Western Television Model 41 Mechanical TV (1932)

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1932 Western Television (Echophone) TV

Western Television acquired the Echophone radio company in the late 1920s and began manufacturing mechanical televisions.

The photo below shows the chassis, scanning, disc, and crater lamp in this set.

The Model 41 was introduced in 1932. It was an improved version of the 1929 Visionette mechanical television, as follows:

  • The Model 41 featured a new 8-inch diameter, 45 hole lens scanning disk and a new type of hot cathode crater lamp developed by Lloyd P. Garner (the Visionette used a 17” scanning disc).

  • The Model 41 created a 4-1/2 inch picture (compared to the 3-inch “lens enlarged” picture of the Visionette).

  • The Model 41 had a built-in shortwave radio for picture reception.

The photos below show the cathode crater lamp and lenses in the Model 41 scanning disc.

Both the Model 41 and Visionette displayed an orange-red picture from the neon-kine tube.

Interlacing: The scanning rate was only 15 pictures per second. By comparison, today's TV sets scan at 30 or more frames per second. However, the unique scanning disc interlaced each picture frame three times. Despite the low scanning rate, the disc eliminated much of the flicker between frames.

Audio Signal: Although the Model 41 had no receiver for sound, it had an 8-tube superheterodyne receiver for the picture.. Audio is received using any regular AM radio (not connected to the picture receiver).

Advertisements suggest the Echophone Model 14 or Model 16 radios as desirable companions to the Model 41 television receiver. A Model 16 cathedral radio is shown below on the left (three Echophone tombstone models, which I kind of prefer, are also shown). Note: The Model 16 radio chassis is similar to the chassis in the Model 41 picture receiver.

Controls and Operation: The set has three control knobs: on/off/contrast, station tuning for picture, and picture framing/sensitivity.

To operate the Model 41, one did the following:

  • Turn on the television receiver and adjust contrast to the maximum setting.
  • Tune to the desired television broadcast station (for picture reception).
  • Adjust the picture framing/sensitivity control until a clear image appears on the special ground glass screen. (The objective is to get the picture receiver motor sycynronized with the transmitting receiver.)
  • Reduce the contrast as needed for optimal clarity and smoothness of the picture.
  • Tune any separate AM radio to the same television broadcast station (for sound).

Restoration: The Model 41 in my collection has a complete but unrestored chassis. The cabinet was carefully refinished by a previous collector/owner. A picture of the cabinet before refinishing is shown below.

Demise of Mechanical Televisions: The Depression (and perhaps evolving television technology) made early mechanical televisions luxury items – beyond the financial means of the general public.

Additionally, getting a mechanical television receiver into sync and holding it in sync for more than a few minutes proved to be a challenge. Although the image on a mechanical receiver is better than people expect, there is no comparison to even the 1931 RCA electronic set.

Mechanical television lingered in the public space for a while in the 1930s due to manufacturers like Baird, Jenkins, and Sanabria. However, there was no way mechanical technology of the time could compete with electronic television technology being developed by RCA and others.

Questions: As a “newbie” to mechanical TVs, I am curious about the following:

  • Were these sets advertised and sold to the public in radio/electronic magazines, at department stores, or in a Sears catalog?
  • Were there other technologies used in mechanical TVs other than scanning discs?
  • Were upcoming program broadcasts listed in the local newspaper?
  • How many mechanical TVs would the Western Television company produce at its facility in a week, month, or year (and why are there so few surviving sets)?

In the Movies: Early (mechanical) television sets appear in a couple of 1930s movies.

International House (1931) shows a Radioscope being demonstrated by inventor Dr. Wong (trying to tune in the six-day bicycle race and gettng Cab Callowy instead).

And, below are two photos of transmitting and receiving television equipment shown in Murder By Television (1935). According to IMDB, the equipment in the film was borrowed from Los Angeles television researchers.


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