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So many people ask: “Are we ever going to have television in our homes?” Instead of replying, the Editors ask another question: “How would you like to have an attachment for your receiver that would print the original strips of text and illustrations shown on these pages?”

by Laurence W. Cockaday
(Radio News, August 1934)

A simplified facsimile system using a visual reproduction method which prints, with ink, words and pictures on a three-inch wide paper tape was recently demonstrated by John V. L. Hogan on the 23rd floor of the Hotel St. Moritz in New York City. The device is a high-speed facsimile radio system designed with the needs and requirements of home radio users in mind. A transmitter of this type has been installed by the Milwaukee journal operating station WTMJ for experiments in transmitting and receiving visual printed programs. Three receivers have also been installed in department stores in Milwaukee. In spite of the recent "scare" headlines of "radio printed newspapers" broadcast and received in individual homes over night, Mr. Hogan prefaced his demonstration with the remark that there is nothing new in the mere idea of facsimile operation or transmission of recorded text and pictures by radio. He pointed out that the transmission of pictures and even written messages by facsimile service is many years old. He stated, however, that the high cost and expert operation necessary for a real commercial type of service would be prohibitive when associated with efforts to use such commercial types in the home. Mr. Hogan pointed out the following eight characteristics that must be contained in a recording system for successful home use.

Figure 1. Here is the new radio strip transmitter actually in operation. It is equipped for transmitting either from black-and-white or from a moving picture film

1. The design must be sufficiently simple to permit sale of the receivers at prices about the same as those of broadcast receivers.

2. The operation of the receivers must be so simple that they can be successfully handled by unskilled users, and the receivers must be capable of running for considerable periods of time with little or no attention.

3. The recorded pictures and text must be produced on plain paper, so as to avoid the nuisance, delay and expense involved in any chemical or photographic processing.

4. The operation of the receiving recorder must be fully visible so that the user may see each mark as it is being made. This lends interest to the use of the system, but, more importantly, shows at once whether or not receiving conditions are correct.

5. The recorders must have a continuous paper feed, so that it is not necessary to reload the machine for each picture.

6. The received record should be made in ink, so as to provide a permanent, easily-handled, nonsmudging, and dry copy.

7. The speed of the operation should be relatively high, so that the user will not have to wait unduly long for each finished picture.

S. The reproduction should be sufficiently clear and crisp to permit the system to carry text at telegraphic speed.

The devices demonstrated at the St. Moritz are known as "Radio-Pen" receivers and print, on a continuous three inch paper tape, pictures or written words of sufficient size to be clearly visible in a good-sized room. One of these receivers is shown in Figure 2, connected up to a standard receiving set. Reproductions of the printed tape are shown on these pages.

Figure 2. John V. L. Hogan tuning in a standard receiver to which is attached the simplified facsimile printer which can be used for home reproduction of illustrated news in "galley" form (news printed on a long length of Paper tape)

The system itself really is a sort of slowed up television system in which a mechanical scanning system slices the picture to be transmitted into small rectangular sections in the same manner that a scanning disk would do. The speed of transmission, however, is enormously slowed down. (Editor's note: Good Thinking here. Television is too poor at present day speeds. But slow it down and we can still have a good printing radio system!) On the receiver (instead of a scanning disk) is a sliding arm which moves horizontally across the tape and which carries a magnetically operated self-inking pen. As the pen passes over the surface of the paper an incoming signal can make it touch or lift off the paper. This results (during :he printed process) in a series of closely spaced ink lines shading the tape into lighter or darker areas for reproducing either pictures or printed words. Such a system is illustrated in Figure 2, being operated by Mr. Hogan.

The signals were transmitted, during the demonstration, from the laboratories in Long Island City, from a transmitter similar to that shown in Figure 1. The actual picture signals are superimposed on a sub-carrier of about 2,000 cycles and this in turn is superimposed on a radio-frequency carrier of 1594 kc. The transmitting station's call is W2XAR. The sound program was sent out by W2XBR, in the same laboratories, operating on 1550 kc. The printer transmitter is arranged so that it operates directly from pen-and-ink drawings, typewritten text or printed matter, directly from a newspaper. This eliminates both the cost and the delay of any preliminary processing necessary with Mr. Hogan's first machines that used a film. The new transmitter obviates the necessity of making this motion-picture film or other photographic copies of the material to be transmitted. In this way news can be flashed as soon as received! The film transmission method can still be used, however, for such things as station' announcements and for material which is likely to be repeated a number of times. The illustration in Figure 1 shows the operator transmitting from paper text by the direct method unit. At the right, however, is the film unit for continuous film transmission. Either one can be used, as the two input devices are so arranged they may be used interchangeably arid their performance is so nearly the same.

During the demonstration in New York three receiving machines printed the facsimile program from the laboratory, transmitted by radio, at a distance of about five miles. The first item to be received was a strip of comic characters from the newspaper; the second item was a bridge problem in which the distribution of the hands was written out in type; the third item consisted of a children's paint book prepared by Mr. Ernest Duffy, the artist. It contained simple outline drawings which could be colored by children and then folded into a little book. The next item used coordinated channels, with a standard musical-composition sound channel and a supporting facsimile channel carrying a text of stories about the music being transmitted. Then followed a children's story showing pictures of Cock Robin on the printer channel, while the verses came over the sound channel. The final program item was a running description of an automobile trip, from New York to West Point and return, using highways on both sides of the Hudson River. The sound commentary was accompanied by a facsimile map which was drawn as the trip proceeded so that the imaginary home user would have a verbal and written description of the journey, showing the roads to follow and the town and other points of interest he would encounter on such a trip. A few sample strips of the received visual program were cut from the machine and are reproduced herewith.

The inventors point out that this demonstration is to be considered in no sense a commercialization that has been fully perfected and is ready for sales and program exploitation. They do believe, however, that they have made a number of definite and important steps towards the provision of a radio picture and printer service for home users and one that may grow to parallel normal speech and music broadcasting services now in wide use. When asked whether such a service could be accepted as a competitor to regular broadcast sound channels or to the newspapers, Mr. Hogan replied that both television and facsimile transmission for the home would best be developed as supplements to sound broadcasting as a cooperative activity rather than as a type of competition. He did point out, however, that a facsimile system such as this would produce and leave with the home user a written ink-on paper souvenir of the program to which he bad been listening. He pointed out that the speed of transmission, at the present stage of development, for the Radio-Pen was from 30 to 60 words per minute, depending on the type size and style used. He stated, "Since its message speed in words per minute is less than half that which may be attained in speaking and since it would require over three hours to transmit the text contained on a single newspaper page, or more than a day to copy even a small newspaper, I personally see no reason to consider that the RadioPen will in any way tend to supplant our present news-distributing organizations. Instead, I believe that there are many ways in which the facsimile radio system, the newspaper and the sound-radio can and will cooperate to their mutual advantage."

Related Article:
Radio Facsimile
Station W9XZY, the experimental radio facsimile broadcasting station operated by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, last month inaugurated the world's first regular broadcast on ultra-high frequencies of specially prepared facsimile newspapers. The broadcasts will be continued daily and Sunday at 2 p.m.
(Radio-Craft, March 1939)