I have not prepared a speech
for this occasion, but there is much in my heart that I would like to
say to you. I do not wish to reminisce about the past. I would rather
chat with you informally about the future. First, I wish to express,
from the very bottom of my heart, my deepest thanks to those whose
thoughts conceived this event and this ceremony, and to all those who
have had a hand in its execution. . .
you know, it is not regarded improper in the intimacy of
one’s own family to make a suggestion occasionally about the
kind of a present you would like for your birthday or your
anniversary. . . . I would like to do this
today. (p. 200)
I hope you may all be with us,
and that I may be with you, at my fiftieth anniversary in 1956, only
five years away. I would like to ask you now, particularly the research
men, the scientists, the physicists, and the engineers of RCA, for
three presents that I wish you would give me some time between now and
my fiftieth anniversary in radio.
You have been very kind to ask
me to visit with you today at the forty-fifth milestone of the radio
road we have traveled together so long—a road not always free
from obstructions and hazards, but always thrilling and exciting. At
every milestone, something new appeared. I want a few new things to
appear at my fiftieth milestone.
One of the presents I would
like to have you invent is a true amplifier of light. I have been
talking about that for some years, and I can get into very animated
technical discussions with scientists and engineers as to whether there
is such a thing or not, as to whether this or that is an amplifier or a
converter or something else. But I think we can all agree that, while
we have learned how to amplify electricity, we have not yet learned how
to amplify light.
That may sound a little
strange, particularly on a day like this, yet I ask both the technical
men and the laymen present to consider what the broadcasting industry
would be like if we had to throw away the loudspeaker and if the only
thing we could have in our home was a radio set with headphones.
Suppose you had to put telephones on your ears to listen, and every
member of the family had to use separate headphones to hear the faint
sounds that come from a radio circuit. Under such conditions, I doubt
whether radio would be the great industry it is today.
A loudspeaker, by itself, is
not regarded by scientists—or for that matter by
others—as the great invention of the age. Loudspeakers have
been known for years. Nevertheless, the fact that we can amplify
electricity and thus make the voice speak loudly or softly so that
people in their homes can adjust the sound to suit their auditory
senses, has made radio broadcasting the industry that it is today.
I should like to have you invent an electronic amplifier of light that
will do for television what the amplifier of sound does for radio
broadcasting. Such an amplifier of light would provide brighter
pictures for television that could be projected in the home or the
theatre on a screen of any desired size. An amplifier of sound gave
radio a “loudspeaker,” and an amplifier of light
would give television a
“big-looker.” (p. 201)
A true photo-amplifier that
could produce bigger and brighter pictures in fine detail would greatly
advance television in the home. It is also needed for theatres and
industrial purposes. The presently known optical systems cannot
accomplish it. We can, of course, enlarge pictures optically, but in
the process light is lost and the pictures become dimmer instead of
brighter. What is needed is a true amplifier of light itself. . .
Another present I would ask
from you also relates to television. I would like to have you invent a
television picture recorder that would record the video signals of
television on an inexpensive tape, just as music and speech are now
recorded on a phonograph disc or tape. Such recorded television
pictures could be reproduced in the home, or theatre, or elsewhere, at
any time. . .
Today, when a television
program is recorded, the pictures pass from the camera through
the major portion of the television system and first reproduce the
picture on the face of the kinescope, Another and special camera placed
in front of the kinescope photographs the program on motion picture
film. But that technique is costly, time-consuming and limited. The
pictures pass through all the possible hazards of the television
system, and then through the photographic process with its possible
degradations. As a result, the recorded picture suffers in
In contrast with present
kinescope recordings on film, the instantaneous recording of the actual
television picture signals on tape would be more economical, would save
time in processing, and would simplify certain problems of
distribution. Also, it would solve the national time-zone problems in
telecasting. Any number of copies of such tapes could be made
instantaneously, and copies would be preserved for historic reference
or other use, The device would be a new instrument that could reproduce
television programs from tape at any time, in the home or elsewhere, in
much the same way as the present phonograph reproduces the music you
want when you want it.
all is said and done, television is just a lot of “electrical
dots” coming through the air. These dots strike the antenna,
start electrical currents in it, and these go through the various
circuits of the receiver until they appear as a picture on the face of
the kinescope. (p. 202)
When such dots are used in
telegraphy or in facsimile, or in ultrafax, or in any of the other
printed forms of communications, they are recorded. As you know, we
recorded the whole book, Gone With the Wind, by
ultrafax in less than two minutes, So why can’t we record a
What I would like to have you
devise and produce is a recorder that would record the picture elements
on a simple and inexpensive tape at the instant when the dots reach the
antenna, and before they go through a lot of complicated circuits and
photographic equipment. The tape should serve us in the same way that a
phonograph record does. We should be able to reproduce the picture from
the tape as and when we wish, just as we can now get music from a
record when we want it. An inexpensive tape that would take the place
of the film would be a real contribution to the television art and
industry. Will you please let me have this before 1956?
The third present I would like
to have you invent is an electronic air-conditioner for the home that
would operate without tubes, or possibly through the action of
electrons in solids, and without moving parts. It should be small,
noiseless, inexpensive, and should fit into any size room.
Perhaps you may feel that this
item is a little out of your line, but I am sure you will agree that if
we can create a new product that will serve a useful purpose, it is not
foreign to our activities. And a really good electronic air-conditioner
for the home would be a very useful product indeed.
I realize that such a device
does not exist at the present time. However, generally speaking,
anything that the human mind can conceive can ultimately be produced.
Certainly, I do not regard
this task to be as formidable as many of the tasks you have already
performed. For example, worldwide communications, radio broadcasting,
talking pictures, microphones, phonographs and records, public address
systems and electronic industrial devices have been developed and
advanced by RCA research and engineering.
our RCA Laboratories have come the kinescope—now the
universally used television picture tube—and the famous Image
Orthicon television camera tube. The electron microscope—the
basic invention in the microwave radio
relay—ultrafax—are the products of your
genius. (p. 203)
Your research and inventive
skills have produced the present system of all-electronic
black-and-white television and the compatible color television system.
The tri-color tube, which I consider to be a scientific marvel of this
age, has been created and developed by RCA.
Through your explorations you
have extended the radio spectrum for more and more useful purposes.
Through scientific research in our laboratories and by
experimentation at our Bridgeport [Connecticut] station, you
have pioneered and opened up the ultra-high frequencies to practical
use. These achievements will extend the service of television to all
parts of the nation.
RCA scientists and engineers
have made marvelous contributions to the advance of science
and industry, especially in the realms of radio, radar, television and
electronics. So will you please let me have an electronic
air-conditioner before 1956?
The three presents I have
immodestly asked you for are essential inventions for which there is a
basic public need. They would expand existing industries and create new
ones. I recall a statement by my good friend, the late Professor
[Michael] Pupin, whom Dr. Gano Dunn and I knew very well. The Professor
once said that to discover the need for an invention and to specify it
constitutes fifty percent of the invention itself. Well, I shall make
no claims whatever to any part of the fifty percent which states the
problem; all I ask is that you provide the remaining fifty percent
which will give the answer.
Naturally, I look to the
scientists and engineers of RCA to be first in solving these problems.
But it is in the American spirit of competition under the private
enterprise system that I call attention, publicly, to the need for
these inventions. Whether it be the lone inventor in the attic, or the
scientists in competing industrial laboratories who will produce these
inventions, the results will spell new opportunities for service and
progress for all.
I realize the challenge to
your ingenuity, but I know that you can solve the problems I have posed
because you have an enviable record of accomplishment in science and
said all this, I shall now look forward eagerly to my fiftieth
anniversary in radio, and thank you in advance for the presents I
hopefully await. (p. 204)
My friends, the wireless I
knew forty-five years ago is not the radio of today. The television you
know now as pioneers will not be the television of tomorrow. Indeed, we
have only turned page one, Chapter One, of the Electronic Age. I can
see no limit to the possibilities for electronics. So I bid you study
well the past and to achieve in the present by creating for the future.
Now that you are working with
electrons in solids, I see on the horizon almost endless possibilities
for further new developments. Many home appliances which now operate
electrically or mechanically can be made to operate electronically. You
have succeeded in throwing away the spinning wheels in television, and
I am sure you will also succeed in discarding the wheels and noise in
air-conditioners and other home appliances. . .
Electrons in solids offer
tremendous possibilities. The tiny transistors now being developed for
use as detectors and amplifiers in radio, wire and cable communications
hold much promise for the future.
As I look back upon the
development of the radio art, it seems to me that it might be likened
to an automobile going at a very fast speed and passing some of the
scenery along the road. Suddenly it is halted by an unexpected vision.
The clutch is put in reverse and you go back. In retrospect, you see
all the things that were there before but missed while you were driving
at a terrific speed.
When I started in wireless we
did not know about long waves. We used the short ones—150
meters to 200 meters. Then we went to great big towers 400 feet high,
and long waves of fifteen to twenty thousand meters. We used big
alternators of 200 kilowatts power each. We occupied ten square miles
of land for our buildings, towers and transmitters.
Suddenly someone cried,
“Stop and take another look at the short
waves”—really short ones, well below one hundred
meters. We recalled that we had operated short waves twenty years
before, but had not tried to use such short ones. So we tried them.
What happened? We dismantled the tall towers and put up short poles in
their place. We abandoned the alternators and put vacuum tubes in their
place. We stopped using long waves and used short waves instead. We
moved in reverse gear, but this time we looked and paid attention to
what we saw on the road. We learned how these short waves really behave
in the spectrum. We learned their characteristics and found that
different wavelengths used at different times (p. 205) of the
day and night could cover great distances better than long waves, and
that they were practically free from “static”
The old hands who are here,
like Gano Dunn and myself, can remember the days when we worked with
crystals called carborundum, silicon, perikon, galena, and cerusite.
These crystals were the radio detectors of those days that enabled us
to receive wireless signals. When the Fleming Valve, the DeForest
audion and the high vacuum tube came to replace these uncertain and
unsteady crystal detectors, we hailed them as rniracles. We thought
then that we had really found the answer for all time of how to detect
and amplify radio signals, and how to deal with these infinitesimal
bits of energy. And now, a little late in life for some of us, but at
the beginning for you younger people, we speak again of crystals for
radio. This time it is the germanium crystal. This crystal may, one
day, even eliminate the use of tubes as detectors and amplifiers, and
who knows what else? So we are going back to crystals again, but this
time we are not guessing—we are patiently researching to
learn the limits of their capabilities.
Such is the unending
possibility of this fascinating art that even a return to
yesterday’s performance may point the way to the
accomplishment of tomorrow. . .
To me, it is always a treat to
get away from the competitive struggles of the day and to find myself
in the company of men of your intellectual achievements, and to dream
with you about the possibilities ahead. Such dreams open up new
horizons and make one wish to live longer so that he can do more. The
challenge of tomorrow fascinates me much more than the achievement of
In RCA, we do not fear or
resist change. The ghost of obsolescence that some folks see stalking
around the corner of their industry does not frighten us. To those who
believe, as we do, in research, invention, and pioneering, obsolescence
often means progress rather than decay. Instead of a wicked ghost that
threatens extinction, we see a beneficent wraith whose proddings
stimulate opportunity, advance prosperity, and raise the standards of
Only as we make
yesterday’s devices obsolete, have we the opportunity of
replacing them with new and better devices tomorrow. In our
organization, I have no fear of anything you can make obsolete. If you
told me today that in the future germanium crystals will replace
electron tubes, I would not be fearful, even in the face of
(p. 206) our present investments in plants and machinery which
manufacture tubes. For such a change would open up vast new
opportunities in many fields of industry.
Let the Chairman and the
President and the Commercial Vice-Presidents of the corporation worry
about obsolescence. You keep on researching and inventing. Their job is
to develop and fit the new products and the new services you create,
into the stream of public use.
Go on and research, discover,
and invent to your heart’s content. Pitch your mental tents
in the field of the imagination. In this blessed country of ours, where
man is free to think, to speak, to discover, to invent and to develop,
the field of imagination and creation is wide enough for everybody. And
when you are in this field, inhaling the fresh air of liberty, basking
in the sunshine of freedom, and enjoying the priceless privileges of
our blessed land, say to yourselves what I have said to myself
repeatedly: God bless America.