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1948 __ Ultrafax, Radio communication system
Comment : ‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘you are about to witness the first public transmission of message by Ultrafax in the history of the world.’ It was Friday morning, 21 October 1948. The audience in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress concentrated attention on the stage.1948 Ultrafax; a high speed radio communication system. First public demonstration by the Radio corporation of America, October 21, 1948. Ultrafax high-speed radio document transmission system jointly developed by RCA, NBC and Eastman Kodak, is demonstrated in Washington DC. It can handle around 1m words a minute. In the demonstration the text of Gone With the Wind is sent from a hotel to the Library of Congress in two minutes, together with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, the terms of the Japanese surrender and passages from the Bible. (Compiled from various sources)"Ultrafax", Sends a Million Words a Minute.Pages of information are transmitted as television pictures at a rate of 15 to 30 each second through a new communication system called "Ultrafax". The system, developed by RCA, makes it possible to transmit a million words a minute. The information must first be recorded on a reel of microfilm. As the film passes through the transmitter, a "flying spot" scanner [from cathode-ray tube] converts the image into a television picture, which is sent out as a radio signal [microwave beam and microwave radio relay system]. A television receiver projects the message on motion-picture film or directly on photographic paper. The film can be developed, fixed and dried within 40 seconds in a special processing unit. Graphic material including charts, fingerprints, maps and advertising layouts can be transmitted by the system. (In Popular Mechanics, dec. 1948, Vol. 90, Nr 6, p. 113)The Flying Words.Words never moved faster than they did last week in Washington. A "distinguished audience" in the Library of Congress hardly had time to gasp before the 457,000 words (1,047 pages) of Gone With the Wind were snatched out of the air from across the city by a gadget called "Ultrafax" [Ultrafax is no table-top trinket. In the cut of the receiving apparatus, a "flying spot" of light is in the cylinder at the upper right. The film runs through the square camera box below it. The rest of the big cabinet is full of electron tubes and "monitoring" equipment. The pretty girl, the clock and the book are decorations] and reproduced on a moving photographic film. The transmission took two minutes and 21 seconds. Impresario of the event was David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America. Not a man to be caught in understatement, Sarnoff compared the importance of Ultrafax to that of splitting the atom. Ultrafax, by RCA out of Eastman Kodak Co., is a hybrid variety of facsimile transmission. It combines features of both television and photography. The material to be sent (text, writing, pictures, diagrams) must first be photographed on a strip of movie film. Using a kind of modified television technique, the film is "scanned" by a "flying spot" of light. At the receiving station another flying spot reproduces the material on another strip of film. When Ultrafax is really rolling, said Sarnoff, it can transmit 1,000,000 words a minute. Eastman's contribution is an ultrafast method of developing Ultrafax film. After exposure to the blizzard of words, the film at the receiving end is passed through heated chemicals and developed and fixed in 15 seconds. Compressed air dries it in 25 seconds more. Sarnoff did not say very much about just how long it takes to prepare the film for Ultrafax to transmit. It must have been a weary business to photograph Gone With the Wind, page by page [And the message, though lengthier, was not on the same plane as the first telegraphed message.Samuel Morse's "What hath God Wrought!" ]. Present methods of putting printed matter on film (and RCA mentioned no improvement) are still slow, compared with the speed Ultrafax can boast in transmission. Ultrafax will probably send few novels. But, said Sarnoff, it can duplicate movie films (such as newsreels) almost instantaneously at any distance. It can send whole newspapers. Perhaps it heralds the day when the newspaper reader, on his way to breakfast, will stop off in the living room to watch the "printing" of his morning paper. (In Time, Monday, Nov. 01, 1948)
Source : (1948), "Prints Radio Newspaper", In The Science News-Letter, Vol. 54, No. 18 (Oct. 30, 1948), p. 277.
Source : (1948), "Ultrafax, Sends a Million Words a Minute", In Popular Mechanics, dec. 1948, Vol. 90, Nr 6, p. 113.
Source : (1948), "The Flying Words", In Time, Monday, Nov. 01, 1948.
Source : Evans, Luther H. (1949), "IMAGES FROM THE AIR: THE BEGINNINGS OF ULTRAFAX", In Journal of Documentation, Vol. 4, Issue 4, 1949, pp. 248-250.
Urls : http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,804850,00.html (last visited )

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