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Dead medium: The Museum of the Moving Image: Jenkins Radiovisor, Bell Picture Telephone, RGA/Oxberry CompuQuad,

Philco Predicta

Source(s): New York Times, April 21, 1996, Page One, Section Two: "ANYONE CAN BECOME A STAR IN ASTORIA" by Ralph


(((The article is about the American Museum of the Moving

Image in Astoria Queens and its new long-term exhibition,

"Behind the Screen," opening April 22.)))

A large part of the third floor is taken up with the

hardware of recording images and sound, including curios

like the 1931 Jenkins Radiovisor, a mechanical television

that used a slotted, spinning wheel to transmit images.

... One behemoth, an RGA/Oxberry Compuquad Special

Effects Step Optical Printer == a name worthy of its size

== used four projector heads and five computers

controlling 19 separate motions to project image upon

image for complex effects. The machine itself won a

special Academy Award in 1986. But today, it's largely

obsolete, a victim of digital technology.

Another curious device is a 1927 Bell Laboratories

Picture Telephone, a prototype closed-circuit television

link over which Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of

Commerce, spoke (and appeared) from Washington to the AT&T

president in New Jersey.

There are showroom quantities of vintage television

consoles, some predating World War II. Early sets had

picture tubes so long and unwieldy that the screen had to

be mounted face up, toward the ceiling, and needed a

mirror to reflect the image sidways to the viewers.

A thing of beauty was the 1959 Philco Predicta with

its oval screen. But the streamlined design came at the

price of unreliable technology, and the model flopped.