Early Television
Early Television
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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 Parade.

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.