What Goes Around Comes Around

The first posting on Televising The Revolution is a look back and a flash-forward at the same time. It might seem that television has come full circle since its humble beginnings.

Spinning Wheels

Mechanical scanning disc television sets were presented to the public in 1928.  This is the earliest reference found on a commercially made television set. Production was low, in the dozens of sets, but the mechanical scanning disc system and later, in 1934, a rotating mirror drum based set ushered in the new era of television.

[1] When color television came into play in the 1950s there was a spinning wheel that “dissected” the colors into Red, Green and Blue components. This was the CBS system known as the RX-40 Converter.

The color wheel that was a major component of the RX-40 converter was mounted in front of a black and white set. When the viewer was watching a program broadcast in Black and White the color wheel would move sideways out of the visual path. Color mode brought the wheel in front of the picture tube to allow for color viewing. As you might imagine, synchronization was a real problem. [Author’s Note: Thanks to friend and television historian, Martin for sending information on the RX-40 Converter.]

Fast Forward 

Today some projection television systems utilize a technology that contains a spinning wheel. This spinning wheel dissects the colors into Red, Green and Blue, which are the basis of all the colors one sees on the screen. If this sounds familiar, it should. Through a process called “Persistence of Vision” the viewer’s eyes and brain pull everything together to see a full-color, moving image, much the same way the brain processes 24 individual still images per second allowing it to see a full motion picture image when viewing a movie. 

What is old is new again

Looking back at the 1928 and 1950 spinning disc systems and then forward to the spinning wheels used in today’s technology an interesting question comes to mind–Has television changed since 1928? We can give that question an enthusiastic yes, but it almost seems that some early ideas might have been ahead of their time, especially if we see remnants of yesterday’s methods in today’s equipment. -33-

 Addendum [1]: September 6, 2007 – Edited to add information on the CBS RX-40 Converter.


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