Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Digital Computing for Kids of All Ages, January 28

On, Off, AND, OR, NOT: That’s what computers are made of, according to Joyce Weisbecker. And she should know, both as a retired computer scientistand electronics engineer for Lockheed Martin and as the daughter of Joe Weisbecker, the inventor of RCA’s first personal computer in 1972. On Saturday, January 28, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Ms. Weisbecker will explain the theory and practice of digital computing to children of all ages during the David Sarnoff Library’s openhouse and radio repair clinic.

“Personally, I like math,” she says, “but I know many people who don’t. If you can count to one, however, you know enough math for this talk. And if you can follow the logic of switching between AND, OR, and NOT, you can start building your own computer.” Co-sponsored by the New Jersey Antique Radio Club (NJARC), the open house will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Sarnoff Corporation’s auditorium and at the David Sarnoff Library, 201 Washington Road, Princeton, NJ.

The open house also features many other activities. The NJARC’s members don’t repair old computers—yet—but if you want your family heirloom radio repaired,the Radio Club offers a free clinic. Call (609) 734-2636 or email info@davidsarnoff.org with the brand and model number to make an appointment on the hour forone-on-one attention. Many vacuum-tube radios can be fixed in less than 60 minutes, and the Club’s experts will do it for free.

One hundred years ago, fifteen-year-old David Sarnoff began working as an office boy for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. That same year,1906, Lee De Forest invented the vacuum-tube amplifier. The rest of the electronic century is history, and the Library’s executive director, Dr. Alex Magoun, will give a talk on David Sarnoff and the Innovative Spirit at 1 p.m. "David Sarnoff personifies the possibilities of the American Dream, from Hester Street to high technology," says Dr. Magoun. "There are few more inspiring stories than that of an immigrant who takes advantage of our freedoms of opportunity and expression toimprove himself and lead others in the creation of new technologies and industries that add to those freedoms."

And if you haven’t heard how good a theremin can sound in the hands of a master, come hear and see Kip Rosser play and explain the first electronic musical instrument in the Library’s museum. “Everyone says the theremin is incredibly difficult to play,” says Rosser. “Well, so’s the violin. If you have an ear and youpractice, you will improve.” Mr. Rosser plays a variety of jazz and pop from the last sixty years of the 20th century, and Dante Bucci will join him for some theremin duets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.

The Library’s exhibits offer opportunities for families to compare a century of home consumer media from Graphonolas to Aeriolas to televisions to Ipods. “Every generation has its own way of entertaining and educating itself with sight and sound,” says Dr. Magoun. “Introducing your children to these earlier formats is a greatway of connecting across generations.” The exhibits include a display on the 45-rpm record and player, the first transistor radio and television, a working 1948 television with camera, and a 1981 RCA VideoDisc player connected to a rare working model of RCA’s first color set, built in 1954. Remotes are not included.

The programs and museum are free admission although a suggested donation of five dollars per person is welcome.

The David Sarnoff Library is located at 201 Washington Road, east of Route 1, or at the end of Fisher Place off Route 1, just north of the Washington Road trafficcircle. For more information call 609-734-2636, or check the website at www.davidsarnoff.org/directions.htm. This event is made possible in part by an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State; and the Friends of the David Sarnoff Library.

Looking Back at Fall Events III: NJ Historical Commission Honors Magoun

On Saturday, November 19, 2005, the New Jersey Historical Commission held its 28th annual awards ceremony in conjunction with its history conference at the Trenton War Memorial. Among the ten honorees on this occasion was Dr. Alexander B. Magoun, executive director of the David Sarnoff Library. One of four individual honorees, Alex received his Award of Recognition before 150 members of New Jersey's historical community, including Library board member Dr. Robert Bartolini.

The Commission's citation read as follows:

"Alexander Magoun, Princeton, is recognized for his sterling efforts to establish the library as a professionally run archive that documents innovation in science and engineering. It contains the largest collection of RCA materials in the state, documenting David Sarnoff's career and RCA's work in television, electron microscopy, transistors, computers, and video cameras. Mr. Magoun has rehoused this large collection in archivally appropriate containers and developed an array of services that draw on the rich materials within. These include response by email or phone to research inquiries, hosting researchers on subjects related to technology, the establishment of a popular website, the formation of partnerships with other organizations, public events and presentations--such as Hands-On Radio History and the Color Television Golden Anniversary Event, and tours for students and adults. Alexander Magoun holds a B.A. in history from Trinity College in Hartford, an M.A. from the University of East Anglia, and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland."

Alex in action, speaking on a favorite topic before 250 New Jerseyans at the Archives and History Day event at Monmouth County Library on October 15, 2005.

Alex with some of the members of the board of the Library after their meeting 0n November 28, 2005. From left to right: Dr. Robert Bartolini, Dr. Paul Israel, Arthur Sarnoff, Jeffrey Sarnoff, Rosita Sarnoff, Jinny Baeckler, and Alexander Magoun.

Looking Back at Fall Events II: Great Inventions

Attracted by the stories of Thomas Edison and RCA Labs as the founders of Route 1's high-tech corridor, over 100 people appeared Saturday, November 12, 2005, for an IEEE family affair on The Great Inventions in Central New Jersey at Sarnoff Corporation's auditorium and the adjoining David Sarnoff Library. They watched, listened, and asked questions as Jack Stanley, director of the Edison Museum at Menlo Park, described and demonstrated some of Thomas Edison's inventions; Dr. David Hochfelder toured the IEEE History Center's online museum and the wonderful store of documents online at the Edison Papers website; and Dr. Alex Magoun, executive director of the David Sarnoff Library, gave an illustrated lecture on "The RCA Origins of Everyday Things."

The Library thanks the Princeton-Central Jersey section of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE). and in particular its chair, Iwan Santoso, for organizing the event--and providing the 30 pizzas for lunch!

Jack Stanley talks about Edison's aptitude for research as a boy.

Dr. David Hochfelder explains what a student can find in Thomas Edison's papers.

Looking Back at Fall Events I: War of the Worlds

Over 160 people of all ages turned out for the David Sarnoff Library's theatrical broadcasts of Howard Koch's and Orson Welles's War of the Worlds on October 29, 2005. Staged by the New Jersey Antique Radio Club and the Hunterdon Radio Theatre in Sarnoff Corporation's auditorium, the crowds at the two shows enjoyed the blend of art and science based on H. G. Wells's novella. Our thanks to Sarnoff Corporation, for providing the facilities; the Howard Koch Estate, for permission to use the original script; the NJARC and especially its members (Marv Beeferman, Joe Bentrovato, Sal Brisindi, Ray Chase, Joe Cro, Darren Hoffman, Harry Klancer, Al Klase, Dave Snellman, and Phil Vourtsis) for loaning, setting up, and operating the radio "station" and 16 receivers; the Hunterdon Radio Theatre and its cast of 20 for staging and performing the play; KMA Events, for marketing, graphic coordination, and decoration; suite6designs, for poster design; Robert Hummel, for the Lobby signage; Grover's Mill Coffee, for providing hot drinks at the Meet the Artists reception; Kip Rosser, for his period theremin music; the Board of Directors of the David Sarnoff Collection, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, and Panasonic Technologies for underwriting support; and the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

Photos below:

Thursday night, October 27: Sarnoff Corporation auditorium as the NJARC begins setting up.

Al Klase and Dave Snellman build the radio station.

Al Klase tests
the period mics.

Phil Vourtsis tunes
the receivers.

Darren Hoffman cues
an acetate recording disk.

The cast and crowd await the director.

And the show begins. . .