Early Television Stations
Don Lee Broadcasting -
Comments by Ed Reitan
As I wrote in my IEEE paper, Don Lee
initially used 300 line, 24 frames per seconds for its all-electronic
telecasts because "half of Los Angeles was on 50 cycle power and the
other half was on 60 cycle power". And we today think 720p
(progressive) HDTV is so
wonderful when W6XAO was using "300p" in 1936.
Harry Lubcke gave me the engineering notebook for his-built first
iconoscope camera - I believe it was the first such built iconoscope
camera OUTSIDE of RCA. How in the world he got that pickup tube from
RCA is unknown. Sadly, upon his death his widow quickly threw out all
his engineering notebooks (why is it that women hate our clutter and
paper so much?).
There is a great technical paper in the SMPE (earlier name of SMPTE)
Journal on Lubcke's telecast of the first Rose Parade on January 1,
1940. He used RCA supplied Iconoscope Field Cameras, mounted on the
top balcony of the Elk's Club Building on Colorado Blvd. NBC
originated its first color Rose Parade coverage (in 1954 and many
years continuing) from the same location on Colorado Boulevard. The Telecast was on
a rare rainey day, so the iconoscopes would have had sensitivity
problems. The man who sold me my RCA RR-359B Mirror Lid set said that
set was used to bring in his neighbors for viewing of that 1940 Rose
Don Lee, a Cadillac dealer, and owner of KHJ, was always in
competition with Earl C. Anthony, a Packard dealer, and owner of
mighty KFI. Don Lee's KHJ became famous as the flag station of the
West Coast Columbia and later Mutual "Don Lee Network".
Don Lee saw television as a way to excel over his competitor.
After the station's near-downtown 7th and Bixel location (on the
eighth floor of the Cadillac agency) , it moved in 1939 to the top of
"Mt. Lee" above Hollywood. An art moderne studio and transmitter
building, complete with swimming pool and television tower, was
constructed at the top of the mountain. The site is still used today
as a Los Angeles emergency communications complex. Its many towers
are visible in many picture-postcard views of the illuminated
Hollywood Sign in the hills below it.
As Don Lee died (from choking in a restaurant) in 1934, the W6XAO
effort continued to be supported through the 1930's and 1940's by his
son, Thomas S. Lee.
Noted documenter and television author Donald Fink said W6XAO should
be given credit as the one that started the first regular television program
service in the United States (long before NBC in New York). [This is
written in Chester Porterfield's book]
The SMPE technical paper describes the RCA pickup
equipment used and the elaborate radio relay link that sent the
imagery from Pasadena over the hills back to the station transmitter at 7th and Bixel.
Later W6XAO purchased a RCA ORTHICON camera. Harry once told me all
the early equipment was sold and sent to an early station in Mexico.
Three Lubcke receivers survive, the blonde direct view and mahogany
mirror lid - both at UCLA, and the set pictured in the "Los Angeles
Flyover". I also have the engineering notebook for the blonde direct
view receiver. I also never determined from Lubcke where the CRTs
came from for the "Los Angeles Flyover" receiver - RCA did not supply
its "Kinescopes" too readily to others. Lubcke had initially worked
for Farnsworth, so a CRT may have come from there.
I know the cabinet for the "Los Angeles Flyover" receiver came from
Gilfillan Brothers, as S.W. Gilfillan supported Lubcke's work with
electronics parts and that cabinet. The later blonde direct view set
used an electrostatic deflection CRT, so I assume it was English or
DuMont in origin.