Early Television Stations
W6XIS / KDYL Salt Lake City
KDYL was one of the stations chosen by RCA in the late 30s to get a "traveling" TV studio system. After the war, the station received an experimental TV license W6XIS, and later became KDYL-TV. The following story is from James McDermaid of Salt Lake City, who was recently Chief Engineer of a Salt Lake City TV station (KTVX):
Station KDYL went on the air AM radio in 1921. KDYL was a luck-of-the-draw government assigned call. The complete company was sold in about 1953 with the television call changing to KTVT, KCPX, and KTVX TV. The AM / FM was divested along the way. During the time I was Chief Engineer of KTVX TV (1983 - 1998), I had possession of a collection of memorabilia dating from 1921 through the television days. This included scrapbooks, news clippings and thousands of photos.
This history of KDYL-TV is my interpretation from this material.
There are hundreds of stories relating to KDYL Television. The owner of KDYL was a man by the name of Sid Fox. He was a gambler and promoter and KDYL AM Radio and Television was one of his tools. Sid obtained his AM radio license from a newspaper that couldn't figure out what to do with it and was on the air in 1921 sharing a wavelength with two other commercial stations in Salt Lake City, Utah. There was no FCC at the time and several stations shared a "wavelength" by going on and off at pre arranged times. Radio receivers were wavelength not frequency orientated.
Advertising was Fox's future and when a business advertised on his station the station went to the business. Signs were posted in the store windows pointing out that this was credible because it was on KDYL.
Fox employed a professional photographer early on. Through the thousands of pictures and scrapbooks he kept during the time he was the sole owner of KDYL, (1921 to 1953) we can read the early history of radio and television. Here are photos of KDYL radio.
By the late 1930's KDYL had become a huge AM radio empire. They were the NBC radio affiliate and soon NBC TV.
In 1939, RCA did the now famous introduction of television at the 1939 Worlds Fair ("The World of the Future") and apparently did a smaller version in several (5?) cities across the US including Salt Lake City. Industrial design / Art Deco was at its peak. The world was about to change. The "Modern Miracle" was out of the lab.
One KDYL Scrapbook contained clips of full page news paper ads from several US cities. They all used the same layout except for the name of the store who appeared to be a big Radio dealer. Other correspondence indicates RCA was attempting to comfort their radio dealers that television would not hurt their business. I believe the date of this clip was October 1939. It was first demonstrated at the Paris Company store downtown Salt Lake City. It appeared to be in operation at The Paris Co. for several weeks in October of 39.
Broadcasting, October 1 1939
The exhibit appears to have consisted of at least three TRK-12 TV sets and One Iconoscope camera with the modified TRK-12 control console.
Three TRK-12s in display formation
Iconoscope camera and either TRK-12 or the CCU (notice the industrial cabinet finish) may have been in the Paris Co demonstration
Here is the camera and modified TRK-12 as it was in 1939
The equipment ended up in the possession of KDYL where they continued to promote television at local events such as State Fairs throughout the 1940's.
This poster promoted the continuing life of the 1939 exhibit
Records indicate KDYL had attempted to obtain an experimental television license as early as 1944 and finally succeeded in about 1947; going on the air as an experimental station (W6XIS) in early summer 1948 on channel 2.
Sid Fox, the owner of KDYL (left); O. B. Hanson, chief engineer for NBC (center); and an unidentified man, standing beside a fresh TRK-12 displaying an actual picture on its screen (could be the one I had)
The studio equipment consisted of the 1939 exhibit equipment. They also had a slick new RCA remote truck equipped with three Image Orthicon cameras and a microwave link and they televised every happening in the city. Parades, boxing, store openings, talent shows, live local news; everything was fair game.
Days of '47 Parade, July 24, 1948 in downtown Salt Lake City
Emmett the Clown in front of mobile van
On the air with 100 Watts W6XIS / KDYL was ready to sell advertising and had a published rate card
The 1939 equipment as used in the studio, including two of the 1939 Iconoscope cameras that started with a gun sight type viewfinder and evolved to a periscope affair over the top of the camera head. It may be that they constructed one of the cameras and that RCA may have sold in kit form. I had possession of some other RCA equipment that had been built by the station engineers but appeared to be a perfect copy of a factory built model.
The iconoscope camera in the late 40s (the original camera didn't have a viewfinder)
The studio in 1948, with a newer camera
Remote broadcast. Note the U. S. Television projection set
1947 W6XIS, 100 Watt TV transmitter was located at the Walker Bank Building in downtown Salt Lake City
Rear view of the 100 watt transmitter.
The original transmit tower was on the top of the Walker Bank building, downtown Salt Lake City. By 1953 A transmitter site was constructed on an 8,000 foot peak west of Salt Lake City they named Mount Vision (still used as a backup transmitter site to this day).
Sid Fox wanted to know where the peak was so the engineers left a spot light on one night during construction. Fox seized the publicity value and had it lit permanently.
The first Mount Vision TV transmitter was an RCA TT-5 which is still installed at the site.
The old Walker building tower remained on into the 1990s and was illuminated with neon. It changed color to reflect the predicted weather. After the final caretaker of the weather lighting died the tower was finally removed.
KDYL/W6XIS moved from channel 2 to 4 early in its history
During the 1960s a friend of mine had spotted the sole remaining TRK-12 in the lunch room at the KDYL studio then KCPX-TV, abandoned in the corner with a dim picture tube. He acquired the set and a spare TRK chassis set from the station. In 1973 he joined the military and gave me the TRK-12 to keep or pass on. Stupidly I passed it on. The chassis won a contest sponsored by RCA in the 1970s to find the oldest surviving RCA TV set; I believe the complete TRK came in second.
All the pictures are from the KDYL collection.
Rich May added the following:
In the series of pictures, there is one of Sid Fox, an NBC executive and an unidentified man. The latter is John Baldwin who was VP Engineering for the entire station. Later in the series of pictures is one of his son Jim operating the old Iconoscope camera, Sid Fox is at the right frame edge. I worked with John to survey the site for Mount Vision and was an employee of the station during the 1950's. Through the efforts of Allen Gunderson, Charlie Stockdale and Wally Lambourn, the station led the Salt Lake market with technical innovation. Most of the gear was home built, but based on RCA designs. John and Gundy were major mentors to me and gave me the foundation for my work in the audio industry.
Maurice Schechter has found additional photos of RCA's traveling TV exhibit.
Note: KDYL changed its call sign to KTVT in the early 50s, then to KCPX, and finally to KTVX. The RCA mobile production van was purchased by WGSF (Newark, Ohio) in 1969. That van is now in a warehouse at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.
KDYL apparently had a Meissner set at one point. Here are some pictures from the KDYL archives:
These pictures were probably taken by Charlie Stockdale, hired by Sid Fox, the original owner of KDYL early on in the AM radio days. Here is what James McDermaid has to say about Charlie:
J.H. Ryan, president of NAB. In front of KDYL television cameras
Courtesy of The Jerry Lee On-Line Photo Archive at the Library of American Broadcasting