JF Ptak Science Books
Licensee Bulletin LB 370 RCA Television System and 1936 Field Test Plan. Published by RCA, 1936. 23pp. 11x8.5 inches. Paper wrappers. Very fine. $500
The first broadcast images in the history of television transmission were revolutionary if not very interesting. Beginning in 19028 the first experimental Radio Corporation of America (RCA, via the National Broadcasting Company, NBC, its broadcasting division) images were of Felix the Cat, and something that would be received with 60-line clarity on a two-inch display. For the most part, the daily two-hour broadcasts consisted of Felix or test patterns, broadcast from NYC, until 1931.
Image quality increased markedly by the 1932 field trials with the use of iconoscope cameras, which allowed for 240-line reception though still with very noticeable flickering. The 1934 trials were improved further to 343 lines and with some less amount of flicker.
For the 1936 field test the transmitting station and offices for NBC and RCA were located in the Empire State Builidng (utilzing the mooring mast at the top of the building for the antenna, as well as some of the upper floors for the transmitter and offices on the 52nd floor, while the transmitting studio was located in the RCA building in Rockefeller Center). The broadcast began on 29 June 1936 from W2XF/W2XK "to an audience of some 75 receivers in the homes of high level RCA staff and a dozen or so sets in a closed circuit viewing room...(in the RCA building)".1
[Source of the image here: The writer determines this to be "the first t.v. dinner", and I'm inclined to agree. "A live broadcast was included of dancing girls and a film about army maneuvers. A dinner celebrating this event was held after the demonstration at the Waldorf Astoria. Hence, the first true TV Dinner!."]
The rare pamphlet [available for purchase from our blog bookstore, here] that I uncovered in the attic speaks to the first public demonstration. "The first public demonstration of these field trials took place on July 7, 1936 to RCA's 225 licensees. Major General J. G. Harbord, chairman of the board of RCA announced that there were three sets in operation at the time, the most distant in Harrison, N. J."2 It addresses the history of the field tests as well as the tech specs for the 1936 test, as well as the need to address the fuller and complicated issues of establishing a network of transmission capabilities: "Television services required the creation of a system, not merely the commercial development of apparatus."--July, 1936, RCA Field Test Plan, page 8.
The set on which the transmission was received was the RCA RR-359 trial set:
1. See The Television Museum, at Earlytelevision.org, here.
2. The Early Television Museum, located here.