U. S. Television History - Various Articles


W6XAH, Bakersfield

The following is an excerpt from Smith Family Odyssey by Frank B. Smith Jr., provided to the web site by his son Frank B. Smith III.

What about television? In 1932 my good friend Jasper McCrillis and I worked in the laboratory of a long-time friend who had a license to build and operate an experimental television station in Bakersfield, California, whose call letters were W6XAH. This station was licensed to broadcast both video and audio signals aimed toward all of Northern California.

I was officially designated the announcer and my friend Jasper the technician. Since we both had extensively listened to radio, we naturally considered ourselves highly skilled in our respective professions. Twelve miles distant was a cooperative radio amateur who was interested in our new venture. He could pick up our audio better than our video. When alerted by phone he would dutifully check our signals, sometimes several times a day.

I would brilliantly announce the same recording several times a day and then our amateur radio friend would report by phone if hed been able to pick up our signal. He was the anchor for our tests and he had the only television receiver in the area short of Southern California. Actually, we had loaned him the set to attain 100% control of our critical listening and viewing audience.

We broadcast video by means of a mechanical scanner - a swiftly whirling disk perforated with slots that would pick up visual images. Our music library consisted of only one platter and when we went on the air, we would play our single recording, Goofus, a catchy popular tune performed by a nimble fingered pianist. The title expressed all there was to say about our early project. We gave the venture our best though we were mostly uninformed about what we were doing.

W6XAH was the first TV station to broadcast into Northern California. One might conclude that television has come a long way since. In Southern California there was a TV station financed by Mr. Cord, the manufacturer of the front-wheel drive automobile bearing his name. That station pulled off a major stunt to illustrate the range and value of TV advertising to the Los Angeles business world. They chose a prominent business building about four stories high and, using the side of the building as their screen, projected their TV picture on the side of the building accompanied by appropriate sound. They had used electronic scanning while we only had mechanical scanning. It was an important first and a big one at that. We were shaken but not decimated. This was about the time I met Dr. Lee DeForest. Meeting him made up for all that we lacked and showed we were still trying to achieve greater progress. Our heads were bloody but unbowed!


Mark D. Luttrell provided the following additional information about W6XAH:

The owners of television station W6XAH were brothers Frank, Leo and Charles Schamblin, residents of Bakersfield, CA. These men were owners of the Pioneer Mercantile Company in Bakersfield which held the F.C.C. license required for broadcasting. This experimental station began in 1932 as a result of backyard experiments with the assistance of engineer Ralph Lamert and technical advice from Mr. Lee Deforest, "the father of radio".

Experimental work with W6XAH was primitive and was done with a limited budget and limited equipment. The Schamblin brothers were able to produce basic television images but they were only able to be received in the vicinity of the studio and only a few homes had televisions receiving signals in those days. People gathered on the sidewalk outside the studios to watch the experimental broadcasts on television monitors that had been set up. It is also interesting to note these experiments took place before there were radio stations in Bakersfield.

Broadcasts varied and included musical groups such as local dance bands. My grandfather, Al Randour was a member of the "Moonlight Serenaders" band that Mr. Frank Schamblin had organized which was one of the groups appearing on W6XAH. In addition, people made appearances during broadcasts to talk about community events. Local historian Richard C. Bailey gave talks on Kern County (Bakersfield is the county seat) history as well.

Because of limited funding and technical problems with these television experiments, efforts were discontinued that same year. However, the Schamblin family then started KPMC (the PMC was for Pioneer Mercantile Company) radio in 1933. This radio station broadcasted at 1560 A M very close to the 1550 A M frequency used as the audio channel for W6XAH during the television experiments. The station was affiliated with the CBS and Mutual Radio Networks. In 1978, the radio station was sold to Dan B. Speare Broadcast Enterprises which operated KPMC until the station was again sold in the 1990s to Buckley Radio of Connecticut which owns radio stations across the U.S.


Kinescope Quality (Biel)

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 01:57:26 -0500
From: "MICHAEL BIEL" mbiel@kih.net
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Kinescope Film Recordings

The discussion during the past few days about Kinescope Film Recording has included some accurate and some misleading descriptions of the process. One thing that always confuses the issue is the misunderstanding that the stations just slapped together a film camera and a TV monitor. While it could be done that crudely (and Jack Paar did have such a crude set-up at his home) most stations and networks used professionally manufactured equipment that was finely designed specifically for this purpose only. As was mentioned, the camera had a special shutter designed for synchronizing with the TV frame rate, and the TV picture tube was a specially designed high-definition Kinescope tube of about a 5-inch size for low distortion and high resolution. Special film stock was available which was formulated for maximum sensitivity at the exact screen color of that specific Kinescope tube.

Using this equipment and film stock, a properly made Kinescope Film Recording could provide excellent results. But part of the reason for the comments some people make about the poor quality of Kinescopes is that you are viewing the Kinescopes on television, not actually seeing the film itself being projected on a screen. Seeing the Kine on TV is doubling the generational quality loss. While it is possible to do good video transfers of Kines--digest member Fred Berney has been doing as good transfers of Kines onto DVD as I have ever seen, and I recommend his work highly--even Fred will tell you that there is nothing like seeing the original Kine film being well projected live onto a screen.

I occasionally project to my broadcast history classes the original Kine I have of a complete "Martin Kane, Private Eye" program from December 1951 where several of the scenes were lit only with hand-held flashlights. There are also some details, such as fake headlines glued onto The New York Times, that can be seen clearly on the Kine. I once loaned the film to NBC in exchange for a professional transfer of it onto broadcast quality 3/4-inch U-matic tape (so I could stop projecting the film) but all the details I point out to my classes were lost on the tape transfer. Maybe Fred can do a better job.

Another program I show to my classes is a 1975 CBS-TV program about early live television called "The Golden Age of TV". It opens with Charles Kurault in the CBS VideoTape machine room explaining that you are just seeing the taped Kurault because he was home watching the show just like you are. But then explaining that most TV in the 50s was in black and white, they turn off the color on his picture. Then he explains that Videotape was actually the enemy of early TV preservation because it was erasable, and he walks over to a Kinescope Film Recorder. So there you can see a professionally purpose-made machine. And after he explained what the machine did, the picture and the sound switches over from the tape to a Kine of the rest of the scene. It is a wonderfully succinct presentation of the differences between live/tape and Kine. He then wanders down an aisle of the CBS-TV film vault. Drool !!!!!!!!! And then for the next hour and a half he shows and analyzes some great stuff that even you anti-TV OTR buffs would love.

Kinescope Film Recordings could be done in color as well as black & white. Johnny Carson used to show a few film clips on his anniversary programs that were color Kines. I have a couple of color Kines myself, and as I type this I am keeping my fingers crossed hoping that the film stock was not the damnable EastmanColor, and that these films have not faded to magenta. I haven't checked them in years. One is of a Leonard Bernstein Young People's Concert, and I remember that if you looked closely at the screen you could see the dot structure of the color Kinescope tube. I've also seen some black & white Kines of color shows that also show that dot structure, which means that they had originally filmed the Kine in color, but that this was, unfortunately, a black & white print struck off the color negative. In the late 1960s an improved system of filming called Electronic Beam Recording was developed that could deliver razor-sharp films that would rival the picture quality of the original live or videotape picture. The quality was stunning.

One of the unfortunate failings of the Museum of Television and Radio is that they do not preserve films and Kines of TV programs in the original film format, but that they transfer all of them to video. This has horrified all true film historians, because although there have been great strides made recently in video projection and transfers, the archival originals of films must be preserved in the original film format. The MT&R has been a laughing stock of the entire film archival community because of their ignorant refusal to preserve archival originals in their original format. It is asinine to go to one of their public screenings where they video-project programs which were either originally shot on film or were preserved as a Kine. They do not own any film projection equipment. But there is an amazing difference between the projection of a film vs. the projection of that film from a video transfer. That they have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on real estate, but won't spend a few hundred dollars making preservation film prints of film originals, is shamefully disgusting. That it doesn't bother them is criminal.

I enjoyed Vincente Tobias's comment of seeing a televised Kine of Perry Como singing Christmas carols after New Years. NBC used to call their network of TV affiliates that showed delayed Kines the Teletranscription Network. I have a soundtrack of a Kukla, Fran, and Ollie program from the early 50s where they explained to their live viewers why they were doing a Christmas program in September. It was so that the stations waaaaayyy down the chain of Teletranscription Network stations would be able to have an actual Christmas program sometime around Christmas!!

To bring this back to what started the discussion, Bill Murtough's description of the DuMont Electroncam system used for the Honeymooners classic 39 was quite correct. The show was directly filmed, and TV cameras coupled to the film cameras allowed the director to switch from camera to camera while the show was being filmed. The switching decisions started and stopped the films, and numbers flashed on the films indicated the director's decisions. When the films were developed it would then be very easy and quick to edit the films together from the three or four different cameras by following the numbers flashed on the films. DuMont invented this system to try to keep their failing network afloat by sending their programs to affiliates on film instead of continuing to pay the expensive co-axial cable rates. It didn't work to save the network, but it did provide us with very high quality images on those 39 programs.

Michael Biel mbiel@Kih.net


Idaho TV History

This page was contributed by Frank Aden, Jr. N7SOK and was last revised on April 10, 2006.

STATIONS LISTED IN ORDER THEY CAME ON THE AIR

Sept. 1941, 144mhz, 10-15 watts, experimental station operated by Idaho State College (now University) in Pocatello

KFXD, ch. 6, Nampa, used Gates Lab. Transmitter, granted license in early 1953, on air June 19, 1953, at 1:10 pm, on for 5 hours. Was approved for 19.72kw video, 12.95kw audio, but was operating 500w, 250w. Off Aug. 12th, sold and call possibly changed to KTVI, (KGEM, dropping the ch. 9 license) around Nov. 19, 1953. Idaho Statesman reported KGEM/KTVI had acquired equipment in Nampa but suspect this was the old KFXD-TV equipment. Had plans for main studios at Deer Point and additional studios at Boise and Nampa. Was to be ready to go on air in May 1954, but did not. Believe deleted in Oct. 1954. KFXD-TV was independent, unable to secure ABC Network.

KTVB, ch.7, Boise, CP issued to KIDO radio on 12-23-52 (3-26-52 applied), 53kw, RCA transmitter, tower less than 100ft on Crestline Dr. Started construction on Feb. 5th. On air as KIDO-TV on July 12, 1953. Moved to Deer Point, with 160w in 1956. Became KTVB in Feb. 1959. Now 194kw. Was NBC, CBS, and Dumont until Nov. 1953 when it dropped Dumont. Joined ABC as a secondary on Nov. 15, 1953. Was NBC, ABC until 1974 and NBC only since then.

KBCI, ch. 2, Boise, owned by KDSH radio, licensed issued 5-14-53, on the air 11-23-53, originally licensed to Meridian, transferred to Boise in Jan. 1955. KDSH radio then became KBOI. Went to 65kw in 1956. Became KBCI in 1975. May have originally applied for the call of KTOO. Was CBS/Dumont in 1953-55, also ran some ABC until 1974. Has been CBS only since then.

KIDK, ch. 3, Idaho Falls, on the air as KID-TV on Dec. 20th, 1953, transmitter located on East Little Butte, 100kw, RCA transmitter. Later became KIDK. CBS & some ABC until 1974. since then has been only CBS.

KMVT, ch. 11, Twin Falls, applied for CP in Aug 1953, planning to be on in April 1954 but did not make it on the air until May 30th, 1955. Transmitter located on Jerome Butte, 316kw. Was KLIX-TV, became KMVT in 1962. Is CBS, has also ran ABC and NBC programs in past.

KLEW, ch. 3, Lewiston, on the air Dec. 9th, 1955, with 13.8kw, 6.92kw, transmitter located north of Clarkston WA. Now 56.2kw. Semi-sat. of KIMA-TV in Yakima. Is CBS. Applied for ch. 3 around October 12th, 1954 after FCC proposed to reallocate ch. 3 to Richland WA but which fortunately did not occur.

KCIX, ch. 6, Nampa, CP issued 3-27-58, on the air 11-9-58, with 8kw, off air Jan. 4, 1960. Transmitter was at KFXD-AM Transmitter site, south of Meridian. Antenna was on top of one of the self-supporting KFXD towers. Sold station to Publix Broadcasting but they never did anything with it. Was independent, unable to secure ABC Network due to limited coverage area,

KTLE, ch. 6, Pocatello, CP issued to KBLI-690, Blackfoot, first on the air 7-02-59 with 70kw, off the air 1-23-61, back on the air 9-8-62, off again 2-12-64, back on the air 7-2-67, off for the last time 11-18-71. Was NBC from 1959 to 1961, lost NBC to KIFI when it came on the air in 1961, then became Independent when returned to air in 1962, ran some ABC programs from 1967 to 1971.

KIFI, ch. 8, Idaho Falls, CP issued 9-20-60, first on the air, 1-3-61. Was 160kw. Now 316kw. Had an application in 1953. NBC, ran some ABC programs until 1974. In Jan. 1996 KIFI ch. 8 Idaho Falls and KPVI ch. 6 Pocatello traded networks. KPVI is now NBC and KIFI is now ABC.

KUID, ch. 12, Moscow, CP issued in 1965 (for KRTS), on 7-27-65. 115kw, first on the air 12-9-65. Transmitter on Paradise Ridge. Now 316kw. Idaho Public Broadcasting, PBS.

KAID, Ch.4, Boise, CP issued 6-19-71, first on the air 12-31-71, Transmitter on Deer Point, 28.2kw. Idaho Public Broadcasting, PBS.

KISU, ch. 10, Pocatello, first on the air 6-17-71, as KBGL-TV, with 66,100 watts. Transmitter located on Little East Butte. Going to 122kw. Idaho Public Broadcasting, PBS.

KIVI, ch. 6, Nampa, CP issued to Idaho TV Corp, ( after 4 year fight between Snake River and ITC). First on the air 2-1-74. Was KITC for about a year. 60.3kw. ABC. In Jan. 1996 KIFI ch. 8 Idaho Falls and KIVI ch. 6 Pocatello traded networks. KIVI is now NBC and KIFI is now ABC.

KPVI, ch. 6, Pocatello, first on the air as KPTO on 4-26-74. 100kw. ABC and runs some UPN programs. In Jan. 1996 KIFI ch. 8 Idaho Falls and KPVI ch. 6 Pocatello traded networks. KPVI is now NBC and KIFI is now ABC.

KTRV, ch. 12, Nampa, first on the air 10-13-81. Transmitter on Deer Point, 179kw. FOX.

KIPT, ch. 13, Twin Falls, first on the air Jan. 1992. 3.99kw. Idaho Public Broadcasting, PBS. Sat. of KAID.

KNIN, ch. 9, Caldwell, first on the air Dec 11, 1992 as KHDT. 155kw. Was HSC, became UPN when changed to KNIN in 1996.

KXTF, ch. 35, Twin Falls, first on the air 10-31-88 as KKVI. 96kw. Became KXTF April 1996. Was semi-sat. of KPVI with ABC. Now FOX.

KCDT, ch. 26, Coeur D' Alene, first on the air 9-22-92. 12.3kw. Idaho Public Broadcasting, PBS. Sat. of KUID.

KFXP, ch. 31, Pocatello, first on the air Fall 1998. 2140kw. FOX

STATIONS APPLIED FOR BUT DID NOT COME ON THE AIR

KGEM ch. 9, Boise, 31.6kw, 15.8kw, granted license on apx. Jan. 14th, 1953, canceled on March 3rd, 1954. Had plans for 107ft tower to be installed at Deer Point (2248 HAAT). Bought KFXD-TV application in Nov. 1953 & dropped application for ch.9 but never did anything with it. New call was to be KTVI, ch. 6, 19.5kw, 9.9kw. Was probably canceled in 1955.

KIFT ch. 6, Idaho Falls, 23.5kw, 13.71kw, had target date of 1955. Came on as KIFI-TV in 1961.

KISJ, ch. 6, Pocatello, 7.21kw, 3.61kw, KJRL radio, 1953. Had target date of Nov. 1954. Around June JUNE 29th 1954, owner Tribune Journal stated that due to high operating costs and the unavailability of live network TV decided to drop the station and sell it to KWIK.

KWIK, ch. 10, Pocatello, 3.2kw , 1.9kw, KWIK radio, Charles Crabtree, Eastern Idaho Broadcasting and TV Co., application received in Jan. or Feb. 1953. Originally planned to be on the air in Sept. 1953 but later had target date of 1955. Was to be ABC. Around June 29th, 1954 KWIK was offered the KISJ application by owner Tribune journal, in which they would then drop the application for ch. 10.

KGTV, ch. 10, Pocatello, application existed in early 1960s. Was later reallocated to educational.

KHTV, ch. 13, Twin Falls, 12.3kw, 6.17kw at 218ft. Application existed in 1955 but was shortly thereafter dropped. 60% owned by KIDO-TV (now KTVB) and 40% by KTFI radio.

KSEI-TV, ch. 6, Pocatello, 69.2kw, 34.7kw, KSEI radio, had target date of Oct. 1956.

KBYN ch. 13, Twin Falls, application existed in early 1960s. Transferred to College of Southern Idaho, July 1972 by KTVB. Was originally a commercial allocation.

K???, ch. 12, Nampa, application by Continental Broadcasting Co. of America, 1972, had address listed of 816 12 Ave. S, phone 467-3051. Station was to be Christian, had listing in 1972 phone book. Never made it on the air.

KWHP, ch. 14, Boise, application existed in early 1990s. Never made it on the air due to possible interference problems on Deer Point.

KMCV, ch. 20, Idaho Falls, application existed in early 1980s.

STATIONS APPROVED BUT NOT YET ON AIR

K????, ch. 5, Sun Valley, 3.98kw, 832w.

KBGH, ch. 19, Twin Falls (licensed to Filer, College of Southern Idaho), 76.5kw,

Notes

KTLE 7-3-59 to 1-23-61, 9-8-62 to 2-12-64, 7-2-67 to 11-18-71

KCIX CP March 27, 1959, 11-9-58 to 1-4-60.


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