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Surfin’: Connecting the Dots between Gutenberg and Uncle Bill

10/15/2010

By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ reaffirms that the Internet is indeed a wonderful thing.

Tom Barron, K6JRA, e-mailed me a link to “an interesting book from 100 years ago.” Titled Wireless Transmission of Photographs and written by Marcus J. Martin, this “revised and enlarged” second edition delves into the state of the art of “radio-photography” in the early 20th century. Profusely illustrated, it gives you a sense of the state of the ham radio art way back then, too.

Project Gutenberg has more than 33,000 free e-books online that you can download and read at your leisure. I decided to explore their collection and see what else was available in the radio realm.

Among a ream of Radio Boys books, I found The Radio Amateur’s Hand Book, a 1922 tome written by prolific scientific and technical writer, A. Frederick Collins.

I also found a Zenith Television Receiver Operating Manual, written by an anonymous technical writer (been there, done that) from the early 1960s. Remember the vertical and horizontal hold controls? This manual explains how to use them. The manual also describes how to eliminate interference from a pesky “neighboring commercial, amateur or police station.” The solution? Insert a filter trap at the antenna terminals of the TV.

The manual also includes a section on “Phonevision.” Huh? Phonevision? What’s that? Then I read on.

“A three-year commercial trial of Zenith’s Phonevision systems of over-the-air subscription television has been in progress for the Hartford, Connecticut area since June 29, 1962. Authorized by the Federal Communications Commission, the trial has made it possible, for the first time, for about 5000 American TV homes to enjoy the convenience and economy of viewing top flight box-office entertainment and other features broadcast to their home receivers.”

Just like in a cartoon, a light bulb lit up over my head!

Before I stepped into the role, Uncle Bill was our family’s “gadgeteer.” An engineer for Benrus by day, he played with a variety of gadgets in his free time. He was the only person in my whole world who had “pay TV.”

I remember watching a couple of the early Muhammad Ali championship fights on Uncle Bill’s pay TV long before such fare appeared on free TV. But until I read the Zenith TV manual, I never knew pay TV’s proper name was “Phonevision”.

Researching this installment of Surfin’, I also discovered that my Uncle Bill held a patent. Isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing!

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, now has his own “pay TV” called “DISH Network.” To contact Stan, send him e-mail or add comments to his blog.



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