I have already discussed a dial phone. Garfield's comic reminded me that a tuning dial is history for both radios and TVs.
TV Tuning Dial
My first TVs, including my first color TV --- a 19-in RCA XL100 --- had dials for selecting the channel.
|Photo by Bmuscotty88, CC BY-SA|
The fact that we did not have a remote and we could not channel surf was not an issue because we had only three channels --- ABC, CBS, and NBC. Since there was just one TV in the house and just three channels to choose from, who was going to watch what was planned out long before the TV was turned on.
Why just three networks for so many decades? Sending video signals across the country was difficult. Fortunately, using underground coax cables across the country was invented about the time that TV was invented. One was laid across my grandfather's farm in northeast Indiana.
Microwaves and satellites had to be invented to afford enough channels to make channel surfing a meaningful activity. Then when we were forced to switch to digitial channels, channel surfing became a joke because it took so long for each channel to buffer up and display an image. I notice now that they at least quickly display the name of the channel. With the advent of fiber optic transmission making streaming possible, channel surfing became even more silly. In fact, some would argue that the TV is obsolete.
- 1936 — AT&T installs experimental coaxial telephone and television cable between New York and Philadelphia, with automatic booster stations every ten miles. Completed in December, it can transmit 240 telephone calls simultaneously.
- 1941 — First commercial use in USA by AT&T, between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. L1 system with capacity of one TV channel or 480 telephone circuits.
- 1949 — On January 11, eight stations on the US East Coast and seven Midwestern stations are linked via a long-distance coaxial cable.
I had read that the mechanical turner was the weak spot in the XL100 TVs. But that turned out to be OK because soon after I bought my color TV, I bought my first VCR --- a JVC for $800. (The last VCR I bought new was also a JVC, but it cost $30.) So the turner on the TV set on channel 3 because I used the remote of the VCR for channel selection. (Every once and a while I would click it back and forth a few channels to wipe any corrosion of the contacts.) I finally threw that 19" color TV away after a couple of decades, not because it quit working, but because I wanted a bigger TV.
Radio Tuning Dial
Radios had a knob that turned the shaft of a variable capacitor. There would be a cord that wrapped around the shaft of the little tuning knob and then the cord went around a big pulley on the variable capacity. It would take many turns of the knob to go from one end of the dial to the other. And you had to remember the numbers of the AM stations that you liked. (There was no FM radio when I was a kid.) To this day, I remember from the 1960s that WOWO (Fort Wayne, IN) was 1190 and WLS (Chicago) was 890. I no longer remember the frequency for WCFL, the other top-hits radio station.
|Lois Tobias-Ushkow posted|
Looks like a Zenith Long Distance AM/FM Tube Radio, 1950’s
Lois Tobias-Ushkow shared
Metz Portable 45 Record Player and AM Radio... " Beach Party Anyone!"?
Steve Dichter: 1956 Metz. German manufacturer.
[I wonder if that used a bunch of D-cell batteries. They would not have been rechargeable back in the 1950s.]
|Photo from CollectorNet|
Update: A Flickr photo of a 1946 Farnsworth vacuum tube radio with a slide dial.
This is a multiple waveband (shortwave, airplanes, police, amateurs, AM) show "Selector" displays only the waveband in use. (Note that wave band was still two words back then.)
|Mike Matalis shared|
Dennis DeBruler: It just occurred to me that we have generations of people now that have never experienced tuning a radio to the exact frequency because digital tuners do that for us.
[The Magic Eye gives visual feedback of how off-center the tuning is.]
Of course, back then it would be just AM, there is no FM scale. (Note the "Vintage Tech" album.)
If I remember correctly, after they played the anthem, they showed a test pattern for a while before they turned off the signal and the set would show static. You would also get static if you set the dial to a channel that was not used. I'm sure they also showed a test pattern before their first show so that you would know you were tuned in to an active channel. But I don't remember that because I was never up that early.
|Marie Dawson shared|
|Bob Garrett commented on Marie's share|
Keep in mind that $468 in the 1960s would be over $5000 today. If I remember correctly, I paid over $800 for my first VCR, and VHS unit. And I paid $30 for the last one I bought. And then you could not buy them new anymore.
|George O'Brien posted|
|Michael Matalis shared|
[Note the radio dial on the right side ofthe consle.]
|Mike Breski shared|
Shopping for a color television in 1965.
Don Kullas: Purchasing a color TV in 65 would cost around $4000 today. It was a major purchase back then.
Did this have "push button" tuning? If so, I wonder how they did it. When did WGN start? That might explain why they had a fourth button in addition to the buttons for NBS, CBS and ABC.
|Jimmy Becker posted|