If you have been to my other pages you are aware that my interest in electronics began as a child. Like most boys I had a natural curiosity about the way things worked and enjoyed tinkering. Somewhere along the line my interest grew beyond just being curious and now I find myself with a repair business that was established over 50 years ago.
The change over this period is unbelievable when I think about it. Radio has been a part of life since I was a boy, but Television came along later. My first introduction to TV was in an old Drakes Radio Encyclopedia. This was a very thick book with a green cover, as I remember. It described radio systems, circuits, parts, and etc.
In the back of this manual was a description of the first picture generation and transmission system. It of course was nothing like our present system, which are all electronic. This system used a mechanical spinning disc that had a series of small holes punched into a spiral pattern. A lamp was focused on the rear of this disc and a photosensitive detector on the opposite side. This detector would pick up the shadow of an object placed between the lamp and the disc. This transmitter was hooked directly by wire to another identical piece of equipment that acted as the receiver. The two discs had to be rotated in unison to make it work.
I believe that this was developed in England and I don't have a recollection of the date. I do remember that it was developed before the radio itself was even invented. The first real view of an electronic television system I saw was when I went to Radio Tech school in the Navy. This was in a suburb of Chicago, in a high school taken over by the Navy to teach radio.
We had a demonstration of a camera pointed out the window and watched the traffic pass by in the street. This was a wired system and not transmitted though the air. It was a gray type of picture not very distinct. We did not study this at this time but was told that someday it would become common to use this for all types of surveillance.
The next TV that I had a chance to see was during my trade school in Chicago after leaving the Navy. I attended Coyne school in December of 1946 and studied electronics and radio repair. The last week of school was devoted to the study of TV. The instruction consisted of the study of a block diagram of each section of the set. This involved an introduction to the vertical deflection circuit, a horizontal circuit, a video circuit, a audio circuit, and other related circuits.
The school had two TV's that were in wire cages so no one could touch them. The screen had a bluish cast because the screen phosphors had not been refined to the quality that was later available. When I started in business there was no TV in anything but large cities, such as Chicago, New York. I believe that the first public showing was at a New York Worlds Fair
As I remember, we did not have any FM radio in 1947 either. So as I opened my business the AM radio was my primary focus. It was about 1949 or 1950 when another radio shop in town put in a TV. His shop was located on a hill west of town (local people call it the Half Mile Hill). I believe that they were trying to receive A Minneapolis, MN TV station, theorizing that their higher elevation would make reception of this distant station possible.
The first TV I had practical experience was an RCA with a 16" round tube, black and white. It belonged to a Claude Willey who lived on a farm North East of town. The reception was very marginal at best. The picture was all snowy and at times would disappear entirely. Occasionally in the summer the reception would improve due to a phenomena known as tropospheric bending of the RF signal. This at times would last for a few hours. Mr. Willey had purchased the TV in Minneapolis and installed it himself.
After a few months there was another station started in Ames, IA and it was on the same channel number as the Minneapolis station. This was a problem for those old sets even with the two different directions so the antenna had to be turned but it was not that directive.
About this time I enrolled in a correspondence school to update my knowledge of the TV receiver. This was Sprayberry Academy in Chicago. With this course I constructed a seven-inch TV as part of the study of the circuitry that was unfamiliar to me from the normal radio circuits I was used to working on.
The first TV that I can remember trying to repair was a ten-inch table model that had a horizontal deflection problem. It took me several hours to figure that one out and find the trouble.
I gradually worked into more TV repair but it never became a major part of the business until we had cable TV in town. I had installed quite a few antennas but working alone was a real handicap I remember the last antenna I installed. It was in December and the weather was below zero. I was almost frozen stiff when I had it finished. I swore to my self that that would be the last and it was.
We did not have color until about 1953. In 1952 I attended a 3-day school at Ames College on color TV. This was a very advance course for that day. It did help me in some of the modern sets that were to come. After we had the TV cable for a short time the business of repairing TV became a major business. I continued to service sets for other dealers and the business grew so much I had to buy the present building I am still in. I did not really get into Sales of TV's until The RCA brand became available. According to my sales records I sold over seven thousand pieces of RCA equipment until RCA discontinued selling to small dealers.
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