Who Invented Cable TV?

The purpose of this narrative is to present the historical evidence allowing you to decide who, if anyone, actually 'invented' cable TV.   We begin by defining some terms:

in-vent\in'vent, verb.   1: to think up.   2: to create or produce for the first time.   in-ven-tor \-ventar\n.

― Merriam-Webster American origin 'pocket dictionary' (1974).

in-vent/in-vent, verb, transitive.   1: to make, design, or produce something new for the first time: "Alexander Bell invented the telephone in 1876."   2: to think of an idea, story etc., that is not true, usually in order to deceive people: "They invented a very convincing alibi."

― Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.   Essex, UK (2001).

Both anchor invent to first which each agrees means "before (anything or) anyone else."   That seems clear enough for our purpose.

The early history of "cable" (that is the key word here — remember it!) "TV" is clouded in dissension.   Some say it was "invented" in Oregon (1948), some say Pennsylvania (also 1948 but prior to Oregon).   Still others say it was invented even before that — as early as 1937 — in the UK.   Let us attempt to settle the issue once and forever.   There will be those who, after reading this narrative, will disagree — that's life.   But what follows is as accurate as historical references make possible.   Indeed, "television by wire" can be dated as far back as 1927, but no participant of that era remains to give us a first-hand report.

First we need to define the key word "cable".   You might think that "cable" (as in "cable TV") meant coaxial cable.   Think again.   Our British cousins used the word "cable" to mean "wire".   The two terms were often used interchangeably in the British history of "cable TV."   There's a reason for this: coaxial cable was so new in 1936 that it was not yet readily available.

So if you run across a reference to "cable TV" from a UK source, remember this:  they are talking about using wires to connect a headend (point of origin receiving station) to a TV set.   Two wires may have been twisted together (a "twisted pair"), although the "twisted" part may not have fit the actual installation.

Alexandra Palace

Transmitting Station

The Alexandra Palace transmitting station in North London is one of the oldest television transmission sites in the world.   From 1936 until the outbreak of World War II, it transmitted the BBC television signal at 45.00 MHz visual and 41.50 MHz aural.

Transmission mast above the BBC wing of Alexandra Palace.

During the war, it was used to transmit signals intended to defeat the German Y-Gerät radio navigation system during the Battle of Britain ("Battle of the Beams").

After the war, the transmitter was again used for BBC television until 1956, when it was superseded by the opening of the BBC's new main transmitting station for the London area at Crystal Palace.

In 1982 Alexandra Palace became an active transmitting station again, with the opening of a relay transmitter to provide UHF television service to parts of North London poorly covered by the Crystal Palace Transmitter.

The popular British weekly Radio Times published radio and television program schedules.   The October 25, 1936 issue included extensive reporting about television, and featured the Alexandra Palace transmission mast on the cover.

As for the TV set, that term wasn't factually accurate either.   The TV sets of the day were designed to receive the only available off-air signal — the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).   The BBC's London transmitter, located at Alexandra Palace (see sidebar), operated on a 45.00-megacycle (what we now call megahertz) visual carrier and a 41.50 mc aural carrier.   Transmissions from Alexandra Palace had begun in 1936, but had ceased in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II.   At the time of the shutdown, there were between 19,000 and 23,000 receiving sets in service.   (Swift, 1950)

When the war finally ended and BBC transmissions resumed, in June 1946, there was a big pent-up demand for new TV sets.   But satisfying this demand was problematic for three reasons:

At the time, off-air reception was limited to London, and later (December 1949) in the Birmingham/Midlands area after a second transmitter began operating at Sutton Coldfield.   Given the receiver and receiving antenna technology of the era, TV reception was 'spotty' if at all.

The post-war UK standard of living into the 1950s was — in comparison with the USA — dismal.   A man who earned US$50 weekly in Cincinnati was well paid when compared to his British cousin in Brighton who might — possibly — earn US$20 a week.   Even putting food on the table and paying rent was a struggle.   Any worker who didn't already own one of the pre-war sets was faced with a $20 US weekly wage against a US$200 fee for a new TV set.   Working ten weeks to buy one of the 7-  or 9-inch post-war sets simply did not compute.

The third reason is related to the British definition of "cable".   As we noted above, the Brits used the word "cable" to identify wire — bare or insulated, but in any case, unshielded, wire.   This stuff worked well enough for citizens who could connect an antenna directly to a TV set.   But, as we explain below, it didn't work for citizens who, for one reason or another, couldn't make a direct connection.

As a starting point for our discussion of the third reason, consider the problem of providing service in apartment buildings.   In some London neighborhoods — particularly the more affluent neighborhoods — many residents lived in apartment buildings, some as large as 100 or more dwelling units.   These residents were financially able to afford new TV sets.   But they couldn't conveniently make a direct connection to an outdoor antenna.

To meet the demand of the apartment residents, some entrepreneurs began experimenting with methods for distributing the signal by cable (i.e., wires) to mutliple receivers.   Early attempts utilized one of two technological schemes:

One scheme used two pairs of wires to carry two demodulated baseband signals, video on one pair and audio on the other.   Some installations managed to do this with just one wire pair.

Another scheme also used two pairs.   One pair carried a visual carrier modulated at an IF (intermediate frequency) of 9.72 megacycles, suppressed lower sideband (carrier and upper sideband only).   The other pair carried baseband audio.   This scheme was used in the UK by Rediffusion Ltd, where it was known as the TDUK-1 system.   We'll discuss this system in more detail below.

Now stop now and think about that.   Why not just distribute the 41.5/45 signal received off the air?

As it happens, Rediffusion Ltd. and others tried to do just that in 1947-1950.   It proved "difficult" — in other words, it didn't work.

But we are way ahead of the start here and we will return.

Television through wire?

That is what the British were experimenting with as early as 1937, perhaps slightly sooner (the exact date is not certain because it was an experiment to determine how practical it might be).   But were they first to attempt it and — more important — by "wire"?

This gets us to "television" itself.   Actually it gets us back before television; 1906 to be exact.   Electron tubes ('valves' in the British vernacular) were invented late that year by a man who lived the good life but ultimately died financially embarrassed and way short of his potential; that would be (Dr.) Lee De Forest and his invention would be called the "audion".

It was also in 1906, Christmas eve, in a small radio transmitting shack located near Plymouth, Massachusetts, where a man had a bold experiment in mind.   Virtually all of the radio transmitters of that era involved a system we knew as spark gap — a technology similar to the way a 1950s-era automobile distributor switched electrical impulses to the 6 or 8 spark plugs, causing them to fire in timed sequence.   Inside that black plastic housing was the 50's equivalent of a 'spark gap' transmitter — much lower in power than the radio transmitters of 1906, but essentially the same technology.   Think 'ignition interference' to radio and TV reception from passing vehicles.

But spark gaps were messy to the radio environment, occupying a bandwidth many times larger than actually required for code.   There had to be a better way to create radio energy, and one that proved promising was known as the 'high frequency alternator' ('synchronous rotary spark').

So here is this chap, Reginald Fessenden, sitting there on Christmas Eve, operating a CW (Morse of Continental) code transmitter, and he does something nobody has ever done before; he modulates the transmitter with a voice (his own) and wonder of wonders, 'music' (from a wind-up gramophone cylinder recorded player ― this is a generation before 'Victrola' and 'laminated records').   That was possible only because Fessenden had pushed, pulled and cajoled General Electric to build him (from no prior experience) what would turn out to be the first modulation-capable device in the world.   Previous attempts (all failures) to 'modulate' a true spark-gap transmitter were disasters; Fessenden's alternator design would be a major stepping stone to improved code networks and a way station towards the appearance of 'real' modulation-capable transmitters — those using De Forest foundation vacuum tubes.

Now imagine you are on a ship at sea and have for whatever reason elected to tune in the particular code transmissions from Fessenden's experimental station and there, in your very early vintage carbon-element earphone (typically a single ear device at the time) you are shocked to hear first a human voice (Fessenden) and then if you are still conscious and breathing music!   This was the first, ever, historically-recorded transmission of anything other than code through a 'radio' transmitter   (Douglas 1989).

Fessenden, you might expect, would have instantly become a 'household word'; the Lindbergh of radio.   Wrong.   This was long before Fox News and what he did, as advanced as it may have been for 1906, drifted off into the ether not to be recalled by anyone of importance for more than a decade.   And by then (1919-1920) the rules of the technology had all changed.

"Wired Television"

And this gets us to 'wired television' how?   We are heading there.

The history of television prior to 1935-1936 is beyond the scope of this narrative save for the 'wired television' subject (but see this article).

In 1927, a year when Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover (who would serve as U.S. President from 1929-33), backed the creation of the Federal Radio Commission (predecessor of today's FCC), "television" was in diapers.   Television did exist, mostly in the hands of wild-eyed inventor types (Charles Jenkins was one) but in the best case the number of horizontal scanning lines was only 50, and often even fewer: 16 or 30.   Compare that with the NTSC standard of 525 lines used in Canada, the United States, and numerous other counties prior to the digital television transition.

So in 1927 (the 7th of April to be historically precise) AT&T (yes — that AT&T) demonstrated to the amazement of everyone who could spell 'television' their ability to send ('transmit') via 'wire' from New York City to Washington a 50-definition-line image of something nobody remembers precisely.   There are dozens of versions of what the image was — and even some trade press photos — but it is unimportant to this analysis whether it was someone's face or a carrot.   The 50 lines were conveyed at 16 frames per second and occupied a total bandwidth of 22 kilocycles.

And this matters why?   Well, in the British definition of  "cable," this public demonstration represents the first use of cable to carry television signals over a substantial distance.   Not what you might expect from the history of "cable television"?   Of course not, but it illustrates the point that British origins for "cable television" (in the 1930-40s) and what we generally define today were in fact two different technologies, related but significantly different.   How?

Sending 'video images' through a length of "cable" that extended some distance (certainly beyond the immediate surrounds of the imaging device — which by the way was not a 'television camera' as we envision it today) 'connected' to one or more consecutively-joined independent lengths of additional "wire" that extended from Point A (in the AT&T case, New York City) to Point B (Washington, DC) was not 'cabled television'.   Not yet, not in 1927.   Cable, in our context, 'coaxial', was first announced to the public in 1929 and it would be 1936 before it actually existed between two A and B points: NYC and Philadelphia (which in fact would be the first two 'distant points' 'coaxially' connected).

So we can credit AT&T (specifically, Bell Labs) for having been the first to demonstrate that coaxial cable can be used to carry television programming over substantial distances.   But AT&T did not invent coaxial cable — that honor belongs to Oliver Heaviside.   As this is not a history of Bell Labs, we will leave it at that.

Now let's look at British "cable delivered television."   And to keep the record straight, from this point onward whenever discussing early British efforts, we will mean wired television until that point in time (1947) when they actually attempted coaxial cable.   The attempt failed.

But first, a brief jump to 1948 when the American squabble over "who was first?" began to resonate.

cable tele-vi-sion.   also cable TV.   noun.   a system of broadcasting television programmes by cable.

cable.   noun.   1: a plastic or rubber tube containing wires that carry telephone messages, electronic signals etc.   2: a thick strong metal rope used on ships, to support bridges etc.   3: cable television: a cable channel,   4: telegram.

—Dictionary of Contemporary English (2001); a British origin reference.

cable.   noun.   1: a very strong rope, wire or chain.   2: cablegram.   3: a bundle of insulated wires for carrying electric current.   4: cable TV: community antenna television.

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary (1974); an American origin reference.

The British approach becomes more fascinating when we consider our more pressing word:

coax.   verb.   1: to persuade someone (through multiple examples)

coaxial does not appear at all.

― Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.   Essex, UK (2001).

But the 1974 American College dictionary:

co-ax-i-al.   adj.   1: having coincident axes.   2: being an electrical cable that consists of a tube of conducting material surrounding a central conductor.

—American College Dictionary. Random House, 1974.

This should get us started and we are still ever so briefly in 1948.

Our Astoria, Oregon claimant (starting Thanksgiving Day, 1948 because that was the first day that 'his' TV station source — KRSC Seattle — broadcast programs) installed his system using war-surplus 50-ohm coaxial cable.   He charged money to connect customers but initially did not charge a monthly ('maintenance') fee.

Our Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania first-ever claimant insisted he was connecting homes to his master antenna by (or before) June 1948.   Alas, he did not originally use any type of "electrical cable consisting of a tube of conducting material surrounding a central conductor" — rather he used a form of twinlead.   He did not upgrade to true coaxial cable until 1949 or later (the actual year remains one of those unknowns here and it may have been after 1950).

Both of these claimants meet the Merriam-Webster (1974 edition) singular definition of "cable TV": community antenna television.   But the one who did use "cable" (Astoria) collected only a connection fee initially while the one who collected a monthly fee (by 1949 possibly and perhaps 1950 or even 1951; Mahanoy City) did not use "cable" by either the British or American dictionary definition(s) and may not have charged either a connection or monthly fee for the first year or so of operation (we will explain why).

So was either first at "inventing" cable TV?   Are we looking for the individual(s) who created the first cable TV 'technology', or, is this a search for the one(s) creating the 'cable TV business plan'?   And were there others, until now unrecognized?   We will return here.

The British 'wired' approach

Before there was television "in the air," there was radio broadcasting.   Westinghouse Electric's AM radio station KDKA, Pittsburgh, under the guidance of Assistant Chief Engineer (and amateur radio operator) Frank Conrad, led the way, broadcasting the results of the Harding-Cox Presidential election returns on November 2, 1920  (IEEE, 1994).

From that beginning, when the only listeners were experimenters and (by then) newly-licensed 'hams' using primitive receiving sets, the American radio broadcasting industries would mushroom into one of — if not the — driver to the growth of a post-WWI economy.

By late 1927, our reference year when AT&T transmitted the first crude images over a wired distance, more than 730 radio stations had begun broadcasting following the 1920 election broadcast.   Americans responded by purchasing more than eleven million home receiving sets from long-forgotten brand names such as McMurdo Silver, Scott Transformer Co. and Midwest Radio Corp.

The KDKA election broadcast example exported almost with the speed of light.   The UK took a different approach to the process: government would own (and operate) all broadcasting stations.   There was to be no commercial advertising, even though a few limited 'sponsored programmes' were trialed ― for example, in 1922, Guglielmo Marconi transmitted entertainment broadcasts from the Marconi Research Centre at Writtle. Following a period of inaugural test operations, 'listeners-in' would be charged an annual fee payable to government.   Think of it as subscription radio.

By 1929, there were 2.9 million licensed users in the UK.   And, at least in theory, these annual fees (intermittently augmented by receiver point-of-sale government royalty fees as well) paid the cost of creating and transmitting the programming.   This was the original BBC — the British Broadcasting Company — initially under the supervision of the General Post Office (GPO).   In 1926, it became the British Broadcasting Corporation, still under GPO control.

There were flaws in the plan of course.   Listeners could acquire commercially-available ready-built 'receptors' (receiving sets), each of which included a full set of details on the new set owner, thereby allowing records to be maintained and individuals invoiced annually for the 'listener's tax'.   Or, the price of the receptor might be 'plus annual fee' and collected by the set retailer, along with the recorded information to be forwarded to the Post Office folks.

What this missed of course would be those who had the patience and skill to build their own radio sets.   This was, after all, the era of 'cat-whisker' detectors and inductors wound around oatmeal boxes — no tubes and no power required!

As more sensitive sets (using vacuum tubes) matured to detect and amplify signals, detailed do-it-yourself instructions appeared in numerous publications.   The introduction of speakers allowed the radio sound to blanket a room, thus eliminating one or more individually-worn carbon-based headsets.

The incentive for do-it-yourself radios was double-barreled: for a quarter or less than the cost of a commercially-supplied receiver in a wooden case you would have a radio.   They called it 'bread boarding' because all of the parts required were suspended from, and screwed down to, a piece of non-conducting wood about the physical size of a household breadboard.   In fact, actual breadboards were often used.

The second barrel?   No registration?   No annual license fee!

The General Post Office quickly figured that out.   Mail delivery was by postal employee, door to door.   He (they were seldom 'she' in the 1920s) was to do a daily scrutiny on his route, and as the delivery chap basically knew in person every individual home's occupants on the route, well, it didn't take long to determine who had a 'radio set' and who didn't.   The postal people were turned into 'radio police'.

All this leads us to wired radio (a new term) — a place we need to go on our travels to creating cable television.   Early on (1924), BBC, for a number of technical and political reasons, was experimenting with what we today call the 'long wave' bands — frequencies below 500 kilocycles, down where today you find aeronautical beacons and almost-sub-sonic Pentagon-to-submarine transmissions.

But most of the world was developing the 'medium wave' range (550 to 1500 kilocycles), following the American lead, and, as the following chart shows, Marconi did the same for his station 2MT, operating at 750 KHz after a brief attempt to use 428 KHz.

The BBC chose the medium-wave band for one of its early experimental station 2LO (either 813 or 857 KHz, depending on the source), but subsequently chose the long-wave band for additional transmitters.

Alexandra Palace

Transmitting Station

The Alexandra Palace transmitting station in North London is one of the oldest television transmission sites in the world.   From 1936 until the outbreak of World War II, it transmitted the BBC television signal at 45.00 MHz visual and 41.50 MHz aural.

Transmission mast above the BBC wing of Alexandra Palace.

During the war, it was used to transmit signals intended to defeat the German Y-Gerät radio navigation system during the Battle of Britain ("Battle of the Beams").

After the war, the transmitter was again used for BBC television until 1956, when it was superseded by the opening of the BBC's new main transmitting station for the London area at Crystal Palace.

In 1982 Alexandra Palace became an active transmitting station again, with the opening of a relay transmitter to provide UHF television service to parts of North London poorly covered by the Crystal Palace Transmitter.

The popular British weekly Radio Times published radio and television program schedules.   The October 25, 1936 issue included extensive reporting about television, and featured the Alexandra Palace transmission mast on the cover.

The Heimann Superikonskop

Although RCA would have preferred otherwise, attempts by the American firm to join efforts with British firm EMI did not happen.   EMI had its own R & D pre-Emitron (think iconoscope) project.   Furthermore, EMI was sharing progress with German partners while Germany was also licensed by RCA's nemesis, the Farnsworth system, for their ongoing design work.

Bottom line: the Germans were quite capable of creating their own cameras.   Six German-made cameras, known as the Superikonskop, designed by Herrn Prof. Dr. Heimann, were used for the 1936 Olympics transmissions.

Photo: Elektronenstrahlröhren - Vol. 2

For further information about the television cameras used at the 1936 Olympics, see the Early Televison Museum website.

Photo: Michael Ockenden, (After the Battle #39.)

Fig. 1.   Test pattern from Fernsehsender transmitter, Eiffel Tower, Paris, ca. 1943.   This photo was taken by Michael Ockenden, an RCAF officer stationed in the UK during the Battle of Britain.   During his tour of duty, he was based at a cliff-top listening post overlooking the English Channel at Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, County of Sussex, UK, where he served as part of a team of WRNS and RAF personnel assigned to monitor German radio signals.   They monitored navigational beacons, radar signals, radio-controlled bombs, and television signals from the Eiffel Tower.

Radio Frequency Bands, as defined in terms of wavelength, the with corresponding frequencies indicated above the chart.   Most of European countries, as well as the United States, chose the medium-wave band for radio transmissions.   .

The British quite correctly imagined that radio would become a powerful propaganda tool and one way to limit the incursion into Great Britain from foreign voices would be to adopt a broadcast frequency range different from frequencies used by other European countries; i.e., below 500 kilocycles.   The cleverness of this plan evaporated when several European countries made similar decisions.   But even today there remain powerful Marconi-era radio services below 500 kc.

Decades later the French would try a similar trick: they adopted a unique television line standard (819 lines versus the UK's 625) and frequency assignments that made it unlikely that French viewers would be tuning in to TV from neighboring countries — notably Holland.

The BBC was short on funds and slower on the take-up.   They began with a London transmitter and then over the years (decades) added supplemental transmitters, just as they would with television although much later — in the '50s.   By emphasizing the long wave frequency segment, three things happened, none in their favor:

Static.   Really serious static from nature itself: thunderstorms a half planet away would 'whistle' in on top of transmissions.

Receiver sensitivity.   Well, yes: 200 kilocycles is equal to a wavelength of 1500 meters, or about 4921 feet.   A 10-foot piece of wire as an antenna was essentially useless.   Grounding the antenna connection to a metal water pipe actually worked better in many cases.

Interference.   England was rapidly changing from a back-garden self-fed economy to major-scale industrial manufacturing.   By the millions, country folk were moving into tenement housing surrounding the major cities — that's where the jobs were.   Unfortunately, many of those new, modern, pieces of industrial equipment were actually RF generators in disguise, cranking out kilowatts of noise and garbage throughout the radio spectrum, but often most severely in the long wave region below 500 kc.   When the local area interference background level exceeded the BBC coverage level, well....

So if Mr. Average Citizen wanted to have a radio for his family (socially,  not having one was like being ostracized and left out, not to mention his total inability to enjoy a pint with his mates at the corner pub where last night's radio programming was the topic of the evening).   Alas, inside his tenement, radio reception stunk.   There was no back garden area for a suitable antenna, and between the three problems cited above and his nearby neighbors — well, radio did not work.

Furthermore, radio sets were by comparison not inexpensive: in 1928 a radio consisting of a crystal detector and two valves cost more than £2 sterling including the 10% royalty that went to government.   Sellers quickly worked out that people who did not have the required number of pounds/shillings/pence for an actual radio set were more likely to have the required number of pence to rent a set.   This is not to be confused with time payment purchasing — this was 'you rent it, forever' — or at least for as long as you can make weekly or monthly in-person payments to the local radio shoppe.

This led to "wired radio", or what the British called it at the time: 'piped radio'.

If a radio set in a tenement/row block would not work because of the interference and other reasons previously stated, suppose somebody found a location reasonably close to the tenements where the interference was less obtrusive, and a proper antenna could be installed?   If your head is starting to think 'community antenna television' you are on the right track — just two decades in advance.

Wired radio operators were folks/firms who did just this.   They found a suitable reception location, and ran 'wires' from that location, nailing them to building fronts, trees, hanging them from lamp posts to provide service to the tenements and rows of terrace houses.   But there is more.

You might suspect they received (say for discussion) 200 kilocycles at their quiet location and then sent it by 'wire' at 200 kilocycles to where the potential customers lived, just as community TV antennas would be doing two decades hence.   Wrong.   That 'wire' would have been a 'super antenna' and by the time it reached the tenements, all of the interference problems would have been magnified umpteen dB over.   So they demodulated the 200 kc RF signal, and sent the baseband audio down the wire.   Each tenement was in effect an 'additional speaker' to one audio receiver.   Most additional speakers were equipped with an 'on-off' switch and a rudimentary volume control/level switch using passive attenuators.

For a price of course.   Even then, running wire was not a cheap activity (although the records show some amazing ingenuity attempted — we will explain).

The customers were "subscribers" to a 'master radio antenna/receiver' and, for fewer pence per month than they could rent a full receiver, they received reasonably better BBC reception than they could expect even with a receiver.

Furthermore, there were other benefits: no batteries to replace and no electricity consumed by a radio set.   As late as 1950, more than a third of British row houses/tenements were not connected to electricity.   They were dependent on a gas pipeline to fuel things that lit up or heated food.   Any radio receiver in such a row house would have to be operated by batteries — expensive replaceable batteries.

The largest of these 'radio-by-wire' systems served upwards of 16,000 paying subscribers.   And that was in 1947; subscriber counts continued to grow well into the 1950s.

The first recorded installations were in late 1927 (first, there had to be reasonably priced speakers, which did not exist in quantity prior to 1926).   By October 1945 there were more than 200 companies (not systems).   Some of these companies had dozens of individual systems.

Photo: Graeme Marett

If somewhere in your past reading you have encountered the name Rediffusion and thought to yourself 'this must have been a one-off business', well think again.   Rediffusion was one of many wired-radio companies, and ultimately (by 1950) they would, by contract, purchase, or political will have become the largest piped radio firm in the UK.   Today, we'd call them a 'MSO'.

Photo: Graeme Marett

Rediffusion Bakelite Speaker cabinet, 1950-60.

Rediffusion also exported their technology to places like Barbados, Hong Kong, Singapore and even Montreal, where they installed a badly-conceived "wired TV" system in the early 50s.   At its peak, Rediffusion claimed systems or partnerships in 75 countries, more than any United States CATV company ever claimed.

What follows may remind you of the very first CATV systems in America in the early 1950s.   Per-subscriber wired-radio income was low (think in terms of 30 US cents a month in 1930 dollars) and to get to any individual tenement required wire and, perhaps (not always) insulators.   Once inside the residence/flat, connections were made by 'tapping' into the 'trunk' line.   Note that 'tap', in this context, is a CATV term, not to be confused with the actual level of their technology in use — there were no taps. The tech would just wind a 'drop line' around a passing 'trunk line' and hope that there would be sound in the speaker the wired radio company provided.

It was very basic, very rudimentary.   Some of the better engineered systems actually installed audio amplifiers (think trunk line stations in the 60s-70s) to raise the line levels.   Others sent 110V 'balanced lines' (which was half the voltage of the UK 220V AC mains) down the wire — that same nearly-bare wire nailed to trees and house fronts.   That may make you shudder, but there is no apparent reference source for deaths-associated-with-wired-radio-systems.

Some less technically competent companies ran a single wire and drove a stake into the ground at the 'headend' to connect to 'earth' for the second side of the circuit (with more stakes at subscriber locations).   Yes, that was an error, but they still did it and put up with the 'AC hum' at subscriber locations until somebody tangled with a hot line and ended up on the front pages of a London tabloid.

And there was competition.   An operator who insisted he could not afford 'two wires' (and whose subscribers endured erratic AC hum in their speakers) often found a competitor 'over-wiring' their 'plant' with two (or even more) wire systems.

And this could be a point to remind you that in British English, the definition of 'cable' includes the following:

cable.   noun.   1. a plastic or rubber tube containing wires that carry telephone messages, electronic signals etc.

Unfortunately, when we explore the early attempts to provide a 'master receiver' subscriber radio service in the UK, the decades-later dictionary definition does not really define what they were doing.   This is the point of confusion: decades later (as in past 1960), the British chose to refer to the late 20's developed service as a 'cable (service)'.   The confusion arises from their use of the word 'cable' to describe something which in fact it was not.   It was just one master receiver distributing audio frequency sound through one or more wires to paying subscribers.

Their dictionary definition of "cable" refers to "a plastic or rubber tube" when in fact virtually none of the early 'wired/piped radio' subscription services used such a contrivance.   But — that confusion again — decades later when reporting on the 'wired/piped radio' era, they chose to call it "cable" when in fact it was — by their own dictionary — not.

British "Cable" TV

Where this takes us is beyond our primary topic (the origins of "cable TV") but worth noting.   Many other countries adopted modifications of this system; Italy, for example, allowed 'private wire systems' to exist even though these wire operators created their own 'programming' to compete with the government owned stations (only government stations would be granted broadcasting licenses).

As late as the 1960s, American hotels of some size (100 rooms up) were installing 'wired radio' systems to feed either 540-1600 kc/s RF to individual in-room receivers, or following the British format, multiple wire pairs feeding in-room speakers from 'head end' demodulator/receivers. Each room was fitted with a 'station' selector switch.   Some hotels offered as many as ten audio 'channels.'

In 1931, RCA introduced the 'Antenaplex' system for AM radio distribution in hotels and other large buildings.   Technically, these systems look almost exactly like a 1950-60 hotel MATV system down to signal splitters, taps, and line amplifiers.

So the British attempts to distribute off-air television from a common antenna to multiple locations — were they first?   Actually, no; that would be the Germans, in 1936 — the same year BBC's first regularly scheduled television commenced.

The Heimann Superikonskop

Although RCA would have preferred otherwise, attempts by the American firm to join efforts with British firm EMI did not happen.   EMI had its own R & D pre-Emitron (think iconoscope) project.   Furthermore, EMI was sharing progress with German partners while Germany was also licensed by RCA's nemesis, the Farnsworth system, for their ongoing design work.

Bottom line: the Germans were quite capable of creating their own cameras.   Six German-made cameras, known as the Superikonskop, designed by Herrn Prof. Dr. Heimann, were used for the 1936 Olympics transmissions.

Photo: Nicolas Blazianu

Photo: Elektronenstrahlröhren - Vol. 2

For further information about the television cameras used at the 1936 Olympics, see the Early Televison Museum website.

Leni Riefenstahl

Photo: Blic.rs

The significance of the filmed telecasts of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin extends far beyond the technology of video transmission.

The director of these telecasts, German film director, actress and dancer Leni Riefenstahl, introduced numerous production techniques still in use by the filmmakers of today.   Most startling at the time were such techniques as slow-motion photography, use of a crane to lift the camera for aerial shots, the use of tracking rails to follow the motions of athletes, and the use of several cameras simultaneously. (Wikipedia).

At the completion of the 1936 broadcasts, Riefenstahl assembled her footage into a feature-length film Olympia, still available on DVD today (Amazon).   Leonard Maltin, in the 2012 edition of his annual Movie Guide, describes Olympia, as follows:

Two-part record of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, highlighted by truly eyepopping cinematography, camera movement and editing.  Of course, it's all supposed to be a glorification of the Nazi state.  Various edited versions exist (some of which omit all footage of Hitler, who appears throughout the original print). (Maltin, 2012, 1024).

Riefenstahl had pioneered many of these techniques in her previous work, notably her 1934 film Triumph of the Will, a documentary film of the 1934 Nuremberg Congress of the National Socialist Party.   Maltin's take:

Riefenstahl's infamous documentary on Hitler's 1934 Nuremberg rallies is rightly regarded as the greatest propaganda film of all time.   Fascinating and (of course) frightening to see. (Maltin, 2012, 1453).

Photo: Wikipedia

Screenshot from Triumph of the Will.

Riefenstahl lived to age 101, and traveled widely including visits to the United States.  She has been described has an "acclaimed pioneer of film and photographic techniques" (Wikipedia) and as "one of the most admired film-makers of all time" (Amazon.com).

But even that is slightly inaccurate.   Before television signals could be distributed to two or more receivers connected to a common aerial, of course there had to be transmissions.   Here the Germans did it first: by a matter of hours, days — possibly weeks — to spare, suitable camera designs appeared in Germany in time for the 1936 Olympics (August 1-16) held in Berlin (left sidebar).

And to be totally accurate, even the term "live" needs clarification.   The Germans invented (here, "invented" is the correct word — the patent applications were filed in 1932) a system of rapid film development.   In something between 60 and 90 seconds, a newsfilm camera (17.5- or 35-mm) would shoot an event, the film would roll instantly through a developer and equally instantly while marginally dry go straight into a projector.   The projector illuminated an attached early EMI- or Farnsworth-licensed TV camera.   A photo-sensitive electron beam scanned a mosaic plate and by magic the almost-live filmed coverage appeared on TV receptors.

The Germans called these early Telefunken and Fernseh receivers "Volksceptors" (freely translated here; actually 'Volksfernseher') — think Volkswagen of later decades ("the people's television").   The broadcasts were 180-line definition, and later, 441-line definition, a function of the early release status of the rapidly-developing camera technology.

Sources disagree on the initial production run rushed to meet the 1936 Olympics but likely no more than 500 sets were delivered to quickly-created 'Public Television Offices' where the common folks (in two cities, Berlin and Potsdam) could watch up to 72 hours of 'almost live' Olympiad XI events on 7-, 9- and 12-inch screens.   There are unverified reports of 4-foot wide projection screens as well.

These would be the first and last German 'mass produced' TV 'sets' before Europe became a war zone.   References have the Germans producing an original run of 500 receivers in 1936, but later plans to build more for the 1939 Christmas season were the victim (with some humor now, so long after the fact) of the invasion of Poland by Germany and Russia in September, 1939.

Which has what to do with cable television?   Surviving film of the 'Public Television Offices' of the German 1936 effort clearly depicts as many as a dozen receivers functioning simultaneously (remember the screen size limitation) in one building.   If we reject the notion that each receiver had an individual directly-connected receiving antenna for the 42.9-megacycle signal, that says 'distribution network' of some sort, passive or active.   Extant German technical literature from 1936-37 era leads to the conclusion that they employed RF-amplification in their distribution networks.

If this is true, as it appears between the ancient film and yellowed burnt-edge technical papers in the original German, they did it first: they created technology to allow one 'master' antenna to service perhaps a dozen, even 50, receivers.   But: was this 'community antenna television' or was it simply MATV?

Now, as a technology historian, it is not permissible to simply accept one source on something as potentially controversial as "who did it first".   So if the 1936 evidence is less than 100%, we jump ahead to 1943 when the World War II was in full effect.   An article in Issue No. 39 of the British publication After the Battle, titled TV Pictures from Occupied Paris, tells us that when the Germans captured Paris, in June 1940, they 'inherited' a functional Eiffel Tower French TV transmission system operating at 46 mc video/42 mc audio (Fig. 1).   By 1943, it was linked to a pair of German transmitters (Berlin and Potsdam) that were used up to ten hours daily to create programming for 'recuperation centers' (the German phrase for where those of rank wounded in battle were being recycled for a return to warfare).   Those original 500 produced-in-1936 'Volksets' were retrofitted into the recovery wards of these centers and a significant effort was put into creating 'television programming' for those fortunate enough to be assigned to such a facility.   Three elaborate new — for the era — TV studios were constructed in Paris, seating up to 500 audience members, including one with an on-stage swimming pool.

Photo: Michael Ockenden, (After the Battle #39.)

Fig. 1.   Test pattern from Fernsehsender transmitter, Eiffel Tower, Paris, ca. 1943.   This photo was taken by Michael Ockenden, an RCAF officer stationed in the UK during the Battle of Britain.   During his tour of duty, he was based at a cliff-top listening post overlooking the English Channel at Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, County of Sussex, UK, where he served as part of a team of WRNS and RAF personnel assigned to monitor German radio signals.   They monitored navigational beacons, radar signals, radio-controlled bombs, and television signals from the Eiffel Tower.

Here there is less question about the distribution technology used.   These systems employed master antenna distribution systems with amplification of the off-air broadcasts, and fed as many as 50 sets in a single complex.   You logically don't do this with passive-only hardware (although it was possible and we cannot be 100% certain of this).

Again, the question arises: CATV or MATV?     We will dismiss that question as irrelevant to this narrative and proceed on the assumption the German systems used technology that would later be used in Astoria and Mahonoy City: community antenna television.

This (1943) would have been five years ahead of the Astoria, Oregon (or Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania) claims and two years before before the closed-down BBC (television) restarted (June 6, 1946).   Ah yes, the dissenters!   Germany?   Before the UK or USA?

A reminder of the purpose of this narrative: we are attempting to nail down "the first systems which distributed television via cable to non-aerial direct-connected sets."   No, there is no evidence Germany employed 'coaxial' cable but then what follows also does not qualify if it is 'coax' that defines our objective.

There is precious little (let alone verifiable) evidence that anyone in the UK attempted to take the Alexandra Palace 41/45 meg signal off air and distribute it (at the reception frequency) via any kind of 'cable' prior to the September 1, 1939 close-down of the transmitter (leaving it on the air would have to provided German bombers with a 'homing device' in central London).

Now I should note at this point that at least one other author would perhaps dispute that statement.   Patrick Parsons (quoting from a 1980 book by Kenneth Easton), writes:

By 1937, the firm [Radio Furniture & Fittings — see below] had installed TV antennas and amplifiers and was operating apartment house cable TV systems. . . .   By 1939, some thirty or forty London buildings [had been wired].

Perhaps where Parsons erred or Easton's memory proved decades-challenged will be clear with what follows.   "Coaxial cable?"   I think not.   Amplifiers?   Again, I think not if we are talking 41/45 meg signals.

Amplifiers

After the BBC restarted operations in June 1946, the story changes.   Part of the reason for this was a vastly improved post-war technology base (better circuits, valves/tubes) but the major ingredient was the miserable state of the British economy.   Yes, BBC-TV was back, and yes a (very) small number of 'new' post-war TV sets was available (essentially unchanged from 1939 designs; none initially had a RF or tuner 'gain' stage).

But the economy was in the pits.   So at least one firm ― Radio Furniture & Fittings Ltd. ― explored recreating the wired radio concept for TV: customers would rent a TV receiver.   Radio Furniture & Fittings (we'll call them Fittings) ran a 'cable' from a master off-air aerial, and by mid-1947, viewers in the tenements and row houses anticipated having television.   Alas, the plan was technically flawed.   And this overlooks the work that previously had been done in 1937-39 as reported in the April and July issues of TELEVISION and Short-Wave World.   More about this shortly.

Credit

Fig. 2.   Construction of master receiver located in roof shed, Arlington House apartment building, London.

If the British engineers of 1937 could not or would not deal with direct-on frequency distribution, they did put into operation a rather unusual (even clever) 'intermediate' level of 'master antenna system'.   Indeed, some Rediffusion history, without historical reference, claims that:

Radio Furniture and Fittings Ltd. [in 1937] relayed the [BBC] television by cable, at the transmitted frequency, to blocks of flats on a CATV basis.

We will leave that report 'unverified' with a reminder that, to the British, a 'wire pair' was 'cable,' following the Patrick Parsons/Kenneth Easton quotation preceding.   For the purposes of this narrative, we suggest below what we believe is more likely the accurate version.

The April 1937 issue of Television and Short-Wave featured an article describing 'how multiple television receivers' might be placed on roll-around carts and provide television service to those confined to a hospital.   The article hints it 'was being done' but neglects to be specific about where (suggesting it was more of a theoretical piece than a report about functional technology).

Credit

Fig. 3.   Special 4-prong plug used for Arlington House installation.

But the July 1937 issue of the same publication was much more explicit.   An article titled Television Relays for Modern Flats notes that at several upmarket residential buildings in and around Piccadilly Square, a housing/shed on the roof of the building contained an off-air BBC single channel receiver (Fig. 2).   The demodulated video and audio signals were then amplified and carried via wire pairs to newly-designed wall-mounted outlet plates in as many as 96 apartments (Fig. 3).

These installations were in top-of-market locations, quite the opposite of the British 'wired radio' systems in low-rent tenement districts.   The article cites Arlington House as one such building, and includes detailed system line drawings and photos of the installed equipment including the unusual (for 1937) wall outlet plate.

No, this was not a master antenna television network distributing signals at RF, but it was a master antenna service nonetheless.   The in-apartment 'receivers' could have been either standard VHF TV sets, modified to accept baseband video and audio, or essentially AV monitors custom designed for this application.   The July report states that each apartment unit required only a CRT "with an on-off switch, and brightness control," although doubtless an audio volume control was also included.

It all came to a halt of course on September 1, 1939, when Germany and Russia invaded Poland, sparking the start of World War II.

When BBC-TV restarted, the Alexandra Palace transmitter was not very powerful (5 kilowatts in 1946; 17 by 1950) but it was close to the northern-London suburbs.   With the improved post-war technology, in 1947, Fittings initially attempted on-frequency RF distribution with two-wire pairs.   Unfortunately, the TV sets connected to the 'master aerial' frequently ended up with three simultaneous images of BBC-TV:

The image from the off-air aerial.

The slightly leading signal from the unintended aerial properties of the unshielded pair of wires strung across building fronts.

The direct reception by the TV set's internal input wiring.

Ghosting would be a mild term here.   The history on this includes the phrase:

Some experiments [were attempted in 1946-47] with vision signals along cables using the 'off air' 45 mc/s carrier frequency but because of signal attenuation and severe ghosting the trial was abandoned.

(Remember: 'cable' equals 'wire pair' in the UK.)

Fittings was not giving up.   In 1947, they would be responsible for what were (apparently) the first in-wire-line (vacuum tube of course) 'RF line amplifiers'.   Somehow they figured if the signal was kept at high enough level the unshielded, unintended, 'cable pickup' and the direct-to-the-TV-set internal wiring pickup would be tolerable.   It was not.   This would have to be classified as 'an experiment' that didn't work.

Rediffusion

Rediffusion, Ltd

Fittings sold out to Rediffusion (including their stable of 'wired radio' networks) in 1948, and Rediffusion, being slightly more technically inclined, tried a different approach: if distribution at the off-air frequency created intolerable pickup, change the input frequency for 'cable' to a new one (keeping in mind that 'cable' was not coaxial cable, even though plentiful supplies were available from WWII surplus outlets).   These attempts presented new untested problems which neither Fittings nor Rediffusion seemed willing to seriously explore in 1947-48.

Returning to the (pre-war) Fittings on-roof shed approach, Rediffusion elected to attempt wire-pair distribution by using a (much) lower vision frequency: 9.72 mc/s, upper sideband (suppressed lower sideband).   The BBC signal was demodulated and the video used to remodulate the HF carrier, vision only; audio would be transported as baseband audio in another wire pair.

In 1950, Rediffusion ran a field trial in the town of Margate.   For this trail, 100 nine-inch Philips receivers were modified for 9.72-mc video detection, with audio connected directly to the appropriate pair.   It worked, not flawlessly but well enough for Rediffusion engineering management to proclaim a 'Eureka!' moment.   They called it the TDUK-1 system, setting the stage for a worldwide effort that would ultimately attract nearly 500,000 paying subscribers including residents of Montreal, Quebec.   We will explore the UK 'cable TV' growth in subsequent parts of this narrative as most of it occurred after our 1948-1951 time frame.

The Margate trial also created several more 'Eureka-Moment' advantages:

Cable loss at 9+ megs was far less than at the original off-air 41/45 megs so the signals traveled further without need for (re)amplification in the 'pair cable' in use.

By eliminating the original 41/45 meg frequencies, the subscriber location no longer needed a full TV set with 41/45 input, but rather a simplified (vision-only) version that had the 9.72 mc IF (intermediate frequency) as an input.   Significantly cheaper — perhaps 50% less — so subscriber fees became more profitable if Rediffusion also supplied the receiver.

Eureka squared!

Credit

Fig. 4.   The 9-inch Rediffuser receiver (1947).

Well, not quite.   While 'line amplifiers' in the 9-mc range were very doable in that period, there remained the problem with the cable itself.   It was unshielded, and when carrying TV service it was assumed nobody else operating in the same frequency range (9-12 mc) would 'get into' the system.   Not true.   The BBC's world-circling short-wave transmitters also operated in the frequency range 9-12 megacycles, producing visible 'spark-gap' noise.

The bottom line for this exercise is simply this: Rediffusion pioneered an IF-range distribution system for a single TV channel and in some areas it worked while in others it didn't.   But the concept of distributing signals at IF rather than RF was now solidly entrenched at Rediffusion.   And while this is pages ahead of that timeline, when Canadian firm Benco announced their pioneering transistorized T1 line amp (1959), it was designed to work over a frequency range of 8 to 88 megacycles.   The portion below North America's TV Channel 2 (below 54 megs) was the result of Benco's belief that Rediffusion's Montreal system would need two channels (16 and 28 mc/s) in the basic Rediffusion format.

If we are searching for the first 'wire' distribution of television to multiple locations where the 'wire' legally crossed (as with regulatory permission) public streets and rights of way (ROW), this might be it — in late 1949, if we are generous, certainly before mid-1950 if we are less trusting of the records.   We will return there.

Leni Riefenstahl

Photo: Blic.rs

The significance of the filmed telecasts of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin extends far beyond the technology of video transmission.

The director of these telecasts, German film director, actress and dancer Leni Riefenstahl, introduced numerous production techniques still in use by the filmmakers of today.   Most startling at the time were such techniques as slow-motion photography, use of a crane to lift the camera for aerial shots, the use of tracking rails to follow the motions of athletes, and the use of several cameras simultaneously. (Wikipedia).

At the completion of the 1936 broadcasts, Riefenstahl assembled her footage into a feature-length film Olympia, still available on DVD today (Amazon).   Leonard Maltin, in the 2012 edition of his annual Movie Guide, describes Olympia, as follows:

Two-part record of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, highlighted by truly eyepopping cinematography, camera movement and editing.  Of course, it's all supposed to be a glorification of the Nazi state.  Various edited versions exist (some of which omit all footage of Hitler, who appears throughout the original print). (Maltin, 2012, 1024).

Riefenstahl had pioneered many of these techniques in her previous work, notably her 1934 film Triumph of the Will, a documentary film of the 1934 Nuremberg Congress of the National Socialist Party.   Maltin's take:

Riefenstahl's infamous documentary on Hitler's 1934 Nuremberg rallies is rightly regarded as the greatest propaganda film of all time.   Fascinating and (of course) frightening to see. (Maltin, 2012, 1453).

Photo: Wikipedia

Screenshot from Triumph of the Will.

Riefenstahl lived to age 101, and traveled widely including visits to the United States.  She has been described has an "acclaimed pioneer of film and photographic techniques" (Wikipedia) and as "one of the most admired film-makers of all time" (Amazon.com).

Who Invented Cable TV?

So we are now roughly into 1948, the same year in which Ed Parsons in Oregon, John Walson in Pennsylvania, and Jim Davidson in Arkansas appeared with RF distribution from a master antenna to connected homes.   One of these three would seem to be the creator of the American CATV (community antenna television) concept.

But well after 1948, other claimants would surface.

Oral Histories

Oral Histories (or Aural Histories, as they're sometimes called) are an important part of the historical record.   Recorded oral history interviews can be distributed as audio recordings or digital audio files, or they can be transcribed to text for distribution as digital text files or paper documents.

Oral history interviews are the source of some of the information cited in this narrative.  These oral histories have come from two sources:

Mary Alice Mayer Phillips (née Mayer).  In 1968-72, Phillips was a doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.   For her thesis topic she chose the history of what was then known as "community antenna television."   During the course of her research, she conducted oral history interviews with several prominent industry pioneers including system operators, equipment manufacturers, and journalists.

image of front cover of book     In 1972, Phillips revised and updated her research for publication in book form.   The resulting book, CATV: A history of Community Antenna Television, was published by Northwestern University Press in 1972.   In the book she frequently quotes from the oral history interviews.

This book stands today as one of the most important primary sources for information about the early history of the cable television industry.   According to a review by Louis Harris, published in Performing Arts Review in 1973, "Miss Phillips has done the first primary work in the field."

The Cable Center.   The Barco Library at The Cable Center has compiled a large collection of oral histories known as the Hauser Oral and Video Collection.   Most of these interviews were recorded after 1985, when The Cable Center was founded.  Interviews were conducted by various interested parties including Mary Alice Mayer.

The following interviews are relevant to this narrative:

• Davidson 1999 (Barco Library, 1999).

Interviewed by Jim Keller.

• Parsons 1986 (Barco Library, 19-Jun-1986)

Interviewed by Richard Barton.

• Walson 1968 (Private, 23-Nov-1968)

Interviewed by Mary Alice Mayer.

• Walson 1970 (Barco Library, 21-Jul-1970)

Interviewed by Mary Alice Mayer.

So what is a CATV system?

That is the real question here.   The answer depends on the definition of "CATV".   Here's one possible definition — a CATV system must meet the following criteria:

Utilizes one or more (possibly multiplexed/diplexed receiving) antenna(s).

Feeds a single output cable, with or without in-line amplifiers.

Reaches two or more subscribers who pay a monthly or annual fee.

If a system meets all of these criteria, the list would be long even in 1949, and by 1950 it would fill pages.

This definition ignores the finer points such as coaxial cable.   As we have already noted, twinlead was not, in the American terminology, the same as cable, although it might have been in the UK ("wires covered in plastic").

This definition also ignores the distinction between a CATV system and an MATV (or SMATV) system.   Here in the United States, a CATV system, simply because it occupies public right-of-way, is subject to numerous legal requirements that do not apply to MATV and SMATV systems.   This distinction is rooted in FCC rules and regulations dating as far back as 1976:

§76.5(a)   [The term] cable television system ... shall not include ... any such facility that serves or will serve only subscribers in one or more multiple unit dwellings under common ownership, control or management.   ( 47 CFR §76.5(a) 1976)

And reaffirmed as recently as 2011:

§76.5(a)   [The term] cable television system ... does not include ... a facility that serves subscribers without using any public right-of-way.   (47 CFR §76.5(a) 2011)

In the timeframe of the present narrative (1948-50), these definitions did not exist (the FCC did not assume authority to apply any regulations to the CATV industry until the 1960s).   Nevertheless, for the purpose of this narrative, we will accept the FCC's distinction and concentrate our discussion on CATV systems as subsequently defined by the FCC.   Accordingly, we define a CATV system as a system that meets the following criteria:

Utilizes one or more (possibly multiplexed/diplexed receiving) antenna(s).

Feeds a single output cable, with or without in-line amplifiers.

Is entirely shielded by the use of coaxial cable and properly shielded components.

Reaches two or more subscribers who pay a monthly or annual fee.

Occupies public streets (right-of-way) in at least one location.

Who got there first?

Having agreed on a working definition for "CATV," we now turn attention to the historical question: Who was the first person to build a cable TV system meeting the above definition?

There are three recognized contenders:

Jim Davidson in Tuckerman, Arkansas

Leroy "Ed" Parsons in Astoria Oregon.

John Walsonovich (later Walson) in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania

By the late 1980s, all three (and others) were being hounded by would-be historians who were searching for the holy grail — "the first one".

As noted in the adjacent sidebar, much of the research into the early history of CATV was the work of Mary Alice Mayer Phillips, a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University and the author of the book CATV: A history of community antenna television.   According to Phillips, Parsons was a reluctant participant in this contest.   Walson claimed to have been first, and focused heavily on the recognition he believed came with being first.   Davidson was more casual but no less precise in reciting his own credentials for the honor.

Thomas P. Southwick, in his book Distant Signals, mentions all three contenders, but concludes that Davidson was the winner.

These authors, and others, attempted to define this trail before I completed research for this narrative.   I believe they lacked a measure of objectivity.   Furthermore, they lack an important ingredient: they were not there, active, in the early era.   For most of it (1950 onward), I was.

With that in mind, here's what my research tells me.

Photo: James Davidson

Jim Davidson

JAMES DAVIDSON   Jim Davidson in Tuckerman, Arkansas had one paying 'antenna system subscriber' but the timeline of when that subscriber ― Carl Toler ― became a 'paying CATV subscriber' is blurred.   Like many other CATVs of the day, Davidson's CATV system carried only one channel ― in this case, WMC-TV, Memphis.

But this story begins even before WMC-TV first went on the air.

Image of test pattern of WMCT, Channel 4, Memphis, Tennessee

In anticipation of the day when WMC-TV (later WMCT) would first sign on, Davidson erected a 100-foot tower on the roof adjacent to his appliance store (some 100 miles from the WMC-TV transmitter), added a channel 4 yagi antenna and a booster amplifier and waited for the station to sign on.   He was going to be the first person in Tuckerman with television — and he was.   But WMC-TV, while it was routinely testing in the fall of 1948, did not officially begin programming until December 1948.

In October 1998, Davidson published a memoir titled 50th Anniversary "to honor the 50th anniversary of my first subscriber."   A PDF copy is posted here.   (Davidson 1998)

Here is the chronology of events based on our research:

October 17, 1948: Davidson connects his antenna to Carl Toler's home. (Davidson 1998. p.6.).   According to Davidson's oral history interview, Toler "was the local depot agent and telegrapher...   He was extremely interested in television." (Davidson 1999, ¶56).

Date unknown: WMC-TV begins test broadcasts.

November 13, 1948: WMC-TV broadcasts a football game between the Universities of Tennessee and Mississippi.   According to Davidson, "The Tolers said that their living room had standing room only, for this football game.  The American Legion building was standing room only.  My shop and store were standing room only." (Davidson 1999, ¶56).

December 11, 1948: WMC-TV commences regular programming. (Wikipedia)

Although Davidson's claim to have received WMC-TV's signal is further supported by area newspaper accounts prior to December 1948, his claim is tainted by the 'test status' of WMC-TV at the time.   The only test transmission that seems to work in his favor is the November football game.

At what point would his single customer actually have begun paying for the connection to the antenna?   Prior to the start of daily programming on December 11th?   Was the test pattern reason enough to routinely pay Davidson for 'sharing' his antenna?   He notes that he "later charged $150 for the installation and$3 a month."   When was "later"?   The Davidson evidence does not answer this question.

Photo: The Cable Center

Leroy "Ed" Parsons

LEROY "ED" PARSONS   The Parsons story, largely because of the root work done by Mary Alice Mayer Phillips in her 1972  book,  is well documented in Southwick's book even if his portrayal of Astoria lacks important detail.   Although Davidson spoke up late, his records (dated receipts, photos, local newsprint stories) largely confirm his claims even if one paying subscriber seems a bit of a stretch.

Image of Indian Head Test Pattern.

Credit: Wikipedia

Yet it is apparent that both Parsons and Davidson were 'ready and waiting' for the first sign of a test pattern.   Davidson's claim is based on his initial attempts to receive WMC-TV.   Parsons makes no such claim before the actual first-day broadcast, but his oral history (Parsons, 1986) and Phillips' book both clearly show that he began searching for, and actually identified, KRSC-TV's transmitter test signals as early as September 1948.   Davidson counts a test pattern to support his claim, whereas Parsons waited for actual programming.   In a technical sense, reception of a test pattern would be 'television,' but Parsons, the owner/operator of AM radio station KAST (Astoria), did not classify it as 'programming'.

While Davidson was anxious — even driven — to be recognized as 'first,' Parsons didn't even try.   He left his cable activity in 1953 and never looked back.   He moved to Alaska where he pioneered two-way radio systems (see 'Parsons Addendum).

If Parsons didn't try to claim the "I was first" honor, the residents of Astoria certainly did.   Local civic boosters have been claiming the honor ever since.   In May 1968, they dedicated a granite monument near the Astoria Column at the top of Coxcomb Hill.   Text on the monument reads as follows:

CABLE TELEVISION WAS INVENTED AND DEVELOPED BY L.E. "ED" PARSONS ON THANKSGIVING DAY, 1948.   THE SYSTEM CARRIED THE FIRST TRANSMISSION BY KRSC-TV, CHANNEL 5, SEATTLE.   THIS MARKED THE BEGINNING OF CABLE TV.

Photo: Neal McLain

Front side of the monument.

Photo: Neal McLain

Bronze plaque atop the Parsons monument    Photo: Neal McLain

The Parsons monument.

Those who might rush the process of historical discovery and verification would have made up their minds: Ed Parsons "was first."   Perhaps.   We'll return to this monument presently, but at this point, we will note that this plaque, atop Coxcomb Hill at an elevation of 595 feet above sea level, was not the site of Parson's first system antenna site.   In fact, Parsons never had an antenna site here.

Editor's note: KRSC-TV, Channel 5, Seattle, began broadcasting on November 25, 1948, becoming the first television station in the Pacific Northwest.   The first broadcast on channel 5 was a live remote of a Thanksgiving Day high school football game.   In May 1949, KRSC-TV and its sister radio station KRSC-FM were purchased by King Broadcasting Company and the station's callsign was changed to KING-TV to match its radio sister. (Wikipedia).   Subsequently, callsign KRSC-TV was assigned to Rogers State College, Claremore, Oklahoma, for ite television station.   In 2013, after the college was renamed Rogers State University, the staton's callsign was change to KRSU-TV, branded as RSU-TV. (Wikipedia)   As of this writing, callsign KRSC-TV remains unused.

Photo: The Cable Center

John Walson

JOHN WALSON  Walson's claim is another matter.

Mary Alice Mayer conducted two oral history interviews with Walson:

•  Walson 1968, private interview, 23-Nov-1968.   No transcript is known to exist.

•  Walson 1970, private interview, 21-Jul-1970, subsequently posted in the Barco Library Hauser Oral and Video Collection.   A searchable transcript is available here.

Inasmuch as a transcript of the 1968 interview is not available, we will base this discussion on the 1970 interview.

Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania is a borough located in the mountainous anthracite coal-mining regions of the state.   It lies in the Mahanoy Creek valley at an elevation of 1240 feet, about 79 miles northwest of Philadelphia. (Wikipedia.)

Mahanoy City is surrounded on all sides by Mahanoy Township, a constituent township of Schuylkill County.   Broad Mountain, a ridge extending across the entire county, lies immediately south of Mahanoy City.   Broad Mountain rises to an elevation exceeding 1700 feet, effectively blocking radio and television signals from reaching Mahanoy City.   However, township residents living on top of Broad Mountain are able to receive Philadelphia television stations with rooftop antennas.

Topographic map of the Mahanoy City area.   Broad Mountain is the forested ridge extending across the map south of Mahanoy City.   Note the "TV Tower" on a 1700-foot peak atop Broad Mountain, directly south of Mahanoy City between New Boston and Newton Junction.   Click the map for a larger view.   The footprint of the tower site and the access road can still be seen on Google satellite today.

Oral Histories

Oral Histories (or Aural Histories, as they're sometimes called) are an important part of the historical record.   Recorded oral history interviews can be distributed as audio recordings or digital audio files, or they can be transcribed to text for distribution as digital text files or paper documents.

Oral history interviews are the source of some of the information cited in this narrative.  These oral histories have come from two sources:

Mary Alice Mayer Phillips (née Mayer).  In 1968-72, Phillips was a doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.   For her thesis topic she chose the history of what was then known as "community antenna television."   During the course of her research, she conducted oral history interviews with several prominent industry pioneers including system operators, equipment manufacturers, and journalists.

image of front cover of book     In 1972, Phillips revised and updated her research for publication in book form.   The resulting book, CATV: A history of Community Antenna Television, was published by Northwestern University Press in 1972.   In the book she frequently quotes from the oral history interviews.

This book stands today as one of the most important primary sources for information about the early history of the cable television industry.   According to a review by Louis Harris, published in Performing Arts Review in 1973, "Miss Phillips has done the first primary work in the field."

The Cable Center.   The Barco Library at The Cable Center has compiled a large collection of oral histories known as the Hauser Oral and Video Collection.   Most of these interviews were recorded after 1985, when The Cable Center was founded.  Interviews were conducted by various interested parties including Mary Alice Mayer.

The following interviews are relevant to this narrative:

• Davidson 1999 (Barco Library, 1999).

Interviewed by Jim Keller.

• Parsons 1986 (Barco Library, 19-Jun-1986)

Interviewed by Richard Barton.

• Walson 1968 (Private, 23-Nov-1968)

Interviewed by Mary Alice Mayer.

• Walson 1970 (Barco Library, 21-Jul-1970)

Interviewed by Mary Alice Mayer.

In 1947, when broadcast television stations began operating in Philadelphia, Walson began selling television sets.   But his only customers were township residents on the mountaintops ― potential customers living in the valley could not receive Philadelphia television stations.   Even Walson couldn't receive television signals in his own store.   To address this situation, he constructed an antenna tower on a 1700-peak atop Broad Mountain (see map above), and from this tower, he brought the signals of three Philadelphia television stations down to his store.

Thus began the development of what would become one of the largest cable television companies in the country.   But the timeline remains uncertain.

Walson relates the story in his second interview with Mary Alice Mayer:

I started selling TV sets about 1947, and it became very difficult to sell TV sets in a place like Mahanoy City because Mahanoy City is a community that is completely surrounded by mountains. (¶ 4)

I started in the CATV business in June of 1948. (¶ 2)

[A] cable was run from the top of the mountain from an ordinary antenna...   I essentially, in June 1948 had a broadband twin-lead system just as they have today...  Those three channels were 3, 6, and 10 out of Philadelphia. (¶12)

But did he really have an operating CATV system in June 1948?

At the outset, consider his claim that his system was able to carry three Philadelphia broadcast stations in June 1948.   FCC records confirm that all three stations were on-the-air, carrying programming, by that time:

•  WPTZ (channel 3) was operating pursuant to a broadcast license dated September 16, 1941.

•  WFIL (channel 6) officially began broadcasting on September 12, 1947.

•  WCAU (channel 10) began commercial telecasting on May 22, 1948.

So if Walson did indeed erect his antenna system in June 1948, his claim to have carried all three stations appears to be valid.   Although some authors have attempted to deny him that recognition based on WCAU's on-air date, he passes that test.

Photo: Mahanoy Area Historical Society

Service Electric Cable TV Inc. tower, 1960s.

As the CATV industry grew, Walson inherited a sort of legendary status, not just for constructing an early CATV system, but also for his early use of private microwave networks to import distant broadcast signals.   He constructed microwave networks to import four independent stations from New York City to his network of CATV systems in north central Pennsylvania:

•  WABD  (Channel 5, now WNYW)

•  WOR-TV (Channel 9, now WWOR-TV)

•  WPIX-TV  (Channel 11, still WPIX-TV)

and occasionally

•  WATV  (Channel 13, now WNET)

Walson's microwave network also served another purpose.   By 1972, Time, Inc. was experimenting with what was then called "Pay TV" — a non-broadcast channel that CATV operators could sell for an additional monthly charge.   Time's new pay TV network was called "Home Box Office" (HBO), and Walson was HBO's first distant affiliate — an affiliate located beyond the range of HBO's own microwave network in the New York/New Jersey area.

By 1960, Walson's privately-held group of CATV systems, then known as Service Electric Cable TV Inc., was among the largest in the United States.   When, by 1970, Mary Alice Mayer and other authors were attempting to document the early history of the industry, Walson's company was the largest individually-owned multi-system operator (MSO) in the United States, and his company was the single largest supporter of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA)

Yet when Mayer recorded Walson's second oral history interview, Walson's memory failed him.   Perhaps we can forgive him for that.   Whatever his contemporaries may thought of him, they, too, apparently forgave him.   Perhaps because of his status as the NCTA's largest supporter, nobody in that organization questioned his version of events.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Walson's "I-did-it-first-in-1948" claim is suspect.   Tracing his authenticity depends upon some technical issues.

So let's restart at the top.   The basic question remains: what is it that defines the first CATV system?

As noted above, our definition of "CATV" requires the system to meet the following criteria:

Utilizes one or more (possibly multiplexed/diplexed receiving) antenna(s).

Feeds a single output cable, with or without in-line amplifiers.

Is entirely shielded by the use of coaxial cable and properly shielded components.

Reaches two or more subscribers who pay a monthly or annual fee.

Occupies public streets (right-of-way) in at least one location.

If we rule out systems that did not collect any kind of 'maintenance fee,' we may be forced in a legal sense to eliminate those one-time-charge systems (e.g., early Parsons) from consideration as the first CATV system, or even as an early system.

Television Digest (the former weekly high-priced Washington-based newsletter, no longer extant) might have disagreed.   TVD's publisher Albert Warren was very enamored with the entire concept of community antenna television (CATV) ― so much so that if we review his 1948 and subsequent weekly issues, we discover that he routinely identified more and more of them.   Indeed, so many that, by his efforts alone, it became a generic class of 'business.'   Between 1948 and perhaps 1953 or so, Warren would identify more than 200 CATV systems.   Warren believed they were proliferating to such an extent that the FCC was missing an important subset of the growth of television itself.

This is where Walson and hundreds like him move into a grey zone.   Walson may in fact have installed an antenna on Broad Mountain in June 1948, and out of his lowland electrical shop he may well have demonstrated television reception from Philadelphia to a community where no reasonably-costed rooftop antenna would produce reliable reception.

But he was hardly unique, even in mid-1948.   Folks who lived on the hilltops, including those next door to his antenna site, would have had reliable reception from Philadelphia.   The concept would have been simple to comprehend: live on a hilltop, you get TV; live in the valley and you don't.   So you place your antenna on the hilltop and run some sort of wire or cable.

Any issue of Radio TV News or Radio-Craft (or word-of-mouth at the local bar) would tell you how to do it.   It was not a mystery and it was not complicated.

What Walson did was to turn this hilltop antenna into a business plan.   He may have erred in remembering when he did it, and what equipment he used to do it with, but the fact remains: he did it.

The company that Walson founded in 1948, now known as Service Electric Cable TV and Communications, is still in business today, and it still provides cable television service in Mahanoy City.   Of course, the technical plant has been been rebuilt; nevertheless, the company is almost unique in the CATV industry for having served the same community continuously since the day it hooked up its first customer.

After Walson's death, his son, John Walson, Jr. served as president until his death in 2012.   Walson Jr.'s son, John M. Walson, now serves as president (Olanoff 2012).   In March 2013, Service Electric closed its Mahanoy City office as part of an effort to consolidate its operations in Humboldt Industrial Park in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (Usalis 2013).

Photo: H. Antoinette Cheslock Hilmer

Advertising billboard along Pennsylvania Route 54 east of Mahanoy City

Photo: OCEM collection

Sign at Service Electric Cable TV office in Mahanoy City.

Photo: OCEM collection

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker at Mahanoy City

Was Walson really first?

Unfortunately, there are problems with Walson's "I-was-first" claim.

In his second oral history interview (Walson 1970), Walson stated:

"The cable was Army surplus, heavy duty twin lead cable that was purchased at Reliance Merchandising."   (¶11)

This claim presents problems:

A thorough search of US military surplus goods offered for sale after the close of World War II reveals no 300-ohm twinlead, "heavy-duty" or otherwise, although we find several varieties of coaxial cable including RG-8/U and RG-59/U.   This research also shows that something called "type 14-076 transmitting Twin-Lead" was introduced by Amphenol in 1949.   It differed from "non-heavy-duty" only in its ability to handle transmitter power up to 500 watts.   Other electrical characteristics, such as loss per 100 feet, were almost identical: 1.7 dB./100 feet ("heavy duty") vs. 2.0 dB./100 feet. (ARRL 1950)

A study of more than a dozen books written and released in the 1947-51 period, each of which was created to provide technical help to radio men and electronic enthusiasts in comprehending the "new art" of television, reveals not a single mention of "heavy duty twinlead."   Even Rider doesn't mention it. (Rider 1948)

Although advertisements for "Reliance Merchandising of Arch Street, Philadelphia" appeared in contemporary issues of Radio TV News and Radio Electronics, there is no historical record of its function or product line.

"In June of 1948 I went to Philadelphia and bought some twin-lead cable from Reliance Merchandising, and this twin-lead cable was run from the top of the mountain from an ordinary antenna and amplified every 500 feet with a top-of-the-set booster made by Electro-Voice which is a broadband amplifier....   (¶12)

Photos: Lew Chandler

Electro-Voice Model 3000 Booster Amplifier.

Our research indicates that Electro-Voice Model 3000 amplifier was not available before 1950:

The earliest mention that we can find in any printed publication appears in the September 1950 issue of Radio Electronics, a technical journal for the radio and television industries.

The Electro-Voice Wikipedia page mentions "In 1950, they started production of the first automatic TV booster, which sold in great quantities" but does not cite a source.

Electro-Voice's own website and its Facebook page contain no mention of such a device.

The year 1950, of course, is well after the June 1948 date that Walson claims.

Parenthetically, we note that by 1950, numerous other manufacturers were making similar products.   The Old CATV Equipment Museum holds several models in its collection. (Museum, p. 1122).

Twinlead, "heavy duty" or not, introduces a loss of about 2 dB. per hundred feet at Channel 10 (192-198 MHz).   Furthermore, the 2-dB./100-ft specification only applies to dry twinlead.   Loss increases substantially if the twinlead is wet.

Setting aside the wet-twinlead problem for the moment, the loss in a 500-foot span would be five times that number, or about 10 dB., so the minimum level at the input to the second amplifier would be 10 dB. below the output of the first amplifier.   Thus, each amplifier must have a minimum gain of 10 dB. at TV Channel 10.

The manufacturer's specifications for this amplifier do not specify gain.   However, 6 dB. is typical for boosters of this type, so perhaps we can accept it as true.   But if we accept it, the amplifier gain would have been at least 4 dB. too low to meet the 10-db./100-ft requirement noted above.

Is it possible that Walson "tweaked" the amplifiers to increase the gain to 10 dB.?   Doing so might have been possible, but the manufacturer's specs don't mention it.   Walson doesn't mention it either.

Furthermore, if Walson had tweaked the gain, how did it affect amplifier performance?   Theoretical and experimental studies (e.g., Grant, 1998; Ciciora et al, 1999) have shown that increasing the gain of an amplifier (or, more precisely, increasing its output level), causes the distortion level to increase at a 2:1 ratio.   Thus, if Walson had increased the output level by 4 dB., distortion level would have increased by 8 dB.   This might have been tolerable given that the cable was carrying only three channels, but the record does not tell us.

The Radiomuseum lists known specifications for the Model 3000, but gain and output capability are not listed.

I essentially, in June 1948 had a broadband twin-lead system just as they have today, 12 channels which are modern.   The system was only carrying three channels, not because it wasn't capable of carrying 12 channels but because there were only three channels available.   Those three channels were 3, 6, and 10 out of Philadelphia."   (¶12)

These would be the three Philadelphia stations we noted above:

WPTZ - Channel 3  (60-66 MHz)

WFIL - Channel 6  (80-88 MHz)

WCAU - Channel 10 (192-198 MHz)

Note that WCAU was carried on its native high-band broadcast channel; it was not downconverted to a low band channel.   From the technical standpoint, this claim appears valid.

I later developed the technique of building a five adjacent channel system and I had a fellow by the name of Luther Holt develop an amplifier which would develop on the low band part of the system, a commercial amplifier.   That was about 1949, and that was a five adjacent channel system.   (¶13)

If Walson had indeed constructed a working CATV network in June 1948 (as he claimed in ¶12), "about 1949" would be somewhere between six and 18 months later.   During that time interval, Walson appears to have accomplished quite a bit:

Recruited a local electronics company owned by Luther Holt to assist with his effort.   We have verified from independent sources that there actually was a CATV equipment manufacturer based in Mahanoy City and by the mid-1960s, it was producing a substantial line of CATV equipment (see Holt Addendum).   The owner, Luther Holt, was a friend of Walson's, and Walson's plan to build a CATV system no doubt influenced Holt's decision to enter the manufacturing business.   But we do not know when he entered the business.

Installed a channel-converter at the tower — presumably designed and constructed by Holt — to convert the signal of Philadelphia station WCAU (Channel 10) to a low-band channel.   As we noted above, Philadelphia stations WPTZ and WFIL already occupied Channels 3 and 6, leaving channels 2, 4, and 5 vacant.   Any one of these channels could have been available for the downconverted signal of WCAU.

Replaced the Electro-Voice 3000 amplifiers with new amplifiers — also designed and constructed by Holt — capable of carrying signals on all five low-band channels (Channels 2-6).   He states that he accomplished this by reducing the level of the aural carrier.   That technique would have worked; indeed, the same technique is still in use today for CATV networks carrying NTSC analog channels.

From the technical standpoint, these claims appear to be plausible.   But the claim to have accomplished them in 1949 does not seem possible in view of the inconsistencies noted above.

So who was first?

• Davidson, who counted a test pattern as "programming"?

• Walson, who lost his records in a fire and whose memory failed him?

• Parsons, who didn't even enter the race?

In Part 2 of this narrative, we asked "Who Invented Cable TV?" and examined the claims of three contenders ― Davidson, Parson, and Walson ― all of whom established CATV systems during the 1948-50 time period.   But their efforts are but a small part of the larger story of the technological progress in the years following World War II.   During these years, technology was exploding: new devices and new techniques appeared in every issue of the trade press.   Better antennas, better transmission lines, and by 1951, better amplifiers.

Blonder-Tongue Laboratories, Inc.

In our discussion of Walson, we noted that he utilized a cascade of   Electro-Voice Model 3000  amplifiers in the headend run at his CATV system in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.   The E-V 3000 was one of the first "broadband" amplifiers, capable of carrying Channels 2-13 without individual channel tuning.   According to the Radiomuseum, it was capable of amplifying "US VHF TV bands" (i.e., Channels 2-13), but the actual passband specification is not known.

But the E-V 3000 wasn't the first such amplifier.   Our research indicates that the first amplifier capable of carrying Channels 2-13 was Model HA-1 "Antensifier" settop booster amplifier designed by Ben Tongue and manufactured by Blonder Tongue Laboratories of Yonkers, New York.   Although intended for indoor use as a settop booster, the HA-1 could be modified for outdoor use just as Walson had done with the E-V 3000.

Advertisement for the Blonder-Tongue Model HA-1L "B-T Antensifier"   from Radio & Television News, October 1950, p. 171.

Ben H. Tongue.

Ben H. Tongue, 2011. Ben Tongue and his partner Isaac Blonder had established Blonder-Tongue in Mount Vernon, New York in 1950.   Tongue had based the "Antensifier" on a design originally patented by the engineering and manufacturing arm of the British firm EMI and licensed to the Boston firm SKL (Spencer-Kennedy Laboratories) in 1946.   SKL designated the amplifier as the Model 202 series.

But SKL was not in the business of building amplifiers for television signals.   SKL's 202-series amplifiers were commonly called servo drives — specialized amplifiers intended to drive electric motors in applications where precise control of speed, torque, and angular position were required.   For this application, an amplifier capable of providing substantial power over a broad range of frequencies was required.

High power over a broad frequency range?   Just what Ben Tongue was looking for!

Well, almost.   Tongue wanted an amplifier that would cover a wide passband, but he also wanted an amplifier that would be a better fit the requirements of fringe-area home viewers and dealer showrooms:

A passband wide enough to amplify the two VHF frequency bands (Channels 2-6 and 7-13), but only those bands.

Improved Noise Figure.

Lower maintenance costs.   The SKL design employed twelve 6AK5 pentode vacuum tubes ― a tube with a life expectancy of 90 days and an advertised price of $1.09 each. (Radio-Electronics, July 1961) A quick mathematic calculation shows that it would cost over$50 per year just for replacement tubes, per amplifier, excluding labor and overhead costs.

Substantially lower manufacturing costs.

And, of course, he wanted to avoid infringing on the EMI patent and the SKL license.

He accomplished this with a design that used three (or, in some versions, four) 6J6 dual-triode vacuum tubes and a unique coupling circuit design. (patent).   The "Antensifier" amplifier consisted of two amplification circuits in one cabinet ― one amplifier for channels 2-6 (54-88 MHz) and the other for channels 7-13 (174-216 MHz).   See B-T Addendum.

Two versions of this amplifier were released:

•  Model HA-1, a three-tube version.

•  Model HA-1L, a four-tube version.

According to Tongue's Cable Center oral history, he introduced this amplifier in May 1950 at the Chicago Parts Show (now EDS).   This amplifier could serve two markets: as a booster for fringe-area reception and as a distribution amplifier for TV dealer showrooms.   Articles about this booster appear in the October 1950 issues of "Radio & Television News" and "Radio-Electronics."   These are the first known published references.

Industrial Television Incorporated

Ben Tongue's broadband amplifier was soon followed, in March 1951, by the 'Auto-Booster' amplifier manufactured by Clifton, New Jersey-based Industrial Television Incorporated (ITI).   This amplifier incorporated two RF inputs, one for the low band (channels 2-6) and one for the high band (channels 7-13), so that two separate antennas could be used.

The ITI Autobooster.   From the collection of The Old CATV Equipment Museum.   More photos here.

Over the 1951-54 period there would be several variations of this device, some using only two tubes (6J6 and/or 6AK5) while others employed as many as five.

The first major differences between the ITI and B-T amplifiers are shown in the following table:

Amplifier Gain Block

B-T 20 dB.

ITI High Band: 14 dB.

Low Band: 19 dB.

Note that both devices passed the two VHF frequency bands through separate amplifiers, then combined the ouputs.   There is a clue here when we note that ITI had separate input connections.   Given this approach, it makes sense why the ITI's amplifier was rated for 14 dB gain on the high band channels (7-13) but 19 dB on the low band channels (2-6), when logically high-band channels would have needed higher gain than low band.

Ben Tongue worked around the EMI/SKL-licensed 40–220 MHz circuit by breaking the TV channels into two separate groups (2-6; 7-13) while ITI worked around Tongue's pending patent by further providing two inputs rather than just one, treating 2-6 and 7-13 as separate amplifiers.

By using two inputs, ITI also offered individual gain controls for each band.   In fact, however, they were 'peaking adjustments' to adjust the frequency response of the circuit ― what we'd call tilt controls today.

Gain controls would become standard practice for others but any design using a single input and single output also required a tilt contort to create the slope between the lowest channel and highest channel.   But this feature was not yet available in 1951.

ITI designed and manufactured a variety of related products   In early 1949, ITI built and installed five television monitors at the Louden-Knickerbocker Hall Sanitarium in Amityville, New York, a privately-owned 36-bed facility for mental patients.   The monitors were protected with thick Plexiglas covers, and all operating controls [channel, volume, video settings] were located in an administrative office.

As TIME reported at the time:

Dr. George E. Carlin installed five television sets for his mental patients at Louden-Knickerbocker Hall, a 63-year-old private sanatorium.   Said Owner John F. Louden: "We're using TV as a form of occupational therapy, to take the patients' minds off themselves and to let them live nearer to a normal life."   TIME, 4-Apr-1949

Not to be outdone by its upstart competitor, General Electric created a 'juke-box-TV set' which they tested in a luncheonette in Hoboken, New Jersey.   Three minutes of TV for a nickel, 30 minutes for a quarter.

But if you lived in Jenkins or Hazard, Kentucky, and were on a hilltop capturing a channel or two from Cincinnati or Huntington to be 'wired' down into your 'hollow' at the base of the hill, even $77.50 (list price of B-T's top-of-line CA-1-M) was a big number. But had you started back in 1948, the ITI amplifier wasn't yet available. Nor was any other broadband (channels 2-13) amplifier (or signal booster) capable of operating unattended for extended periods of time. Single-channel, whether by design or by user tuning, yes; broadband amplifiers, no. As for the cable, your best option would have been twinlead ("flat line"), the 300-ohm answer to residential TV antenna installations through at least the '70s. It was inexpensive (as little as 1.3 cents a foot in 1950) and reasonably durable, although when exposed to sun, wind and rain – not to mention snow and ice – it would become brittle or split apart, significantly shortening its life. Furthermore, loss-per-foot doubled or trebled when wet or, worse still, was caked in ice. Various types of 300-ohm twinlead But the biggest problem with twinlead was lack of shielding. If the twinlead was installed too close to (or worse, in contact with) any metallic surface, other forms of signal degradation arose. The presence of metal disrupted the electromagnetic and electrostatic fields surrounding the line, resulting in frequency-dependent signal loss. The signal of one channel might be completely lost, whereas another channel would be unaffected. In short, a 500-foot run of twinlead between amplifiers, such as Walson claimed, would have involved a variety of mechanical and electrical challenges. Even if you had enough signal at the top of the hill, the signals often just disappeared when the cable got wet. The flatline-wet-loss simply ate up your original signal before it reached the base of the hill, even if you somehow could afford the cost of the amplifiers. Nevertheless, even in 1948, Albert Warren of Television Digest, whom you'll remember from our discussion in Part 2, would have heard about your efforts. He was compiling a list of every 'community antenna' system. You'd be on his list. You had to solve the signal problem. But how? Enter The Gonset Company. The Gonset Company Some (not all) of these problems would disappear when Gonset, a California company based in Burbank, announced a type of transmission line called 'Gonset Line.' Gonset line consists of a pair of wires separated by insulating spacers at intervals. Gonset line (conceptual sketch) Unlike twinlead, the spaces between the spacers are open so that water and snow cannot affect the transmission characteristics of the line. It's sometimes called "ladder line" or "open wire feed line." Radio-Electronics Advertisement for Gonset Line. Radio-Electronics Advertisement for Gonset Line. Radio & Television News Portion of 3000-foot run of Gonset Line feeding antenna signals to CATV system in Hazard, Kentucky, 1951. For CATV applications, the significance of Gonset line is its substantially lower loss when compared to twinlead, as the following table illustrates: Approximate loss at 200 MHz (VHF Channel 10) Conditions Ideal (dry, no nearby metal Less-than-ideal (rain, snow, nearby metal) Loss in dB. Per 100 feet Per 500 feet Per 100 feet Per 500 feet Twinlead 2.0 dB 10.0 dB. Greater than 2.0 dB. (possible complete signal loss) Greater than 10.0 dB. (possible complete signal loss) Gonset 0.5 dB. 2.5 dB. 0.5 dB. (or slightly greater) 2.5 dB. (or slightly greater) The above chart is based on losses at 200 MHz ― Gonset's reference frequency ― a frequency that falls a bit above VHF Channel 10 (192-198 MHz). As always, even in coaxial cable, losses increase as the square of the frequency, so the losses at Channel 13 would be somewhat greater. Thus it appears that Gonset's claim ("less than 1/6 the loss of new molded ribbon") is justified under actual field conditions. At this point, we should note one other factor that would have affected transmission line loss: characteristic impedance. The characteristic impedance of Gonset line was 450 ohms (Gonset, 1952), resulting in impedance mismatches at both ends, where it connected to 300-ohm devices. These mismatches introduced additional loss. Although Gonset could have produced a product with a characteristic impedance of 300 ohms, it chose not to do so for two reasons: The wire-to-wire spacing would have been only 0.3 inches. This product would have been difficult to manufacture, and virtually impossible to use under actual field conditions. By contrast, 450-ohms line was easier to manufacture and install. Very few antennas, and even fewer amplifiers or receivers, were actually 300-ohm devices themselves. Bottom line: the slight additional loss caused by the impedance mismatches were deemed to be negligible in comparison with the substantially lower per-foot-loss of Gonset line. Nevertheless, except for the advertisement cited above (Gonset, 1952), Gonset generally avoided mentioning the line impedance in advertising or literature, choosing instead to refer to simply as "Gonset Line." The advantages of Gonset line quickly caught on among early CATV operators, and TV Digest's Al Warren was well aware of the situation. He seemed to have an 'inside line' to the Gonset organization. Whenever some entrepreneur purchased a few thousand feet of Gonset Line to activate TV sets in a shadowed reception area, Warren added a tick to his 'community antenna television' roster. For its part, Gonset (which, you'll recall, was based in Burbank) was quick to capitalize on this fact. Gonset created 'success stories' that they spread far and wide: "No TV? Install Gonset Line!" This fit California perfectly because Californians were building homes in canyons surrounded by hills and ridge tops. Put the TV antenna 'up there' and run Gonset Line! Where Gonset faltered was east of the Rockies. Perhaps it was a lack of savvy distributors, or perhaps it was 'eastern fear' that all of this California hype was just that: 'hype.' Articles in respected publications didn't help: an article in the April 1951 issue of Radio & Television News titled Novel Antenna Installation Overcomes Mountain Terrain merely fueled the hype. Or perhaps it was the timing. Gonset Line was not introduced to the trade until early fall 1950, and by then John Walson and hundreds like him had allegedly strung their 300-ohm twinlead from hilltop to tree to tree to town. What happened next is less well documented. By the end of 1948, many 'hilltop antennas' were feeding multiple TV sets in lower elevation communities. The geographic concentration of this activity would turn out to be Kentucky and Maryland, north and northeast through Pennsylvania, southern New York, and into New England. Most of these antennas were operating on a 'co-operative' basis: two or more homeowners pooled money to build the antenna and run the wire. In most cases, there was no monthly charge: these were co-ops, not businesses. When something broke, the original investors ponied up funds to fix the problem. Unfortunately, such failures were not uncommon. Most of these co-ops utilized inexpensive components — twinlead and consumer-grade antennas — and located them on hilltops and similar elevated locations. West Virginia is an example here: some hilltops had a dozen or more separate antennas, each feeding one or a few homes. Eventually, some energetic entrepreneur, tired of the constant maintenance, decided to 'do it right.' Articles by Jerrold and others, published in the contemporary trade press, showed the way. Utilizing appropriate wire and electronics, our entrepreneur offered a higher grade of service. In due time, the other one- two- or three-home antenna owners abandoned their antennas and connected to the entrepreneur's antenna — for a fee. Our entrepreneur had created a business. A hilltop sprouting ten antennas in 1951 would, by 1955, have only one antenna — a 'community antenna television' antenna. By attrition, the last antenna standing became the CATV operator for the community. Bill Turner's system in Welch, West Virginia is an example here (for a description of this antenna, see Television's Pirates, pages 84+). The Growing Demand for Television Service "It's one of those." "Radio-Electronics," October 1949. For an entirely different – but related – reason, antenna systems feeding multiple TV sets became popular in multi-story apartment buildings in larger cities. In point: in 1948, New York City had only six operating TV stations, but by the end of that year, TV set penetration had already reached 50%. A resident in an apartment that faced towards the Empire State Building (where some, but not all, transmitters were located), and high enough above other obstructions, might have acceptable (although seldom blemish-free) reception by using some form of indoor or window-ledge antenna. But even this resident rarely received all six channels. But a resident in a lower apartment, or on the wrong side of the building, had only one choice: install an appropriate antenna on the roof, and drop a length of 300-ohm twinlead down the side of the building to the apartment window. Rooftops soon became forests of antennas. Uncaptioned cartoon suggested by Arthur A. Henrikson. "Radio-Electronics," July 1951, p.91. Occasionally, some resident would venture up to the roof at night with a length of 300-ohm line and attach it to an already-existing antenna. This, of course, created technical problems, which, in turn, precipitated contentious disagreements among neighbors — and even rooftop brawls according to police records. (Radio-Electronics April 1949). The technical problems were numerous. TV sets of that era were so poorly shielded that they often radiated spurious signals from their local oscillators or other circuits. Radiation passed through walls, floors and ceilings, creating interference to neighbors' reception. Given the unshielded nature of the twinlead, this problem was even worse when two or more receivers were connected to a single antenna. Apartment dwellers were up in arms (and on the roof). Something better had to be done. A Master Antenna TV system would have been the answer, but only after apartment operators had engaged security personnel to stand guard on the rooftops. The age of television had arrived with a vengeance. The City of Detroit had an answer: the City's public-housing authority simply prohibited television sets in public housing residences. An infamous public notice read: "If you can afford a television set, you can afford to leave public housing!" TV sets were banned in all public housing units including thousands of units constructed during the early years of World War II to accommodate automobile-factory workers. Residents were not pleased. Other cities took different courses, even affecting privately-owned housing. Rochester, New York: "No antenna shall extend more than 16 feet above the roof line" (thereby limiting reception to Rochester's WHAM which, at the time, was operating on Channel 6), but preventing reception of stations in Buffalo and Syracuse. Cleveland, Ohio: "Only one antenna per rooftop." Wisconsin: The state legislature enacted a law limiting antenna heights on private homes, a law aimed directly at communities just north of the Illinois state line, where an antenna mounted on 50-foot steel mast would receive Chicago stations. The justification: "We do not want to turn housing districts into forests of metal masts!" New York: In 1951, the state legislature enacted a law making it illegal "to attach radio, television or other wires" to fire escapes or side-of-building or rooftop vent (sanitary or kitchen) pipes. Notwithstanding such efforts, television had arrived, and no political entity could stop it. At the end of 1946, 14,000 TV sets had been operating in the United States. By 1951, that number had exploded to 14,003,500 sets in use, a 1000-fold increase in five years. "Welcome to Levittown." Wikipedia Meanwhile, real estate developers embraced television and used it as a sales tool. Starting in 1947, Levitt & Sons, Inc., of New York, built a planned community on Long Island, still known today as Levittown, New York. To encourage sales, Levitt included a television antenna and twinlead inside wiring with each home. The company constructed hundreds of homes on a mass-production basis, reaching a total of over 17,000 homes by 1951. Nationally, homebuilders were doing the same thing: they were installing TV antennas and twinlead inside wiring in new homes. Some, including Levitt, even included a television receiver with each home. In a housing development in Paramus, New Jersey, 16-inch sets were included under a contract from a firm we've encountered previously in the narrative: Industrial Television, Incorporated. For large scale developers, television wiring was approaching the same must-have status as electric wiring and indoor plumbing. In 1949, a clever person by the name of Robert Wright installed a television set in his car, positioned on the driveshaft 'hump' so he could watch it while driving. Prompted by the National Safety Council, legislatures across America reacted swiftly, banning TV sets from vehicles. Wright's defense: "I'm not allowed to have a TV aerial on my apartment so I moved the receiver to the car!" The National Safety Council called it "suicide on wheels!" If the homebuilders had solved the television-reception problem for potential buyers, apartment dwellers were still at the mercy of their landlords. And many building owners continued to resist the installation of building-wide distribution systems. Antenna manufacturers, included Jerrold, were quick to capitalize on this situation. Jerrold offered an array of devices including one called the "TV-FM Receptor" that claimed to turn your electrical wiring into a TV reception antenna ("slides over the line cord of TV or FM set"). Jerrold's second device was a flat roll-up doormat-like device called "The Magic Carpet" that could be laid on or tacked to a flat surface – floor or ceiling for example. Electronics World Advertisement for Jerrold "TV-FM Receptor" antenna. Electronics World Advertisement for Jerrold "Magic Carpet" indoor television antenna. Radio & Television News Advertisement for Jerrold "IN-TENNA" amplified indoor television antenna. Neither of these approaches worked particularly well. Other firms created window-ledge antennas: lift up the window (assuming that was possible in your apartment unit), move a pair of adjustable wedges, and lower the window sandwiching the attached lead-in wire to the sash. Some of these antennas worked some of the time, provided that the window was located on the side of the building facing the TV transmitter. Radio & Television News Advertisement for Veri-Best Electronics Company "Window Bazuka" television antenna. Radio and Television News Advertisement for JFD Manufacturing Co. "Conical" window antenna. Radio-Electronics Drawing accompanying a Radio-Electronics article "Commercial Window Antennas." And provided that neighbors above, below and on either side, were not watching certain television channels at the same time. For some combinations of channels, radiation from one TV set would interfere with a neighbor's TV set. This situation resulted from two factors: Television sets of the day were notoriously poorly shielded, resulting in radiation from their local oscillator circuits. The intermediate frequency of most television sets of the day was set at 27.75 MHz (visual) and 21.25 MHz (aural). Consider, for example, the following situation. Residents of one apartment wish to watch Channel 5, but neighbors next door are watching channel 2. Thus, the local oscillator in the neighbor's TV set is tuned to: Note that 81.00 MHz falls withing the passband of TV Channel 5 (76-82 MHz). Thus, radiation from the Channel 2 local oscillator causes interference to the Channel 5 receiver. The following photograph illustrates the how such interference would affect the picture on the set tuned to Channel 5. Note the diagonal light-and-dark bars. Derby, 1952 Defects in television picture produced by interference from another source. Interference of this type can occur with several channel combinations: MATV - Free or for a price? By the end of 1952, consumer demand for television service was growing rapidly. Television receiver manufacturers responded to this growing demand by offering better quality products. They began providing TV sets with better shielding to reduce the effects of interference, and they developed 12-channel detent tuners (Channels 2-13) to simplify tuning. Most significantly, they began using a higher intermediate frequency standard: 41.25 MHz (aural) and 45.75 MHz (visual) to eliminate the interference problem described above. Meanwhile, cable TV was growing rapidly in rural areas across the country and some operators were building systems in smaller TV markets already served by a broadcast television station or two. But Master Antenna Television was slow to develop. We'll continue this story in Part 4. MATV – Free or for a price? In the rearview mirror, the mystery here is why it took entrepreneurs like Chuck Dolan and Irving B. Kahn until 1964 to figure out that the largest, most concentrated, CATV market in the United States was right there in the boroughs of New York City. Indeed, well before 1952 it was obvious that the insatiable demand for reliable television service would continue to grow. In spite of the reception problems facing apartment residents, many residents in larger cities could receive a few stations with rooftop antennas, window-ledge antenna, or various other devices. Programming such as "Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts" (Wednesday evenings on CBS), ABC's "Wednesday Night Wrestling", and NBC's Friday-evening "Gillette Cavalcade of Sports - Boxing" were among the most popular fare. But problems arose: One trade publication reported that "evening time popular programming so reduces the [apartment dweller's] line voltage that people have a 7-inch picture on a 10-inch CRT!" University of Michigan Professor Edward Stasheff — a former New York-based television executive — famously observed that New York's sewers abruptly overflowed during commercial breaks when thousands of toilets were flushed simultaneously. Such stories notwithstanding, many apartment residents were not able to receive television signals. Anecdotal evidence illustrates the problems faced by these residents: Courts were inundated by lawsuits as residents denied access to rooftops (or television sets as in Detroit) claimed a loss of First Amendment rights. Numerous restaurants and taverns equipped their establishments with television receivers to attract customers. Most of them purchased projection systems — the "large screen" option of the day. Parents without TV at home would bring their children to these businesses — even those serving alcoholic beverages — to watch television. This situation prompted several New Jersey city councils to adopt regulations prohibiting minors from being in any facility that served liquor. It was obvious that a technical solution was needed. A master antenna television system (MATV) was one answer, certainly better than the nightly rooftop brawls. An MATV system would distribute the signals received by a single antenna to multiple, unrelated, TV viewing locations. The Copyright Issue As the television industry developed during the 1950s, two issues began to attract the attention of the television program producers and their copyright attorneys: MATV systems: does a MATV (or CATV) system which carries a television program (as part of the signal of a television broadcast station) to multiple subscribers infringe on the copyright of the program owner? Public places: does the exhibition of a television program in a public place — for example, a restaurant or a tavern — infringe on the copyright of the program owner? In late 1948, Columbia Law Review published an epic opinion piece that addressed the second question: "It is illegal for taverns, hotels, motion picture theaters, dance halls and other public places to exhibit television." But this same copyright question applied equally to cable TV systems. It would not be resolved until 1976, when Congress finally addressed the issue with the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1976. RCA had taken the lead in 1947 with a television version of their 'Antenaplex' system, a product for distributing AM radio signals ("Radio By Wire") that RCA had developed and patented in 1931. Master Antenna Television (MATV) was a direct descendent of the AM radio Antenaplex system, redesigned to carry the higher frequencies and wider bandwidths required for transmission of television signals. Although RCA had patented the concept, it was quickly copied by a host of other firms. Anyone could locate antennas, cable, and, by 1948, functional (if not yet totally suitable) amplifiers. Other factors, such as signal attenuation attributable to coaxial cable or resistive devices, could be calculated by anyone familiar with basic physics. A summary report by Ira Kamen in the April 1949 issue of Radio & Television News, titled "Television Master Antennas," covered the basics and detailed three competitive system designs already well past the experimental stage. All three examples were in the New York City area, indicating that Kamen had written the article in late 1948. Kamen cited an interesting reason why MATV had not grown more rapidly as of late 1948. He wrote: "...there is considerable resistance [to MATV] by the realty field which expects the television industry to furnish television receivers with built-in aerials in the near future. "Realtors constantly refer to the relatively limited use of radio master antenna systems today in multiple dwellings because of the development of home radio receivers with built-in 'loop antennas'. "The realtors feel hesitant about spending money for television master antennas since they feel that perhaps they may be made obsolete by new indoor television antennas." Kamens's opinion notwithstanding, there is every reason to believe that 'master antennas' for AM radio reception installed in apartment buildings sooner than later generated enough income in the early-period service to at least retire any debt incurred in construction and maintenance. In actual use, receiver-with-antenna radio sets worked rather poorly. But if apartment building owners and developers chose not to make the investment in 'Antenaplex' or a similar signal-distribution systems, apartment residents had no choice: they lost out either way. This is the same mindset that delayed the installation of MATV systems. Moreover, other factors came into play. The technology of MATV in 1947-50 was frightfully bad. And it was a costly investment: each channel required a separate set of receiving equipment — antenna and single channel amplifiers. At the time, New York City had seven operating VHF television stations, each of which required a separate set of reception equipment. Building owners and developers again chose not to invest in MATV. But this situation was about to change. A year or so after Kamen's April 1949 summary report, he discovered that some firms were pushing MATV systems as self-liquidating investments — investments which would, over time, actually turn a profit. In in a relatively short period of time — less than twelve months — building owners and realtors changed their minds. From what had been regarded as an unnecessary expense in the fantasy that TV sets would appear with adequate built-in antennas, they figured out that the cost of an MATV system could be paid for by monthly fees for the service. The bottom line here, for me, is that MATV systems that charged for both installation and monthly service set the pattern for the early CATV operators we discussed in Part 2. People would pay to have clear, clean, TV reception. Milton Jerrold Shapp, the founder of Jerrold Electronics, got that message before most others. Later, in May 1950, describing 'master antenna system' progress, Kamen wrote: "Business organizations that finance installation of master antenna systems in buildings operate like telephone companies and make an initial installation connection charge and a monthly service charge to the tenants in the building. Systems for this type of financing are usually installed so that the antenna service can be disconnected without entering the tenant's apartment. (Radio Electronics, May 1950) Perhaps this is the business model we have been searching for: provide an antenna service, charge a connection fee and a monthly maintenance? Inasmuch as the article appeared in May 1950, it would be logical to assume that the practice described had been in use from at least sometime in 1949. Was there a 'Jerrold' or 'RCA' element in this business? As we noted in Part 3, firms such as Jerrold had introduced indoor antennas in a variety of configurations: devices that tapped into the electrical wiring, and "magic carpets" that could be laid flat on the floor, tacked to a ceiling, or hidden behind a picture frame. Some were miniature versions of outdoor antennas mounted on swivels that sat atop TV sets or shelving. By mid-1949, Jerrold offered "amplified indoor antennas" – a settop booster amplifier with protruding rabbit-ear whips. None of these devices work particularly well: in a significant majority of attempts, reception only became worse (Radio Electronics October 1949). MATV finally became a solution of last resort. Searching for a TV reception solution Late in 1948 — about the same time Parsons in Oregon, Davidson in Arkansas and Walson in Pennsylvania were 'pioneering' CATV — Kamen noted that the following MATV design and installation firms were active in New York City: Amy, Aceves & King. This company had made a patent application for a system "claimed to serve twenty television and FM receivers from a single antenna array." They were concentrating on six-story (18-unit) buildings in Brooklyn. They appear to have been using some form of "figure-8" 93-ohm coaxial cable such as RG-62/U (4 dB loss per 100' at 200 MHz) run on the exterior of the building, with passive resistive devices feeding through the exterior walls (or wood window sills) into individual units. For the connection between the passive device and the TV set, they apparently used the same 93-ohm coax or 150-ohm twinlead. The figure-8 coax provided shielding from direct pickup while approximated a characteristic impedance of 150 ohms. There is no discussion of amplifiers in their 'patent-pending' system, although they did install separate dipole antennas, with reflectors, for low band (channels 2, 4, 5) and high band (at the time, channels 7, 11, plus Newark's WATV-13). Intra-Video Corporation of America. This company took a different approach with its patented (#2,394,917) system. Rather than one low- and one high-band antenna, Intra typically installed a separate receive antenna for each TV channel so that each antenna could be aimed for optimum performance. Sometimes a single antenna could be used for two stations at the same azimuth. Intra-Video also manufactured a single-channel 'booster amplifier' to increase the channel's signal level before a combining network that combined all channels (six in New York) to a common distribution network. The patent claimed 30 dB. of "interference rejection" from signals emitted by nearby local oscillators. Of course, even if this claim were accurate, it might not have been true for local oscillator signals backfed through antenna feedlines and picked up by other nearby antennas. In fact the 'booster amplifier' was a six-tube single-channel 'strip amplifier' nestled into a master housing that provided mechanical support and power for up to seven such strips. Strips were available in two configurations: CONFIG PURPOSE BASSPAND TV One NTSC TV Channel 6 MHz. FM FM Band 20 MHz (88-108 MHz.) Using this product, an installer could customize each installation to match the available signals: up to seven TV stations, or six TV stations plus FM. Jerrold Model PMA Single Channel Amplifier. Intra-Video Corporation of America offered a similar amplifier for use in MATV systems. If you see a similarity here between Intra's products and the Jerrold model MC-1 tube type single channel 'strip amps' (1950+), it is no coincidence. Intra (from photos accompanying the Radio-Television article cited above), appears to have been using a coaxial cable, perhaps 70-ohm, as the report mentions the ability to match (at TV sets) "300-ohm balanced or 70-ohm unbalanced TV set inputs." RCA. RCA's (TV-FM-AM) Antenaplex system design appears to have been 'first to market' but significantly more costly that either of the two competitors mentioned in Kamen's Radio Electronics article cited above. Like Intra-Video, RCA typically installed a single antenna for each channel in order to minimize interference and obtain a ghost-free image. Each antenna was connected to a single-channel booster amp. Photos in Kamen's report indicate that booster amps were available in three configurations: CONFIG TUBE COMPLEMENT BASSPAND TV low band Two 6 MHz. TV high band Three 6 MHz. FM Four 20 MHz (88-108 MHz.) These amplifiers were rated for an output capability of 1 volt (+60 dBmV). Of course, subsequent combining networks would have reduced the level of each channel to around +50 dBmV. This level would been quite adequate to feed every unit in an 18-unit building. All three of these approaches were designed and put into service well before of the development of broadband amplifiers that would pass the TV low band (54-88 or 54-108 MHz) and the TV high band (174-216 MHz) in one device. At the outset, RCA was using 50-ohm coaxial cable for distribution networks, taking advantage of the widespread availability of RG58 and RG8/U after World War II. Over time, however, RCA switched to 70-ohm (RG59 or RG11) cable. RCA also produced high-isolation matching and coupling transformers to drive multiple feeder lines attached to building walls as shown in the drawing at right. RCA claimed 50-dB isolation between outlets, although in this writer's opinion, that seems a bit overstated. While most TV and FM sets available in the 1947-1950+ era were fitted with 300-ohm balanced antenna input connections, a growing number of sets were equipped with 70- or 75-ohm inputs. RCA produced set-matching transformers for inputs of 300, 70, and 50 ohms. Of course, the actual input impedance of the TV tuners of the day varied widely depending the design of the tuner and the frequency to which it was tuned. Accurately matching the actual input impedance of any particular TV set was at best a crapshoot. RCA's attempt to offer AM, FM and TV in one distribution network was apparently unique. And it was not without new problems for the AM segment users. Harmonics of the television set's horizontal sweep oscillator (a 15.75-KHz sawtooth) coupled back into the AM signals. RCA attempted to control it by installing separate distribution lines — one for AM and one for TV/FM — and by installing special three-output wall outlets (AM, FM, and TV). These efforts were apparently unsuccessful. According to Kamen, "... [horizontal sweep oscillator] 'beeps' appeared across the [AM] band, making it difficult to use." He further noted that this problem was "especially severe with AM receivers using built-in loop antennas." And this is where we started: receivers with 'built-in' antennas! At the time, many TV receiver designers were at least attempting to solve the built-into-set antenna riddle. And if they couldn't actually accomplish the goal, their efforts at least provided the merchandising folks with 'one more feature' to hype to the unsuspecting public. Most designs involved either a 72- or 300-ohm 'dipole' attached somewhere on or inside the cabinet. With high expectations, Philco announced a 'fan dipole' using what amounted to aluminum foil, which, it was hoped, would 'broadband' the inside-cabinet antenna. It did not. In any case, it would have been difficult to stuff a broadband resonant dipole for low band channels inside a cabinet whose total end-to-end dimension seldom exceeded five feet. Few television cabinets were large enough. Compounding the problem was the proximity of the antenna to other components buried inside the cabinet. Components such as as the vertical scan circuits and high-voltage circuits would generate noise signals. Large pieces of metal, such as metallic CRT shells, would detune the antenna — even one which might have performed favorably in free space. The location of the TV set within the premises also affected reception. It seems unlikely that a resident would be to willing to move the receiver around the room looking for a 'hot spot' for the best signal. Not to mention having to avoid real hot spots: one 1949 receiver carried a printed warning: "Do not place this receiver under or near a thermostat." The real estate people continued to hold out hope for a 'built-in-aerial' solution but it was not going to happen. A Business Plan Emerges If it is proving difficult to isolate "one inventor" who successfully constructed the first 'CATV' system, as a technological achievement, what about the business aspect? As we have seen, many (hundreds in fact) entrepreneurs worked out the challenge of selecting a high spot for the antenna and connecting less favored homes with some type of wire. But which one first began to impose a monthly service charge? Consider the three "I was first" contenders we discussed in Part 2 of this narrative: Davidson charged his first home$3.00 a month for connection to a Channel 4 yagi antenna mounted on a 100-foot tower, but we cannot be certain when he began charging.

Parsons initially did not charge a monthly fee, but by 1951 he was doing so.   But again, when he began charging a monthly fee is uncertain.

Walson, always the most difficult to accept based upon his selective memory and his lack of reliable records (said to have been destroyed in a 1952 fire), was perhaps his own worst enemy in the proof department.   Like Davidson and Parsons, no reliable evidence exists to indicate when he began charging a monthly fee.

Mary Alice Mayer Phillips, a doctoral candidate at Northwestern and the author of the 1972 book CATV: A history of community antenna television, interviewed Walson twice (1968 and 1970) during the course of her research.   In Chapter 2 of the book, she notes that during the 1968 interview, Walson claimed to have had 727 subscribers by 1948, and to have been charging $2 per connection (plus a$100 installation charge) per month by 1949.

But in the 1970 interview, he made no such claim, in effect retracting the claims he had made in 1968.

During the 1968 interview, Walson also claimed to have begun his "three-channel system in the spring of 1948."   Yet we know from FCC sources that Philadelphia's WCAU-TV {Channel 10} began operation on May 22, 1948.   It would have been difficult to deliver three channels at a time when there were only two functioning stations — even if we assume that he had managed to solve the twinlead and amplifier problems.

If we give Walson the benefit of the doubt, we can assume that 'Spring 1948' would be sometime between March 21 and June 20.   If Walson and his crews had indeed connected 727 homes during this 90-day interval, they would have to have connected eight homes per day working seven days per week.   While possible, this seems unlikely.   Walson's recollections do not fit the puzzle.

Yet it is clear that at some point Walson did begin collecting monthly fees from subscribers.   According to his 1968 interview with Phillips, he provided free service to customers who had purchased TV sets from his store.   If we posit that even that arrangement constitutes a form of payment by the subscriber, we can accept the claim that Walson was collecting a fee by 1949.

But the exact date remains uncertain.

In short, all three contenders eventually began to impose a monthly charge, but we cannot reliably determine which one was first.

If CATV was to be a business, some type of plan — the mechanics of supplying a service and being paid for it — had to evolve.   Phillips makes it clear that Parsons was collecting an installation fee for his service as early as "before January 1949", and that at or before that date Davidson had at least one paying 'subscriber.'   Walson originally offered a no-fee connection to his aerial system to any home that had purchased a TV set from his appliance store.

But by relying on unshielded twinlead for his transmission lines, Walson shot himself in the pocketbook.   Residents who had not purchased television sets from him soon discovered that a modest antenna attached to the front porch and aimed toward his passing twinlead would pick up a signal capable of producing a viewable picture.

This, of course, is not surprising: unshielded conductors radiate.   In the absence of a concentric shield to prevent signal radiation, Walson's twinlead distribution network radiated television signals.   Such factors as impedance mismatches and early-learning-curve mechanical connections no doubt exacerbated the problem.

There were, of course, many others going through the same learning curve: it was not rocket science.   Entrepreneurs in places like Eldred and Mapledale, Pennsylvania serve as examples.   Mapledale's James Reynolds had become so enthused by magazine articles from 1930-50 describing 'British Piped TV' — and how operators of those services were charging connection fees and a subscription fees — that he adopted a similar model for his CATV operations.   After constructing a CATV system in Mapledale, he expanded to nearby communities of Sandy Lake, Cochranton, Utica and Polk, all in Pennsylvania.

But Reynolds left no date-verifiable documentation to qualify his possible claim to having been first.

Typically, these CATV pioneers all built their systems with "off-the-shelf" hardware.   By 1948, TV signal boosters had become a fast-selling item in the $30-40 range. Some, such as the Tel-a-Ray Pre-Amplifier, from Tel-A-Ray Enterprises, Inc. of Henderson, Kentucky, consisted of two components: An antenna-mounted amplifier, usually mounted directly to the driven element of the receiving antenna. An indoor-installed power supply to provide power (filament and B+ voltage) to the generally short-life tubes at the antenna. These components were connected either by the twinlead (thereby presenting several new maintenance problems) or by a separate powering cable. Tel-a-Ray provided a four-conductor flatline cable to carry power to the amplifier and to return the preamplified signal down to the reception equipment. In late 1950, Tel-a-Ray was apparently the only manufacturer to offer antenna-mounted amplifiers, but within six months dozens of competitors appeared. Reports in Radio Electronics/Radio TV News tell of fringe-area or terrain-shielded would-be-viewers cascading as many as 14 of the 'booster' devices in series in an attempt to 'get pictures'! By 1950, an "antenna war" was in full swing in the trade press, each antenna manufacturer claiming that their products provided the best reception in distant locations. RTVN, March 1952 Advertisement for Telrex "Conical-V-Beans" antenna. Radio & Television News, March 1952. What started out in mid-1949 with advertising claiming "100-mile reception" had by 1952 mushroomed to "300 miles" (and in tiny fine print "over water") for an antenna known as the Telrex 4-Bay Conical (advertisement at right). Telrex had obtained a patent for this antenna (#RE23,346), but virtually everyone else ignored it. Eventually Channel Master secured a license to use of the Telrex's patented design. Telrex can be credited with having at the time made the 'ultimate' deep-deep-deep fringe antenna reception claim: "If (4-bay conical) 8X-TV does not provide a usable signal, TV reception is impractical !" Thomas W. Morgan of West Pembroke, Maine might have disagreed with Telrex. Using great skill and attention to detail, he created a trio of phased side-by-side rhombics 155 feet long (covering ten acres), mounted on tall wood poles, pointing at Boston's WBZ-TV at a distance of 263 miles to his south, essentially over water the full distance (illustration below). The gain (in decibels) of this array would easily have been at least 24 dB — twice the 12-dB gain that Telrex claimed for channel 4. Using this antenna in combination with a carefully-optimized home-built 6J6 booster (followed by a commercial two-tube Anchor commercial unit) Morgan found he could receive acceptable audio 75% of the time but viewable pictures only 30% of the time. Writing in the March 1952 issue of Radio Electronics, Morgan and his co-author R. J. Buchan wrote: "Improvements in antennas and receivers, plus increased transmitter power, have stretched the range of TV signals so that 75 to 150 miles is considered "fringe" by many stations. Thomas W. Morgan at West Pembroke, Maine, has succeeded in stretching this distance with an elaborate antenna system to an almost unbelievable 263 miles. Three large rhombics, 84 feet to a leg, in parallel with a 20-element Yagi, mounted on a 98-foot tower, for channel 4, plus an assortment of three arrays for channel 7, should qualify as the world's largest antenna receiving installation." Radio Electronics, March 1952 Radio Electronics, March 1952 Illustrations from Beyond the Fringes, by T.W.Morgan and R.J. Buchan. Radio Electronics, March 1952. Telrex never provided similar information for their '300 mile over water' claim. After his initial experiments in Tuckerman, Jimmy Davidson tackled a 'real' CATV system in nearby Batesville (114 miles to Memphis) by using a similar, if smaller, wire rhombic antenna, drawing on his U.S. Army-gained experience with such exotic items. Antennas aside, none of these people — except for one — actually designed and built from scratch the entire active (excluding cable and passives) set of components necessary for reception of an acceptable signal from such distances. That person was none other than L.E. (Ed) Parsons. Popular Mechanics (April 1950) When Parsons decided to bring TV from Seattle to Astoria, he didn't let mountainous terrain discourage him. Above, he sets up a Channel 5 test antenna on one of the pine-covered hills near Astoria Parsons actually had a business plan — if not on Thanksgiving Day of 1948, then shortly thereafter. It was on his workbench and in his shop that he created the necessary components: Single-channel yagi antennas Single channel signal boosters Channel conversion converters Cable-powered in-line amplifiers Passive signal splitters Passive signal tap-off units Baluns to match the characteristic impedance of the coax (50 ohms unbalanced at the time) to the 300-ohm balanced TV set input terminals. Parsons purchased military-surplus coaxial cable and hand-built everything else. I like to think of him as a "Milton Jerrold Shapp in a garage" — a one-man cable machine. Parson's Astoria situation was unique and if in hindsight he might be faulted, it would be this that slowed him down. The signal from KRSC-TV transmitter, at a distance of about 125 miles from Astoria, arrived in what he called "finger-like-intrusions" in isolated segments of the city. After months of study, Parsons identified three of these "fingers." Parsons may or may not have understood the underlying physics of this phenomenon, but by the mid-1950s, the cause had been identified as 'knife-edge-refraction' off the edges of mountain ridges in the line of sight between the KRSC-TV transmitting antenna and Parsons's receive site. The Huygens-Fresnel principle Knife edge refraction of white light. Cooper The knife-edge effect is explained by the Huygens-Fresnel principle, which states that a well-defined obstruction to an electromagnetic wave acts as a secondary source, creating a new wave front. This new wave front propagates into the shadow area of the obstacle. The sketch at the right illustrates this effect with visible light. Note that the longer the wavelength (red) is refracted less than shorter wavelengths (blue). In the case of Astoria, the obstructions in question were mountains in the path between the KRSC-TV transmitter site and Astoria. The following drawing illustrates the situation: Conceptual sketch of the profile of the path from the KRSC transmitter to the John Jacob Astor hotel in Astoria. Doty peak is a mountain near Doty, Washington at an elevation of approximately 2400 feet AMSL. It acted as a knife-edge refractor, redirecting the wave front toward Astoria as if the KRSC transmitter were at that peak rather than 65 miles beyond. Astoria lies on the Oregon side of the Columbia River estuary ten miles upriver from the mouth of the river. Credit License The City of Astoria lies on a narrow coastal plain on the south bank of the Columbia River about ten miles upstream from the mouth of the river. The river itself is a tidal estuary at Astoria, rising and falling with Pacific tides. The ground elevation at Astoria varies from sea level to about 40 feet AMSL. On the north side of the river, opposite Astoria, lies a series of mountain ridges of varying elevations, some of which rise to 800 feet above sea level. The terrain is typical of ancient mountain ranges: winding ridges of eroded peaks separated by deep, narrow valleys. These ridges form a second knife-edge refractor. As Parsons would eventually discover, one of these ridges redirected the KRSC signal downwards toward Astoria. Parsons had gone to considerable effort in his attempt to detect the KRSC signal at Astoria. He had installed, in his vehicle, a modified FM tuner capable of tuning to the KRSC aural carrier at 81.75 MHz. Using this tuner, he spent many hours 'probing' the community in search of signal. It was during these searches that he determined that the KRSC signal was indeed detectable in Astoria, but that it arrived in three distinct beams that he called "fingers." During one of his interviews with Mary Alice Mayer Phillips and others, he reported that "the reception was like fingers extending from near ground level to some limiting height." At one location he detected the signal just above ground level, but after moving the test antenna up to an elevation of 80 feet, he found that the signal level was actually lower by about 15 dB. Parsons apparently did not fully understand the significance of knife-edge-refraction to his success in detecting the signal of KRSC. It certainly cannot be said that he "invented" the technique; if anything, he stumbled across it during his 'probing' efforts. Nevertheless, he can be excused for not comprehending the mechanics of his fortuitous reception that through a chain of unique circumstances allowed him to pioneer an industry. News of his discovery spread quickly. By mid-1949 Parsons was attracting coverage in the popular press: The [Portland] Oregonian, July 28, 1949 Television Digest, August 13, 1949 Electrical Digest, August 1950 Electrical Merchandising, December 1951 Popular Mechanics, April 1950 Other entrepreneurs, hearing of this new technique, attempted to adopt it, with varying degrees of success, in mountainous regions elsewhere: The December 1950 issue of the British publication Practical Television included a detailed report from an enthusiast based in the Welsh coal-mining valley of Rhondda who had detected the signal of a BBC transmitter 94 miles distant. The report mentioned that the signal appeared in "beams" — the "fingers" that Parsons had detected at Astoria. The October 1955 issue of Proceedings of the IRE devoted essentially a full issue to the subject. Although quite technical, anyone plowing through these learned papers would no longer question the validity of what Parsons had done — seven years after Parsons identified the "fingers" in Astoria. The October 1961 issue of Television Horizons published an article by Bud Shepard of British Columbia-based Fred Welsh Antenna Systems stating that: In Squamish after no-result days of searching mountain tops for signs of signal from Seattle, a local asked "Have you talked with the fellow who has all three channels with an antenna hanging on the edge of his garage?" Sure enough - knife edge facing into the sharp side of a 6,000' mountain and his antenna location was 15' below sea-level! Or in Kaslo the only signal we found was 18 microvolts from channel 4 Spokane. Unfortunately the 'spot' where we found it was just above water level on a narrow beach jutting out into Kootenay Lake. Two 80-foot towers were installed supporting 16 large yagi antennas. During the spring and summer water is released into the lake and the level rises so we constructed a log-boom to protect the array. Unfortunately a violent storm caused so much turbulence the boom broke and TV quit. We refound the 80-foot towers and the 16-yagi array twenty feet under water! Even Parsons, believing that he had discovered some sort of "missing key" to distant TV reception, tried to capitalize on his discovery by offering a consulting service. He and his business partner Byron E. Roman established a plan: Parsons would equip a small private plane with signal-searching test equipment (81.75 MHz FM tuner and several exterior-to-cabin antennas) and begin routine flights over a large area in western Washington in an effort to help others identify the signal from KRSC-TV/KING-TV — for a fee. Credit License Bellingham is about 77 miles north of Seattle, near the Canadian border. The owners of AM radio station KVOS, located in Bellingham, Washington, signed up for the service. Bellingham is about 77 miles north of Seattle, close to the Canadian border. The station's engineers began serious construction in October 1949, eleven months after Parsons turned on his system in Astoria. They named their proposed system KVOS-TV, a name they would later use for an actual television station. RTVN, June 1951 Side view of the Bellingham TV Antenna. The reflector screen, which measures 25 x 30 feet, consists of 32 half-wave elements. The screen is now seven feet from the ground, although tests indicate that the optimum elevation to be about 20 feet. Like Parsons, the KVOS engineers located the KRSC-TV/KING-TV signal on the far side of a 2,000-foot mountain range. By mid-1951 the company had installed a huge 32-dipole array functioning with a screen reflector, and was serving about 100 customers. It had planned to expand its network to a larger area, but was unable to reach a pole-attachment agreement with Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. It eventually reached a total of around 300 customers by attaching coaxial cable to privately-owned structures. Parsons believed he had the knowledge and skills to allow others, no matter where, to obtain similar results using this techniques and equipment. He seems to have missed an important point: the rolling hills of Pennsylvania — to say nothing of the Great Plains of Midwest — don't produce the same knife-edge refractions that he had observed when working in the shadows of the jagged mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, Parsons and his partner Byron Roman established a nationwide CATV consulting business — doubtless the first such endeavor in history. Parsons charged for their time, and for the equipment they provided. According to Phillips' book, their sales inventory included: High Gain' antenna . . . .$100.00

Channel converters

In-line amplifiers . . . .  $95.00 (We might call this a line extender today) Two-way branching box . . .$7.00  (We'd call this a two-way splitter today)

Three-way branching box  . . $8.50 (Three-way splitter) Coaxial Cable, per foot . .$0.083 (Erroneously quoted as \$8.50 earlier in the book)

The Legacy of L.E. Parsons

The Parsons story does not end happily.   By mid-1953, he was in receivership and thirteen local people (virtually all of them cable subscribers) stepped in to take over what was claimed to be "the first American CATV system" (see Parsons Addendum).   In the decades to follow, the Astoria system passed from hand to pocketbook and in 1968, when the granite monument was dedicated (May 23) Cox Cablevision owned it.

Parsons was an innovative creator of hardware to accomplish tasks which nobody appears to have done before.   He was a born salesman, always on the lookout for some new product or service to sell.

He was also a maverick who left a legend of local history behind when transferring to Alaska.   His AM radio station KAST, one of those granted a license after World War II to veterans under a special post-war US government FCC directive, covered the City of Astoria and Clatsop County with great devotion.

One of the many stories about Parsons relates how, without permission, he dug into the telephone company's underground ducts to install audio connections between the KAST radio studio and two local Astoria "nightspots."   He intended for KAST to carry evening programming from the nightspots; unfortunately, the audio signal leaked into every telephone served by the Astoria exchange.   The telephone company was not amused.

Stories like this partially illustrate why Parsons took the particular approach he did when creating his pioneering CATV service.   He knew how to promote a product or a service by publicizing it in advance.   After installing a functional receiving antenna on the roof of the John Jacob Astor Hotel in downtown Astoria, he connected the service to the lobby of the hotel and to Cliff Poole's music store across the street.   Just as he had planned, word spread quickly.   He was inundated by requests for service.

The logical way to extend the service would have been to use existing utility poles owned by Pacific Telephone and Telegraph company.   But Parsons was reluctant even to approach the local telephone company manager.   At one point, he inquired about the possibility in very off-handed way, but the manager, still smarting from the KAST incident and having zero comprehension of the request, dismissed him curtly.

So Parsons took the initiative.   He began to string cables from building to building down Astoria blocks until he came to a new intersecting street.   Here he would go out at night and clandestinely shove coaxial cable through city-owned storm drainage pipes to cross under the pavement.

This scheme worked for a while until city crews discovered the strange wire in their drainage pipes.   So Parsons, ever innovative, faced with a street he could not get under or over, drew upon his technical expertise.   On one side of the street he installed a Channel-2 line amplifier and connected it to feed a short yagi antenna.   On the opposite side of the street he installed a receiving yagi, a new line amplifier, and continued merrily down the next block of houses.

By mid-1951 CATV systems were springing up all over North America.   The Astoria city fathers had had their fill of what the Daily Astorian newspaper termed "Parsons' tinkering."   One report related that "the city did not find [it] amusing."

Eventually, Parsons was granted a franchise modeled after other early franchises used in Pennsylvania.   He also signed a 13-page pole attachment agreement with PT&T and Pacific Power and Light Company.

According to Phillips' book, at this stage Parsons had two primary antenna sites (each in a "finger") serving around 75 homes each, and 'numerous' (number not specified) smaller system sites serving between four and ten homes.   In total, he was providing service to around 200 homes.

And so ends the story that originated when Parsons and his wife Grace attended the 1948 NAB convention in Chicago, and Grace 'fell in love' with a demonstration of television sponsored by Coca-Cola.   She would later tell Mary Alice Mayer Phillips, "I begged Ed to find a television set and bring TV to Astoria."   Parsons obliged her but would, between the NAB convention and the first successful test pattern from KRSC-TV, be certain of only one thing: "Grace can cover it with a cloth and use it as a table when it does not work."

Author's postscript: The Old CATV Equipment Museum's hardware collection will never be complete without at least one item created by Ed Parsons.   Whether Parsons marked his pieces with a name, a serial number or date is unknown — yet he tells us of "building hundreds of units for clients" using sheet metal chassis fabricated locally.   The challenge is to find it if any still exists.   It may be in Eldred or even Mahanoy City.   Kudos to the industry person who finds it!

Oh yes ... if Ed Parsons is rightfully 'the father' of CATV, might not Grace Parsons be 'the mother'?

—Bob Cooper, November 2011

In the continuation of this narrative, emphasis will shift from 'invention of' to 'perfection of' the CATV/cable concept from both the technical and business sides of the ledger.

As the television industry developed during the 1950s, two issues began to attract the attention of the television program producers and their copyright attorneys:

MATV systems: does a MATV (or CATV) system which carries a television program (as part of the signal of a television broadcast station) to multiple subscribers infringe on the copyright of the program owner?

Public places: does the exhibition of a television program in a public place — for example, a restaurant or a tavern — infringe on the copyright of the program owner?

In late 1948, Columbia Law Review published an epic opinion piece that addressed the second question: "It is illegal for taverns, hotels, motion picture theaters, dance halls and other public places to exhibit television."

But this same copyright question applied equally to cable TV systems. It would not be resolved until 1976, when Congress finally addressed the issue with the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1976.

RB Cooper, 23B Bayside Drive. Coopers Beach 0420, New Zealand