STORY OF THE BOY WHO INVENTED TELEVISION

This segment of the Farnsworth story is about a misleading story currently running on the History Channel, about the history of television. This distorted History Channel version credited Farnsworth for inventing television, but portrayed David Sarnoff as a great benevolent corporate father who along with RCA scientist Dr. Zworykin brought the advent of television to the American people. Nothing could be farther from the truth! David Sarnoff as CEO of RCA Corporation did everything within his power to stall the advent of television so people would continue buying radios instead of televisions. Sarnoff and Zworykin first tried to steal Farnsworth’s television patent and when that failed RCA lawyers used other stalling tactics and government agencies to prevent the advent of television until 1946, almost eighteen years after its 1929 invention. On the other hand Japan’s Sony Corporation acknowledged Farnsworth’s television patent and erected a bronze statue of him in front of their company and immediately started production. RCA’s delaying action gave Sony Corporation an eighteen-year head start on American television manufactures, including Farnsworth’s own television production facility here in Fort Wayne.

On page 130 of Mrs. Farnsworth’s book, Distant Vision, she verified the above story with an April 19, 1930 entry from Farnsworth’s journal: “Dr. Zworykin spent three days in the laboratory. Demonstrations were given on moving-picture transmissions, and the demonstrations were all successful.” Dr. Zworykin was also impressed when Phil demonstrated his electron magnifier, so much so that he later developed it into an electron microscope and wrote a book about it, though there was no mention of where he first saw the idea demonstrated? Dr. Zworykin was also intrigued with the Image Dissector tube (the main tube in all TV and video cameras), with its flat lens sealed in the end to prevent distortion, and he (Zworykin) told Cliff (Farnsworth’s brother-in-law), his lab men told him this was impossible. Cliff said, “That’s what the experts told us too, but Phil wouldn’t believe it.” At Dr. Zworykin’s insistence, he was allowed to watch Cliff build an Image Dissector tube, and he remarked, “This is a beautiful instrument, I wish I had invented it myself.” Pem Farnsworth went on to say that a few years later, in the course of patent litigation with RCA, we learned that Dr. Zworykin had not visited our lab on behalf of Westinghouse. Just prior to his visit to our Green Street laboratory in San Francisco, he had been hired by David Sarnoff to work for RCA. Dr, Zworykin later admitted his visit was requested by RCA patent attorneys and that he stopped by Westinghouse en-route to the RCA Labs in Camden, New Jersey, but only long enough to have his former helpers build a copy of the Farnsworth Image Dissector vacuum tube, exactly as Phil and Cliff had shown him. Dr. Zworykin took that copied tube and reported to RCA where RCA lawyers then made a failed attempt to patent it. Sarnoff had hoped by hiring Zworykin it would provide RCA with a foothold in the emerging new industry of television. RCA dominated the radio industry to the point that it was not possible to manufacture any radio broadcasting or receiving equipment without paying royalties to RCA. RCA’s policy regarding patents, licenses, and royalties was simple: the company was formed to collect patent royalties and they never paid them. American Corporations have always had an ambivalent attitude toward inventors and the U.S. patent system, and although they regard patents as a bulwark when protecting their own monopolies, they see the U.S. patent system as a great nuisance when it upholds the rights of an individual like Philo T. Farnsworth.

The Waynedale News Staff
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