The catalogue is available from Royal Ontario Museum shops, CityStore 299 Queen Street, West, Ontario, Canada or from MZTV Museum. Cost - $11.50 Cdn., $10.00 US, plus shipping. Send email orders to email@example.com
Credits: An excerpt from "Watching TV: Opening the Doors of Reception" by Liss Jeffrey, Acting Director, MZTV Museum. Technical research by Gary Borton, Consulting Curator, and Iain Baird, Researcher, MZTV Museum.
The General Electric Octagon, 1928 (U.S.A.)
with RCA radio 1928 (U.S.A.)
This mechanical television receiver was built for a 48-
line television system developed during 1927 by Ernst W.
Alexanderson, who was the Chief Consulting Engineer at the
GE laboratories in Schenectady, New York. An elaborate
experimental transmission on this type of receiver was
internationally recognized as the first television drama.
Entitled "The Queen's Messenger", the play had two
characters, with only the heads or the hands of the four
actors visible at any one time. Two actors spoke the
lines, while the other two acted as "hand models".
The transmitted signal was received on a console
radio and monitored through the 3" lens on the Octagon by
the director, and the actors were only a few feet away. GE
considered mass-production of the Octagons, but this never
Daven Tri-Standard Scanning Disc, 1928
The lack of a common standard of picture definition
contributed to the demise of the mechanical television
boom of the late 1920's and early 1930's. One solution was
to make a television set that could receive a number of
different standards. This Daven unit was based on a large
24" disc capable of scanning three different standards of
picture definition, 24-line, 36-line and 48-line, enabling
the viewer to receive more stations.
The television signal was received by a short-wave
radio. The operator then had to adjust the height of the
neon lamp to match the correct spiral of holes, and
synchronize the rotation of the scanning disc to the
corresponding rotations per minute. The tiny picture would
be visible in one of the three frames (marked within the
Homebrew W1IM Scanning Disc, 1928
This home-made scanning disc television unit was built by
the Connecticut radio experimenter, Clifford Fraser, using
hand-written instructions sent to him by the mechanical
television pioneer and broadcaster, Charles Jenkins.
Jenkins was aware that "Radiovision" was in its
infancy and actively encouraged involvement,
experimentation and the exchange of information within the
amateur radio community. In the late 1920's, he even went
so far as to offer Radiovisor Kits similar to this one at
$7.50 U.S. postage paid - a price so low that it meant a
loss for his company.
Jenkins Model 202 Radiovisor, 1929
This mechanical scanning-drum unit was engineered,
designed and manufactured by the Jenkins Television
Corporation, a company founded in 1928 by the American
television pioneer, Charles Francis Jenkins. As early as
1894, he presented an article in the periodical,
Electrical Engineer, on a method of electrically
transmitting pictures. He was one of the earliest to
succeed at television transmission, and claimed to have
executed the first reported transmission of television by
radio in 1923.
Hugo Gernsback of Radio News and Watson Davis of
Popular Radio witnessed a demonstration in the same year.
In 1928 Jenkins announced the birth of a new
entertainment industry, "Radio Movies". Shortly
thereafter, Jenkins Laboratories Incorporated initiated
48-line silhouette broadcasting through regularly
scheduled telecasts over station W3XK and a few other
stations that showed "Radio Movies". Jenkins preferred
the term "Radiovision" to "Television", which explains
this unit's name.
Baird Televisor, 1930 (U.S.A.)
The Plessey model was the most popular version of the
mechanical "Televisor" to be available to the British and
West European retail buying public. It was engineered and
designed by John Logie Baird and manufactured by the
Plessey company in England. It was purchased by television
enthusiasts to watch the periodic Baird Studios/BBC
broadcasts available from 1929 to 1932. The 30 line images
did not take up the entire "screen," but were in fact 6cm
high and 2cm wide. Instead of black and white, they were
black and red due to the colour of the neon gas in the
About 1,000 of these sets were originally produced
and priced at just over 18 British pounds each. There were
kit receivers without the tin cabinet, available from
Baird's for only 7 pounds. Baird was one of the true
pioneers of television. He successfully demonstrated the
possibilities of the Nipkow system of mechanical
television by achieving the first television picture in
Western Television Corporation Visionette, 1932
Western Television Corporation played a significant role
in the evolution of television in North America. Canada's
first experimental television station, which was operated
by the Montreal newspaper La Presse and radio station
CKAC, was supplied with Western Television equipment. The
Canadian public witnessed Western Television's technology
through a special mechanical projection apparatus, which
was demonstrated at Eaton's and department stores in
Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg during 1933.
In the U.S., Western's travelling demonstrations
included a 9-day run at Macy's in New York that was
witnessed by over 200,000 people.
The Western Television Corporation drew on the
talents of television pioneer Ulysses A. Sanabria, who is
known for his use of interlaced scanning. Interlacing
improved picture quality by reducing flicker. This
television utilizes an interlaced aluminum scanning wheel
and 3" magnifying lens. It was among the last and most
advanced mechanical home televisions to be in use before
the electronic sets began to show greater promise.
Richard Kadrey (firstname.lastname@example.org)