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In 1921, a 14-year-old boy working in a potato field in Idaho had a vision of sending pictures in waves over the air, like sound waves for radio. His epiphany inspired him to invent the first electronic television, a feat that most engineers of the time thought was impossible.
“Philo Farnsworth was a terribly optimistic, creative man who believed he could accomplish anything,” says producer David Dugan. “Farnsworth’s genius burned so bright that by age thirty, he had nearly spent himself. When the trajectory of his ambition collided with the plans of a corporation with deep pockets, the result for the lone inventor was tragic.”
In 1924, Farnsworth’s father died; to support the family, Philo took a job delivering radios for a furniture store in Salt Lake City. Impatient to realize his plans for electronic television, within a year he had convinced two California businessmen, George Everson and Les Gorrell, to invest their life savings–a total of $6,000–so he could build a prototype. Soon after, Phil set up a lab in Los Angeles and started work on a camera tube that could turn an image into a stream of electrons, and a television tube that could turn the same stream of electrons into a picture.
Dam in Maine
“This is not some simple whim, this was a dam!”
(The story goes) Phil was looking at land in Maine to settle and heal his battle-worn mind. One parcel looked perfect, just the forest he wanted, and lots of surroundings that could be bought up over time, however, he had hoped to stock a pond with trout and fish a few out from time to time.
“We can dam up this creek” pointing to a tiny creek at his feet . Lots of folk would crack a smile and go on with the day, but something clicked and Phil realized that building a dam was child’s play when compared with the obstacles he had been facing. I was not there, but I suspect he started thinking about the dam in terms of “X” number of steps from that moment on … a goal to made sport of … perfect.
So once the design was decided upon, the site was prepped, and every able body for miles around was hired, those who could not heft the business end of a wheel barrow, kept the food and coffee moving, and an epic, 36 hour pour began: an event which is now legend in this region.
So if your next home fails to have a convenient lake in the backyard, this pretty much shows how to deal with that shortfall.
1,773,980 is one of two controlling patents filed as a result of the first transmission in San Francisco. This one discloses the camera, and 1773981 discloses the receiver, or “Tv set.”
3,386,883 is the second of two patents PTF filed for fusion, actually, he did not file it, and objected to its content, but ITT et al, filed it anyway. In fact he left ITT/Farnsworth in Fort Wayne over this very patent’s content. Still, for getting to know the fusor and, more important, the poissor, this would be the best read I know of. There are other patents on IEC Fusion, as it is known these days, they stray way off the Farnsworth method. I do not cast aspersions here, but if you want this method of fusion, you have to start at the horse’s mouth.
A single teacher can make a huge difference. Teachers get young humans at a pliable stage, and what they do molds their pupils at a fundamental level. Justin Tolman recognized a potential in Philo, and made materials available to him which he would not have access otherwise; both the materials and the gesture had a galvanizing effect.
1921 drawn for teacher Justin Tolman
Sketch drawn on a notebook page which accompanied Philo’s explanation of the image dissector tube (camera tube) to Justin Tolman.
Interesting to note that all the elements in the working image dissector are here, and none that do not belong, and, in the patent, there are none that are not drawn here. Definitions of “optical image” and “electron image” are key descriptions of internal changes made which are necessary to transform a regular picture made of light into picture made of a serial train of electrical charges … in effect, the television camera has already been invented, just not yet proven (built).
Magnetic defection, electrostatic deflection, aperture of analysis, anode, photocathode and a lens are depicted here in one manner or another, even the points where wires must penetrate the glass are shown with the extra bead of glass necessary at that point. Remarkable.
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