NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1939 __ Radio facsimile service
William G. H. Finch (?-?)
Comment : William G. H. Finch was a radio engineer who in the late 1930's pioneered the development of facsimile transmission of printed matter and photographs. In 1938 Mr. Finch received a patent for a method by which color photographs could be sent over telephone lines to a device that would reproduce them. He was an editor with the International News Service and established the first radio-typewriter press circuit between New York and Chicago and later between New York and Havana. He served as assistant chief engineer with the Federal Communications Commission before founding his own company in 1935. During World War II he was a communications officer in the Navy and retired from the Naval Reserve in 1957 with the rank of captain. (Florida Institute of Technology)Lee Munsick mentions seeing a sort of mail slot in a WOR executive's office monitor and being told "'years ago' the station used a sub-carrier on its 710 kc signal to send facsimile letters, messages and the like to subscribers to the service." Judging from the description, this probably was in the 40s but it most likely was a late-night service that had the strange sounds replacing the programming for a few minutes, not a silent sub-carrier. But WOR had tried the same thing MUCH earlier. In the Fall of 1927 thru the Spring of 1928 they had nightly facsimile pictures in the late evening hours using the Cooley Ray-Foto System developed by Austin Cooley. Those interested could build their own receiver using an old disc phonograph turntable and additional parts made by the Presto Machine Products Co. This system was written about in several issues of Radio Broadcast magazine by editor Edgar H. Felix. When the Cooley facsimile pictures would be broadcast, the listener was told what was going to happen and to switch the output of his radio from his speaker to the input of the facsimile recorder. The phonograph turntable would drive a cylinder with sensitized paper, and a special device would scan across the paper as it turned. It was very much like the wirephoto machines used by the press services and newspapers. The listeners without the device could standby and wait till the picture was finished in a minute or two. Felix had the idea that he could record the transmission on a wax cylinder dictating machine and play it back later to make more pictures, and in one of the issues there is a picture of Cooley and Felix with a facsimile receiver and a dictating machine. Unfortunately Felix had kept no materials at all from his career other than bound volumes of the magazine. And yes, this Presto is the same company which developed the lacquer recording disc several years later. (Michael Biel, 2003)This is Finch process "radio facsimile service," an experimental text-and-graphics transmitting system which enjoyed a brief vogue in the late thirties. Certain stations were licensed to transmit text and graphics using their regular frequencies after signing off their audio programming for the night -- and this information would be picked up and decoded by special "radio facsimile receivers." These were units which reconstructed the transmitted image as a pattern of scanned lines and traced it on a moving roll of thermally-sensitive paper very much like that of a 1980s fax machine. Content usually consisted of news items cribbed from a cooperative local newspaper, or weather maps, or comic strips, or photos of newsmakers of the day. WLW was hot in the middle of this experimentation, since the Crosley Radio Corporation manufactured and marketed a radio facsimile receiver called the Crosley Reado, which looked suspiciously like a Crosley table-model radio phonograph cabinet with the innards torn out and replaced by a thermal printer. In addition to Crosley, equipment was also manufactured by RCA and the Finch Telecommunications Laboratories (company founder William G. H. Finch invented the system.) Eight stations were authorized to transmit facsimile material as of 1939: WLW, WGN Chicago, WOR New York, WHO Des Moines, WHK Cleveland, WSM Nashville, KMJ Fresno and KFBK Sacramento. In addition to operating independently, WOR, WGN, and WLW experimented with "networked" transmissions, sending material back and forth from station to station for local retransmission. Experiments with this technology proved inconclusive due to the difficulty of overcoming signal interference, and further commercial exploitation of the idea by broadcasters was delayed by the war. The primary use for the process in later years was for the transmission of weather maps and related information by shortwave to ships at sea. Old-school ham operators would sometimes modify old Crosley Reado units to intercept these transmissions. (Elizabeth McLeod, 2003)
Urls : http://jeff560.tripod.com/am4.html (last visited )

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