Western Television Visionette and Short Wave Receiver

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Visionette and Short Wave Receiver (1929 - 1930)

This mechanical television receiver is the first commercial scanning disk TV. It was introduced in 1929. About 250 to 300 sets were made.

The Visionette contains no electronics. A plug at the rear of the scanner set connects it to a short wave radio (picture) receiver.


The previous collector bought this in the mid-1990s --.it was one of a pair of Western Television Visionettes and one Standard (Western) short wave receivers found in an attic in Piedmont, Oklahoma. The original owner of this Visionette was a ham radio operator who used the set to communicate with his brother in Norman, Oklahoma.

Note: The other Visionette in the pair was in poorer condition, with missing handles on the wheel dial and a somewhat warped scanning disk (reportedly from kids playing with it as a frisbee).

Below is the metal serial number tag inside the set - #00334.

Size: Scanning disk is about 18” x 20” x 9.” Receiver is 14" x 10" x 9".

Price: About $88 for a Visionette kit (which did not include the cabinet or Kino lamp). The factory cabinet cost $20 extra. I don’t know how much extra the lamp cost. FYI, a Raytheon Kino lamp sold on ebay in July 2014 for $688.

Viewing Lens: The Visionette produces a 1-1/2" image that is enlarged to about 3” on the round magnifying lens.

Scanning Disk: The Visionette uses a 17” aperture disk that makes 900 revolutions per minute. It produces a 45-line image with triple interface. Interlacing helps to eliminate some of television's annoying flicker.

Lamp: Uses a special neon tube called a Kino lamp that operates on the output stage of the connected short wave receiver. Modulated light from the neon lamp passes through the apertures of the rotating scanning disk and is viewed through the magnifying lens.

How it Works: The Visionette is an image scanning device only. A separate short wave radio is required to receive the picture signal and a broadcast radio receiver is needed to receive audio.

The navigator wheel on the front of the Visionette is used either as the starting crank to get the scanning disk motor started and/or synchronize the scanning disk with the short wave receiver picture signal (I'm not sure).

Custom Cabinets: Internet forums discuss and show photos of two custom Visionette cabinets likely built by the same person (or company). The cabinets resemble attractive 1930 console radios. One custom cabinet combines the Visionette with a short wave receiver; the other custom cabinet combines the Visionette with both a short wave receiver and a broadcast radio receiver.

<Try to add photos with permission from current owners>

Homemade Cabinets: One or two surviving Visionette sets have homemade cabinets. These cabinets typically resemble the factory-built cabinets except the dimensions vary slightly and some cabinet detail may be absent.

<Try to add photos with permission from current owners>

Felix the Cat: It is said (at least on the Internet) that the first image to be transmitted by television was of Felix the Cat.

Modern Technology: LED arrays and television receiving converters are available that allow the Visionette to produce images – bypassing the need for the neon Kino lamp, short wave receiver, and broadcast radio receiver.

Below is a photo of the signal converter, 12VDC 1A power source, LED array, reference transformer, compact DVD player, and even a DVD of early Felix the Cat animations that I bought for my Visionette.



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