Saturday, December 15, 2007

Electromusic Chamber Orchestra Thrills Crowd

Suffering from Bach fatigue and intrigued by electronic multimedia made flesh, neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night intimidated nearly 50 people from attending the David Sarnoff Library's concert this evening. And what a concert it was, alternately soothing and stimulating electronic music and images synchronized on Sarnoff Corporation's stage in two fascinating sets. Brain Statik and Xeroid Entity opened while Hong Waltzer mixed a DVD and some software to project a shifting montage of imagery, patterns, and colors through an LCD projector, and Brain Statik's Ken Palmer provided arrays of fixed and fluid lighting on-stage. There was a little bit of everything--after all, you can do a lot with guitar, saxophone, drum, and piano synthesizers. When we have photos or links to the music, we'll post them, but take it on good authority that they were worthy heirs to the legacy of RCA's Harry Olson and the Mark I Music Synthesizer built at the RCA Labs in the early 1950s.

After an intermission where the audience adjourned to Grover's Mill Coffee and McCaffrey's cookies as well as the Library's museum, the chamber players also known as the Martian Radio Orchestra--Howard Moscovitz, thereminist Kip Rosser, and Greg Waltzer--joined Brain Statik, Xeroid Entity, and Hong Waltzer onstage for another fascinating set of improvisations that gained sustained applause and enthusiastic endorsements by the happy crowd. Once again, the Library provided a space where people from a wide array of backgrounds and interests could bridge C. P. Snow's two cultures of art and science, and learn something about both as well as their combination.

Will they be back? You bet; save Saturday night, March 15, for our spring equinox show! If that's too far away, make plans to visit during our open house and NJARC radio repair clinic on Saturday, January 19. Details will follow, but Brain Statik will be back, and Kip Rosser is a good bet to play the theremin. For now, let's thank them all for coming out, along with Library volunteers Sharon Chapman and Vrinda Kaimal for running the ticket booth and gift shop, and Dr. Rebecca Mercuri of the Princeton ACM/IEEE-CS group for making it all happen!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Kaimal Completes Broadcast Manual Index

It was a dull job, but someone had to do it, and that someone was Vrinda Kaimal. Like other volunteers she started with one day a week, and then as the pages turned and she kept typing into a spreadsheet the dot-matrixed printed entries from the RCA Broadcast Manuals Index (1930-1984), something magical happened. She began coming in two days, and then three, caught up in the lines of print, patiently tapping away at MI and IB numbers, and esoteric entries like this:


where 31535 equals the IB (Instruction Book) number, B1 the file cabinet and drawer that no longer exist, ES-561485/6/7 the MI (Master Index) number, and BTG-5AL/10AL/20AL/20AR the model numbers for a device related to Broadcast Transmitters.

Wouldn't that make your eyeballs glaze over before they fell on to the keyboard? Not Vrinda's. After all, this 20-year-old binder and its 61 pages of single-spaced entries represent the only control to the 25 file cabinets of manuals donated to the Library through the good offices of Stu Cooke. While the flood last spring dissolved all the marked archival boxes holding the manuals, this spreadsheet will enable us to inventory what's in the freeze-dried boxes. Then we can try to fill in for the water-ruined copies with the duplicates sorted by Phil Vourtsis in his quiet times in the basement in 2006:

So hats to Vrinda and to Phil for their part in the unending labors of establishing intellectual control over the ever-growing holdings of our archives!

Monday, December 03, 2007

David Sarnoff, Vladimir Zworykin, and The Farnsworth Invention

Tonight, Aaron Sorkin's play finally hit the Broadway stage, and we expect the reviews will be as glowing as the buzz from the many people who saw the previews. Hank Azaria won over even those adamantly opposed to the scripted depiction of David Sarnoff through impeccable preparation and his ability to capture and play off of Sarnoff's vision of a better world united by electronic communications systems.

That said, it is well worth noting, as Paul Schatzkin has written at length in trying to redeem Phil Farnsworth's role in the invention of television, that Sorkin's play is a fiction. He writes in the broadest parody of history. He names characters after historical figures, places them in relationships vaguely relevant to their known character and behaviors, and abandons technical, legal, or commercial details for a fast-paced and engaging story in which no one comes off an innocent or a criminal.

Still, the audience leaves thinking that Vladimir Zworykin, director of electronics research at RCA from 1930-54, stole a patented idea from Farnsworth in order to make his television camera work during a visit to the younger man's San Francisco laboratory in April 1930. Is this true? No. What did Zworykin, and his patron Sarnoff, do that has resulted in them getting such bad press for the last 20 years?

They did what Thomas Edison did with electric light: take an invented, impractical technology and--with a great deal of support from engineers, scientists, technicians, marketers, investors, and customers--turn it into a commercial system that we and the rest of the world have used ever since. Alexander Magoun has written the best synthesis of the how television was innovated in the 1920s and 1930s in the relevant sections of Television: The Life Story of a Teachnology (2007). Based on available scholarship, you can ask for it at your library, borrow it through inter-library loan, or read the briefer history of relevant events below.

Patented and published proposals for television had existed since the 1880s, and an electronic solution, using no moving parts, since Alan Archibald Campbell Swinton posed the concept in 1908. Zworykin began work on electronic TV with his Russian supervisor Boris Rosing soon after, before World War I and the Russian Revolution interrupted his studies. In 1921, after Swinton elaborated on the challenge of making a camera that converted photons of light from an object into a succession of electronic images, Zworykin wrote a fellow émigré, Joseph Tykociner, about his ideas for a TV camera.

He convinced his boss at Westinghouse to invest in the project in 1923, when Zworykin applied for his first TV patent. Zworykin's initial "iconoscope," built and demonstrated in the corporate lab in East Pittsburgh, worked but poorly during a demonstration in 1925 to executives. During the process he and other inventors filed new patents on electronic imagers; Zworykin's 1925 application explained the concept of insulating the imager "pixels" for storage. To get an acceptable picture, the camera needs to store the light from an image, as electrons, between scans, to increase the dynamic range of the image's brightness. After he moved to RCA in April 1930, Zworykin spent three years recruiting skilled engineers, scientists, and technicians to overcome the bottleneck to practical, commercial, electronic TV: a camera that stored light electronically rather than requiring immense amounts of light to operate in a studio or outdoors.

Phil Farnsworth, as he preferred to be called, was the first to publicly demonstrate an electronic TV system, in 1928; unlike Westinghouse he needed the media attention to attract investors. He also won priority on a basic patent that he could not reduce to commercial practice for physical reasons that remain true today. The failed struggle against the laws of physics represents a pattern in all three of the inventions that his fans promote, and it's indicative of the real tragedy of Farnsworth's genius. What might he have done with university training, the mentorship or guidance that might have led in legitimately memorable directions?

We'll never know. The image dissector, the camera imager in which he received priority on the concept of an electrical image, had no storage capacity for the photo-electrons landing on its imager between scans. That is, it converted into electrons only the photons emitted from an object at the moment of scanning, which occurred 30 times a second. Since those 30 moments represent an infinitesimal fraction of a second, very little light information is captured for transmission. As a result the image dissector requires extremely high light levels, from bright sunlight or carbon arc lamps (used in movie projectors), to give a good picture. It was used only briefly in broadcasting movies and in certain industrial environments. For live action its primary advantage over the electromechanical systems that John Logie Baird and Charles Jenkins pioneered in the mid-1920s was the prospect of a larger if equally dim picture.

Zworykin was one of a series of corporate visitors to Farnsworth's lab, for the latter's backers were increasingly desperate as the Depression deepened to retrieve some of their investment. He spent three days in friendly and diplomatic engagement with the younger inventor and his amateur staff, and sent instructions on how to make a better image dissector back east for use until his team could reduce the iconoscope to practice. Shortly after returning himself, Zworykin filed another patent application specifying the storage principle in his imager.

How good was the image dissector? Consider these photos from Donald Godfrey's solid if flawed biography, Philo T. Farnsworth: The Inventor of Television (2001). In the first, showing a photo and a screenshot around 1929, Pem Farnsworth closes her eyes against the light needed to capture her image, possibly outdoors. In the second, Farnsworth stages some football dummies on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway during his 1934 demonstrations. It appears to be overcast, so note the two stage lights set up to illuminate the target for the camera.

The fact that Farnsworth had a valid and well-written patent on the next big thing, however, forced Sarnoff and RCA to look further into his work. In the spring of 1931, Sarnoff visited the lab during a trip to California on sound-on-film business. As luck would have it, Farnsworth was closing a research deal with RCA's leading radio set rival, Philco, in Philadelphia because his San Francisco investors had abandoned him. In his absence, Sarnoff offered $100,000 for his patents as an opening bid in what should have been a negotiated settlement. But Farnsworth relayed a flat rejection to bring his family to north Philadelphia, where his boss Albert Murray was an ex-RCA manager who had previously given the image dissector a negative evaluation.

Late in 1932, one of Zworykin's team, Sanford Essig, overbaked an image plate and realized serendipitously that the mosaicked pattern of silver globules gave the world's researchers (besides Farnsworth) what they were looking for: a technique for insulating the image sensor's "pixels." Six months later, Zworykin began publishing the article on the iconoscope in five countries; within two years it had become the standard camera imager and with further improvements the U.S. and German militaries used it successfully in TV-guided missiles during World War II as well as in studio and outdoor cameras.

How good was the iconoscope? Here are two photos of Zworykin in the Camden lab and on-screen from around 1932-33, from the Leslie Flory Collection at the David Sarnoff Library, in an early internal demonstration of its sensitivity.

Meanwhile, Farnsworth attempted to work around the lack of storage and prior work by adding an electron multiplier to the image dissector. To avoid others' patents and disclosures, his "multipactor" differed from the multipliers developed by German researchers and improved by Zworykin and his team. Theirs kicked off additional electrons from a pinwheel or cascade design that triggered more electrons in proportion to those generated by the initial signal. The sequence could be repeated as desired to amplify the signal without stressing each of the successive paddles or plates. Farnsworth's multipactor simply bounced the growing number of electrons between only two plates with the result that it burned out very quickly and was never commercialized.

The problem for RCA was not in its approach to a TV camera, but in the priority of patents. Remember that patent systems are designed to assign a single inventor as a commercial incentive to invention. Patent conflicts obscure the fact that multiple people operating within the same domain of knowledge--like previous patents, publications, and usually educational programs--conceive regularly and independently similar solutions to problems. Thus Farnsworth and Max Dieckmann in Germany conceived of the dead end of the image dissector; Zworykin and at least four other inventors thought of ways to store electronic images for television.

Farnsworth's patent involving the concept of an electrical image in a TV camera issued in 1930 after Zworykin's visit. Two years later the Patent Office put it in "interference" with Zworykin's 1923 application. Naturally RCA defended its claims, and the court battle took four years to settle. Farnsworth won, largely on the basis of his public demonstration, and it remains unknown why Westinghouse wasn't more helpful in documenting Zworykin's work, which is now preserved on microfilm at the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. RCA had to license Farnsworth's patent and did so in 1939. Farnsworth and his company needed RCA's support since it had Zworykin's camera and the market power to innovate the commercial system. As a result, Farnsworth joined the enemy; he became part of the patent pool, exchanging his set of inventions for a million dollars and access to some 3,000 RCA patents.

The money offset ten years of Farnsworth's expenses while representing ten percent of RCA's investment in creating, testing, and making a complete system. Between 1939 and 1941, the two rivals became allies. Farnsworth recovered from one of his alcoholic periods to file for several more patents. Led by Sarnoff, RCA and Farnsworth's new company fought the rest of the radio and broadcast industries--Philco, Zenith, CBS, DuMont, etc.--and the Federal Communications Commission for approval of a commercial television standard. Sarnoff described Farnsworth in 1940 to a congressional committee as the man who had done more for television than anyone else outside RCA. In theory a standard would allow Farnsworth to make some money on the cameras using Zworykin's iconoscope, although the royalties on, say, the first five years of camera sales were hardly likely to cover current expenses.

The FCC's delay, consumer resistance to the available programming, and World War II all meant that commercial innovation would have to wait. Farnsworth's basic patents expired in 1947, when RCA was still two years from netting the first profits on its $50 million investment. Meanwhile ITT bought Farnsworth's struggling company and retained him as a vice president in research, allowing him to work on what he liked while enjoying stock options and a handsome salary.

Farnsworth's third memorable invention was electrostatic containment of nuclear fusion for the home heating and power. This proved even more impractical than the first two; there is a possibility that the technique could be made to work with a hydrogen isotope found in abundance on the dark side of the moon. Whether or not Farnsworth knew that, he spent a lot of ITT's money and then all of his own savings tilting at his final windmill in the 1960s. That, not RCA's patent strategy or the FCC's caution in setting a television standard, is why his family had nothing to show financially for a brilliant but mentor-less career.

RCA's staff moved beyond Zworykin's inventions to create better TV cameras during and after World War II. The image orthicon and the vidicon drew on Farnsworth's patent for low-velocity electron-beam scanning, along with numerous other RCA-invented techniques, materials, and components, to become the namesake for the Emmy award and video imagers used throughout the world and space into the 1980s. These tubes also used the storage principle, electron multipliers, and thin-film techniques for the image target that also helped Paul Weimer go on to make the first thin-film transistors (TFTs).

In sum, go to The Farnsworth Invention for the snappy dialog, the great acting, the comedy within the wrong tragedy. Respect the inventor Farnsworth for demonstrating an electronic TV signal at the age of 21, and pity him for the lost opportunities educationally and professionally, had he chosen to work in RCA's labs in the 1930s instead of ITT's in the 1950s. Admire the scientist, Zworykin, for recognizing his own limitations and assembling the team of technologists necessary to make television work as a system. And remain in awe of Sarnoff, the innovator, in whose absence from the historical record one wonders who would have led the free-market United States into the video age.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Special Event -- Electro-Music Concert on December 15th!


The Electro-Music Chamber Orchestra Comes to Princeton

December 15, 2007 Sarnoff Corporation Auditorium

              7:30 PM 201 Washington Rd
              Princeton NJ 08540-6449

Admission $10 per person at the door

For information: 609-734-2636

It’s the time of year when the streets and houses glow and twinkle with festive lights. Everything’s wired and bright, including the Electro-Music Chamber Orchestra, the sonic ensemble that’s more plugged in than a city block.

The Electro-Music Chamber Orchestra brings its arsenal of synthesizers, keyboards, and bizarre machinery to the David Sarnoff Library Auditorium On Saturday, December 15th for an evening of truly electrifying and sonorous musical mischief. Doors open at 7:00 PM for this rare event, with refreshments on hand provided by Grovers Mill Coffee and McCaffrey's bakery, thanks in part to the support of the Princeton ACM/IEEE-CS under the initiative of Dr. Rebecca Mercuri. Admission is $10.00 for the general public; online advance purchases can be made via Paypal at For more information, please call 609-734-2636.

On the roster for the orchestra’s evolving membership are Howard Moscovitz, Greg Waltzer, and Bill Fox. As a trio in their own right, they’re known as Xeroid Entity, creators of rhythmic and ambient otherworldly soundscapes.

Joining them will be special guests Brainstatik, featuring Robert Burger, Ken Palmer, Mike Hunter, Jim Silvestri and Glenn Robitaille. Combining ambient, world, progressive rock, and space music, Brainstatik takes audiences on uncharted improvisational journeys,shifting and mixing genres within each piece.

Any self-respecting electronic chamber orchestra would be incomplete without the granddaddy of all electronic instruments: the theremin, the only instrument that’s played without being touched. Thereminist Kip Rosser will be on hand to weave the theremin’s haunting and beautiful voices into the mix.

Taking the stage first will be Brainstatik, each member a certified electronic gear junkie. Guitars can sound like drums, keyboards can imitate guitars and drums can play keyboards. The resulting performance often sounds rehearsed and composed, but in reality it happens in the moment. Brainstatik thrives on taking its music to the edge every time they perform.

During the second set of the evening, Moscovitz, Waltzer, Fox, and Rosser will complete the ensemble. The full Electro-Music Chamber Orchestra will perform a collaborative exploration of the vast territories of harmony, rhythm, melody and silence. Think Vangelis meets sci-fi with a dash of Brian Eno.

The evening will be set against the stunning visual backdrops of video artist Hong Waltzer, who will bridge sight and sound by creating her fluid and colorful “living paintings” that respond to the music in real time. Expand your ears, eyes, mind, and your definition of music–get really wired on the sight and sounds of the Electro-Music Chamber Orchestra.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cognitive Radio Networks at Sarnoff!

What happens when you crossbreed computers and radios? Professor Narayan B. Mandayam of Rutgers University will explain in a free lecture at Sarnoff Corporation's auditorium next to the David Sarnoff Library Thursday, December 6, at 6:30 p.m. If you thought satellite radio was the last word in audio or video delivery, think again! Sponsored by the IEEE Princeton Section's Communications and Consumer Electronics Chapter, Dr. Mandayam's talk covers not only the technical requirements for software-defined radio networking but also considers the implications for broadcast and spectrum regulation and the future of the wireless internet. Here's his abstract, with his bio further below:

Recent advances in programmable integrated circuits have created an opportunity to develop a new class of intelligent or “cognitive” radios which can adapt to a wide variety of radio interference conditions and multiple protocol standards for collaboration between otherwise incompatible systems. Such a cognitive radio would be capable of very dynamic physical layer adaptation via scanning of available spectrum, selection from a wide range of operating frequencies (possibly non-contiguous), rapid adjustment of modulation waveforms and adaptive power control. In addition, a suitably designed cognitive radio with a software-defined physical layer would be capable of collaborating with neighboring radios to ameliorate interference using higher-layer protocols. Perhaps for the first time in the short history of networking, cognitive radios offer the potential for organic formation of “infrastructure-less” collaborative network clusters with dynamic adaptation at every layer of the protocol stack including physical, link and network layers.

While the development of cognitive radio hardware and software, especially at the physical layer, has received considerable attention, the question of how one transforms a set of cognitive radios into a cognitive network is much less well understood. This talk will present an overview of cognitive radio network research from the points of view of information and coding theory, game theory, collaborative and cooperative communications. The implications of such cognitive radio networks to spectrum policy as well as the design of the future internet will also be highlighted.

Narayan B. Mandayam is Professor at Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering,Rutgers University. He also serves as Associate Director at WINLAB. His research interests are in various aspects of wireless data transmission ncluding system modeling and performance, signal processing and radio resource management with emphasis on techniques for cognitive radio technologies. Dr. Mandayam is a recipient of the Institute Silver Medal from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur in 1989 and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 1998. He was selected by the National Academy of Engineering in 1999 for the Annual Symposium on Frontiers of Engineering. He is a coauthor with C. Comaniciu and H. V. Poor of the book "Wireless Networks: Multiuser Detection in Cross-Layer Design," Springer, NY. He has served as an EditorWireless Communications (2002-2004) and as a guest editor of the IEEE JSAC Special Issue on Adaptive, Spectrum Agile and Cognitive Radio Networks. He is currently serving as a guest editor of the upcoming IEEE JSAC Special Issue on Game Theory in Communication Systems.

Library Gains Public Charity Status from IRS

It took five years to prove it, but the David Sarnoff Collection, Inc., which does business as the David Sarnoff Library, has been redefined as a public charity rather than a private foundation. This essentially means that we rely on contributions and grants to support our mission, instead of fulfilling our mission by making contributions and grants, The Internal Revenue Service backdated this status to January 1, 2002, based on our activities and sources of funding in that time. The most important consequences of this redefinition are that contributions, bequests, legacies, transfers, and gifts are all deductible for Federal purposes according to Sections 170, 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, the Library is now eligible for matching gifts from corporate and other foundations.

We'd like to thank our accountant, Kenneth Ditmars, CPA, of Ditmars Perazza, and the good and friendly people of the IRS in Cincinnati and Dallas for their help in guiding us through this process!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Executive Director named to IEEE History Committee

Our executive director, Alex Magoun, has just received word from IEEE president Leah Jamieson, that at its November meeting, the IEEE Board of Directors confirmed his appointment as a member of the 2008 IEEE History Committee. The term is for the calendar year 2008. The committee promotes the collection, writing, and dissemination of historical information in the fields covered by IEEE technical and professional activities, as well as historical information about the IEEE and its predecessor organizations. It also works with institutions of a public nature such as the Smithsonian Institution and with the Trustees of the IEEE History Center in recommending historical projects to be carried out by or under the direction of the Center.

The IEEE is the world's largest professional engineering organization, with over 370,000 members around the world involved in electrical and electronic technologies. David Sarnoff was one of the charter members of the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1912, and this pioneering group eventually merged with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1961. Its operations center is located in Piscataway, New Jersey, and the IEEE History Center is located just down the road on Rutgers University's campus in New Brunswick.

Having assisted in the nomination process and ceremony arrangements for two IEEE Milestones conferred on the site of the RCA Laboratories, Alex is well familiar with the work of the History Committee and History Center. "I'm honored that the committee and the IEEE's executive board offered me this opportunity to help the IEEE promote its rich heritage in innovating the technologies that help shape our lives," he says. "This is another partnership that signals a rising interest in where we've come from as we head into an even more technologically complex future."

Alex also recently joined the board of the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame to help promote the remarkable record of technical creativity that runs throughout the state.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The DSL and the NJ Science Convention

Having staged our first field trip program to great acclaim, the next step is to publicize it! In mid-October, thanks to the support of board member and Plainsboro library director Jinny Baeckler, executive director Alex Magoun promoted the Library at the New Jersey Science Convention in Somerset, New Jersey. There he set up in his booth across from Arbor Scientific with the Library's new poster display and glossy color flyers to alert the state's science teachers and coordinators about the Library's activities and resources. Those who understood the power of the past to inspire the future paid attention, and the Library looks forward to following up with them!

Monday, October 29, 2007

When Art and Science Collide. . .

O, the humanity! Here at the David Sarnoff Library we were gratified to have the Hunterdon Radio Theatre and the New Jersey Antique Radio Club, aided and abetted by the Martian Radio Orchestra, revive the genius of Orson Welles, Howard Koch, and the uncounted inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs, and marketers who made the 1930s the Golden Age of Radio in the United States. On Saturday, October 27, we hosted two shows of War of the Worlds for 250 men, women, and children. Everyone pitched in on the set-up

. . . balancing the voices at the period and contemporary microphones for the best output from the 16.1 monophonic AM surround sound generated by the NJARC's radios.

Before the main event, Howard Moscovitz, Kip Rosser, and Greg Waltzer donned their outré apparel and entranced the early arrivals with two keyboards, a Moog theremin, and electronically treated voices and noises to cast a dramatic mood we won't soon forget!

The matinee found some 30 members of the Encore Monroe retirement community reliving a space-age past! The crowd didn't go wild as the HRT hit the stage, but all enjoyed the theatrics on-stage and the sensations conjured between the ears by the surround sound. What lessons might we draw from the 1938 broadcast and panic? Oh, there are the usual issues of responsibility, by both broadcasters not to transmit an electronic version of "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, and citizens to inform themselves so as not to spread unfounded rumors (or urban or internet legends). And to this balance of power we should keep in mind Melvin Kranzberg's first law of technology: that it is neither good nor bad, but nor is it neutral.

Meanwhile, Library volunteers Sharon Chapman and Vrinda Kaimal were preparing the setting for the evening dessert reception, featuring Tracey's custom cookies, courtesy McCaffrey's Supermarkets

and gourmet coffee, courtesy Grover's Mill Coffee & Tea. We'd show pix, but everyone ate and drank everything before there was time!

A splendid time was had by all, including executive producer Alex Magoun and a small green friend:

So, until Saturday, October 25, 2008, stay tuned!

(photos by Sharon Chapman and Alex Magoun)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

YouTube Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Dylan Roth, who has won our inaugural War of the Worlds YouTube video contest with his Battle of the Network Star Wars entry. Dylan will receive a YubzTalk phone handset, Which was donated by our friends at Oh No So Ho in West Windsor.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Madame Librarian!

This just in! Our super volunteer, Sharon Chapman, who has helped with everything from War of the Worlds to processing the Vladimir Zworykin and Harry Olson Collections to recruiting junior archivists to firing up this blog and our de.lic.ious account, has received official notice of Rutgers University's conferral of her master's degree in Library and Information Sciences:

MLIS October 2007
Completed: N.A.S.D.T.E.C.

We are extremely pleased to have both benefited from her degree-related projects and offered the Library as a site for her class work. Congratulations, Sharon!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

YouTube Contest - Deadline Is Midnight Tonight!

This is your last chance to get those entries submitted. The more, the merrier!

YouTube Contest Details

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Volunteers Brainstorming Session Monday, October 15th!

Remember to come to our fifth and final Volunteer Brainstorming Session of the fall on Monday, October 15th at 7:30 at the library. We will focus on the Archives, including cataloging, rehousing and storage of the collections of RCA broadcast manuals, technical reports and lab notebooks that were damaged during last April's flood. Please come for conversation and snacks, and feel free to bring a friend!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

YouTube Contest - One Week To Go!

Remember - our first YouTube War of the Worlds contest submissions must be in by midnight on Saturday, October 20th. Get those video cameras, digital cameras and cell phones going!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Come For The Show, Stay For Dessert

It's official - our good friends at McCaffrey's Supermarket in West Windsor are donating their out of this world (pun intentional) gourmet cookies to the dessert reception following the evening performance of War of the Worlds on October 27th. Anyone who attended last year's event will recall just how beautiful and delicious these cookies are :)

So order your tickets now for the evening performance and stick around after the show and stick around for cookies and coffee afterwards.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Don't Forget The YouTube Contest!

Whether you can attend our War of the Worlds re-enactment or not, remember to enter our inaugural YouTube video contest! The deadline is October 20th, so get your submissions in soon!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Future Docents Wanted!

Don't forget to come to Monday night's brainstorming session if you have any interest in being a docent or any ideas about how to make our emerging tour guide program a success!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Volunteers - Please Come To Tuesday Night's Fundraising Meeting

This week's volunteer brainstorming session will focus on Fundraising. We'll be meeting at the Library on Tuesday, October 2nd at 7:30 PM. Please come and help us start planning and budgeting for 2008 and develop ways to raise funds for all of the field trips, exhibits, and other great programs that we are in the process of developing!

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The David Sarnoff Library's First Annual YouTube Video Contest

The Martians have landed—then or now.
Cover the breaking story in three minutes or less!

The theme of aliens arriving on Earth is an old one with many variations. How do they arrive? Where do they land? What do they look, sound, feel, or smell like? How do they communicate? What do we have that they want? What do they give that we need? Are they angelic, evil, or something in-between? How do we, the people, respond? What do we observe, assume, or do? All answers are up to you, the director!

Contest details
Begins: September 24, 2007
Ends: Entries must be received by 11:59:59 EST on October 20, 2007 to be eligible for prizes.
Must be 13 years of age or older

Register and Post Video: Online at - or -Download form at and email to: - and -

Post video at: with the tag .

Winners to be announced after the evening performance of War of the Worlds at the Library on October 27, 2007.

- Yubz Talk cell phone handset, courtesy Oh No So Ho of West Windsor
- Two other cool prizes
- Great publicity for your handiwork!

Visit to enter today!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Library on WHYY

WHYY TV in Philadelphia is promoting the Library and its namesake through a three-minue Experience Arts & Culture video that currently runs between some programs and also on its website. Scroll down to the second entry and give mad props to director Andrea Campbell and cameraman Eric Sennhenn, who spent five hours interviewing our executive director, Alex Magoun, and shooting footage of exhibits and the TV ceiling!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Welcome Back Grover's Mill Coffee Company!

We are pleased to announce that the Grover's Mill Coffee Company will once again be providing coffee during the dessert reception following this year's evening performance of the War of the Worlds, which will be held on October 27th.

Come for the performance....stay for the coffee!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Brainstorming Meeting for Field Trips on Monday

Remember to come to the Library on Monday, September 24th at 7:30 PM in order to come up with ideas for our emerging field trip program. Help shape the direction of our activities as we strive to reach out to the schoolchildren of our area.

Hope to see you then!

Friday, September 21, 2007

What They Did for Their Summer Vacation

The summer of 2007 was the summer of volunteers for the Library, and most of them are local high school students. What started with one in the fall of 2006 has snowballed into twelve. They hail from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North and perform a variety of invaluable archival services, ranging from cataloging to sorting to rehousing to digitizing RCA collections of documents and periodicals.

Kunal Deopare, the pioneer, started scanning the lab notebook pages of RCA Labs staff who contributed to the invention of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in the 1960s. Swapnil Mhatre joined him a few weeks later and after scanning to PDF format several hundred 1940s and 1950s RCA Princeton engineering memos and technical reports, he started in full-time last summer on scanning the 31 volumes of RCA Engineer, 1955-86. These illustrated magazines, published four to six times a year, contain articles by technical and managerial staff on new and old technologies, from radio and TV antennas to space cameras to solid-state lasers and computers, and how they fit in the company's changing strategies for return on investment.

Over the winter of 2006-7, they were joined by Ujaas Barvalia, Adnan Khan, Kishore Ryali, Hamad Masood, and Kirin Masood, joined in the scanning and downloading of reports, and did the preliminary sorting and weeding of the collections of John Coleman, biophysicist and super-electron microscope designer, and Charlie Wine, Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at the David Sarnoff Research Center. Over the summer, with Jonathan Slawitzky, they removed the oxidizing (rusting) metal fasteners and foldered some 2,500 Princeton Engineering Memos between 1952 and 1969, and are gearing up for the Princeton and Zurich Technical Reports.

In addition this summer we saw Rohit and Renuka Reddy, and Vidya Nandarpurkar and Aleesha Shaik come on board. Rohit is busy digitizing and formatting for the history of the invention of electronic color television at RCA's Princeton Labs, 1945-54, while Renuka is carefully typing into a spreadsheet the somewhat chaotic handtyped index to the Labs' newsletter, Radiations (so named in a contest by Labs staff member Lawrence Giacoletto to reflect RCA's use of electromagnetic phenomena in its products). Last but hardly least, over the summer Vidya Nandarpurkar typed in the annual tables of contents for RCA Review, the company's elite technical journal, 1952-86, into a spreadsheet and then scanned to PDF all the Reviews' contents from 1936-64 before school started. She recruited Aleesha Shaik to join her, and Aleesha has rehoused and relabeled in archival (acid- and lignin-free) envelopes some 2,500 4x5 photonegatives for the Carl Byoir RCA collection, before joining the PEM rehousing project. Executive Director Dr. Alex Magoun couldn't ask for a more productive and dynamic group of students, who are doing so much to preserve the legacy of invention and innovation at one of the country's greatest companies!

photo by Frank Wojciechowski

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Volunteers At The Library

Last night was the first of our volunteer brainstorming sessions at the Library. We discussed the War of the Worlds event and the soon-to-be-announced YouTube contest, and came up with some exciting ideas.

Your next chance to be part of the fun is this Monday, September 24th, when we brainstorm about our developing field trip program. Anyone who wants to help out with these trips or anyone who has ideas about how to make these programs more intriguing for youngsters is welcome to attend.

Hope to see you then!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Coming Soon - War of the Worlds YouTube Contest!

In conjunction with this year's War of the Worlds re-enactment on October 27th, the David Sarnoff Library will be holding a YouTube contest.

To support our efforts, our lovely and generous friends at Oh No So Ho in West Windsor have donated a state-of-the-art YubzTalk handset as a prize. As described on its website, YubzTalk handsets attach to most mobile phone devices and come with a Yubz-answering function and a Push Volume feature (note - the mobile phone pictured with the handset above is NOT included). It should also be noted that, at this point in time, Oh No So Ho is the ONLY store in the state of New Jersey that is selling YubzTalk handsets.

So get your recording devices ready and start thinking about what you need to do in order to win this fabulous prize. Check this blog in the coming days for details about this event.

Remember To Come To The Library Tonight!

Come to the David Sarnoff Library tonight at 7:30. We'll be brainstorming about this year's War of the Worlds event - come and be a part of the fun!

If you've never visited the Library before, this is a great opportunity to look around, visit our displays, and see what makes the Library such a special place.

Directions to the Library can be found here.

Hope to see you at the meeting!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Martians Are Coming!

"War of the Worlds" David Sarnoff Library Fund Raiser

Saturday, October 27, 2007
Afternoon Matinee: 2:00 PM
Evening Performance: 7:30 PM.

PRINCETON: And now, with Halloween drawing nigh, it's time once again for the David Sarnoff Library's War of the Worlds! Yes, the Big Broadcast of 2007 takes place on Saturday, October 27, in a matinee at 2 p.m. and an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. Staged by the Hunterdon Radio Theatre's veteran cast and broadcast over 16 antique radios by the New Jersey Antique Radio Club, Orson Welles and Howard Koch's adaptation of H. G. Wells's story of the Martian attack on Earth takes you back to a time before the internet and television, when your ears and mind filled in what you could not see. Staged in Sarnoff Corporation's Auditorium at 201 Washington Road in Princeton, New Jersey, just a mile from the Martians' 1938 landing site at Grover's Mill, this annual fundraising event is guaranteed to entertain, educate, and enlighten you!

In addition, acclaimed thereminist Kip Rosser will accompany electronic musicians Gregg Waltzer and Howard Moscovitz of the Martian Radio Orchestra for a half hour of appropriate "mood music" before each show!

Click here to order tickets on-line, call Hawkins + Company at 215-885-5355 for reservations, or order in advance through this page (Word Document) or this page (PDF). Matinee tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door; Evening tickets including a dessert reception with the cast are $20 in advance for ages 13-64, $25 at the door; $10 in advance for children and senior citizens, $15 at the door. Hundreds of people of all ages flocked to last year's shows; don't miss out!

RCA's CT-100 Color TV is "Greatest Gadget of all Time"

So say the readers of! The company that started us on the path to color video everywhere introduced its $995 home television receiver in March 1954, and didn't make a profit on the whole $100 million investment in research, development, manufacture, marketing, servicing, and programming until 1962. That's not forgeting the nine years it took to get color TV to mass production in 1954.

A tip of the hat to Library friend and NJARC member Dave Sica for bringing this to our attention, and to for its very fine and illustrated report.

The runner-up? It's not the iPod, Walkman, or the Macintosh; the editors reached back to the 18th century for John Bird's sextant, although it appears they mistook it for his quadrant.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

You Add Us To Your Blogroll, And We'll Add You To Ours

If you add our link ( ) to your blogroll and e-mail the link to your blog to us at, we'll include your blog on our blogroll.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Calling All Volunteers!

These are exciting times for the David Sarnoff Library. We have big plans for the future - as more people have become aware of us, we're planning on serving the community in all sorts of unique and interesting ways.

With big plans, however, comes the need for manpower. With that in mind, we're holding five Brainstorming Sessions at the Library so that its Friends, old and new, can meet likeminded people dedicated to education and history, and help develop the programs that will shape the Library's future. Out of these sessions, we expect to form committees that will help executive director Alex Magoun expand the scope and scale of the Library's activities in accord with its mission.

All of these meetings will be held at the Library, will begin at 7:30, offer refreshments, and last approximately one hour -
  1. Tuesday, September 18 - The annual War of the Worlds Broadcast fundraiser takes place on Saturday, October 27th. Help us plan and generate publicity, solicit sponsors for the Program, and promote the YouTube video contest!
  2. Monday, September 24 - Field Trips. Our 3rd grade program on David Sarnoff, sound, and electronic communications needs docents and publicity. We also want to develop programs for middle school students in electricity, light, magnetism, video, and digital logic. If you like working with and inspiring children, or have ideas for hands-on activities, this is for you!
  3. Tuesday, October 2 - Fundraising. We need to raise funds for field trips and exhibits, based on a strategy proposed by Library friend Michael Lundy and on our online store at help us develop a Superfriends network and create popular RCA- and Nipper-related items!
  4. Monday, October 8 - Tours. We expect an increased demand for tours this fall: can you help us prepare tours and schedules, or serve as a docent?
  5. Monday, October 15 - Archives. We want to catalog, rehouse, and organize the collections of RCA Broadcast manuals, RCA technical reports, and lab notebooks recovered from April's devastating flood. Can you help?
We are looking forward to seeing many of you at these sessions. Come to as many as you think you can help with - we greatly appreciate whatever time, thought, and muscles you can offer.

If you have questions or suggestions, contact the Library by email or phone at (609) 734-2636.

The Library is located on Sarnoff Corporation's campus at 201 Washington Road, Princeton NJ 08540-6449. Directions can be found here. At the company's entrance, follow signs to the left for the Library and its "Private Entrance."

Friday, August 31, 2007

Library's Executive Director on the Road

Over the last month, our executive director, Alex Magoun, been traveling: first to the Antique Radio Club of Illinois's RadioFest in Willowbrook, and then to the Antique Wireless Association's annual meeting in Henrietta, NY, south of Rochester. These are two of the premier gatherings of radio collectors, buffs, historians, and enthusiasts, and the amount of information and artifacts they oversee could fill a wiki.

You can see Alex's captioned photo tour of the RadioFest here. It doesn't include the visit to the new Hawthorne Works Museum at Morton College in Cicero. The stunning displays of Western Electric's enormous factory and community during the 20th century offset the factual errors, and they're worth a couple of hours of your time in Chicago. The strength of the Midwest meeting, for now, is its market (the quality of the offerings makes it hard to qualify with "flea"); Alex joined a fine group of speakers with a one-hour PowerPoint presentation on RCA and the Innovation of Electronic Television, 1929-1949.

Three weeks later he drove to Henrietta and the RIT Conference Center to speak on an even bigger topic to an even bigger audience. Over 80 people listened and watched attentively as Alex distilled the 200+ pages of his new book, Television: The Life Story of a Technology (Greenwood, June 2007) into a little over an hour's worth of slides. Despite the controversies and complexities, the crowd was receptive and complimentary. He was surprised and gratified that night at the awards banquet to have AWA president Geoffrey Bourne and long-time member and television historian Richard Brewster present him with the 2007 J. P. Taylor Award for a "significant accomplishment in the field of television." Covering the birth, growth, diffusion, and decline of television as a discrete system in one slim volume is no mean feat. But don't take my and the AWA's word for it: ask your local librarian!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why A Blog?

Some of you may be wondering why the David Sarnoff Library is re-activating its blog after such a long hiatus. There are a variety of reasons for this -

  • Our website,, is in the midst of undergoing a face lift. While we are waiting to show off its shiny new redesign, the blog is an effective way to remain in communication with our friends and patrons;
  • Even once the website redesign is complete, it's still quicker and easier to get the word out on the blog;
  • Our blog allows our visitors to subscribe to it through RSS. This means that through a service such as Google Reader, you don't have to visit the blog to see whether it has been updated. Instead, the updates will be delivered directly to you;
  • Blogging is a Web 2.0 tool that David Sarnoff would have appreciated - it allows individuals and other entities to communicate with people around the globe quickly and efficiently. As someone who started out as a junior wireless telegraph operator, General Sarnoff would be amazed at the ease of global communication available a century later; and
  • By blogging ourselves, we hope to encourage our friends and visitors to experiment with blogging and other Web 2.0 tools themselves.

For the uninitiated, blogging is an easy way to communicate with others on the Internet. We are using Blogger, simply because we are familiar with its interface, but there are several other websites that support blogging. Systems such as Blogger allow for a great deal of customization. Do you want a private online diary that only you can access - fine. Do you want to publish your thoughts throughout the World Wide Web and allow anyone who reads it to comment? You can do that also, or anything in between.

What happens if you don't like your blog? With the touch of a button (and a second touch of a button to confirm your decision) you can delete it. Poof - it's gone!

While we all know the drill about Wikipedia (don't rely on it as your only source for academic research, etc.), it does provide a nice introduction to blogging for anyone who is seeking more information.

So give it a try. See how you like it. And if/when you do step into the 21st Century Blogosphere, remember to include a link to our blog in your blogroll.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Confessions of a Sarnoff Library Volunteer

Well, confessions is probably too strong of a word. But I figured that this was a good opportunity for me to introduce myself to the David Sarnoff Library community.

My name is Sharon, and I have been volunteering at the David Sarnoff Library since February 2006. You've certainly seen me around if you've attended any of the library's major events since that time. My introduction to the David Sarnoff Library was in October 2005, during the War of the Worlds re-enactment. I had just started my MLIS program at Rutgers, and during this event it hit me like a brick that this was the perfect library for me to use for volunteer experience and field experience credit. I pursued this with Alexander Magoun, the library's director, and was able to convince him that I'd be a worthwhile volunteer to have around.

I got my feet wet volunteering from February 2006 through that November, at which point I started working on the Vladimir Zworykin/Harry Olson archival projects. I was able to use this to satisfy my Field Experience requirement, and to develop a true appreciation for the intricacies of archiving. The lessons I learned while working on this project have been invaluable.

As a result of these experiences, I have become the volunteer that won't go away. I'll be helping out at this year's War of the Worlds re-enactment, and I plan to train to become a Docent at the library.

I look forward to meeting many of you in person at future David Sarnoff Library events.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting Ready for the Return of the Martians

Save the date because they'll be back! In two shows on Saturday, October 27: a matinee at 2 p.m. and an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. The Library hosts the Hunterdon Radio Theatre and New Jersey Antique Radio Club's re-enactment of Orson Welles's classic broadcast of the Martian attack on Grover's Mill, New Jersey, in 1938. Subscribe to this blog or check us regularly for information on ordering tickets!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

David Sarnoff Library Open House Offers Tours, Music, and Radio Repairs

PRINCETON: On Saturday, January 20, the Library opens its doors once again with historical, musical, and technical activities. 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 Lounge and at the David Sarnoff Library, 201 Washington Road, Princeton, NJ.

Dr. Alex Magoun, executive director of the Library, will provide tours of its new exhibits and unique artifacts on David Sarnoff and Six Innovations that Changed the World on the hour at 10 and 11 a.m., and 1, 2, and 3 p.m. “We have remarkable stories here, of the electronics and communications devices we use every day, invented and developed here at the RCA Laboratories,” says Dr. Magoun. “David Sarnoff led those developments in vision, funding, and spirit, because as an immigrant from a dictatorship he understood the value of communications to a free society. As a result we have enjoyed increasingly powerful technologies to educate and entertain ourselves with sight and sound. Introducing your children to earlier formats is a great way of connecting across generations.” A donation of five dollars is suggested.

In response to popular demand, Kip Rosser returns to the Sarnoff stage to play and explain the theremin, at 11 a.m., noon, 2 and 3 p.m. “Everyone says the theremin is incredibly difficult to play,” says Rosser. “Well, so’s the violin. If you have an ear and you practice, you will improve.” Endorsed by Moog Music, the world’s leading maker of the unique electronic musical instrument, Rosser uses his theatrical experiences to blend the fascinating story of the theremin and its Soviet inventor with perfect pitch and jazz and pop from the last sixty years of the 20th century. “Kip is a Renaissance man in more ways than one,” says Dr. Magoun. “An hour with him is an hour of ‘thereminstrelsy.’”

If you have a family heirloom radio from the 1920s to the 1950s, the Radio Club offers a free clinic for evaluation and small repairs. Many vacuum-tube radios can be fixed in less than 60 minutes, and the Club’s experts will do it for free. Call club president Phil Vourtsis (732) 446-2427 or email with the brand and model number to make an appointment on the hour for one-on-one attention.

The David Sarnoff Library is located off 201 Washington Road, Princeton, or at the end of Fisher Place off Route 1 South, just north of the Washington Road traffic circle. For more information call 609-734-2636, or check the website at

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.