RCA wasn’t the only manufacturer offering television to the public. In 1938 Allen B DuMont Laboratories, established by the inventor and entrepreneur of the same name, had already offered the first electronic TV sets for sale to the public with their 180 model. Manufacturers other than RCA also exhibited their television receivers at the 1939 World’s Fair. In their own pavilions, Westinghouse Electric and General Electric offered competing lines of consumer televisions. These companies also built studios with live cameras for conducting interviews. Even Ford Motor Company got into the act, placing television receivers in its executive lounge. Conspicuously missing was Farnsworth Television. Although Philo T Farnsworth was the first to demonstrate electronic television technology in 1927, his company was not yet manufacturing commercial television receivers.
Jenkins made major technical contributions to the development of cinema and mechanical television. In 1928, Jenkins Laboratories began transmitting
“Radio-Movies,” which consisted of moving shadows. Jenkins transmitted what was probably the first TV commercial (for Old Dutch Girl cleanser).
In 1930, Jenkins estimated that the audience for his Radio-Movies was around 20,000. This was because he transmitted signals from his mechanical television system on short wave frequencies, which have a much greater range than today’s TV signals.
Jenkins refused to follow the rest of the pack into electronic television, and spent the last years of his life trying to improve mechanical systems.
One of the great inventors of the 20th century, John Logie Baird obtained the first recognizable television image on October 1, 1925, well over a year before the American telephone giant AT&T was able to produce a similar transmission.
Baird’s company organized the first television broadcasting system in the UK, which began operations in 1929.
Baird continued his work at the cutting edge of television technology for the rest of his life. He demonstrated the first colour television in 1928, stereoscopic 3-D television, and the world’s first all-electronic colour TV system (patented in 1940)
This photo appeared in the January 1987 anniversary issue of Playboy magazine.
Photographer: Earl Moran