Oral-History:Thomas Goldsmith

About Thomas Goldsmith

Thomas Goldsmith attended Furman University in South Carolina, graduating in 1931. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in 1936, where he was involved in research on cathode ray devices. It was as a graduate student that Goldsmith first had contact with the Alan B. Dumont Laboratories. Upon receiving his doctorate, Goldsmith went to work for Dumont as a director of research, a position he held until he left the company in 1966. Goldsmith then returned to Furman University as a physics professor and director of the audio-visual department.

The interview with Thomas Goldsmith begins with his early interest in both radio and television. Goldsmith also discusses Alan Dumont's early background, including Dumont's work as a shipboard operator, his education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his engineering job at Westinghouse. The interview continues with a discussion of the forming of the Alan B. Dumont Laboratories in 1931. Goldsmith also talks about Dumont's early work with Lee DeForest at DeForest Radio Company, reminiscences that both Dumont and DeForest shared with him. Goldsmith goes on to discuss Dumont's early experimental transmitting signals, the television displays by Dumont and RCA at the 1939 World's Fair and the experimental channels operated by RCA, CBS, and Dumont. Interwoven in this discussion are comments on the development of color television, including work done by Bell Laboratories, and the development of broadcasting standards by the RMA and the NTSC. The interview includes a discussion of the impact of WWII on commercial broadcasting, and the history of Dumont's work in radar during the war. Goldsmith also comments on the "Great Television Freeze" and its impact on the Dumont company. The interview concludes with a detailed discussion of the business affairs of Dumont after the war, including the spin-off of broadcasting operations into what eventually became Metromedia, Inc.; the negative role of Paramount Pictures as an investor in Dumont Laboratories; the sale, in 1957, of Dumont's television receiver line to Emerson, and the merger of Dumont and Fairchild Industries in 1960.

About the Interview

THOMAS GOLDSMITH: An Interview Conducted by Frank Polkinghorn, IEEE History Center, May 14, 1973

Interview # 008 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Thomas Goldsmith, an oral history conducted in 1973 by Frank Polkinghorn, IEEE History Center, Piscataway, NJ, USA

Interview

INTERVIEW: Thomas Goldsmith INTERVIEWED BY: Frank Polkinghorn PLACE: Verona, New Jersey DATE: May 14, 1973

Education and Early TV

Polkinghorn:

This is an interview of Dr. Thomas Goldsmith on May 14, 1973, regarding various affairs with the Dumont Television Company. Why don't you start right back at the beginning? First, I think you should give us a little bit of your own background. You went to Cornell University.

Goldsmith:

Well, in my early experience in television, people in South Carolina asked me questions sometimes about who invented television. It's not one person but a group of people, some of them from the Bell Telephone Laboratories and Radio Corporation of America, many people from foreign countries that contributed a little here and a little there over the years. One friend of mine wrote a book titled Five Thousand Years of Television. We are not going to be reciting that Alan Dumont is the inventor of television; that is not so. He was a contributor to the large-scale production of television. I think a great deal of credit is due to him for producing the practice, things that had been done long before you were born that led up to television.

My earliest experience with television was when I was still a student in South Carolina. I ran into some radio bugs down there; we talked a little about having to fill crystal radio sets. I was born in Greenbrook, South Carolina in 1910 and I went to school at Furman University, where I am now located. In 1966 I went back to Furman University, where I was professor of physics and director of the audio- visual department. So even way back around 1920, I was doing work in television. As strange as it may seem, television was really a research device at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, with some work also being done by a lot of people such Vladimir Zworykin — for Westinghouse in the early days and later on for RCA. RCA started its activities as a corporation around 1924, I think it was. In 1924, when I was only fourteen years old, I got acquainted with a fellow by the name of Willie Cook, who was building crystal radio sets, and he taught me how to do this. I finally graduated to vacuum tube radio using Lee De Forest triodes, and we used to listen in for radio signals. At the upper end of what is now the AM broadcast band, around 1600 kilocycles or kilohertz, there were transmissions that had a sort of sixty-cycle buzz content, which were actual television transmissions from Washington D.C. in a television transmission experimental station. C. Francis Jenkins used mechanical scanning disks. I bet you know him, Frank.

Polkinghorn:

No, I don't know him.

Goldsmith:

You have heard of him?

Polkinghorn:

Yes.

Goldsmith:

That Nipkow disk scanner has a lot to do with Dumont Laboratories, that's what I am leading up to. In those early days I would hear this buzz. I never got around to building a scanner wheel to look at it, when I was a student in high school and later at Furman University. But we did know that television signals were being transmitted in Washington D.C. This used a scanning wheel with a spiral form and a bunch of holes. The holes would race across the scanned area, and sensitive holes were in a spiral form that scanned from top to bottom of the picture in scanning lines. There was great difficulty holding the mechanical motor at the transmitter stable enough to produce a good picture and also to synchronize another holder, the Nipkow disk scanner, at each of the many receivers, for composing a full-sized picture. The scanning lines were very few per picture and the transmission band width was in the upper end of the broadcast band, maybe ten or twenty kilocycles in the early days. That later expanded a little bit beyond that. This experience in South Carolina was just one of listening to radio and hearing this incidentally in television, but I got started in stroboscopic looking at signals with laberating tuning forks while I was a student at Furman University. Just a few days ago I was looking through some old equipment and found some of those tuning forks with mirrors mounted on. You take two tuning forks, turn one horizontally and the other vertically, and send a light beam from the mirror of one to the mirror of the other and you can produce a Lissajous figure, a moving pattern of light — a figure 8 if it is a two-to-one ratio frequency. Those devices were used at Furman in 1927 to 1930, when I was a student.

Alan B. Dumont Laboratories

Company History

Goldsmith:

In 1931 I graduated and went off to Cornell University. I did work on cathode ray tubes at Cornell as a student in the graduate school physics department. I got my Ph.D. there in 1936. During the research on cathode ray devices I met my professor, Dr. Frederick Van Bide. He and I wrote to this laboratory from whom we'd got some literature saying that they were building cathode ray tubes. It turned out to be a little laboratory started in 1931 by Alan B. Dumont, called Alan B. Dumont Laboratories. No incorporation at that time. Incorporation came in 1934, but he was already building cathode ray tubes. I started working with him on November 1, 1936, as a director of research. The title continued all the way through until I left the company thirty years later, in 1966.

I found out some of the earlier history of Alan Dumont; he told me over the years how he had gotten interested in television. His first experience had not been with his own company, because he started off here in Montclair, New Jersey. I think he was born in Brooklyn but moved soon to Montclair. He was very active in athletics as a youngster until the age of ten, when he was stricken with polio, so it grounded him a bit. He became interested in radio and in high school he was a radio operator on freighters, going up and down the coast of the United States. Later he went across the ocean to European ports as a shipboard operator. His ability to operate radio was not hampered by his impediment, that he couldn't walk. Then he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he got a good engineering degree and familiarity with not only the technical side but also the business side of operating things. After graduating from RPI he worked for the Westinghouse Corporation. I think you mentioned Dr. Laver. Tell me a little bit more about him.

Polkinghorn:

He was in charge of the Westinghouse plant in Belmar. He had previously worked for Westinghouse in Bloomfield and RCA in Harrison and with the other radio company on Bloomfield Avenue — what was the name of that?

Goldsmith:

Here in Bloomfield, New Jersey?

Polkinghorn:

Yes.

Goldsmith:

Yes, I remember there was another company. It was Westinghouse that I referred to, particularly with regard to Alan Dumont. As a young engineer, Dumont had graduated from RPI and went to work for Westinghouse Corporation. This is prior to 1931, when he started his own business. While at Westinghouse he was producing radio tubes on a mass-production basis. Some of these were transmitting power tubes and some were smaller receiving tubes. But Westinghouse at Bloomfield started building these tubes and needed someone to produce some with more assurance of quality control so that all the tubes would be good. So, Alan Dumont built high-production exhaust machines and automatic testing machines for testing the tubes. Having gotten familiar with cathodes, grids, plate structures, and vacuum processing he turned out tubes at a much higher production rate than previously. He got patents on this in the name of Westinghouse.

Then one day one of the research people came to him and said, "We've got a cathode ray tube that we had purchased from Germany and we burned it up. Somebody turned a little too much filament current through it, and it's gone. Alan, do you think you could fix it?" He said, "Probably we can." So he put a new electron gun in this tube and played around with the big tube. Ah! This is the way to do television, rather than the older ways of the mechanical standard. Also in his early days, prior to starting his own company, he worked as chief engineer of the De Forest Radio Company. Lee De Forest lived principally on the west coast, but in some of his research years he had come east and was a graduate student at Yale University, where he did his graduate work in electrical engineering. I talked to Lee quite a bit because later he was consulting engineer for Alan B. Dumont Laboratories until he was about eighty-five years old. The De Forest Radio Company operated in Passaic, New Jersey.

Polkinghorn:

Yes, I remember, in the late 1920s.

Goldsmith:

Later on, Alan Dumont started his company, first in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, on the boundary of Cedar Grove and Upper Montclair, in a garage of his house. He then moved to Passaic, New Jersey in 1937. There is a motion picture and a historical story about Passaic, the birthplace of television.

Polkinghorn:

When I first met you, I believe you were working on Valley Road in Montclair.

Goldsmith:

That's right.

Polkinghorn:

What intersection was that?

Goldsmith:

The history of the Dumont locations is interesting. The earliest laboratory was in the basement in the garage of Alan Dumont's house on Bradford Way, just off of Bradford Avenue as you come up from Upper Montclair over toward Cedar Grove. You turn at the very top of the hill onto a little road that goes up to where Alan Dumont used to live. This is the location of his laboratory in 1931, when he started the business. He, Stanley Koch, (his glass blower) and John Hink (his welding expert and vacuum operator) used to build the cathode ray tubes. The three of them started the company in 1931. Alan had a chemist who came in part-time to help prepare the fluorescent materials for the cathode ray tubes. This interest in cathode ray tubes had started while he was at Westinghouse, when he repaired this German cathode ray tube which had been made by Manfred Banardeen, who later went behind the Iron Curtain and was working with the Russians in nuclear work. I understand from some reports that Banardeen got a serious nuclear burn later on, but he is still living, as far as I know. I talked to some of the Russian people about him, but I don't know for sure. Banardeen had made cathode ray tubes quite early, from the history of cathode ray tubes. In 1897, J.J. Thompson had come out with an electron beam tube and F. Braun in 1898.

Cold, Hot and High-vacuum Cathodes

Polkinghorn:

That was cold cathode.

Goldsmith:

He built the first cathode ray tube that was used as a magnetic deflection device to picture the wave shapes of AC power, alternating current voltage, as one looks at the voltage on the fluorescent screen. I think F. Braun was an early acquaintance of Alan Dumont too, but the Braun tube was in 1898 reduced to a working device. It had engineering applications, was built in Germany, and was shipped to this country in early days. The Bell Telephone Laboratories in about 1925 developed the hot cathode device. It was actually a filament with a little tip of electron emitting material on the part of the hairpin which would allow the filament to be warmed up to just a rosy red, not an incandescent temperature. The emission came off of this tip and could be focused. J.B. Johnson at the Bell Laboratories had built these tubes and had sold a few of them, one of which had landed up in Cornell University when I was a student there.

Alan Dumont had started his company in 1931. I went to Cornell in 1931, but only learned of Dumont around 1933 or 1934, when we ordered a special tube from him. I asked him to pump it to a higher vacuum so that we wouldn't have ion focusing in the tube, in order to allow us to work at higher frequencies. If one has an ion focus, or a gas focus tube, the ions, being rather bulky with regard to large mass for small charge, would be left behind when you tried to deflect with electron deflection plates and the spot would come badly out of focus at high frequencies. Dumont built this higher vacuum tube for us at Cornell to work with Frederick Bidel and enabled us to go up to twelve million cycles per second with deflections and a reasonably sharp focus. Dr. Bidel's son-in-law, R.C. Bert had worked in the tube laboratories on Hudson Street with the Bell Telephone Laboratories, along with J.B. Johnson, as a technician building some of the early cathode ray tubes. He had since moved out to Pasadena to be a professor of the physics department at the California Institute of Technology. But Dr. Bert used to come back to Cornell with his wife, who was Dr. Bidel's daughter, Elena Bidel Bert, so I got acquainted with him. We had worked with some early oscillographs at Cornell that needed this better performance with the tubes that Alan Dumont had built.

So I came down on November 1, 1936 to work with Alan Dumont and we went to extremely high vacuum cathode ray tubes, got rid of the gas technique entirely. Some of the early Dumont tubes also used a partial residual of some of the inert gases to help in the focusing action. We found that especially in the summertime these space charges would be misbehaving and unpredictable, so while he was in Europe in about 1937 or 1938, I took the bull by the horns as director of research and said, hereafter we should go to all electron beam gun focusing and take the gas out of the tubes, so we would have a better performance. There used to be little wiggles in the beam that the gas residues would leave behind which were not characteristic of the signals we were trying to investigate. Alan Dumont was chief engineer for the De Forest Radio Company over in Passaic, and at that location Lee De Forest had probably the first synchronized transmission of picture with associated sound. One transmitted the picture and a synchronized sound transmission along with it to send out pictures and sound from Passaic, New Jersey in television.

Polkinghorn:

What year was that?

Goldsmith:

That was in the 1925 era. I wasn't at that location in those days, but Lee DeForest and Alan Dumont told me of those early days, and I have seen pictures taken in those laboratories where the mechanical scanning Nipkow disk technique was used even with interlays at those laboratories taking over some of the equipment from the C. Francis Jenkins Company. C. Francis Jenkins died and the equipment was bought by Lee De Forest for use in the De Forest Radio Company and television research in Passaic. Alan Dumont finally told Lee that this mechanical method of doing television was not going to be financially successful because there was too much difficulty to expect a fine enough series of holes punched precisely enough and synchronized enough mechanically to transmit to the receiver to make a good, big picture. Alan Dumont told Lee, "We've got to go the cathode ray technique." Well, Lee meanwhile had had quite a bit of experience with Wall Street promoters.

Polkinghorn:

He almost went to jail.

Goldsmith:

He was in and out of jail, in and out of the SEC or the equivalent in those days, for promoting things that he couldn't quite deliver because his salesmen or his promoters on Wall Street got more enthusiastic than his technical ability could keep up with on a time schedule. Anyway the cathode ray tube did prove to be the way to go in television. There are some developments now that we could talk about later on, maybe, but even the cathode ray tube is now obsolete in television. We were doing television by light-emitting diodes, things of that sort. Even the electron beam was not necessary, but that is another story.

Growth of Dumont

Audio File
MP3 Audio
(008_-_goldsmith_-_clip_1.mp3)

Alan Dumont said, "I think I'd better leave the De Forest Radio Company and start a company of my own to build televisions." He had a little money he could invest and borrowed some from friends, and started out in his basement in Cedar Grove in 1931. Even in 1936, it was hard starting in television. We had long since found that the word "television" wasn't known. You go in and say, "We would like to have you invest in television," "What's that?" So Dumont's strategy turned to telling people at the college level how a cathode ray oscillograph would be a useful device to measure electrical performance of various pieces of equipment. Once having seen this in school, these engineers upon graduation would demand that kind of test equipment in the laboratories. Alan Dumont and I, when I joined in 1936, went around to the schools, getting people interested in using this oscillograph as a test instrument. Along with it we explained how it could also be used for television reception and translation. This kind of manufacturing was done by Dumont and other skilled people. When I started, I was the fourteenth employee of the company. Later on, I don't know how many people we had, something like 6,000 employees. I think our peak year at Dumont Laboratories hit something like $100 million gross in about 1951, during the Korean War, when we had a great deal of business broadcasting and also in manufacturing equipment for the government. In these early days people didn't know what television was until we first had perfected the cathode ray tube as a measurement device and then had begun to develop cameras and television receivers. Alan went over to England in 1937, since the British had started television broadcasting on a very large scale even before the United States started it. Polkinghorn: This was the British government? England and the Cossor Receiver Goldsmith: It was the BBC. BBC support had started but they got curtailed in their broadcasting endeavors by World War II, which hit England a couple of years sooner than it hit the United States. Our Pearl Harbor was in December 1941, but by 1939 England had pretty much closed down its broadcasting experimentation on television to attend to the emergency of the war. But in 1937-1938 Alan Dumont went to England and through the Cossor Company... Polkinghorn: I remember that company. Goldsmith: Had gotten acquainted with how they were doing television in England. Their standards were different than the experiments that were carried on in the United States at that time. He did bring back one of the Cossor receivers, and I well remember how we put it in the laboratory and examined it. We got a few more cathode ray tubes from them; they were big tubes about fourteen inches in diameter, which was one of the biggest cathode ray tubes that had been seen up to that time. John Logie Baird in England had developed tubes and the Cossor Company was producing sets for sale. He brought one of those sets back and we studied it carefully and said, "I think we could build television sets in this country." 1939 World's Fair and RCA Goldsmith: Audio File MP3 Audio (008_-_goldsmith_-_clip_2.mp3) So in 1939 we were transmitting signals experimentally in Passaic from a spare loan transmitter and were building television receivers. We built enough sets to have a few of them at the 1939 New York World's Fair. RCA also was active at that time. They put a studio at the fairground, a little relay transmitter on a tower at the fairground at Flushing Meadows, and sent signals back to the experimental transmitter on top of the Empire State Building, from which point they broadcasted those signals to a grand total of 300 television sets around the New York area. Those 300 sets came from RCA, Dumont, General Electric and Philco, anyone who had transmitters. I spent a lot of time at the World's Fair that year keeping sets on display running. King George and Queen Elizabeth came over from England and Franklin D. Roosevelt visited. I welcomed them in New York at the Fair. We actually sold television sets from Dumont Laboratories with a fourteen-inch cathode ray tube. The table model set sold for$325. Those sets didn't have very many channels: we had equipped with a snap switch for four channels on the front, but at the start there weren't very many stations on the air. There were three in New York at that time, the experimental channel of Dumont, the experimental channel of RCA on the Empire State Building, and the experimental channel of CBS on the Chrysler Building. We were applying for an experimental license with the FCC and we said, "Well, we want to operate on the same frequency as NBC." So, in the hearings to get that experimental license, NBC or RCA opposed us, saying, "Why don't you go to some other channel?" But we didn't realize how one could build sets to switch to several channels, so we asked for the same channel — one that RCA was using. We finally resolved it so that our experimental hours of licensed transmissions from Dumont would be from midnight to nine a.m. and RCA would have nine a.m. to midnight.

Polkinghorn:

RCA had the advantage.

Industry Standards and Color TV

Goldsmith:

They were there first. They were on the air before we were. We operated that way and the receiver could be fix-tuned radio-frequency wise. CBS wasn't very active at that time. We used to work from midnight to nine a.m. on our experiments with new methods of synchronization. We had quite a bit to do in the overall industry coordination with pushing this scanning line sharpness up from the original 441 lines, which was first proposed by RCA, to the current U.S broadcast standard of 525 lines. We had experimented with a lower field rate and long persistence screening hoping to go to the order of 800 miles or so, and we had done 635-line transmission experiments in New York. But finally the industry compromised and agreed to the 525 lines per picture standard, which is current in the United States today. That was sixty fields per second or thirty complete frames to the one. That standard the United States, I guess, shares with Japan. The Japanese standard is 525 lines?

Polkinghorn:

I am not sure.

Goldsmith:

I believe it is sixty cycles. But in England, Holland, and many European countries the power frequency was fifty cycles per second rather than sixty. So they settled on 625 lines per picture at fifty fields of twenty-five frames per second in the picture transmission phase, which comes out to about the same number of horizontal lines per second. The United States is 15,750 lines per second and in England by going to 625 at fifty instead of 525 at sixty, it comes out about the same sort of sets, so they are reasonably compatible except when the modulation is turned the other way and the sound is above instead of below. There are other factors in the standards internationally that have a lot to do with it, especially when you get to color television. Color television is of interest to Alan Dumont Laboratories in that Alan patented some cathode ray tubes with three color phosphorous. I've got records of the early patents of that day. He had built those before I even started with him in 1936: I think about 1933 he was building color television tubes or color cathode ray tubes and got some patents on the application. He used to go up to the Jersey Ink Company Mines and pull out fluorescent material in crude rock form and reprocess them with Al Steadman, his brother-in-law, whose chemical knowledge was used for it. They put several different color phosphors in the tubes and I know Bell Labs has used different color tubes for different purposes. One with blue phosphors for photographic recording, one with green phosphors for high visible brightness because oligonite puts out a lot of light with green light. Of course a blend of phosphorous gives a black-and-white tube and a mixture of phosphorous with red, blue, and green compounds gives a P4 or white tube. Of course, later on various colors had been used for cathode ray tubes, some with long persistence and some with short persistence for applications of this sort.

Early TV Experiments at Bell Labs

Polkinghorn:

You have been talking about color television. I wonder if we should start back again and talk about some of the things that came before color.

Goldsmith:

Right. Frank, you ought to know very well from your associations with Bell Telephone Laboratories that there was a man by the name of Herbert Ives that had a lot to do with television for the Bell Systems. I well remember going over to Bell Laboratories in the early days at West Street — before Bell moved to Murray Hill — to see some television experiments you were doing there. You had a tube that was nine feet long, a cathode ray tube. The idea was that a long focusing gun would give a better controlled spot. Even this one had a rectangular electron optics structure to keep a rectangular spot which would fill in the space between lines almost completely. This was done in black-and-white. I saw pictures coming from Philadelphia: I think some of the signals might have originated at the Philco Corporation there. But the Bell Telephone Laboratories, particularly with Herbert Ives and some of his associates, was working in color. In the early days it was actually mechanical rotating color filter cover and went into electronic color later on.

Polkinghorn:

I saw Ed Hires' electronic disk in about 1927. It was right after I came, in March. He had individual lights for each one of these probes. I talked with a girl in Washington over a wire line at about that time.

Goldsmith:

This was 1927?

Polkinghorn:

The picture was only about two inches high by an inch- and-a-half wide, or something like that.

Goldsmith:

The picture was shown on a mechanical scanner in those days.

Polkinghorn:

Yes, on an electron disk.

From Nipkow Disks to Cathode Ray Tubes

Goldsmith:

Well, coming back to Alan Dumont's story, we worked closely with the Bell Telephone Laboratories and used the coaxial cable circuit between New York and Washington in television broadcasting. It might be worthwhile to get into this picture size in the early Lee De Forest Company. De Forest Radio was using a Nipkow disk where the picture was about the size of an ordinary postage stamp. To make the picture look a bit more acceptable to the home viewer, there was a big lens which magnified it about two-to-one, so it was like the size of two linear dimension postage stamps. That way, the picture was still rather small, rather flickery, with rather poor resolution and very difficult to stay in synchronization. In the early days in experiments in television, we started in upper Montclair, New Jersey, when I joined Alan Dumont. We moved from his basement in his garage down into two little stores down below Barnes. You asked me where it was located in Upper Montclair; it was on Valley Road and down about two short blocks below Barnes Ice Cream Place.

Polkinghorn:

Where the stamp store and the laundry were?

Goldsmith:

Yes, the Abline Stamp Company, it used to be. I think it is still there. We finally took over all five of those stores and started transmitting television signals from that location. We starting developing receivers and we harnessed a cathode ray oscillograph as a transmitting device and another cathode ray as a receiving device connected by wires. Someone could illustrate the principal scan, the transmitting tube was just a secondary emission target in a cathode ray tube. The picture of Abraham Lincoln or something like that was transmitted to the other cathode ray tube as a receiver to the display. You could change the scanning rates, each of which had a horizontal time base. You fed the time base from one oscillograph as a horizontal scan, the time base from the other as a vertical scan, and you could illustrate how a scanning pattern could be generated at low resolution or higher resolution by changing the times. These devices went into universities and high schools for teaching people the principles of electronic scanning. Later on, of course, we developed a whole line of television broadcast cameras using black-and-white base. The company also had a cathode ray tube manufacturing business where we sold many tubes for the Bell System and other industrial laboratories and research centers. We sold the oscillographs, the instrument that uses the cathode ray tube power supply, reflection signals and amplifiers for signals, transmitters for transmitting television and receivers for reception of television.

Regulation and World War II

Then we came along to 1941. On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, at that time there had been a six-month interval in which commercial television in black-and-white had been authorized by the FCC. The rule had stipulated that as of July 1, 1941 people were free to apply for a license to broadcast commercially in black-and-white television. The standards had been set by the RMA or Radio Manufacturers Association and the NTSC — the NTSC was the National Television System Committee. This was a committee jointly sponsored by the Institute of Radio Engineers and the RMA. This committee consisted of some forty people drawn from the engineering laboratories of various companies; the Bell System, RCA, Zenith, Philco, Dumont, CBS and various companies contributed the "know-how" of their experimental work in television. So, by 1941 standards had been agreed to for broadcasting. In the early days there was some uncertainty on how the signal should be synchronized. The transmitted signal sent out a series of pulses that would lock all one million receivers together, so they would stay locked on the transmitter signal for a given studio. Dumont had proposed a radio frequency burst for the vertical synchronization; others, principally spearheaded by RCA, had the equalizing pulse — series of pulses just ahead of the vertical synch that would allow the vertical to lock in. We found in our experiments at Dumont and had demonstrated to the FCC that the burst of radio frequencies at about 500 kilocycles per second would give a more sturdy lock and good interlace in the presence of noise. So the FCC had decided to leave that synchronizing standard in a dual form. It was permissible to send either way in 1941.

Later, the Dumont burst synchronization was dropped from its standards and just the equalizing pulse method of transmission was accepted for the entire industry and became the Federal Communications Commission standard for broadcast in the United States. Our burst technique is still used, I think, even today in some military and space transmissions as a more stable way of keeping the vertical lock free from vertical roll in the presence of noise. Anyway, the black-and-white standards had been set and there was an industry-wide drive to get into the manufacturing business for television receivers and get them on the market. There is always this chicken-and-egg situation: with no transmitters, no one would buy receivers. No one would buy receivers until they had programs, and no one could afford to put on programs until they had put marketing receivers in the hands of the public. After extensive hearings and recommendations by the National Television System Committee, the FCC adopted rules and regulations as to broadcast channels, the number of lines, the number of fields and other factors concerning the sound and picture part of the receiver.

It was ready to go, but July until December 7 was a time of unrest in the United States because World War II was already underway on the European continent and in England. Many of our engineers were beginning to work at something very highly classified called "radar." So the emphasis on television had to be put secondary to the extreme demand for military equipment, and there was also just the practical situation that several months' time had to go into production of transmitter equipment and receivers to get it launched on a commercial basis. By the time Pearl Harbor hit, the authorization of commercial stations had not resulted in very much actual broadcasting by the end of 1941. When the war did come with U.S. involvement after Pearl Harbor, television was pretty much on the verge of having to go out of operation for thirty years.

Alan Dumont, however, fulfilled an obligation to his customers; they had already bought 1,000 or so television sets from Dumont Laboratories, so we couldn't afford to discontinue broadcasting. At Dumont Laboratories several daytime engineers would go to New York and run the television station two or three nights a week, and we shamed CBS and NBC into going back on the air. They came out with an announcement that said, "All right. We'll pick up the slack because we have an obligation to our customers, who bought receivers." So they came back finally and we used to share evenings. One would be on one evening and the other station on another. In 1941, there were some 7,000 television receivers total in existence in the United States. Almost seven broadcasting stations, doing a greater or lesser amount of broadcasting.

Polkinghorn:

Where were those outside of New York?

Goldsmith:

If I remember correctly there were three stations in New York: CBS, NBC, Dumont. CBS was on the Chrysler building, NBC was on top of the Empire State, and Dumont was on the top of 515 Madison Avenue, a forty-two story building. That's where our transmitter was located until many years later, when we joined several of the others on the Empire State Building. Those three stations in New York were supplemented by Philco WPTZ in Philadelphia, one in Schenectady, the Don Lee station in Los Angeles, and the one in Manhattan, Kansas. I am not sure whether it was Manhattan, Kansas at Kansas State University campus or at Purdue University in Indiana. No wait a minute. WPTZ was on the air in Philadelphia, but the one had not started in Schenectady yet. The other station was a Zenith Station in Chicago; there was one in Los Angeles, one in Chicago, three in New York and one at Purdue University and one in Manhattan, Kansas. I think those were the seven stations.

Polkinghorn:

At the beginning of the war.

Goldsmith:

At the beginning of World War II. I guess we'd count at least one thousand stations on the air in 1973, now. Most this year are able to broadcast in full color television. The color standards came along quite a few years later. Dumont said, "I would like to build a cathode ray tube with color," and he went in a different way than that which has been developed by the Radio Corporation of America. Ernest Lawrence used shadow masking to put some tight wires in the tube, and added a post acceleration deflection system. It would push the beams back and forth onto the color stripes, but he didn't have very good technical facilities at Berkeley or in his own sponsored laboratories to do this, so Alan Dumont undertook to do the laboratory work to perfect this method of color television in the strict tube form. That development of Ernest Lawrence was picked up by Dumont Laboratories and largely perfected as a laboratory achievement. Then it was taken by the Paramount Pictures Company and licensed to a number of companies, but very few companies in the United States have ever really produced this tube by that method in quantity.

Sony in Japan is now producing what they call a "Trinitron" in large quantities, and it is a very successful device. This came through the Dumont Laboratories on a research-and-development basis and then was licensed to the Japanese by Paramount Pictures. Coming back to the early history of Dumont, in 1950-1951 the company had reached a stage of quantitative reduction. They grossed something like $100 million in operating business, but after that date they began to decline again in gross business for a number of economic reasons. At that time they were in the broadcasting business, having started the experimental station in New York called WABD, Channel 5, named for Alan B. Dumont. A little later, at the end of World War II, we started a companion station, the other station of our then-existing two-station network. This was the Dumont-Corleone Network, and had another station in Washington D.C. It happens to be called WPTG, named after me. Those two stations, Channel 5 in New York and Channel 5 in Washington, became the two stations that were tied together by the telephone company on the coaxial cable in those early days. By having that station in Washington we were able to really have a clearinghouse with the FCC because the station was right across from the FCC offices and the post office department. We were in the old Harrington Hotel and later in the Raleigh Hotel in Washington. We got the engineers and the commissioners to come over and see what television was all about. An interesting anecdote about the FCC, the need for regulation and control, and for education on the part of the commissioners and the engineering staff is that Chief Engineering Commissioner George Sterling called up one day and talked to Willie Sayer, who was my engineer in charge of the station down there. Sterling said, "Willy, we have a licensing program where we license radio broadcast operators. They must know certain rules and regulations on how to control equipment so it stays on frequency and doesn't interfere with places it shouldn't. Do you think we should have a special license examination for people who are to operate television stations that is more stringent than the radio operator's license examination?" So Willie sits back, puffing away on his pipe: "No, I think the other license is adequate. I think it is sufficient, and television is not that much more complicated. There are two transmitters instead of one, but that's all right." Thereafter the FCC decided on the same license for television stations. The interesting irony of it is that Willie Sayer, the chief engineer of the station, had some regular licensed operators working under him, so we were legal. But Willie only had a ham license. And he advised George Sterling on what to do about a television broadcaster's license. Willie is now running the high-power Klystrons on the linear accelerator at Stanford University. Well, at the peak of the thing Dumont was in the manufacture of very elaborate radar systems for the military, doing oscillographs, receivers, highly specialized cathode ray tubes for direct view storage displays, camera tubes, photocells, and all kinds of things. And it was running a broadcast network: the Dumont network at one time in that era had 169 affiliated stations tied to it. So this network included three whole stations in Dumont: one in New York, one in Philadelphia, and one in Pittsburgh. The one in Pittsburgh was involved in the freeze, "the Great Television Freeze." That's not only a story of Dumont, but it involved Alan B. Dumont Laboratories very closely. Alan B. Dumont was very well respected by the committees, including the FCC commissioners and whatnot that studied the pros and cons of whether we should have this kind of code or that kind of code, what the standard should be for broadcasting. There was a time when Dumont had sold a television broadcast station to Detroit, Michigan. They were on the air up there and one of our engineers had been assigned to that station, and got that in good shape. There was another station in Cleveland, Ohio operating on the same frequency — I think it was Channel 4 at that time. The allocations of channels between cities had taken into account the great many factors of long-distance interference, but those two cities are only about eighty miles apart. Since the good share of center distance between those two was over Lake Erie, they said, "Oh! No interference. Eighty miles is okay." It may be a little more than that, I guess on a co-channel basis it is more like 100 to 110 miles. Anyway, they were considered okay to be operated on a co-channel basis. But we learned from our salesmen for receivers and from our field service people that there was a lot of co-channel interference in the area between the cities, in the fringes. So we made a recommendation to the FCC that the allocation should be changed. That set off the big freeze in television. Rather than shifting a few stations, which at that time would have been relatively inexpensive to shift from Channel 4 to Channel 3 or something like that, the commission put a great halt on further allocations of stations and studied more than how to reallocate the VH channels, the very high frequencies, channels 2 through 13. They also focused on what to do about ultra high frequency channels from Channel 14 through 83 and what we should do about color television. So it dragged on for three or four years before they finally opened the rules again to determine what should be done with color and what should be done about expanding. Dumont Laboratories had a fairly interesting windfall in view of this: we were precluded from selling a lot of transmitters we otherwise would have, but we had a license for operation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We got that ahead of the Freeze. Westinghouse, whose headquarters of KDKA Pittsburgh, was frozen out of it because they had joined CBS in saying they would not go with this obsolete variety of black-and-white television. They were going to join the color television efforts with CBS. They said they wouldn't even put any stations on the air until they could have it in color and have this resolved. So they gave up their then pending construction permit in Pittsburgh and were frozen out for several years. Dumont Laboratories operated WDTV in Pittsburgh for several years, being the only station in the city taking the prime program feeds from CBS, NBC, and our own originating programs such as the Bishop Fulton Sheen show and things of this sort out of New York. At one point I think the Pittsburgh station was clearing something like$3 million gross profit before taxes on that one station alone.

Dumont and Radar

Goldsmith:

Now a word about some of the other branches of Dumont Laboratories that were developed under Alan B. Dumont. He had set up a research laboratory and then at the start of World War II had gone into the large-volume manufacture of things like radar devices. The radar history of Dumont might be of interest to you. In 1933, Alan Dumont had taken some equipment down to Fort Monmouth and discussed with several of the officers and engineers at the Fort Monmouth Research Center the possibility of detecting ships and other devices off of the Atlantic Highlands by radio signals. The people at Fort Monmouth had asked around and said, "Look. This is a vital concern of the United States." This was 1933. "Would you please be careful? Don't say anything to anybody. Don't file patents on this because we would like to keep this quiet." So he deferred for a while, but then a French patent appeared with something similar and so he filed but was barred from prosecuting the patent because of the earlier date of the French filing. Even more recently, after Alan Dumont's death, I saw the special act of Congress awarding a patent to one or two of these people at Fort Monmouth with whom Dr. Dumont had talked about this radio direction finding detecting device, which was later called "radar." This belated award of the patent to the research people at Fort Monmouth took place two or three years ago. I know that we had pursued, when I was in charge of patents at Dumont Laboratories, the possibility of reviving and establishing a still earlier date. Dumont had a notebook of entries of conferences with the Fort Monmouth people in behalf of a patent for Alan Dumont. He never pressed for a Congressional award, but there was later a Congressional award to these officers at Fort Monmouth, with the seventeen year term starting, say in, 1950; I don't know the exact dates. This was a very early infrared and radio signaling scheme that in 1933 Alan Dumont had brought to the intention of the Fort Monmouth people. Later we worked on it with the Navy, who first brought out radar equipment down at the Naval Research Laboratories just outside of Washington. We made early cathode ray tubes for this work.

The cathode ray tube is the indicator on which radar signals can be displayed in a manner for precision measuring the distance in the transmitter out to the target and back to the receiver, which is right alongside the transmitter. We developed some of the early long-persistent cathode ray tubes that would allow Dr. Taylor and Dr. Page to do this early radar work for the Navy right at the Potomac River. Dumont Laboratories had developed at that time into the primary source of cathode ray tubes for the whole United States. In fact, we had markets all over the world, so when there was a need for more radar equipment the government people, largely the Navy, asked, "Will you do two things for us? Will you expand your production facilities so you can supply enough cathode ray tubes for radar and will you also teach other companies how to build them?"

I ran the research laboratories for a couple of years, stopped further research, and began to supervise the construction of the Navy production facilities for cathode ray tubes. Then we brought in other companies, such as Sylvania, National Union, RCA, and General Electric, and taught them our cathode ray manufacturing technology, in order that they might use their tube facilities converted for mass production. I was the chairman of the RMA committee on cathode ray tubes for war purposes. I also worked with people from Bell Labs who had a lot of equipment being used for this sort of thing, and at standardizing tubes and redesigning them to make them flyable in aircraft, for trace variations would crack the glass if you weren't careful. You set up the standards to be assured that an interchangeability existed between Sylvania tubes, General Electric tubes, RCA tubes, and Dumont tubes of a given type number so that they could be purchased from any of us who were still working the equipment. This led to a contract which was negotiated between Colonel Donald Lippincot representing the United States in patents and Alan B. Dumont Laboratories.

Polkinghorn:

I knew Don Lippincot.

Goldsmith:

Don Lippincot spent a lot of time with us and was later involved with color television, but that is a different story. He came representing the United States government to tell us that all the industry was giving a royalty-free license to the United States government on its patents. We were to have freedom of interchange between engineers under security control to make the most rapid progress in the development of radar and things of this sort. Lippincot said, "Now, you have a lot of know-how and patents in cathode ray tubes with the license. Would you give a royalty-free license to the government?" Alan Dumont and I told Donald Lippincot and his associates, "We can't afford to do this. Where is the return on our research over the years? Because we are not a manufacturing company, we are a research company." We were relatively small in 1941, when the war started. We had relatively few employees and the whole company was housed in an 18,000 square foot plant, the old plant at Two Main Avenue, which had been the pickle works. Lippincott said, "Well, if you do royalty-free license, you will learn a lot from others and you can make your profits on manufacturing a lot of equipment for the government." This was the pitch. To make a long story short, two companies, Dumont Laboratories and the Hazeltine Corporation, which were both primarily research oriented, were paid royalty valued in the United States government for a license under the patents which would then be freely disclosed to other companies in the United States in order to go ahead with this development and promotion of radar systems.

Dumont, Paramount and Business Difficulties

Goldsmith:

I don't want to make this report controversial. But I should mention that Paramount Pictures had come in the Dumont organization in 1937 as an investor in stock in Dumont. They invested $56,000 in Alan B. Dumont Laboratories. Prior to the investment, Dumont and I had decided that they had the know-how in the entertaining of the public with movies. We had the know-how and the technical operation of television stations. That should be a good combination. With a big backlog of motion picture films and the techniques and talent it would be a good venture. But we soon came to realize that Paramount's prime interest was to prevent the impact of television on the movie box office; instead of supporting television with the investment in Alan B. Dumont Laboratories, they wanted to see it didn't impinge on their box offices, so they opposed it. They opposed it not only by preventing us from going out for further major financing to expand the business and keep competitive with General Electric, Motorola, Zenith, RCA, and so on. But they went into competition with us by applying for television stations of their own, preventing Dumont from getting their gross of five stations, which at that time was a lot of VHF operation. We were limited to the three: New York, Washington, and Pittsburgh. Our other two had to sit in controversy with the Chicago and Los Angeles stations of Paramount, which could not expand. I don't want this report to be controversial about Dumont, but it was a factor in the history of the company. Paramount exerted negative control in a sense, having contributed$56,000 to buy stock and thus having the right to approve and disapprove further major financial expansions through Wall Street.

Polkinghorn:

This one in special arrangement?

Goldsmith:

They had the sole ownership of the class B stock, which elected the secretary and the treasurer. The class A stock was owned largely by Alan Dumont and other controlling leaders. Alan Dumont, in expanding, had to relinquish his sole control of the company and became a publicly owned corporation. There were two things that happened: the negative control rule by the FCC said that between Paramount and Dumont, the combination could not have more than five stations. Paramount went out and developed television interests of their own on closed-circuit television. They went out and operated these two stations of their own: they even took on work with Ernest Lawrence which was later partly done at our laboratories. Had they invested in the Dumont Laboratories to support it, their cash investment would have grown. They instead limited us in our freedom with the FCC and prevented us from borrowing \$100 million to keep competitive with the big manufacturers of television.

The upshot was that in about 1957 Alan Dumont saw our cash resources and our business profits limited. You've either got to keep growing with new products expanding or you automatically drop back. You can't just stay status quo on figures: a thousand sets a year would become non-competitive when other companies would move to a million sets a year. So, he said, "We've got to go out of television receivers." Dumont sold the television receiver line to the Emerson Company in 1957, to Ben Abrams. The Emerson Company has changed hands itself since then. In marketing, television receivers in certain parts of the country were called Dumont Television receivers. So that's what happened to the television receiver business. Dumont Laboratories had developed color television tubes in the early days but never did go into great quantity production of color tubes. There were probably about 200 television broadcast stations around the world, most of them in the United States. They had transmitters in studio equipment made by Alan Dumont Laboratories broadcast equipment division. At the time of the merger, Fairchild counted and said, "We do not want any part of this." So, we just about phased that out. By 1960, the saturation of television broadcast station construction had taken place where most of the major cities already had their quota of VHF television stations.

Dumont Laboratories developed and sold some of the first UHF stations in the world, but that was done with the Itel color tubes from California. We built them at the five kilowatt, ten kilowatt level. Willie Sayer, who I mentioned a short time ago, is out there working with the Itel people now on it, and on linear accelerators and other industrial ways of inditro, gluing the laminations of plywood together and so forth. Transmitter and studio equipment theories receded at Dumont Laboratories partly because of financial limitations and partly because of the saturation of the market. Presently RCA has a large part of that continuing market. So does General Electric and even more recently the Philips Company, particularly in studio equipment. Transmitters are RCA and the General Electric Company. If I go to the North American Philips Company today, here in Montvale, I walk into that place and probably 30% of the principal people up there ask, "Where did you work?" and I say, "Dumont." It was a training ground for these successful other companies, and the same with the broadcasting business. We trained a lot of the people who had gone on to broadcasting in other areas of the country. Broadcasting equipment was very active in one of your Bell Telephone Laboratories plants. It's the same with the Western Electric plants. Do you remember the one here in Clifton, where they used to make crystals? It was a big silk plant.

Polkinghorn:

I can barely remember that, yes.

Influence of Dumont on Other Companies

Goldsmith:

Before World War II, it was a silk mill. It became a crystal manufacturing plant to the Bell Laboratories and the Western Electric Company. We bought it at the end of the war and moved our broadcast equipment, our camera manufactory, and a lot of military sonar equipment into that building. But that government equipment gradually declined because of the financial limitations. Oscillograph operations were at one time the crucial area of scientific testing equipment. One has to be funded, so that went down hill. Yet there is the Dumont facilities oscillograph available now on the market. This particular branch of Dumont Laboratories was taken over by Fairchild. Fairchild was the successful corporate man, and at the Dumont division I stayed with him another six years as director of research of the Dumont divisions in New Jersey. We worked back and forth on many projects. The oscillograph business was then bought from Fairchild by John Carter from Montclair, New Jersey. He had been vice president of the Corning Glass Works, and he later became president of the Fairchild Camera Management Corporation. So John Carter left the Fairchild Company and took with him the rights to the Dumont oscillograph and some of the skilled people from Dumont who knew the instrument well. He now operates out in Caldwell, New Jersey and I understand that he is doing very well making a line of cathode ray oscillographs following the Dumont oscillograph.

Polkinghorn:

I didn't know that.

Goldsmith:

Right out in the backyard. Let me see if there are some other phases of the Dumont Laboratories that have been spun off. If the tube division has been sold to someone else, there is really not much left in the Fairchild Camera Management Corporation of the old Dumont operations. It has all been dispersed in different directions. Speaking again of the oscillograph for a few minutes: out in Stanford University Bill Hewlett and David Packard started a company called Hewlett-Packard. They picked one of the chief engineers from the Bell Telephone Laboratories and made him their Director of Research. They have done a tremendous job and have way outrun the scope of activities in the oscillographs. In recent years they have surpassed what Dumont Laboratories did during World War II in that program. We built the scopes for the industry as a whole during World War II.