotiating the Philco contract. Sarnoff seemed
impressed with what he saw at our laboratories but told me
that he felt Dr. Zworykin's work on the receiver made it possi-
ble for R.C.A. to avoid the Farnsworth patents, and that at the
transmitter they were using a mechanical mirror device that
he thought would equal the results which we could obtain by
our dissector-tube camera. He said that their laboratories at
Camden were being reorganized and that he was putting his
influence behind the developments of Dr. Zworykin. After this
visit we felt more certain than ever that the R.C.A. laboratories
would give us stiff competition.
Naturally, we were not permitted to know the details of the
R.C.A. developments, but from time to time announcements
were made to indicate that they were making splendid prog-
ress. In due course the Zworykin iconoscope, as the heart of the
R.C.A. television camera, was announced. It is a most ingenious
tube based on a principle somewhat different from the Farns-
20O THE STORY OF TELEVISION
worth dissector tube. In construction it is much more compli-
cated than the dissector. Theoretically it has much greater sen-
sitivity than the Farnsworth tube because the electrons from
the picture elements are released a point at a time, rather than
by a continuous flow from all parts of the entire image as is
the case in the dissector tube.
In the Zworykin tube the cesium surface of the cathode plate
is deposited in island units, each distinct and separate from the
other. During the period of a one-time scanning of an image,
that is, Ho of a second, the electrons emitted from each ele-
ment of the picture are stored up on the insular areas and re-
leased as the next scanning beam passes over it. In the dissector
tube there is no storage during the scanning interval; electrons
are flowing constantly from each element in the image. It is
this storage process that gives the iconoscope the advantage in
sensitivity over the Farnsworth device. However, the insular
areas had a tendency to store up excessively large charges of
electrons on the brighter part of the picture, which leaked over
to the adjacent islands on the darker portions; this evened up
the light values and destroyed sharp contrasts, and as a result,
fuzzed the detail of the image.
In the Farnsworth dissector tube there was no such spilling
over from the light to the dark; therefore a picture produced
by the dissector tube was of better definition and sharper con-
trast than that produced by the iconoscope. It became apparent
that the Zworykin iconoscope was a superior instrument for use
in studio and outdoor pickup where lighting was a problem. In
motion-picture work and bright sunlight, the dissector tube
had an advantage.
While little was said openly about the rivalry of the two
laboratories, it was obvious to everyone that there was a definite
PROGRAM EXPERIMENTS 2O1
race between Farnsworth and Zworykin in their television de-
During a period when the Farnsworth laboratories were
quartered at the Philco plant, Farnsworth and his engineers
quite often picked up the R.C.A. image from the experimental
laboratories at Camden. It is remarkable what an engineer can
find out by studying such an image. Farnsworth discovered
many things that encouraged him. He also learned things about
the Zworykin picture that were disquieting. He and his asso-
ciates were very complimentary about the work of Dr. Zworykin
and freely expressed their admiration of his results.
Phil seemed to enjoy this rivalry. It stimulated his inventive
efforts. When he found something in the Zworykin picture
that showed his own to a disadvantage, he was always hot on
the trail of something to surpass it. I believe that Phil's ideas
on what later became the orthicon development, and his image
amplifier dissector tube, were the results of his determination
to outdo what he saw in the Zworykin picture.
During the daily work on improving the television image it
became apparent that ordinary line-after-line scanning of the
image caused a definite flicker which would have to be removed
if television was to meet motion-picture standards in pleasing
the eye. To correct this the idea of interlaced scanning was con-
ceived. Farnsworth worked out two methods of accomplishing
it. However, as the patent applications on both methods fol-
lowed their course through the Patent Office, it was disclosed
that priority on the preferable one had been awarded Dr.
Zworykin. It is to Farnsworth's credit that in the Committee
on Standards he voted for the adoption of the Zworykin method
of interlaced scanning over his own alternate scheme because
he thought it would operate more simply and effectively. And
202 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
this in spite of the fact that it gave Zworykin a patent controlling
an essential element of television.
Interlaced scanning is one of the most subtle and precise
operations in the whole art of electronic television. It works
both at the transmitter and at the receiver. The whole compli-
cated and accurate operation must be accomplished within an
extremely limited area. The odd number of lines in picture
scanning was adopted to meet the requirements of interlacing.
Transmitting at the rate of 30 pictures per second by the inter-
laced method means that each image has to be gone over twice
in the lateral scanning, the first scanning laying down the odd
lines, i, 3, 5, etc., and the second scanning laying down the even
lines, 2, 4, 6, etc. Those of the second operation must be laid
down interlaced exactly between the lines of the first scanning.
If the picture is broken down into 441 -lines, this means not
only that it must be scanned at the frequency of 30 per second
and the lines picked up and laid down in absolute parallel order,
but that they must be interlaced with minute accuracy so that
the lines of the second scanning of each individual picture fall
exactly between the lines of the first scanning.
When this interlace was first tried out in our laboratories I
could only marvel at the nicety with which it was done. I was
shown a picture of 221 lines. A knob on the control panel was
turned and the interlacing of 220 additional lines entered the
field. The result was a smooth, uniform field without jumpiness
In the neck-and-neck television race, interlace was a score
for Zworykin. To counteract that, Farnsworth had the satis-
faction of knowing that his straight-line scanning, his saw-tooth
wave form, and the blacker-than-black synchronizing pulse
dominated the use of the iconoscope and scanning at the re-
PROGRAM EXPERIMENTS 203
While the research laboratories of R.C.A. and Farnsworth
were definitely rivals, there were certain elements where there
could be no rivalry. We were not equipped technically or fi-
nancially to compete with R.C.A/s National Broadcasting
Company, or any other company, in the field of broadcast tech-
nique, programs, and entertainment.
For a time shortly after our laboratories were established in-
dependently in Philadelphia, Farnsworth had ambitious ideas
regarding the development of an experimental broadcasting
station as a center for our experimental program work. Both
Mr. McCargar and I felt that this was quite beyond our pocket-
books and very much outside the scope of the Farnsworth pro-
gram. We were convinced that we were not fitted for the en-
tertainment field and that when actual commercial television
arrived people experienced in radio programs and motion-
picture production would have at their fingertips the technique
and facilities that would take us months, if not years, to acquire.
However, in the studio at our station in Philadelphia, Phil
did succeed in doing quite a bit in the way of experimental pro-
grams. He employed Bill Eddy, who later gained considerable
prominence in the development of television programs at the
National Broadcasting Company and other studios, to direct
this work. Eddy made some interesting experiments in lighting
for television and in the operation of two cameras picking up
studio productions. He also made some tests of fake background
with miniature sets. Such tests did little more than prove to
our own satisfaction that our television camera was a practical
device for the transmission of studio programs.
At this time we had two cameras in operation, in addition to
the telecine channel for the transmission of motion pictures.
Monitors were so arranged on the control panels that the chief
operator at the panels could see what sort of picture each of
204 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
the cameras was picking up and alternately pipe each into the
main channel for actual transmission to the receiver. The man
at the monitor was the "mixer" and exercised virtual control
over the program going out on the air. Technique was developed
for smooth fading from the closeup to the long shots and the
reverse. Eddy worked out a very clever miniature revolving
globe with the appropriate announcement of "The Farnsworth
System Presents." He had quite a genius for showmanship and
originality. It was unfortunate that we were not in position to
take full advantage of it.
A great deal of attention was given to lighting effects to cut
down the light requirements. By the proper use of back lighting
and other devices to accentuate the contrasts in features, we
were able to increase the effective sensitivity of the dissector
tube manyfold to the point where the actual light requirements
for transmission of studio programs was something less than
that necessary for the taking of colored motion pictures.
Here, I believe, for the first time serious attention was given
to make-up for television. Later all of the laboratories gave a
great deal of publicity to this important problem and many
fantastic news stories of make-up requirements were published
in newspapers and magazines. The Max Factor Company,
prominent Hollywood make-up artists, became interested and
on several occasions had a representative at our Philadelphia
laboratories to assist in our experiments.
Because the cesium surface on both the dissector and the
iconoscope tube is peculiarly sensitive to the infrared portion
of the spectrum, red televises white, quite in contrast to what
happens in photography, where red photographs black. A mix-
ture of blue in the make-up provided the proper effects where
shading was necessary to deepen the facial contrast.
One amusing incident occurred to illustrate the fact that red
televises white. A prominent newsreel service came to Phila-
delphia to photograph the operation of the television studio
and, if possible, to take a motion picture of an actual television
picture at the receiver. For the purpose of news interest a couple
of boxers were to put on a sparring match on the lawn by the
studio building. One of the boxers had on brilliant red trunks.
I was watching the television receiver when the first test was
made and was very much startled by what looked like a contest
between a representative of a nudist colony and the boxer in
the black trunks. In the interest of censorship it was necessary
for the boxer in the red trunks to change to some other color
before we could make a motion-picture record of the received
It was also found that certain fabrics were transparent in tele-
vision transmission. This discovery was made when we were
about to put on a demonstration for newspapermen. We had
engaged the services of a toe dancer. She brought two costumes
with her, one of them of a light material such as toe dancers
often wear, which she put on for rehearsal before the newsmen
arrived. When the picture came through on the receiving set,
instead of presenting a girl dancing in a fluffy skirted costume,
we had a dancer performing in virtually nothing. Fortunately
she had on tights. She was told that we thought the other
costume would be more appropriate. She changed, and the show
In many of our tests we found that a certain type of red hair
televised exceptionally well. I happened to mention this one
time to a reporter from one of the major news services who
was witnessing a demonstration. He wrote up a catchy article
about it which was widely syndicated throughout the country.
I was quoted as the authority on the telegenic qualities of red-
heads. For several weeks afterwards I received letters from red-
206 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
headed girls in different parts of the country aspiring to become
television performers. One sent along a lock of her tresses to
prove that she qualified.
At this time we also carried on at the studio quite extensive
experimental work in the pickup of outdoor scenes. Under
ordinary sunlight conditions the dissector tube operated satis-
factorily, but there were definite deficiencies when we at-
tempted to transmit pictures from out-of-doors on afternoons
of gray days. On the whole, however, we were greatly surprised
at the effectiveness of the television camera in the transmission
of ordinary out-of-door activities. We rigged up an improvised
badminton court on the lawn of the studio and did very satis-
factory work in transmitting the game.
One thing that was always a source of surprise and satisfac-
tion was the beautiful way in which television transmitted
action. Motion seemed to improve the quality of pictures. The
only explanation we could give for this was the fact that the
human eye is one of the greatest creators of illusion on earth.
In action pictures the eye supplies from memory so much that
is not there. This is true of motion pictures, and it was proved
to be so to an even greater degree in television pictures. It was
remarkable to see the clarity of images of automobiles on the
highway half a block away, or the activities in back yards in the
neighborhood at some distance.
A frequently mentioned theoretical shortcoming of television
was the size of the received image. In conversation with almost
anyone who had not seen a television image one of the first
questions usually asked was, "How large is the picture?" When
the answer was given that the dimensions of pictures were from
five by seven to nine by eleven inches, there was usually an
expression of disappointment that the pictures were so small.
However, our tests in the Philadelphia studio proved to us quite
PROGRAM EXPERIMENTS 2OJ
conclusively that pictures of the dimensions named would be
adequate for commercial home receiving sets.
This was very well expressed by a friend of mine who han-
dled two of the most popular radio programs on the air. At his
request I took him and his family from New York to Phila-
delphia for a demonstration. The boys at the lab had built up
an interesting program to show us. On our way back I asked my
friend what he thought of the picture.
He said, "I feel it is definitely commercial. I was agreeably
surprised." He added, "When you took me into the room and
sat me down in front of the television set I looked at the small
screen on the end of your receiving tube and made the mental
notation, 'I wonder if these people think they can give me any-
thing of interest on so small a screen.' However, when the pic-
ture came on the size seemed to be adequate. This was particu-
larly true of the outdoor shots." That was the general reaction
received from most people who came to see the picture.
On another occasion, when we were making a demonstration
for the head of the Communications Division of the Canadian
Pacific Railway and his family, the same question came up for
discussion. Mr. Neil made this comment: "To me a television
receiving set is a personal, intimate thing. When I get my set I
will want to sit near it and glance up occasionally to see what
is coming on the screen. If it is of sufficient interest I'll take
time out from reading, or whatever else I am doing, to watch it
closely. To me the size of the picture is adequate for the home."
Much as Phil wanted to have our laboratories conduct experi-
mental work on programs, he turned little of his genius to the
task of perfecting the details that lay between us and the actual
transmission of acceptable commercial television pictures. He
was impatient with the shortcomings of the dissector tube and
the equipment in general to meet the high standard of picture
208 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
detail and sensitivity that he had set for himself. As is typical
of inventive genius, he wanted to work out the detailed refine-
ments by some new spectacular approach, rather than through
the more tedious method of routine engineering. He seemed
unable to recognize fully the merits of what he had achieved and
to be unwilling to apply the skillful and patient engineering
necessary to get the maximum practical results from his in-
ventions. This attitude on his part permeated the Philadelphia
organization. It seemed to Mr. McCargar and me to be utterly
impossible to keep experimental hands off the equipment that
was specifically set up for the purpose of producing the maxi-
mum performance that could be achieved by our scientific de-
velopments to date.
Two engineers, Bart Molinari and George Sleeper, working
independently in the San Francisco laboratories, were fortu-
nately far enough away from this influence to have proper ap-
preciation of the equipment developed up to that time. They
were particularly enthusiastic about the dissector tube and had
the patience to do the monotonous engineering required to
achieve the best possible performance. Working alone, they
developed a television camera of beautiful and efficient design
around the dissector tube. They got most of the bugs out of the
auxiliary equipment and stabilized the circuits to insure de-
Two of the harassing difficulties met at this juncture were
a so-called "S" distortion and the pincushion effect in the pic-
ture. These two irregularities were primarily due to the elec-
tromagnetic fields of the deflecting or scanning coils. The "S"
distortion put a wave in the scanning line so that there was a
sort of hump in the middle of the picture. The pincushion ef-
fect gave the impression that the picture was stretched at each
PROGRAM EXPERIMENTS 209
By painstaking work Molinari and Sleeper found out what
caused most of the distortion and reduced it to a point where it
was not objectionable. They also had greater faith in the ef-
fectiveness of the dissector tube as an instrument for the camera
than did Farnsworth and his associates in Philadelphia. They
felt that if maximum results could be obtained in the circuits,
the intense lighting requirements, due to lack of sensitivity of
the cesium surface, could be greatly reduced, and they set about
to prove it.
After many and prolonged attempts to get a satisfactory
demonstration in the Philadelphia laboratories, in desperation
Mr. McCargar sent both Sleeper and Molinari to Philadelphia
to lend a hand in producing a presentable picture. Such a drastic
measure, naturally, caused some embarrassment to the San
Francisco boys, and resulted in some friction. Engineers gen-
erally are about as temperamental and fractious to handle as
prima donnas. Anyone who has had much experience with
them will recognize that this was an explosive situation and
might have resulted disastrously. However, by the use of con-
siderable patience and forbearance on the part of everyone
concerned, the advantages that had been gained in the San
Francisco laboratory were incorporated in the Philadelphia
demonstration setup. As the result of adding the work of the
boys from the Coast to the latest developments in Philadelphia,
we were able to give a very satisfactory picture.
Phil seemed to be unable to reconcile his scientific aspi-
rations and his desire to solve every problem by invention, rather
than by painstaking engineering, with the practical necessities
of the situation. The fault was as much that of his backers as
his because we had kept him completely sheltered from the
hard financial requirements of the situation. We had felt that
it was our obligation to provide the money and his responsi-
21O THE STORY OF TELEVISION
bility to carry on the research and development program.
Whenever there was vital need for a special project the money
was always forthcoming, to the extent that there often prevailed
in the laboratory something of the same atmosphere that per-
vades the laboratories of great research foundations and uni-
versities, where there is no necessity to turn the research to
commercial advantage. It fell to my lot to bear the brunt of the
impatience of the backers, who were seeking commercial
results, and to do as much as possible to set Farnsworth's
program straight with the responsibilities that he owed to his
sponsors and those who had put money into the venture.
At times Farnsworth was inclined to be abrupt and impatient
when such matters were brought to his attention, and occasion-
ally he was difficult to deal with. I remember one morning in
Philadelphia when I pointed out to him the necessity of putting
the studio demonstration in presentable shape.
"Phil," I said, "You and Tobie have been puttering with that
camera over in the studio for months now. Every time I drop
in here, which is at least twice a week, Tobie assures me that it
will be together and operating the next time I come over, but it
never is! I was just over there and he has it all torn down doing
something with it."
"Yes," said Phil, "yesterday I gave him the design of a new
circuit to put in. It will help the pictures a lot."
"I know all that, Phil, but that's what's been happening over
there for the last three months. Three months ago you and
Tobie promised me you would have that camera operating
within a week. Now here's what I want you to do, and Jess
insists on it. You take Tobie out of that studio and you stay
out of there yourself and then assign Frank Somers to get the
Phil straightened up, got up from his chair, and said, "This
PROGRAM EXPERIMENTS 211
is my laboratory. Neither you nor anyone else is coming in here
giving orders as to what is to be done."
"Your laboratory or not, Phil," I replied, "this is one time
when you are going to do as I say. If we are to continue to get
money to run this place, some attention must be given to
getting a commercial picture. You and Tobie won't do it, so
Frank will have to." Then after a pause, "I'll sit here and read
the paper until you do as I ask."
Phil gathered up some papers and swung out of the room,
slamming the door behind him. I had had similar tiffs with
him before, and though I didn't know what might happen, I
sat down to read the paper and await the outcome.
I remained there about twenty minutes. At the end of that
time Phil came in smiling, as though nothing had occurred, and
said he had arranged for the necessary changes, and then went
on to the discussion of some technical problem that was
uppermost in his mind at the moment.
This assignment of reconciling the purposes and will of an
inventor to those of a banker, with the latter's practical and
realistic outlook on our development, was not an easy one. It
was often a subject of discussion between Lippincott and me.
On one occasion Lippincott made this observation: "Most
inventors never make any money out of the product of their
genius for one of two reasons: they either get in the hands of
shyster promoters who ruin any possibility of successful com-
mercial development, or, if they are fortunate enough to have
responsible hard-headed financial backers, at some critical
period they get at loggerheads with their sponsors. This often
results in the backers throwing up the whole proposition in
disgust. In this case, while Phil has often been unreasonable,
you have always been able to bring them into line."
Facsimile and Fog Penetration
As POINTED out in a preceding chapter, before the laboratory
moved to Philadelphia most of the original financing group,
with the exception of Mr. McCargar, Mr. Fagan, and me, had
released their interest in the undertaking. Later their position
was taken by others, and both Mr. McCargar and I felt a keen
responsibility as trustees of the funds that had been put in.
Money was attracted to the venture by the two outstanding
elements in the situation the great genius of Farnsworth, and
the recognized reputation of Mr. McCargar in the banking
world. I am convinced that Mr. McCargar's patience was often
tried to the breaking point, but he never lost his faith in the
soundness of the Farnsworth inventions, or his sense of re-
sponsibility toward those who had put money in the specu-
lation. Added to this was a staunch determination to finish
successfully anything that he started.
The real test of the strength of the combination that had
been built up came after the original glamour of the new
development had worn off and things settled down to a hum-
drum day-in and day-out routine of perfecting the picture and
overcoming the obstacles to practical commercialization. On
FACSIMILE AND FOG PENETRATION 213
Phil's part it was a severe strain on his inventive impatience,
and on the part of Mr. McCargar and the rest of us it meant a
continuance of faith through long years of more and more
expensive development. It seemed that the monthly financial
requirements were always on the increase, while tangible
evidence of progress appeared in a diminishing ratio.
From time to time a financial sponsor would become impa-
tient and sell his interest. Newspaper stories and an occasional
financial item regarding the Farnsworth patent structure, or
a victory in an interference suit with R.C.A., piqued the interest
of San Francisco brokers and speculative investors. This inter-
est was cumulative. As the result of two or three good pieces of
news that found their way into the financial columns in the
summer of 1935, there developed a lively interest in the over-
the-counter market on Farnsworth shares. Because of a limited
supply of stock to be traded, a most amazing rise in price de-
veloped. The paper profits of all of us were startling. However,
neither Mr. McCargar, Farnsworth, nor I cared to take ad-
vantage of the situation. We were convinced that only the com-
mercialization of television would bring us any real substantial
profits. That seemed some distance away.
At the time this took place I was flat on my back in bed as the
result of an injury. I was so harassed by phone calls at the house
that it finally became necessary to have the telephone company
put in an extension by my bed. One of my good friends, Ernest
Geary, came out to visit me and as a joke brought me half a
dozen lead pencils and a couple of scratch pads to enable me to
figure my paper profits from day to day.
We had no illusions about the difficult developments and
industrial hazards that were ahead and preferred to carry along
in the usual way of providing the monthly payrolls that were
necessary to keep the laboratories going, rather than indulge in
214 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
any dreams of great wealth. Nor did we think it was necessary
for us to engage in wholesale expansion of our laboratory
The stock flurry finally subsided and the enterprise, so far as
Mr. McCargar and I were concerned, settled back into waiting
for the crumbs of development progress that fell from the
breadboard of experiment. Month after month the patient
plodding stretched through the depression years. The general
economic conditions did not add to the ease of our financial
problem, or help in providing the monthly payroll.
While this was going on, the R.C.A. laboratories were
making substantial progress with their television. Vast resources
in equipment and funds, together with their tremendous pres-
tige, made them formidable rivals. We wisely did not venture
to enter into competition with them in any field other than that
of patent strength. It is possible that R.C.A. has spent easily ten
times the amount of money on television that was put into the
Farnsworth development. They approached the problem from
the broad commercial angles represented in their industrial
structure, which included not only the manufacture of receiving
sets and transmitters, but also the allied fields of broadcasting
and communications. Aside from the limited operations of our
experimental station in Philadelphia, and the simple program
experimental work carried on for a time in our studio, we made
no attempt to perfect the technique of television programs for
Newspaper services developed quite an interest in the adap-
tation of the principles of television to telephotography and
facsimile reproduction. Representatives of different news
agencies visited our laboratories in Philadelphia and San Fran-
cisco to explore the possibilities. The interest became so insist-
ent that I asked one of our engineers to make a blueprint outline
FACSIMILE AND FOG PENETRATION 21 J
of a telephotography and facsimile system for use over wires, em-
ploying the Farnsworth dissector tube and other principles of
our television system for the purpose. In diagram form the
system seemed quite practical, but Phil took slight interest in
it. In this instance, as in many others, he showed good shrewd
sense. It was a highly competitive field in which there were
several alternative methods for the purpose. In fact, as I looked
into the problem further, it seemed that every tenth person I
met for serious discussion brought up a new system of facsimile.
Another adaptation of the Farnsworth dissector tube which
created widespread interest was the possibility of its use as a
fog-penetrating device. It had long been known that infrared
rays were able to penetrate fog to some extent. Since the Farns-
worth dissector tube was peculiarly sensitive to infrared or
heat radiation, it seemed that a camera device might be per-
fected that would register these rays through the fog and thus
become a great aid to aerial and water navigation. For some
months the Sperry Gyroscope Company co-operated with the
Farnsworth company in experimental work along this line.
While there has been some newspaper publicity regarding the
prospect of successful fog-penetration devices, our experiments
seemed to indicate that though the infrared rays could readily
penetrate a foglike haze, or fogs where the moisture particles
were of minute proportion, in an intense wet fog there was little
chance of their getting through. Whether a successful fog-
penetration device will be developed still remains to be seen.
There were many other temptations to spend money and
effort in the development of what seemed to be profitable and
productive side lines of research to adapt the television tube
and principle, as well as the multipactor tubes, to other fields.
Enticing as some of the projects were, our limited financial
resources and the inability of Farnsworth to spread himself out
2l6 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
any thinner prevented our venturing into these alluring pastures.
Phil used good judgment in recognizing the limitations of his
own time and our financial resources and did not wander off
from the main objective, as so often happens with men
endowed with inventive genius. Many such avenues were
properly open to large companies because of their wide and
varied commercial interests. For us it was necessary to stick to
the main objective, television.
With the establishment of our experimental broadcasting
station in Philadelphia, the executives of the Columbia Broad-
casting System manifested a friendly interest in our develop-
ments, and Phil and I were proud to arrange a special demon-
stration one Sunday for members of the C.B.S. staff. At this
time Columbia had recently employed an Austrian engineer,
Dr. Peter Goldmark, to organize and set in motion Columbia's
effort to enter the television field.
Dr. Goldmark and Phil developed a high regard for each
other's professional attainments and were most congenial in
their discussion of television problems. Dr. Goldmark was a
tireless student with great abilities as an engineer. He had a fine
appreciation of Farnsworth's originality and a gift for the de-
velopment of simple and practical devices.
As time went on C.B.S. became quite a regular purchaser of
Farnsworth dissector tubes for Dr. Goldmark's department.
His requirements were very exacting. This had a wholesome
effect on the tube department of the Farnsworth laboratories.
Farnsworth recognized that here, for the first time, was an
opportunity for his dissector tube to be put to the test by a
commercially operated broadcasting company that was fully
aware of all the requirements of the day-in and day-out
schedule on the air.
Some time later Mr. McCargar and I were privileged to see
FACSIMILE AND FOG PENETRATION 21 7
a demonstration of the transmission of motion pictures by the
Farnsworth dissector tube at the Columbia studios. It appeared
to us by far the best television we had yet seen. We were de-
lighted with what Dr. Goldmark and his staff had done in
careful engineering to secure the best results from the dissector
Defense of the Patent Department
FROM THE OUTSET both Mr. McCargar and I had believed that
it would be bad business judgment ever to attempt to go into
the manufacture of receiving sets or into the broadcasting
business. Neither of us, nor Farnsworth either, had had any
experience in manufacturing or in the distribution of radios, a
highly competitive business. It also goes without saying that
none of us had knowledge of commercial broadcasting. We
were of the opinion that our company would achieve its
greatest success by simply sticking to the research and develop-
ment program, deriving our revenues almost exclusively from
royalties on patents. Phil was not entirely in sympathy with
this program and often expressed a desire to get into manu-
facturing if it were possible. He had what he thought were
sound and original ideas regarding a manufacturing program,
but in this matter he deferred to our judgment and confined
himself to wishing.
When the arrangement with Kuhn, Loeb & Company
became effective, Hugh Knowlton was at first inclined to share
our ideas regarding manufacturing. However, as time went on
it became more and more apparent to all of us that in order to
DEFENSE OF THE PATENT DEPARTMENT 219
secure the maximum return from our licensing program we
must have a proving-out field for the use of our patents in a
production plant. It would be tedious to recount the months
and months of effort that were put in by all of us to find a
satisfactory solution to this problem. There were discussions
with several of the foremost companies in the radio, electrical,
and motion-picture field concerning licenses for the exploi-
tation of television. Other companies and individuals explored
with us proposals for financing and launching the company in
various commercial fields. Some were alluring, others seemed
sound, but we could not come to a wholly practical plan for any
It was a source of amazement and great satisfaction to me
to observe the patience and abilities exerted by Hugh and the
associates of Kuhn, Loeb & Company to find a solution. At no
time was there any talk of a grandiose structure that might come
from the imagination of a scenario writer for a popular motion
picture. We were faced with the job of conserving and ex-
ploiting a million-dollar investment in research work and any
further inventive products that might come from the fertile
mind of Farnsworth. The cross-licensing agreement with
American Telephone and Telegraph Company had given us a
strong trading position. The publicizing of Farnsworth's efforts
in this country and abroad had made the Farnsworth name a
The final result of months of study and discussion concern-
ing the future course of the company was the decision to
employ an outstanding leader in the radio manufacturing and
distribution business to head up a radio and television manu-
facturing company. This company would be prepared to put
on the market a complete line of television and radio receiver
sets, as well as to be in position to supply transmitters for
22O THE STORY OF TELEVISION
broadcasting stations. This determination was made late in the
summer of 1938. In order to carry out the program it was
necessary to acquire manufacturing facilities and float a stock
issue of sufficient proportions to buy the plants and provide
adequate working capital.
While Phil was very much at sea in the discussion of the
plans, he was at heart quite happy that his original conception
of building a great manufacturing company around his patent
structure was likely to come true. However, as the plans took
more tangible form he was a bit frightened by their magnitude
and the responsibilities they involved. He was in turn elated
or unhappily confused by what was going on. This attitude was
accentuated by the fact that at this time his years of highly
concentrated work had begun to tell on him nervously to the
extent that we were fearful he might suffer a nervous break-
down, so while the plans were carried on with his full knowl-
edge of what was going forward, he took but a minor part in
Phil was at this time engrossed with some very baffling tests
on his image-amplifier tube which were causing him much
concern because he couldn't seem to make electrons jump
through the ropes the way he wanted them to, and after the
pattern which his mathematics indicated they would.
In the midst of Phil's confusion with this problem, and our
proposed change of corporate setup, there came from Washing-
ton a request for him to testify before the O'Mahoney Tempo-
rary National Economic Committee, commonly known as the
Monopoly Committee, which was inquiring into the possi-
bilities of patent monopolies.
A part of this inquiry revolved around the operations of the
Patent Department. There were rumors that plans were under
way for a complete overhauling of this department and reorgani-
DEFENSE OF THE PATENT DEPARTMENT 221
zation of the patent procedure. The Commissioner of Patents
and his associates, naturally, were disturbed. Since Phil was an
outstanding example of a poor young inventor achieving recog-
nition in a field where powerful interests were at work, his
testimony would be valuable. Phil's treatment by the depart-
ment had always been so fair that he was eager to appear in its
I went with him to Washington for the hearing. It was held
in the Caucus Room of the Senate Building. This was a large
chamber elaborately fitted up with a big thronelike table for
the members of the committee, each member being provided
with a microphone. At right angles to the committee dais and
leading down from it to the center of the room were long tables
for members of the press, waiting witnesses and their counsel,
and privileged spectators. A table at the right was given over to
the counsel for the appearing witness and was fitted up with
microphone and room for secretaries. Back of the throne were
facilities for the use of the committee's staff. This elaborate
array occupied one half of the chamber, the other half being
reserved for the public. Someone remarked to me that this room
was the political sounding board of the nation. The arrange-
ments and the fittings lived up to the definition.
We appeared at the hearing as Dr. Jewett, of the Bell Labo-
ratories, was testifying before the committee regarding the
patent setup of the great Bell System. He explained fully the
activities of the Bell Laboratories over which he presided and
their relationship with the parent company, the American
Telephone and Telegraph Company. In the course of his
testimony there developed one of those strange instances where
a simple statement by an honest scientist was distorted to
bedevil two great corporations.
Dr. Jewett said that the expense of $10,000,000 a year for
222 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
the laboratories was justified because the new devices developed
by them effected huge savings to the Bell System and added
much to the efficiency and dependability of its service. To illus-
trate the point he said that the laboratories had recently de-
veloped a very efficient tube for use in their relay stations; that
previously the best tube they had had for this purpose had an
effective life of 1,000 hours of service, whereas the new tube
gave more than 50,000 hours of use. He said that the use of this
tube not only saved the company great expense in tube re-
placements, but reduced materially the cost of servicing relay
stations and added enormously to the dependability of the serv-
One member of the committee, intent on ferreting out evi-
dence of monopolistic practices, asked Dr. Jewett whether this
tube was available for general use; in other words, whether he
could have that tube in his own radio set. Dr. Jewett instantly
replied that he thought the tube was made exclusively by
Western Electric for use of the American Telephone and
The committeeman then inquired, "Has any other company
a license to manufacture that tube?" Dr. Jewett replied that he
did not know, but thought not.
Other members of the committee, hot in pursuit of monopo-
listic practices, became interested and asked further questions
about the availability of the tube for general use. One asked
Dr. Jewett whether he thought the general public should be per-
mitted to buy the tube. This somewhat confused Dr. Jewett,
and the episode ended with the clear implication that this
valuable development was being withheld from the public use
by a great telephone and radio monopoly. This in spite of the
courteous efforts of Chairman O'Mahoney to allow Dr. Jewett
to refute it.
DEFENSE OF THE PATENT DEPARTMENT 22 3
Because R.C.A. had licensing rights to all of the American
Telephone and Telegraph radio patents, they were implicated
as a party to this possible monopolistic plot.
Following this episode, Dr. Jewett's testimony proceeded on
through the rest of the afternoon. Phil was scheduled to ap-
pear at ten o'clock the next morning.
In order to prepare for his testimony the chief of the Patent
Department and their attorney asked us to accompany them
to the Patent Office. On the way back Dr. Jewett's testimony
on the long-life tube was discussed. All felt that his straight-
forward answers had been greatly distorted and misinterpreted
and that it might lead to some unfair implication if the erro-
neous impression was not corrected. Phil said that he thought he
could make the correction quite easily and it probably would
come more gracefully from him than from someone connected
with R.C.A. or the Bell Laboratories.
We had no sooner arrived at the Patent Office than a phone
message came through from R.C.A. in New York asking that
they be given an opportunity to be heard on the subject of the
long-life tube. They seemed very much disturbed at the possible
construction that might be placed on Dr. Jewett's testimony.
They were assured that Mr. Farnsworth would straighten
the matter out by stating the facts of the case the following
Before the conversation ended, however, the R.C.A. repre-
sentative asked for an opportunity to meet Mr. Farnsworth the
The anxiety of R.C.A. was not without foundation, because
New York papers the following morning carried prominent
news articles claiming that a long-life tube was being withheld
from the public by a radio monopoly and embroidered the idea
quite extensively. The publicity was unjust and unfair, and
224 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
hardly reflected the temperate inquiry of Senator O'Mahoney
and the majority of his committee.
In the morning we met at the Patent Office at nine o'clock
to complete preparations for the morning's testimony. Shortly,
three R.C.A. representatives appeared with samples of tubes
and the R.C.A. Tube Manual showing that some seventy-five
types of tubes were available if anyone wished to buy them.
There was ample evidence in the tubes, and in the manual, to
disprove the implications of monopolistic practice in withhold-
ing a valuable tube from public use. It only confirmed what Phil
had told us the night before. The R.C.A. men asked Farnsworth
to put this material in evidence. I persuaded them that this
would not be necessary, that their case would be much stronger
if Mr. Farnsworth cleared up the situation in his own way.
As the hearing opened Phil was placed on the witness stand
with a battery of three microphones in front of him. I believe
this witness chair "the sounding board of the nation" with
all its impressive physical paraphernalia, gave Phil a bit of stage
fright. In all his public appearances he gives the impression of
great diffidence. In his own mind he is quite sure of himself, his
only anxiety being to state things accurately and correctly so that
there may be no possibility of misunderstanding. This gives him
the appearance of a halting and hesitant witness until he gets
warmed up to his subject.
After the formalities of swearing him in, the Patent Depart-
ment's examining counsel proceeded to ask Phil questions to
clear up the misconstruction placed on Dr. Jewett's testimony.
He first asked Phil if he knew of the tube. Phil replied that he
was quite familiar with it. The examiner then asked if anyone
else, other than Western Electric, could make the tube. Phil
said, "We can make this tube if we wish, and I believe that any
DEFENSE OF THE PATENT DEPARTMENT 22 5
company licensed under R.C.A. patents is privileged to manu-
Phil then went on to say that we would not manufacture the
tube because it was not practical for use in a home radio set and
that there were much better tubes available for radio sets that
had long enough life for all practical needs. He said that he
thought most tube companies had a license to manufacture the
tube but, as a matter of fact, he didn't think a license was neces-
sary because he was quite sure that the patent on the tube had
Phil's answers to the questions put to him regarding Dr. Jew-
ett's testimony were so matter-of-fact and simple that they im-
mediately cleared both the American Telephone and Telegraph
Company and R.C.A. from the implications of monopolistic
practice so far as this tube was concerned. At least the records
of the committee were straight, although there was no notice of
the correction on the part of the newspapers. It is this sort of in-
justice that makes large corporations jittery regarding investiga-
tions. Scare headlines of monopoly are produced by such mis-
constructions as were placed on a scientist's answers to ques-
tions involving public policy. The records are later set right, but
it is difficult to correct the damaging and unfair impression in
the public mind.
Following this episode the counsel for the Patent Office pro-
ceeded to question Phil regarding his own experience in build-
ing up the Farnsworth patent structure and how he had fared in
the Patent Office. This was a situation that Phil welcomed. As
noted before, serious consideration was being given to a possible
revision of the patent procedure and the general operations of
the department. It gave Phil an opportunity to defend whole-
heartedly the department and its activities. Phil and all of us
226 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
always had a very high regard for the scrupulous honesty and
fairness of the Patent Office. We always have felt that we were
given every consideration and had received just decisions in all
interferences that developed with our patent applications. Phil's
testimony reflected our feelings with sincerity and conviction.
Whenever Phil makes a public appearance he excites great
interest. His easy familiarity with scientific terms and phraseol-
ogies dazzles and intrigues the listener. This appearance was no
exception. He was asked regarding some of his more recent in-
ventions and pulled from a capacious brief case his latest model
of an image-amplifier tube, and some of the latest and most in-
teresting of the multipactor tubes. They looked scientifically
mystifying in the extreme. He spoke of one of the multipactors
as being able to register a candle power of light at a mile's dis-
tance. Chairman O'Mahoney and his committee members
showed great interest as they gingerly handled the strange de-
When asked for suggestions regarding possible changes in the
patent procedure, Phil reached back into his memory and
brought out some painful and disappointing experiences that
he had had in his youth by trustingly placing some of his early
inventions in the hands of patent attorneys who made a spe-
cialty of advertising in amateur publications. He feelingly
pointed out that here was an abuse that should be corrected.
Phil had no grievances to register against the department, nor
any suggestions of fundamental changes to offer. He seconded
some suggestions that had been made by the Patent Depart-
ment itself in the simplification of the procedure to be followed
in patent interferences.
The Commissioner of Patents and his associates were grateful
to Farnsworth for his testimony, which reflected so favorably
upon the operations of the department. The chief counsel was
DEFENSE OF THE PATENT DEPARTMENT 22 J
kind enough to tell us that Farnsworth had covered the situa-
tion so well that calling further witnesses in the department's
defense seemed unnecessary.
This episode of the testimony before the Monopoly Investi-
gating Committee was typical of occasional public appearances
at hearings before government bureaus and commissions.
Though Phil enjoyed the resultant publicity, such appearances
were distasteful to him and in most cases were not particularly
helpful; consequently we tried to avoid his having to spend
much time and effort in that direction.
Public Demonstrations in Los Angeles
and San Francisco
WHEN THE PLANS for the New York and San Francisco World's
Fairs were first announced the expositions seemed to be "nat-
urals" as a launching place for television. There was some
discussion of the Farnsworth company having a demonstration
at either or both. The Philadelphia plant was so engrossed in
advance research work that there was an inclination to put little
emphasis upon the demonstration there. However, Bart Moli-
nari, who was carrying on as a lone wolf in our San Francisco
laboratories (George Sleeper had joined Dr. Goldmark's staff
at the Columbia Broadcasting laboratories), had a determina-
tion to set up a practical television unit to show what could be
done with the Farnsworth equipment.
As has been indicated previously, Molinari, whom we
nicknamed Moli, is a very colorful figure, the son of a wholesale
baker in San Francisco. He was in high school during the early
days of radio and became one of the very first "hams" to set up
a short-wave radio transmission and receiving unit in his home.
It was the cherished desire of his father that he finish high
DEMONSTRATIONS IN LOS ANGELES AND SAN FRANCISCO 22Q
school and then go on to Stanford University to graduate in
Young Molinari had other ideas. During his last year in high
school he so frequently played hookey to work on his amateur
radio equipment that he lost out on making his entrance
requirements to Stanford. While he disappointed his father in
this respect, he went on to win distinction and international
recognition by capturing the Hoover Cup offered by the then
Secretary of Commerce for the best amateur transmitter for
Moli came to us as a glass blower, but proved to be such a
skilled and apt radio technician that we gave him almost as free
a hand in development work as was accorded Farnsworth. The
back of any radio chassis that Moli built was as precisely con-
structed as a piece of jewelry. As time went on, almost single-
handedly he designed and built up a very practical television
camera control and monitor panel. It was beautiful in its
simplicity and dependability.
At about the time that this was finished, matters had pro-
gressed to a point where it seemed to Mr. McCargar and me
that with the help of Kuhn, Loeb & Company we might be able
to work out a plan for the expansion of our activities into the
manufacturing of radio and television equipment. We recog-
nized that the consummation of any such plan might be a long
and expensive undertaking. Since the financing of the company
was our responsibility, Mr. McCargar and I felt that during the
summer of 1938 we should raise a substantial sum of money to
carry us through. As a result I made several trips to Los Angeles.
Through these visits I succeeded in providing us with something
in excess of $1 50,000. This, we felt, would carry us through any
major underwriting operation necessary to setting up a manu-
230 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
While in southern California, I sensed a possibility of
creating some interest in an experimental television broad-
casting station using Farnsworth equipment. The heart of the
movie center seemed a highly advantageous place for such a
station. I therefore made arrangements for an extended
showing of Molinari's demonstration unit at a studio adjacent
to the old Palomar Dancing Academy on Vermont Avenue.
The quarters had large windows overlooking the patio gardens
of the Palomar. The whole arrangement was well suited to our
Our first showing was given to representatives of the Los
Angeles press. There was wide interest in television in the film
capital; consequently the editors and publishers of the principal
papers were present. Tap dancers, a little girl singer, and one or
two vaudeville acts constituted the program, which was
arranged through the kindness of Carter Wright, a producer
associated with Fanchon and Marco.
Among the interested observers were Sid Grauman, Will
Rogers, Jr., and others from the motion-picture colony. Moli
had all of the equipment tuned to perfection. The weather was
unusually hot, and the heat of the lights added to the oppressive
temperature in the transmitter room. The program started with
a beautiful presentation of the first two acts, then suddenly
something went wrong and no picture came through. Moli
tried feverishly to find the trouble and get the picture going
again, but without success. Evidently something serious had
happened. There was nothing to do but tell the audience that
a tube had failed and ask their indulgence.
At the time this announcement was made I didn't realize
that the heat had cracked the dissector tube. Molinari, with an
unerring sense for trouble, found this out very promptly, but it
required nearly half an hour to make the change to another tube.
DEMONSTRATIONS IN LOS ANGELES AND SAN FRANCISCO 231
I shall always mark it up to the everlasting credit of the
publishers, editors, and feature writers of the Los Angeles
papers that in the news story that appeared the next day we had
headlines announcing the first public showing of Farnsworth
television in Los Angeles and saying it was "just like the movies"
the highest praise that could be given in the movie capital.
Not one word was said regarding the embarrassing broken tube
and delay in the program!
At the Palomar Studios next door one of the nationally
famous orchestras played every evening and a crowd of young
people came to enjoy the dancing. During intermission they
would gather out on the patio. Looking through the window,
Moli and I would often pick out what we considered good
television subjects and then go out and ask them to come in and
be televised. We got to know what skin textures seemed to tele-
vise best and what type of hair gave the most pleasing results.
In fact, we used to place bets with others around the studio as
to whether this one or that one would really show up well on
the television screen.
One afternoon I was invited to a social gathering. Later the
guests were to go to the studio to see a television showing. As
we left for the studio I asked one of the guests if she would be
kind enough to be televised. She graciously consented. Later I
learned that she was Billie Dove of the movies. Of all the people
that I have seen televised I think that she was the most perfect
subject. Among the men, John Boles was the best. Both of them
not only had the beautiful regularity of features that shows up
well on a television screen, but they also had the proper texture
of skin to give best results.
Young Will Rogers, Jr., was fascinated with our develop-
ments, and Molinari arranged a special showing for him and
his mother and family.
232 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
It was in Los Angeles that we first televised a hula dancer,
Princess Louana, a native Hawaiian who performed at many of
our showings. To me it was the most successful of all our acts.
We continued the television demonstrations for a period of
five weeks. Many of the famous figures in motion pictures took
advantage of the showing. One evening was given over to a
demonstration for Harold Lloyd and his family. When he was
televised one of his children said he looked pretty tough. He had
appeared without make-up and his beard showed through very
badly, as is often the case with men unless the beard is covered
It was here that we had our first real test regarding television
make-up. The Max Factor Company of Hollywood was anxious
to learn something about the requirements of television to
prepare themselves to do the same splendid job in television
that had characterized their work in motion pictures. Max
Firestein, head of the Factor Company, spent a great deal of
time at the studio. In addition, his nephew, Sidney Cramer, was
assigned to make up the television artists as they appeared at all
of our showings. We gave two demonstrations a day, one in the
afternoon and one in the evening. Cramer usually arrived at the
studio each day with some new mixture of coloring to try out.
He finally found that the best effect to be had on the lips was
not to paint them blue as we did in the first showings, but to
mix a little blue pigment with the ordinary type of lipstick. This
gave a more natural shading to the lips than the blue make-up.
We could do wonders with most television subjects by paint-
ing out lines and wrinkles with liberal use of red make-up. One
evening when a leading moving-picture producer and his wife, a
former Follies beauty, came to one of our demonstrations, I
asked the producer's wife if she would like to be televised. She
DEMONSTRATIONS IN LOS ANGELES AND SAN FRANCISCO 233
was well in her forties, and while the lines of her former beauty
were still evident, her features were a bit heavy and there were
distinct crow's-feet in her face. But with the skillful use of blue
make-up under the chin and red lines on her cheeks and around
the eyes, we succeeded in transmitting a television picture of her
The producer, who was something of a wag, watching at the
receiver, said, "My God, is that my wife?" I assured him that
it was. He asked, "How much do these machines cost? I think
Fll buy one if it can do that much for my wife's looks."
At this Los Angeles showing a representative of Scientific
Films, Inc., which did short news subjects of a scientific nature
for release through Paramount, became interested in producing
a film of the Farnsworth television development. Arrangements
were made for Phil to be photographed at our laboratories in
the east, and later the film was completed in San Francisco.
This was the type of public recognition that Phil enjoyed most,
and he took great pains to co-operate fully in order that the film
should give a true representation of our development. The
picture was taken in Technicolor and given worldwide release.
On the whole our showing in the motion-picture center was
kindly received, although in some quarters there was still a
lurking fear that television would be a serious rival to motion
Following the Los Angeles show Molinari and the equipment
returned to San Francisco. Later an extended showing was
made under the auspices of the San Francisco Merchants
Exchange. This was a more finished effort than the Los Angeles
demonstration. Molinari had learned better lighting technique
and handled the television camera to better advantage. Here
again the Max Factor Company assigned Mr. Cramer to care
234 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
for our make-up problem, and Carter Wright again provided
the program. One of the most successful acts was a classic
These two showings by Molinari were the first real attempts
at such extended performances of television for the public.
R.C.A. was broadcasting programs over the experimental sta-
tion in New York, but there was no scheduled program where
the general public could see both transmission and reception.
Don Lee, in Los Angeles, under the direction of Harry Lubcke,
was also doing considerable television broadcasting; however,
they would not permit anyone to see their transmitting
equipment. It was not until after we had completed our public
showing that Don Lee adopted the wholly electronic method of
The following season the San Francisco and New York
World's Fairs opened, but we did not feel that we could afford
to put in a television demonstration at either fair.
Manufacturing Plans Completed
IN SURVEYING the field to get the best-qualified man to head
the proposed manufacturing organization of the Farnsworth
company we centered finally on E. A. Nicholas, head of the
Licensing Division of R.C.A. A tentative commitment was
secured from him to accept the presidency of the company in
case the plans under consideration materialized.
Here at last Phil's dream of a large, adequately financed
television company was taking tangible form. Mr. Nicholas was
regarded as one of the most able and well-liked men in the en-
tire radio industry. He was young and aggressive and had cour-
age and imagination. That he was willing to leave his splendid
association at R.C.A. and take his chances with us was to us
added proof of the soundness and value of the Farnsworth
As soon as Mr. Nicholas entered the picture he set about ener-
getically to shape up a commercial organization with the sound-
ness and potentialities that would attract adequate capital to
launch the new manufacturing company.
It was learned that a radio manufacturing company, the
Capehart Company, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, could be
236 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
purchased and that another near-by plant at Marion, fifty miles
south of Fort Wayne, was also available. The upshot of it all
was that a plan was finally worked out for the acquisition of
these manufacturing facilities and for the floating of $3,000,000
worth of Farnsworth stock to provide for the purchase price of
the two plants and to insure adequate operating capital.
Our goal was to have the arrangements completed and the
new company in operation some time in November 1938, if we
could get the matter cleared through the Securities and Ex-
change Commission by that time. Since it was a perfectly legiti-
mate speculative undertaking it seemed to us that there should
not be a great deal of red tape involved. However, in this we
Naturally we engaged competent attorneys and accountants.
As we got into the necessary work of filing the registration state-
ment we recognized that a real task lay ahead. While our
bankers expected that there would be some routine effort to get
the matter through the newly set-up regulations of the S.E.C.,
we were wholly unprepared for the difficulties we met at the
hands of this government bureau. We were undoubtedly the
victims of a situation that had been created by flagrant abuses of
buyers' confidence in public financing. The position taken by
the Commission seemed to be that you were guilty until you
proved your innocence. In our case the attitude seemed to be
one of daring us to prove that we were not all a pack of dishonest
rogues. The expense that we were forced to incur mounted to a
sum several times our most liberal estimates, and the demands
of the Commission required seemingly endless trips of account-
ants, lawyers, and executives to Washington.
The registration statement and its supplement, in final
printed form, represented a weight in printed matter greater
than that of the New York telephone directory. Upon any point
MANUFACTURING PLANS COMPLETED 237
under discussion expert after expert would be brought in by the
Commission to question our attorneys and accountants.
Jesse McCargar and I were held in New York for months
doing what we could to help things along. Since we were on one
side and Kuhn, Loeb and the underwriters were on the other, we
had to bear the expense without any help from the financial
interests until the underwriting was approved. The two of us
and Phil were worried that the delays would make the under-
writing impossible. This was during the ill-fated period of
appeasement of the Germans by Prime Minister Chamberlain.
The success of any underwriting depended on the action of the
stock market. The market in turn was acting with a discon-
certing uncertainty that grew worse as the precious days went by.
Our experiences were not only disconcerting but sometimes
amusing. One instance was typical. Our chief attorney, John F.
Wharton, and some other of our attorneys and accountants,
were discussing some item in our financial statement with the
commissioner's staff. An impasse arose on the particular item
and a Commission accountant said, "We will call in our expert
chief accountant on this matter."
With that, a youngster, not long out of college, made an im-
pressive entrance into the room, sat down at the table, pulled a
comb out of his pocket and smoothed back his luminously
dressed hair. Mr. Wharton modestly said that he felt at a loss in
discussing the item in question with a qualified expert, and then
went on to prove that our contention was right. After Mr.
Wharton had established his point he didn't take the trouble to
inform the youthful authority that he was the author of a
textbook on legal accounting. The young expert retired in good
order, with his hair unruffled.
Time and again our attorneys returned from Washington
feeling sure that when certain demands and recommendations
238 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
were complied with our clearance would be granted, only to be
confronted with further delays and stipulations that had to be
As it was, the issue was put on the market on the very last day
on which it would have been possible to consummate the under-
writing. We finally got our release from the Commission and
there were several days of frightening uncertainty in the market
during which Mr. McCargar and I could readily see the whole
structure crashing down around our heads.
Fortunately the market stiffened, and March 31 was set as the
closing date. Representatives of all the parties concerned, with
their attorneys and accountants, assembled at the appointed
hour in the directors' room of the offices of the chief under-
writer. Everything was prepared; there were 113 legal documents
to be finally ratified. The attorneys were physically and
nervously exhausted as a result of the long siege. We were tense
with the fear that some last-minute failure on someone's part
might upset the whole thing. The bankers were anxious because
of the very uncertain market conditions. Mr. McCargar and I
therefore breathed a great sigh of relief when the check for
$3,000,000 was formally handed to me as treasurer of the
company and I was able to dispatch it to our bank for deposit.
On the following day Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia. Had
we been delayed one more day the underwriters would of ne-
cessity have had to withdraw.
Thus the dream of the launching of the Farnsworth Tele-
vision and Radio Corporation as a commercial organization
finally came into reality.
Mr. Nicholas and I proceeded at once to Fort Wayne. The
plan of action provided that the Farnsworth company should
engage in the manufacture of radio receiving sets to carry the
MANUFACTURING PLANS COMPLETED 239
company along until such time as television was launched com-
On the first of April 1939, Mr. Nicholas, as president, had
two well-equipped plants and operating capital as a nucleus
with which to get the business under way. With amazing speed
a manufacturing and distributing organization was built up. By
the middle of August of that year the company had a complete
line of radios ready for the market and 75 per cent of the
sales territory of the United States covered with excellent dis-
tribution. At our first distributors' conference approximately
$1,000,000 worth of radios were sold. Thus the manufacturing
business was launched.
In the meantime plans were under way to transfer our Phila-
delphia research laboratories to the Fort Wayne plant. This was
effected later in the fall.
Thus Phil Farnsworth's dream of facilities for the com-
mercialization of his television plan became a reality. Ill health
and a strange hesitancy prevented him from stepping immedi-
ately into the new setup. The manufacturing plants had been in
operation for some months before he finally moved from Phil-
adelphia to Fort Wayne. Everything was done to provide him
and the company with the laboratory facilities that he had
always dreamed of but had not been able to get in such com-
He was made a director of the new company and had a place
in the management group as vice-president in charge of re-
search. An appropriate office was provided, and his salary was
fixed on a par with the others of the management group.
In setting up the company, Mr. McCargar and I had pro-
tected his interests in stock holdings to the extent that when the
new company came into being Phil was the largest individual
THE STORY OF TELEVISION
stockholder. In working things out this way we took great
satisfaction in the fact that here for once an inventor had come
out of a long-drawn-out promotional struggle with more stock
holdings than any other individual in the company.
Upon arrival at Fort Wayne, Phil pitched into the develop-
ment work with his old zest and fervor. He was not content to
confine himself to research alone, but became interested in
every phase of the operations of the new venture. Then one day
he walked into the office of President Nicholas and announced
quietly, "Fin getting out."
A slow smile spread over his face when he saw the look of
alarm from Mr. Nicholas. "I'm just going fishing/' Phil added.
The truth was that Farnsworth had been driving himself so
hard he was endangering his health. He was beginning to
show the strain of his many hours of daily work, and doctors had
advised him that he would have to slow down. In addition, Phil
was not fully satisfied with his new job because it required him
to do so much planning and organizational work, necessitating
conferences and routine checking. He longed to spend all of his
available time in the research laboratory, where he could do the
inventive work himself rather than merely oversee it.
Officials of the company agreed with Phil that he could
continue to do the creative work he loved so much, and at the
same time safeguard his health, by moving to his Maine farm.
There his own laboratory was installed complete with the
tubes, coils, and other weird-looking electrical devices necessary
to enable him to conduct all types of development work. He
continued to spend considerable time in this private laboratory,
but he also had within walking distance his own private lake
where he could fish to his heart's content, and wooded hills
where he could walk by himself and muse over the experiments
he was conducting.
MANUFACTURING PLANS COMPLETED 241
Only occasionally did Farnsworth return to the company's
headquarters plant in Fort Wayne, but he kept the research
engineers there well supplied with ideas for new inventions and
ways of perfecting earlier discoveries. His wife still worked with
him at times in his laboratory and discussed with him some of
the perplexing problems of his work. And at times he got advice
not always solicited from his two teen-aged sons.
IN HIS DREAM of becoming a great inventor, Farnsworth was
continually aware that patent protection and patent recognition
were the keys to his scientific and financial success. Royalties
from manufacturers licensed under his inventions were looked
to as a material incentive for his work and a means of financing
further research. His patent structure was designed to cover his
inventions in the whole field of television. At the same time, he
was realistic enough to know that others would be working to
establish strong patent positions, and he anticipated that Radio
Corporation, with its vast resources, would be the chief con-
Farnsworth had begun to apply for television patents even
before he was old enough to vote. By the time he reached the
age at which most young men are finishing college and preparing
to start careers in the business and scientific worlds, Farnsworth
had been granted patents covering his system of transmitting
and receiving television images.
As the youthful inventor continued his developmental and
research work during the late 1920*5 and early 1930*5, the patents
began to come in steadily increasing volume. A whole nest of
R.C.A. LICENSES 243
patent claims developed around the construction of the dis-
sector tube. Another group of patents resulted from his re-
finements of the scanning wave. Many patents were secured
from work on amplifiers, and his research in the projection type
of receiver tubes resulted in the filing of many additional appli-
cations. More than a hundred television patents have already
been issued to Phil Farnsworth, and scores of others have been
granted to his associates who have worked with him through the
years. Many more cases are pending in the Patent Office.
The rapidly growing patent portfolio represented completed
goods on the shelf to be leased to the best possible advantage.
During the long anxious years while this accumulation was
taking place, there was occasional uncertainty in Phil's mind as
to how firm a place he could secure in the new art to which he
had contributed so much. Some of his patents and allowed
claims in unissued cases seemed to assure him of the prominence
he deserved, but for many years while some of the more im-
portant ones were being fought for in interference proceedings,
there was always a chance that he might lose some of the claims.
As his position became stronger, we began to consider ways
to develop an interest in our patents. As already noted, the first
contract was signed with the Philco Company. The European
licenses and the cross-licensing arrangement with the American
Telephone & Telegraph Company gave added strength and
prestige to Farnsworth's ever-increasing patent portfolio.
Because of its strong position in the radio industry, R.C.A.
had control of many of the major patents in that art. Manu-
facturers of radio receivers and transmitters operating under
license from R.C.A. were paying royalties of several million
dollars annually to that company. R.C.A. had also become our
chief competitor in television, so it was a foregone conclusion
that if Phil's patent structure were to be placed on a sound com-
244 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
mercial footing a licensing arrangement would have to be ne-
gotiated with the Radio Corporation.
His backers not only had to establish Phil's claims over R.C.A.
in important interferences in the Patent Office, but it was neces-
sary to obtain a licensing arrangement that would result in the
payment of substantial royalties to the Farnsworth laboratories.
The terms of such an agreement would determine the measure
of success of our venture.
R.C.A. first took serious notice of Farnsworth when the
Philco contract was being concluded. David Sarnoff, R.C.A/s
president, had visited our San Francisco laboratory and dis-
cussed the possibilities of a patent agreement in a very general
way, but for some time we heard nothing further from him.
As time went on, sporadic attempts were made to establish
a basis of negotiations. They usually resulted in vague sug-
gestions and delay. This delay was annoying, but Mr. McCargar
counseled us to have patience. He quoted Mr. Fagan as often
saying, "If you lean against anyone long enough, he will move
As television came nearer and nearer to a commercial reality
and as Farnsworth's patent strength was increased by the
winning of several important interferences, R.C.A. recognized
that some arrangement had to be made to enable them to use
the Farnsworth inventions. After Kuhn, Loeb & Company came
into the picture, Hugh Knowlton assisted in putting negoti-
ations on a more realistic and formal basis and stepped up the
tempo of the discussions. At first, the two sides seemed so far
apart that it looked utterly hopeless. Only the clear underlying
fact that neither company could get along without the other
kept the discussions alive.
To Phil these were months of uncertainty and nerve-racking
R.C.A. LICENSES 245
anxiety. After spending thirteen years in building a patent
structure, he faced the all-important question of whether the
leader among the possible customers, who would set the pattern
for all the rest, would agree to pay for it. An equally serious
problem was the question of whether the price would be ade-
quate. Phil, Jess McCargar, Don Lippincott, and I often had
long discussions regarding the matter. We felt convinced that
an arrangement must be made, but we too had many anxious
moments and some misgivings as to the type of deal that could
Previous to this time, the Radio Corporation had never paid
continuing royalties to anyone. It had succeeded in purchasing
any patents that were necessary for its operations, but we were
not in a mind to sell. Neither were we experienced in patent
negotiating of this sort. Consequently, we drew a sigh of relief
when, with the launching of the new company, experienced
people entered the picture.
Mr. Nicholas, the new Farnsworth president, was an old hand
at negotiating. He had for many years been in charge of the
Patent Licensing Division of Radio Corporation. He was ably
seconded by Edwin M. Martin, directing head of the patent
division of the new company. Mr. Martin had previously been
with the Patent Department of the Hazeltine Corporation.
Both these men recognized the importance of renewing licens-
ing negotiations with Radio Corporation, and long experience
had taught them how to go about it. They knew the funda-
mental strength not only of Farnsworth but of Radio Corpora-
tion as well. Therefore they could talk on equal terms with
R.C.A/s Mr. Schairer, vice-president in charge of patents.
The negotiations were not easy, but the two Farnsworth men
were determined to make a fair and equitable arrangement on
246 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
the part of both companies. Of course, Mr. Schairer preferred to
purchase patents outright rather than enter into an arrangement
where continuing royalties would be paid. Mr. Nicholas and
Mr. Martin were equally certain the patents were not to be sold.
Conversations and negotiations continued from May to Sep-
tember of 1939. Finally an agreement was reached and a last
dramatic session was arranged. At five o'clock in the afternoon,
after an exhausting three days of whipping the agreement into
final shape, Mr. Schairer led a group of top Radio Corporation
officials into the conference room in Radio City. The contract
in its final form was brought in. All of the men were tired, but
all were pleased that a satisfactory arrangement for both compa-
nies had been reached. When Mr. Schairer finally signed the
agreement, there were tears in his eyes. It was the first time that
his signature had been placed on a contract whereby the Radio
Corporation had to pay continuing royalties for the use of
None of the three persons who had the most vital interest in
the completion of this arrangement namely, Phil, Mr. McCar-
gar, and I was present when the agreement was concluded.
Mr. McCargar was in New York, Phil was in Maine, and I was
in San Francisco.
Immediately upon signing the contract Nicholas and Martin
called Mr. McCargar at the Plaza Hotel. He told them that the
event called for a celebration and asked them to join him and
Mrs. McCargar for dinner in the Persian Room. It was a gala
evening. Toasts were drunk and wires of congratulation were
sent to Phil and me. Though we were not all together to cele-
brate the success, each knew that the others rejoiced in the
victory that had firmly established the Farnsworth inventions as
vital patents in the field of television. It was a completion of
thirteen years of struggle and effort in which Phil, Mr. McCar-
R.C.A. LICENSES 247
gar, and I had worked together for a common purpose. Mr.
Nicholas and Mr. Martin had succeeded in putting an im-
portant seal of recognition on Farnsworth's inventive genius
and the patience and persistence of his backers.
Television Standards Agreed Upon
THE FARNSWORTH Television and Radio Corporation was
formed around the television inventions of Farnsworth. To
make money and keep the company going it was recognized
that until television came into full commercial use the company
bread and butter must be made from the manufacture of radio
sets. This, however, did not divert them from the main purpose
of getting television launched commercially as soon as possible.
In this purpose Mr. Nicholas and the management group were
beset with many difficulties and discouragements.
The attitude of the Federal Communications Commission
and the general feeling throughout the radio industry was that
with the opening of the year 1940 television would be launched
on a commercial basis. From the point of view of timing,
therefore, we were in good position to take advantage of the
market that we were sure would develop during 1940 for tele-
vision receiving sets.
Television for the public seemingly was to be born, like
Venus, full-grown or, as Phil once put it, "The baby is being
born with a full beard." That has been the pattern which tele-
vision has followed. Several factors contributed to this. First
TELEVISION STANDARDS AGREED UPON 249
among them, we were building a new industry that in the minds
of some would be in conflict with two existing industries,
motion pictures and radio. In fact, the motion-picture industry
at one time seriously considered taking effective steps to boycott
television. A meeting was called by the motion-picture moguls
in New York to devise ways and means to accomplish it. Legend
has it that Walt Disney's company refused to go along with any
such strangling tactics, and the plan fell through.
For several years after television had arrived at a stage where
it would have been possible to launch it commercially, the radio
industry was enjoying prosperous business. Some companies,
therefore, did not wish to disturb a good thing for some untried
project that would require huge capital expenditures and the
development of a new market. At that time there were honest
and serious misgivings on the part of some of the radio leaders as
to the future of television. Many doubted its value as a medium
of advertising. Others felt that program costs would be so high
that the operation of a television station could not be profitable.
Farnsworth and his backers were practically the only ones doing
television experimental work who did not have conflicting
interests in radio and whose whole heart and interest were in the
commercial exploitation of the new art.
Some elements in the radio industry were openly antagonistic.
One prominent manufacturer put out a folder attacking the
efforts to introduce television as a commercial product. This was
widely distributed among radio dealers and technicians. Others
emphasized the great expense of transmitters and receiver sets
as a deterrent to wide sale and use of the new product. There was
little to be done to counteract such propaganda, other than to
keep everlastingly at improving the picture and simplifying the
It was a discouraging fight for Phil and his backers to meet the
2 JO THE STORY OF TELEVISION
efforts of some groups entrenched in profitable radio business
to delay and hamper the introduction of commercial television.
The struggle was the more difficult because of the intangible,
though effective, nature of the propaganda.
During those years we received considerable encouragement
from the Radio Commission, later known as the Federal
Communications Commission, through the granting of radio
channels for the television experimental work. Recognition of
the new development took tangible form when the F.C.C.
requested the Radio Manufacturers Association to recommend
standards for commercial television.
The amateur "ham" operators who had been so helpful to
radio in its early years were entirely excluded from any active
part in the development of television and from making any real
contribution to it. In the first place, equipment was so expensive
that it was beyond the reach of most amateurs. Also the tech-
nique of building a television camera and transmitter required
an order of engineering knowledge beyond the abilities of most
of them. An amateur might possibly have made an operable
receiving set, but there were only two places, New York and Los
Angeles, where any television programs were to be had.
As the Committee on Standards of the Radio Manufacturers
Association went on with its work of developing adequate stand-
ards for television broadcast to recommend to the F.C.C., there
developed within the Commission a more rigid position toward
its commercial exploitation. The encouragement we had earlier
received appeared to dwindle. With unemployment as a major
national problem it seemed to us that through the launching of
television, opportunities might be furnished for large numbers
of people in the manufacture of a new instrument for home
enjoyment The Commission seemed to direct its efforts toward
TELEVISION STANDARDS AGREED UPON 2J1
protecting the public from buying an article that had not been
developed to its ultimate perfection.
In the meantime the radio business fell off to some extent and
the industry as a whole, with but minor exceptions, was in favor
of aggressive action in television.
The report of the Committee on Standards was finally
finished and approved and submitted to Washington in the fall
of 1939. At this time the National Broadcasting Company was
doing some good television broadcasting of plays, news events,
and studio programs, and a limited number of television
receivers had been sold to the public, principally in the New
The Columbia Broadcasting System had acquired the
Chrysler Tower as an outlet for their programs and was setting
up equipment and studios in anticipation of the launching of
commercial television broadcasting.
Months went by without any action from Washington on the
Radio Manufacturers Association's standards. Finally David
Sarnoff, taking the leadership for the industry, reported to the
F.C.C. that his company had spent $10,000,000 on television
development and others had also spent large sums for the
same purpose, and he urged the Commission to take some
action. Sarnoff felt that he could not justify such vast expendi-
tures with his stockholders unless something concrete in the way
of commercial returns were forthcoming in the near future. The
Farnsworth company took the same position.
After this it seemed the way was cleared for reasonably
prompt action on the part of the Commission, since its Com-
mittee on Television had made a favorable report on the
standards submitted by the Radio Manufacturers Committee
and had recommended that limited commercialization be per-
252 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
mitted. Then, during what was expected to be a routine hearing
before the Commission, there was injected a hypothetical possi-
bility of standards being changed within a short time, thereby
causing any television sets sold to become obsolete. Although
there was no likelihood of anything of this nature on the
horizon, this led to other disagreements within the membership
of the R.M.A. Finally, after extended public hearings, the Com-
mission smoothed out the differences and ruled that the
adoption of standards would be deferred, but that limited com-
mercial television broadcasting would be permitted com-
mencing September i, 1940.
Eager to forge ahead in its development program, one
company immediately placed an advertisement in the New
York newspapers announcing the doubling of their experi-
mental broadcast periods and a reduction of the sales price of
television receiving sets by one-third.
The F.C.C., with the exception of one official, took offense
at what seemed a reasonable and progressive action on the part
of this particular company, promptly delivered a stinging rebuke
to the company for its activity and accompanied it with an order
rescinding the ruling permitting commercial television after
September i, 1940.
After some time the Commission asked the R.M.A. to ap-
point a new Committee on Standards, known as the National
Television System Committee, to re-evaluate the standards for
television broadcasting. The R.M.A. appointed a large and
representative committee of engineers with Dr. W. R. G. Baker,
of the General Electric Company, as its head. Upon organi-
zation it was divided into nine panels, or subcommittees. Farns-
worth had a representative as chairman of one panel, and repre-
sentation on seven others.
After a year's careful study the report was finished and filed
TELEVISION STANDARDS AGREED UPON 253
with the Commission. It consisted of several volumes, one for
the findings of each panel. The work of the original Standards
Committee was so well done that Dr. Baker's committee found
little to alter. The major recommendation changed the number
of lines in the television image from 441 to 525.
The Commission arranged a hearing on Thursday and Friday,
March 20 and 21, 1941, to consider the report of the National
Television System Committee. The sessions continued on
through the following Monday. All who testified before the
Commission were in agreement that the standards recom-
mended by Dr. Baker's committee should be adopted. The
majority favored immediate commercialization.
On May 2, 1941, Commission Chairman Fly announced the
adoption of the standards recommended by the R.M.A. Com-
mittee and announced that full commercial licenses would be
granted qualified applicants beginning July i.
At Long Last Commercial Television
EVERYTHING seemed ready for the launching of television in the
summer of 1941 . At long last, commercial television had become
a reality, fifteen years after Phil began his first experimental work
in his little apartment in Los Angeles.
Mr. Nicholas and his staff were gearing the Farnsworth
company to launch into a manufacturing program. There were,
however, some misgivings because of the international situation.
These soon became realities. The need for production of war
materials became so imperative that on April i, 1941, a general
order went out to the industry that manufacturing of com-
mercial radio sets was to be discontinued. This meant that tele-
vision was indefinitely delayed. War seemed imminent. If it
came, commercial television would have to wait until peace was
here again. As a consequence, all of the Farnsworth plans had to
be revised to meet the new order.
The company's management met the challenge by going
aggressively into the development and manufacturing of vitally
needed electronic equipment. Because the company had no
history of contracts with the War or Navy Departments, direct
contracts were not immediately available. However, its manage-
AT LONG LAST COMMERCIAL TELEVISION 255
ment had the confidence of such organizations as General
Electric, Radio Corporation and Western Electric. These
companies were overloaded with war work. As a consequence,
the production lines of Farnsworth were soon filled with sub-
contracts from the older organizations which were working on
direct government contracts. The work was executed so eco-
nomically that it was not long before all the facilities of the Fort
Wayne and Marion plants were running at full capacity on
government work, most of which was from direct contracts.
Because the original Farnsworth company's activities were
entirely in the field of research, the new company had es-
tablished a large and well-manned research department. The
laboratory itself was completely air-conditioned and excellently
equipped for electronic research. All of the facilities and skilled
personnel were immediately put to work on research problems
having to do with the war effort.
In this field the Farnsworth dissector tube was singularly
useful. Its principle was used most successfully in the sniper-
scope, an infrared device which enabled our soldiers to see in the
dark without being seen by the enemy, and in the development
of other useful military devices. A special wing was added to the
Fort Wayne plant to provide facilities for the manufacture of
specialized tubes. A large section of this was given over to the
manufacture of a small dissector-type tube used in the sniper-
scope. Here a corps of women was trained to do specialized work
on the tubes. The room in which they worked was as immaculate
as a hospital ward. Another room was utilized for production of
dissector tubes for other war uses which even now are not widely
publicized for security reasons.
The extensive production lines at the Marion plant were
converted to the manufacture of a wide variety of electronic
equipment for Army and Navy use. At one time 85 per cent of
256 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
all the transceivers for tanks were produced here. Other lines
were given over to radar and radio equipment for planes, and still
others were set up for production of transmitters and receivers
for different types of naval craft, particularly PT boats. Night
and day, month in and month out, through the war years there
constantly flowed beautifully engineered radio and radar sets
from these well-organized mass-production lines.
There was such a demand for the products Farnsworth was
putting out that in order to find additional personnel and facili-
ties for expanding production, a former furniture plant in Bluff-
ton, Indiana, was leased and lines were set up there to build the
smaller electronic units. Before long, this thriving community
added five hundred employees for work on the Farnsworth
production lines. Along with this the research laboratory at Fort
Wayne was working on new developments needed by the War
and Navy Departments. These activities were carried on under
strict wartime secrecy. Even today some of them are still under
wraps. In this work there was the closest co-operation between
the Farnsworth company, Radio Corporation, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and the laboratories at Wright Field
and other important development centers. In this effort, the
results of Phil Farnsworth's genius were being utilized fully in
the prosecution of the war.
Early in the war, I visited Phil in Fryeburg and found him in
a bad state of mind and health. He was fretting under the
doctor's ban on concentrated work at a time when he felt the
country needed all that he could give in the way of new
inventions and developments. His doctor was adamant in
ordering him not to work too much. In spite of repeated
warnings, Phil, in his laboratory in Maine, did overtax his
strength by working long, irregular hours. Although he was
losing weight and growing weaker, he persisted in spending
AT LONG LAST COMMERCIAL TELEVISION 2 57
much of his time in his laboratory. Finally he yielded to the
doctor's urging and he went to a hospital in Portland, Maine.
His condition became so bad that for many weeks while in the
hospital there was little hope for his recovery. However, the
will to live and the inheritance from his tough Mormon ancestry
gained the upper hand.
Finally he returned home in a very weakened condition. For
months it was necessary for him to be in a wheelchair when he
was out of bed.
During this period I visited him and admired his stubborn
spirit for survival. It was then he had his first meal at the dining
table with his family. It was a gala affair. Phil and his boys, in
co-operation with the state game commission, had made an
effort to raise specimens of wild life that might be released and
eventually become indigenous to the countryside. For this
purpose they had a pen of wild pheasants breeding on the place
in a separate enclosure. For this dinner the boys had taken some
of the pheasants and Pern had cooked them to perfection. Phil,
for him, ate quite heartily, and it was an occasion of great happi-
ness for all concerned. He was again in the family circle.
While I was there he talked of the things he would like to be
doing for the war effort, but his doctor had told him to take it
easy. He was able to devote only about an hour a day to work on
the things he had on his mind.
To divert his attention from the more taxing aspects of the
electronics field, he helped his brothers organize a company to
cut some hardwood lumber that was needed for the boxing of
war instruments. This turned out quite successfully and was a di-
version rather than a burden. Carl and Lincoln, the brothers,
took over the responsibility for the development of the plant
and production of the much-needed lumber.
During the war, from time to time, Phil would get too hasty
2j THE STORY OF TELEVISION
in his eagerness to return to his laboratory work and would
become so ill that he had to return to bed. The general report
on his health, however, was a steady but very, very slow improve-
ment. It would have been a great help to the laboratory in Fort
Wayne to have his personal advice and help during these war
years, but it was not possible to ask it.
Late in 1942, in order to be most useful in the war effort, I
joined the staff of the Radiation Laboratory under the direction
of Dr. Ernest O. Lawrence at the University of California in
Berkeley. This was a part of the atomic bomb program. The
need for haste in this project was such that I had little time to
devote to Farnsworth matters beyond attending occasional
directors' meetings. Therefore, it was not possible for me to take
time out to visit Phil again in Maine. I did occasionally hear
through Mr. Martin, who was handling patents for the Farns-
worth company, and others of Phil's progress. I was bothered
not to be able to go to see him and get a better understanding of
his physical condition.
In the meantime, the work of the Farnsworth company went
on at a pace that was building a splendid reputation for the
production of war materials. Under the inspiring and capable
leadership of Mr. Nicholas and Mr. Martin, the morale of the
company was tops. Production per individual was high. Every-
one was jubilant over the first E awarded for excellency in war
production by the Navy Department. This was followed by
similar awards again and again until the company had accu-
mulated seven for the two plants at Marion and Fort Wayne.
The former came off with the larger number of them, due
largely to the fact that the production lines were permitted to
run a longer time on one type of electronic equipment. From
all areas of the war fronts came word that the equipment built
AT LONG LAST COMMERCIAL TELEVISION 259
by the Farnsworth company was doing its part in the far-flung
efforts to win the war.
It was a source of great disappointment to the directors not to
have Phil at our meetings. The laboratory staff also missed his
leadership and inspiration. However, all understood his inabil-
ity to be with us and looked forward to the day when he would
When the war ended there was a considerable period of
readjustment to civilian production. Shortages of all kinds
hampered activities, but soon the company got back into its
stride of producing radios and phonograph-radios, for which it
has become nationally famous.
Word came from Maine that Phil's health was very much
improved and that he had bought an airfield. He was taking an
interest in aviation for a diversion. He and his brothers had
formed a little company and had purchased planes for use at
their field. Carl and Lincoln were on a trip to pick up a plane
when they were overtaken by a storm and were forced to make
an emergency landing. In this crash landing, Carl, who had been
the mainstay and had helped Phil in all of his enterprises, was
killed. This was a severe blow, but fortunately it did not retard
Phil's general slow return to normal health.
Some time later, after a long period of absence, it was with
pleasure that the Board of Directors welcomed Phil to one of its
meetings in New York. He was still thin and his face bore the
marks of physical suffering, but the spark of genius seemed to be
burning with the old glow, though tempered with a more mature
At the first two meetings Phil attended, I was not present.
Therefore, when I went to the monthly meeting in October
1947, 1 was disappointed that Phil did not appear for it. He had
260 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
been expected; Mr. Nicholas told me Phil was planning to be
there. In one morning's deliberation it seemed imperative that
we get Phil's approval for something the directors wanted to
undertake, so a telephone call was made to his Maine home.
Word came back that Phil was cruising in a plane over the area
that was burning in a disastrous forest fire. It was the area im-
mediately around Phil's home.
A couple of hours later Phil called back and told us that be-
cause the whole countryside was in flames, it had not been pos-
sible for him to come down to the meeting. He was calm and
factual in his discussion of our business matters and in his report
of the fire. He said he thought his property was safe. It was not
until two weeks later that I learned in a letter from Pem of the
disaster that overtook them. She said that while Phil was talking
to me the flames were coming toward them and within fifteen
minutes struck the home. Within a half hour all of their build-
ings were destroyed. Later, when I saw them, Pem and Phil told
me of the incredible swiftness with which the fire had swept in
upon them. Fortunately, they had planned to spend the winter
in Newton Center, Massachusetts, and had taken a house in
that community. They had moved some of their household be-
longings out of the Maine house for shipment to Newton Cen-
ter. Most of Phil's prized books and mementos of his long years
of research were a complete loss, but Phil and Pem took the loss
in their stride.
Research Goes On
MY FIRST MEETING with Farnsworth after the war was at a direc-
tors' session in Fort Wayne in February of 1948. On this visit to
Fort Wayne Phil renewed his work on a projection-type tube
for television receiver sets. The engineers set to work in earnest
in a final effort to lick this baffling problem. I spent a couple of
hours discussing all aspects of the research with Phil and the en-
gineers. It was a continuation of the age-old problem that
seemed insoluble that of getting sufficient intensity of light on
each scanning point on the small receiver screen to permit its
projection on a large screen with sufficient light intensity to give
a good image. It was like old times in the Philadelphia labora-
tory to hear the discussions of what might be accomplished.
Throughout our research development Farnsworth has al-
ways had some work under way in an effort to get what he called
a projection-type receiver tube. Light intensity on the small
screen was the problem. There seemed to be no way to add to
the light emanating from the fluorescent screen and still main-
tain the varying intensities making up the image. As far back as
1931 Phil had operating in our laboratory a projection-type
262 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
cathode-ray tube that would throw an image three feet square
on a screen. It had a willemite fluorescent surface.
Such a picture was shown to David Sarnoff at the time he
visited our laboratories. He was so impressed with it that he
asked me why we showed the smaller image at the end of the
large receiving tube. I told him that while the projected image
was quite satisfactory, we had to use such high voltage in pro-
ducing the scanning beam that the fluorescent surface did not
have sufficient life to make it commercial. There was also the ex-
pense of lenses and the problem of focal lengths to give proper
results on a screen built into the cabinet.
Phil had done extensive experimentation with different types
of screens. One screen he used showed great promise. It was
composed of hairlike tungsten wire woven to a fabulously fine
mesh. In order to produce the mesh, we had purchased our own
weaving machine for the experimental work. Harry Bamford,
formerly of our research staff, spent considerably more than a
year's time working on this device.
The receiving screen enclosed within a vacuum tube was of
about postage-stamp size. It was so constructed that it could be
heated to a red glow for operation, then when scanned by the
cathode beam, the cathode ray would heat the scanned points
to incandescence. The major difficulty in the operation of the
device was the rapid extinguishing of the incandescent point
immediately after scanning. Bamford finally solved the prob-
lem of weaving the fantastically fine mesh and succeeded quite
well in overcoming the extinguishing problem, but in spite of
the months of painstaking effort it was never brought to a
wholly successful conclusion.
While Farnsworth's experimental work on miniature screens
for projected images was going forward, the Germans in the
Fernseh Company succeeded in perfecting a willemite fluores-
RESEARCH GOES ON 263
cent surface that would stand bombardment of high voltage.
As a result they were able to project a television image on a
screen of the size used in motion-picture theaters. However, the
apparatus used in getting this large image was so expensive that
it is not usable except in large auditoriums.
We discussed all these matters with the engineers, and this
was the first of repeated trips at more frequent intervals that
Phil made from his home in Massachusetts to the laboratory.
The doctor had given him the go-ahead sign, and his health was
improving by rapid strides. He ate with relish and was making
slow progress in gaining some weight. It was now possible for
him to attend all of the directors' meetings. The doctor's per-
mission for full steam ahead again acted like a tonic to his
health. During the years of his desperate illness and slow con-
valescence, he had learned that rest is essential if one is to do his
best work. So in spite of his eagerness he took his work at a pace
which he could stand.
A few weeks after this meeting in Fort Wayne, I was de-
lighted to receive a telegram from Phil saying that he and Pern
were arriving in San Francisco to visit their families and that he
wished to spend two days with me at the Radiation Laboratory
at the University of California, where I had charge of scientific
personnel. When he arrived, he telephoned and with some dif-
fidence asked if he might bring his sister and Pern to see the
large cyclotron on the hill. This was arranged and they were
shown the huge installations. Here Phil was in his element.
After the sight-seeing trip was over, Pern and Phil's sister left
and I introduced Phil to Professor Lawrence and other leaders
of research on the staff. Since much of the work here is in the
field of electronics, Phil's eager mind was grasping and search-
ing out the essentials of the work. Because of Phil's specialized
knowledge in electronics, Professor Lawrence, the director of
264 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
the laboratory, asked him to become a consultant without fee.
After the visit here, he and Pern went on to see friends and
relatives in St. George, Provo, and Salt Lake City in Utah. In
all of these places they were given impromptu receptions. This
trip did Phil a tremendous amount of good. It was sort of a re-
lease from the bondage of his long illness and the frustration of
Immediately upon his return to Fort Wayne, he announced
to Mr. Nicholas that he was planning to move his family to Fort
Wayne and get into the harness in the laboratory again on a
The problem of the projection tube was foremost in his mind.
While there were many details which needed to be attended to
in Newton Center and Fryeburg before he could move to Fort
Wayne, he managed to spend the major portion of his time
with the engineers working on the tube.
When I arrived in Fort Wayne for the directors' meeting at
the end of May in 1948 I was delighted to meet Phil at the plant
and learn from him that while they had not found a house, they
planned to take up residence there and Pern was searching the
city for a place. Phil was wholly immersed in the problem of the
projection tube. Following the directors' meeting he took us all
down into the laboratory and showed us how the new screen was
fabricated and impregnated with the essential metallic mate-
rials. He, Chris Larson, and other members of the staff had built
a laboratory model of the tube, and while they were not pre-
pared to show us a picture on it, they wanted us to see the bril-
liant spot the surface would give. This demonstration was in a
room brilliant with light from a big window. Everything was in
readiness when we arrived and the spot was turned on. It was of
blinding brilliance. Then Phil with his usual conciseness and
clearness of exposition showed us how the screen was made,
RESEARCH GOES ON 265
what the problems ahead were, and how they proposed to lick
them. It was indeed a demonstration.
Pern and Phil finally found a house but could not get oc-
cupancy until fall. In the meantime they took an apartment and
moved in in June. Progress on the tube has gone forward to the
point where experimental pictures have been shown. In this
development I was reminded of the development of the dis-
sector tube and the seemingly endless work before this instru-
ment, which is now the heart of the Farnsworth television sys-
tem, became a reality.
In each succeeding time that I have seen Phil, he has given
me reports on the projection tube for the receiver sets. In our
last discussion Chris Larson joined in with the prediction that
the tube had reached the stage where they felt that the end
product would be satisfactory. How long it will take to bring the
finished product to the commercial stage is still uncertain.
Coincidental with the development of the tube, Phil has a
brilliantly conceived optical system to be used with it. There is
good prospect that this latest Farnsworth invention will com-
pletely change the type of television receiver sets and make ob-
solete the large cathode-ray tubes which are a major handicap in
getting a large picture without increasing the size of television
sets to proportions which cannot be used in the ordinary living
The last time we were all together in Fort Wayne, Phil, Pern,
Jess, and I had breakfast together. It was like old times. We
took a long time because we had much to talk about. Principally,
we talked about the launching of commercial television, which
is now spreading rapidly in the larger cities. Thousands of new
television receivers are being installed in homes every month,
and the number of stations in operation will pass the hundred
mark in 1949. Soon the nation will be joined together with tele-
266 THE STORY OF TELEVISION
vision networks from coast to coast and from border to border.
The day before we left Fort Wayne we saw the handsome
array of postwar television receiving sets which were to come off
the Farnsworth production lines. There were table models, as
well as models for sets in combination with radios and phono-
graph-radios to meet the pocketbooks of varying incomes. As
we talked over what we had seen the day before, the four of us
knew that at long last after nearly a quarter of a century of
continuous effort the dream of television which Phil had had
as a youth and in which Jess and I had believed, had finally
come into its own.