…when it keeps getting in the way of a “good story”? I just found this item in a sidebar to a Wall Street Journal Online story about how Netflix plans to maintain its business after the demise of DVDs and all video delivery converts to some form of streaming. The sidebar attempts to summarize the […]
Much of the second act of Aaron Sorkin's play The Farnsworth Invention revolves around Philo Farnsworth's supposed inability to find solutions for the low-light sensitivity of his Image Dissector tube. This interpretation is very much the "RCA version" of the early pre-history of television — that Farnsworth's Image Dissector was a fatally flawed device, and that television could only be commercialized after the principal of "light storage" was introduced in Vladimir Zworykin's Iconoscope.
When I met Aaron in San Diego in the spring of 2007, I showed him an Image Orthicon tube — the tube that really made television practical in the 1940s and 50s — and tried to explain to him how much of the art in that device — art that effectively solved the "light problem" — was traceable to Farnsworth patents.
Now comes a letter from another reserarcher / historian with an engineering background, one Eduardo Zeron, who validates what I've been saying about the origins of the Image Orthicon. He also takes issue with some of the points in my old "Who Invented What and When" essay, which points I am happy to see corrected.
But those corrections don't undermine the important assertion, that Farnsworth had his own solutions to the "light problem," that those solutions found their way into the technologies that made television popular, and that the historical interpretation in The Farnsworth Invention is what is fatally flawed here, not the invention itself (nor the inventor).
Mr. Zeron's letter:
Dear Paul Schatzkin.
I really enjoyed your Farnovision chronicles web page, especially the Part 10 where you point out the historical importance of Farnsworth's U.S. patent 2,087,683, and how Sarnoff needed to buy it (for $1 million) in order to sell his Image Orthicon.
Farnsworth invented both the Orthicon and the "scanning with low speed electrons" in his U.S. patent 2,087,683 (filed on April 26, 1933, and granted on July 20, 1937). The only difference between the Farnsworth Orthicon and the RCA one is the fact Farnsworth projected the optical image and did the scanning in the same side of the target plate, while RCA projected the optical image and did the scanning at the opposite sides of the target.
From another review of the Houston production: [Sarnoff] wanted RCA to bring TV to the world, not some nobody like Farnsworth. Eventually, after a complicated, backbiting battle of wills and endless patent wars, RCA emerged triumphant, leaving Farnsworth in the forgotten dustbin of history. Sorkin remedies the historic injustice with this lively pas de deux
Houston: The First Fight Over The TV, At The Alley. Two people arguing over electrons, cathode rays and how much light it takes to transport a moving image across the country may not sound like a riveting evening to most people — but they'd be pretty much wrong. For its final show of the
EmilyStyle: Weekend Round-Up: City Lights. From there, we rode our bike down to North Beach to a memorial service for analog TV (switched off at midnight last Friday). Philo T. Farnsworth invented TV in a workshop on Green Street in 1927. The Green Street Mortuary Band played taps, people made speeches about the history of
Do we take any solace knowing that the museum in Rigby, Idaho, lives on? Sarnoff ‘museum’ must go – NJ.com. It was here, at the former RCA headquarters on Route One, where the man RCA employees called “the general” preserved much of his legacy: the first internal computer memory device, Sarnoff’s trophies and correspondence, thousands
Interesting choice of words in this headline to a report on The Farnsworth Invention as it prepares to open in Houston: Aaron Sorkin shows inventiveness with Farnsworth As director, how does Cromer maintain balance between the two adversaries? Does he strive not to throw the audience’s sympathy toward one or other? “I can’t think about