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Mechanical Television

Bell Labs

In 1927 Bell Labs built a large screen TV set using a specially designed neon lamp with 2500 individual anodes, arranged in 50 rows of 50 anodes. A huge switch was attached to the motor, routing the electrical signals to one anode at a time. This set was used to televise Herbert Hoover in a demonstration in April of 1927. This was accomplished both by wire and by radio on experimental station 3XN from Whippany, N. J., 22 miles from New York, to the Bell Laboratories building in New York City where the speakers and performers were readily recognized on the receiving screen. The voices of the persons at Whippany were transmitted, and reproduced by means of a loudspeaker. Here is a 1928 magazine article.


In 1930 they published a booklet about their television accomplishments, including color television and telephone-television.  Here are Bell Labs pictures from Bob Eilenberger's collection.

Matrix Screen Receiver

The screen as it appeared in 1927

Here is a photo from 1927 of the motor and switch assembly

A modern photo of the side of the cabinet. The screen is facing toward the right back

The screen, showing the individual bulbs

 

 

The right side, with the door open 

 

The left side of the cabinet, with the door open, showing the motor and switch 

Detail of commutator

Practical Radio, 1928

Courtesy of Gabe Bennett

Two Way Television

A diagram showing how the telephone-television system worked

Pictures of the equipment

The front of the set

 

The top of the disk, showing the neon tube box

The neon tube

The motor/generator and rear of the disk

Between the motor and the disk is a switch box of some sort, apparently used in synchronization

Courtesy of Gabe Bennett

 (Thanks to Igor Golioto of Bell Laboratories Lucent Technologies for these photos)

Washington Post, April 11 1930

Courtesy of John Pinckney

Bell Telephone Television Telephone Demonstrations

These documents describe a collaboration between Bell Laboratories and the New York Telephone Company in February 1931. The documents include an invitation and 2 tickets from New York  Telephone Company to a very successful NYC Banker Mr. Howard P. Maeder for a demonstration of the emerging TV telephone booth service. The man brought his wife, son and daughter (?) along. The ladies went to the Bell Labs office at 55 Bethune Street and the men went to the Telephone Co. office at 195 Broadway, two miles apart. The teleconference allowed them to speak and see each others' heads on a TV screen. A 1930 Bell Labs booklet describes this demonstration.

 

 

Another telephone-television demonstration in Detroit - June 25, 1932