Posts in Category: Broadcast History

December 18, 1953…First Color Commercial Airs On WPTZ, Philadelphia

December 18, 1953…First Color Commercial Airs On WPTZ, Philadelphia

In yesterday’s post, we learned of the FCC’s December 17, 1953 decision adopting RCA’s Compatible Color System. On Friday, December 18, 1953 at about 11:15 am, the FCC issued to WPTZ, Channel 3, its official color experimental license which authorized the transmission of color video on the station.

Three hours later, color television hit the airwaves in Philadelphia with a color commercial made up of slides. George Skinner hosted a show there weekdays between 2 pm and 2:30 called ‘Skinner’s Spotlight’…it was during this time that WPTZ’s first color telecast under an official FCC license took place. It was the first color commercial broadcast in the nation and it was on Channel 3 at about 2:20 pm. At the time, there were only about 100 color sets in Philadelphia.

The day before, the NBC Network had broadcast the first color image under the new NTSC standards when at 5:31 PM, it broadcast a color slide of the NBC chimes logo. At the time, only a few stations had any color equipment and it was all telecine. Only NBC had live color cameras which were the four RCA TK40 prototypes at The Colonial Theater.

The first shipment of the TK40 production model cameras was made on March 4, 1954. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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December 17, 1976…WTCG Atlanta Becomes First US Satellite TV Station


December 17, 1976…WTCG Atlanta Becomes First US Satellite TV Station

At 1:00 Eastern Time the afternoon of December 17, 1976, WTCG’s signal was beamed via the Satcom 1 satellite to four cable systems in Grand Island, Nebraska; Newport News, Virginia; Troy, Alabama and Newton, Kansas. The first broadcast was the 1948 film ‘Deep Waters’, which had been in progress for 30 minutes on channel 17 in Atlanta.

Instantly, WTCG went from being a small independent television station that was available only in Georgia and neighboring states to a major coast-to-coast operation. WTCG became a so-called “superstation” and set a precedent for today’s basic cable television. By 1978, WTCG was carried on cable providers in all 50 states.

WTCG became only the second US cable channel to transmit its programming via satellite; HBO was the first, on September 30, 1975 but cable subscribers were required to pay extra to receive that service. Ted Turner’s innovation signaled the start of the basic cable revolution. WTCG (for Turner Communications Group) changed its call sign to WTBS (Turner Broadcasting System) on August 27, 1979.

Below, Atlanta legend, and later national legend Bill Tush talks about those early days and the infamously insane news casts he hosted back then. What a Hoot! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg5S8d0UCl8

Bill Tush was a vital part of the beginning of Superstation WTBS and CNN. People in Atlanta saw something we will never see again and still talk about today….

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December 17, 1989…’The Simpsons’ Debuts On Fox..D’OH!


December 17, 1989…’The Simpsons’ Debuts On Fox..D’OH!

Here are two great short videos that cover a lot of the history and creation of the show with not much overlap. The embedded video below features the creators and how ‘The Simpsons’ grew from bumper shorts on ‘The Tracy Ulman Show’ into it’s own dynasty.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ8aSQZ8vJg
In this clip, we meet the voice actors, see how some of the catch phrases and running gags came to be and see some “best of” moments. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-s80afw0KgU

First video on this channel. Hope you enjoy! The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The serie…

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December 17, 1969…Tiny Tim Marries Miss Vicki On ‘Tonight’


December 17, 1969…Tiny Tim Marries Miss Vicki On ‘Tonight’

Remember this? I was a senior in high school and although it was a Wednesday night, I got permission to stay up and watch, along with about 40 million others. Probably one of the greatest publicity stunts of all time. I met him a few times and yes…he’s just as odd off stage as on. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8gloxeHOLk

Tiny Tim married Miss Vicki on the Johnny Carson show with 40 million television viewers watching, on December 17, 1969. WATCH MORE Johnny Carson on YouTube:…

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December 17, 1953…FCC Approves RCA Color, A First Hand Account


December 17, 1953…FCC Approves RCA Color, A First Hand Account

Thursday afternoon on the 17th, the FCC approved the RCA Dot Sequential color system as the national standard. Our friend and former NBC engineer Frank Merklein was actually the one that broke the news to David Sarnoff. Below is part of an email from Frank to me on these subjects.

“General Sarnoff was the force behind trashing the CBS mechanical wheel and to forming the NTSC color committee of all the US manufacturers. NBC had been doing daily closed circuit color test shows (the same show every day for 2 1/2 years) from 3H and the Colonial Theater. I was part of that testing and Sarnoff had made me a member of one of the committees”

“When the FCC chose the RCA system, the General was in our studio, 3H. I was on the phone with the FCC, I turned to the General and gave him a prepared message. “General Sarnoff, the FCC informs you that they have unanimously approved of the NTSC system for color.” He grinned, blew smoke from those over-sized cigars he inhaled and thanked everyone… Great memory.”

The next day RCA had full page ads in several major newspapers and rumor has it, there was a color slide that Friday just before ‘The Howdy Doody Show’ (see the slide in comments below). More than likely, John Cameron Swayze also made mention of it in Friday’s ‘Camel News Caravan’ broadcast.

The next day was Saturday and NBC’s biggest audience of the week would gather around their sets for ‘Your Show Of Shows’ and that’s when the big announcement was made as seen in this video clip of the occasion. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojJCJIaDp9Q

Airing during Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows”, NBC spokesman Richard Harkness announced that RCA had won the “compatible color television” standards fight …

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A Salute To The Rockettes And Radio City…Two Rare Videos


A Salute To The Rockettes And Radio City…Two Rare Videos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_uTNdY4_Po
At the link above is some great archival footage with a few surprises! Who knew they practiced on the roof of Radio City? Looking at the cars, this appears to be from the late 1940s. The audio comes in at :28 and color footage comes in at 2:00.

In this second video, we get a brief 75 year overview with vintage footage that seems to start in the mid 1930s. Without The Rockettes and Radio City, it just wouldn’t be Christmas, but as you’ll see…that almost happened in the ’70s. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW6QQvZWPwI

I did this film for Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular. It was a quick history of the 75 years of Radio City and the Rockettes. It’s a fascinating…

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December 16, 1951…’Dragent’ Debuts On NBC Television

December 16, 1951…’Dragent’ Debuts On NBC Television

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bogcwC3bcQE
At this link is the very first episode of ‘Dragnet’. Be ready for a surprise at 2:40 as we see a young actor (made up to look older) that will become one of TV’s biggest stars. Playing the role of Chief Of Detectives, Thad Brown is none other than Raymond Burr.

The original ‘Dragnet’ starring Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday, actually began on NBC Radio on June 3, 1949 and ran till February 26, 1957. The television series began on television December 16, 1951 and ran till August 23, 1959.

In 1967, Webb revived the series for NBC which ran from January 12 of that year till April 16, 1970. NBC’s radio network carried it as well. Below are some shots from the radio and television series with more details on each. Enjoy and share! Dun Da Dum Dum! -Bobby Ellerbee




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FANTASTIC! One Show, Start To Finish…Rare 1949 CBS Picture Book

FANTASTIC! One Show, Start To Finish…Rare 1949 CBS Picture Book

This is the entire 1949 picture book “Close Up” that was written and published by CBS. It is the real time story of how this primetime drama came from an idea to a sixty minute live television play. This will also show us some rare photos of the old CBS facility at Grand Central Terminal, including Studio 42 and the telecine room. I have a hard cover copy given to me by Jodie Peeler, but have seen pictures from the book for years and some will be quite familiar.

On of many things we’ll learn here is that CBS was the first to use florescent lights in the studio to cool them off. Temperatures of over 100 degrees were not uncommon in those early days.

The ‘Studio One’ production depicted here is a sixty minute live drama called ‘The Glass Key’ and we start with the story and the sets, but the studio pix come along in the last third of these 30 or so pages. Thanks to David Gleason at American Radio History for his massive archive efforts and to Jerry Clegg for sharing this with us. Enjoy and SHARE! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Station-Albums/Close-Up-CBS-1949.pdf

www.americanradiohistory.com

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Cameras in the Sky

Another Great Article From Richard Wirth…’Cameras In The Sky’

Hello again Everybody! I thought it would be interesting to take a look back to some of the people who designed the processes and invented the equipment that gave us aerial cinematography. The article examines the history of shooting film and television from the air and also covers the evolution of some of those mechanisms and the aircraft that got us to where we are today.

This was a particularly fun piece for me as it combines two of my favorite things – flying and cinematography. I was also fortunate to have a knowledgeable guide through the process who was able to provide insight almost from the beginning. For that, I owe Richard Hart, Jr., my thanks. Mr. Hart is president of National Helicopter and Engineering Company. His father, Richard Hart, Sr., started the company in the early 50’s. Since then, National Helicopter has been a leader (if not THE leader) in aerial motion picture and television production. They have served up aerial action and drama in front of the camera and provided aircraft, pilots and platforms behind the camera. A link to their long list of credits is included in the article.

As always, I attempt to include illustrations of shots from television programs and movies that made a mark on history of the industry. This article is no exception. Hopefully they’ll bring some memories to many of you.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

Happy Holidays to you!

Richard Wirth

http://provideocoalition.com/pvcexclusive/story/cameras-in-the-sky

Cameras in the Sky

“Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” — Socrates If Socrates were alive today, he would probably own a drone.

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In Case You Missed It…Funniest SNL Christmas Bit In Years!


In Case You Missed It…Funniest SNL Christmas Bit In Years!

Kenan “What’s Up With That” Thomson is at it again. This was part of a very good show this past Saturday. I haven’t laughed this hard at an SNL holiday skit since ‘Schwetty Balls’. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWnP2jO06gc

If you’ve been crossed off Santa’s nice list, here comes Sump’n Claus (Kenan Thompson). Get more SNL on Hulu Plus: http://www.hulu.com/saturday-night-live Ge…

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Behind The Scenes Of…’The God Father’, Little Known Facts

Behind The Scenes Of…’The God Father’, Little Known Facts

Did you know Marlon Brando, James Caan, and Robert Duvall amused themselves between takes by attempting to out-moon one another? Brando stopped the competition dead by dropping his pants during a massive wedding-reception scene. The rest agreed this couldn’t be topped and awarded the victor a belt buckle with the words ‘Mighty Moon King’ engraved on it. Well done, Marlon!

There’s much more at this link. Thanks to Jim De Franciso for the share. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://moviepilot.com/posts/2502875?lt_source=external,manual,manual

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December 14, 1934… Laurel And Hardy’s ‘Babes In Toyland’ Debuts


December 14, 1934… Laurel And Hardy’s ‘Babes In Toyland’ Debuts

80 years ago yesterday, a classic was born. As kids, a lot of saw this on our local stations around the holidays and knew it as ‘March Of the Wooden Soldiers’ which was the title of the 1948 re-release. The original title was ‘Babes In Toyland’.

WPIX in New York still runs this every Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Here’s the trailer and notice the special effects insert shot of Stan and Oliver watching the toy soldiers march by. Thanks to Rick Scheckman for bringing this to our attention. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

#t=10″ target=”_blank”>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBmgwbdTJWA #t=10

Ollie Dee and Stanley Dum try to borrow money from their employer, the toymaker, to pay off the mortgage on Mother Peep’s shoe and keep it and Little Bo Peep…

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Making ‘Gone With The Wind’…Linda Ellerbee & Ray Gandolf


Making ‘Gone With The Wind’…Linda Ellerbee & Ray Gandolf, ABC

To celebrate the debut, here is a most excellent ABC ‘Our World’ special on the making of ‘Gone With The Wind’ from 1987. There is a lot of rare film and many little known facts in this 5 part presentation. For example, did you know Lucile Ball was one of the actress screen tested for the role of Scarlett O’Hara? When Vivian Leigh did her screen test, she said the dress was still warm from the last actress to audition for the part of Scarlett. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1pCe6P_DxA Part 5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14qUhkjEXy4 Part 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MrU_gw5AEI Part 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNkiSLSOMw4 Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DroCn55mgnU Part 1

“Our World,” an excellent ABC News history series that ran for one season (1986-87), chronicles the making of the 1939 movie classic “Gone With The Wind” (2/…

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December 15, 1939…’Gone With The Wind’ Debuts In Atlanta


December 15, 1939…’Gone With The Wind’ Debuts In Atlanta

Even now, ‘Gone With The Wind’ remains one of the biggest books ever published and one of the top movies every made. In the late 70’s, I spent a lot of time in Margret Mitchel’s Atlanta home, which back then was owned by my friend Bob Ruddy. The theme from Tara played in my head every time I was there. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIBz-5QQOso

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The Infamous TSM Auto Cams At WNBC

Picture Parade 4…The Infamous TSM Auto Cams At WNBC

Connie Chung says the news casters named them “Larry, Moe and Curly”, but soon, everyone called them that. These rambunctious robots had a mind of their own and often ran afoul at the worst possible moments. These came soon after the last big NABET strike and were seen by many as a “rub it in your face” gesture by the new owners…GE. I had been looking for this since I posted the BBC robocam horror show a week or so ago. Does anyone have more pix of these? This is the only one I know of. Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee

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A Sad Day At Boston’s WGBH

Picture Parade 3…A Sad Day At Boston’s WGBH

October 14, 1961, a fire started in Studio A and it was a complete loss. In the center of the photo is one of several new RCA TK60s and amazingly the TVP pedestal’s compressed air tank did not blow up. This was a Friday, but they were back on the air by Monday. Local broadcasters helped with studio space and equipment. -Bobby Ellerbee

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Guys And Dolls In Television At WBKB, Chicago

Picture Parade 2…Guys And Dolls In Television At WBKB, Chicago

These pictures were taken during WW II and show how women stepped into jobs of all kinds across the country. Some here were engineers while others worked cameras and control room equipment. The cameras were made before the war at WBKB, as was the dolly that uses an old barber chair base to raise and lower the camera. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee







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The Identities Are Revealed

Picture Parade 1…The Identities Are Revealed

This photo gets posted a lot, but never with the names and event, so, let’s fix that. The photo was one of a few dozen taken this day for use by RCA in trade ads to promote their new TK30 Image Orthicon camera in early 1947. The cameraman is Andreas Fininger and the actress in the background is Eva Marie Saint.

As seen here, she did a lot of bit parts in early NBC dramas which lead to her role in ‘On The Waterfront’ and later, she had NBC television roles opposite Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra in a production of “Our Town” for ‘Producers’ Showcase’ and “Middle of the Night” for ‘Philco TV Playhouse, which brought her a Emmy nomination in 1955. Saint also scored a professional triumph on Broadway opposite the legendary Lillian Gish in “The Trip to Bountiful,” which earned her a Drama Critics Award in 1953. Saint’s solid reputation among critics was becoming reinforced so often that she was referred to as “the Helen Hayes of television.” Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

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December 14, 1984…Howard Cosell Retires From Monday Night Football


December 14, 1984…Howard Cosell Retires From Monday Night Football

I think the best way to mark the occasion is with these two videos. The first is a great Billy Crystal story told to David Letterman. The second is Letterman interviewing Cosell 36 years ago, Dec. 15, 1987 on his NBC show at this link. http://youtu.be/Tyw8q64ANyE?t=13m57s

By the way, I think you’ll like Dave’s Christmas toy segment before Cosell and the studio gag just after it. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjL9_9aS51U

Billy Crystal’s Story About A Drunk, Weeping Howard Cosell

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The One Time Sinatra Hosted The Tonight Show

Ultra Rare…Frank Sinatra Guest Hosts ‘Tonight’…A One Time Event

As far as I can tell, this Monday night in 1977 was the first and only time Sinatra guest hosted the show. We have two clips from that night…the longer embedded one below, and this clip from earlier in the show with Angie Dickinson. Other guests that night were George Burns, Carol O’Connor and Don Rickles which is quite a lineup.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwHyteOfyng

Sinatra had actually retired in 1971, but after a couple of restless years, came back in 1973 with an album and TV special which were both titled ‘Old Blue Eyes Is Back’. Thanks to Geoffrey DeVoe for sharing this. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://m.wor710.com/onair/mark-simone-52176/the-one-time-sinatra-hosted-the-13059150/

The One Time Sinatra Hosted The Tonight Show | Mark Simone on WOR 710

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Here Kitty Kitty Kitty

Picture Parade 5…Here Kitty Kitty Kitty

Here’s the MGM lion, Jackie, recording the first roar opening with audio in 1929. In 1924, studio publicist Howard Dietz designed the “Leo The Lion” logo for Samuel Goldwyn’s, Goldwyn Picture Corporation. He based it on the athletic team of his alma mater Columbia University, the Lions. When Goldwyn Pictures merged with Metro Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures, the newly formed MGM retained the logo.

Since then, there have been five lions playing the role of “Leo The Lion”. The first was Slats, who graced the openings of MGM’s silent films from 1924 to 1928. The next lion, Jackie, was the first MGM lion whose roar was heard by the audience. Though the movies were silent, Jackie’s famous growl-roar-growl sequence was played over the phonograph as the logo appeared on screen. He was also the first lion to appear in Technicolor in 1932.

The third lion and probably most famous was Tanner (though at the time Jackie was still used concurrently for MGM’s black and white films). After a brief use of an unnamed (and very mane-y) fourth lion, MGM settled on Leo, which the studio has used since 1957.

The company motto “Ars Gratia Artis” means “Art for Art’s Sake.” Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

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White Shoes And Color News

Picture Parade 4…White Shoes And Color News

This is the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami. Pictured with Mike Wallace is the governor of Florida, Miss Florida and an overloaded cameraman. That hefty bundle is the Norelco PCP 90 with a 35 pound camera and a 25 pound back pack transmitter. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

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Space Cadets, A Whole Nation Of Us!

Picture Parade 3…Space Cadets, A Whole Nation Of Us!

In the 60s, space missions were huge events and networks had cameras everywhere explaining not only the mission but the science behind all this and we ate it up. It was a great time in America. Here’s CBS owned KMOX giving us a look at a Gemini capsule at the hometown plant where they were made… McDonald Douglas in St. Louis. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

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‘Playhouse 90’, “A Heritage Of Anger”, 1956

Picture Parade 2…’Playhouse 90′, “A Heritage Of Anger”, 1956

Interestingly, like the Richard Pryor – SNL story I posted earlier, this is also a Season 1, Episode 7, event, but on a much different track. These are some great photos of the rehearsals as CBS Television City on November 15, 1956. The stars were Ralph Bellamy, Lloyd Bridges, John Ericsson and Tom Brown. The cameras are RCA TK11/31s and the cranes are Houston Fearless 30B models. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee







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The Voice Of Christmas Past

Picture Parade 1…The Voice Of Christmas Past

Here’s a look back at some of the surprises under the tree many of us at least hoped for. I’d never seen a CBS or ABC truck till I went looking for these pictures. This internet thingy has more pictures than a Sears catalog ;>) Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee






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Richard Pryor, NBC & The 7 Second Delay

December 13, 1975…Richard Pryor – SNL And The 7 Second Delay

The whole backstory is beautifully told in this piece from Salon.
http://www.salon.com/2013/11/03/saturday_night_live_and_richard_pryor_the_untold_story_behind_snls_edgiest_sketch_ever/

This was the 7th episode of the brand new NBC weekend comedy show, but the one that really put it on the map. A lot of juicy details are in the article linked above, but not the technical part. Some months back, I wrote about this and as it turns out, no one is even sure if the tape delay was even in when the show ran, but everyone is sure it was a nightmare on many levels.

First, the tape machines on the 5th floor were built into the walls and in order to get two of them side by side, to make the delay happen, two machines had to be taken out of the walls. Back then, the only way to get a tape delay was to record on one machine and stretch the tape over to a second machine for playback.

There had to be precision in the tape path, tape tension and the distance apart which gave the amount of delay as the tape moved from the record head on one two inch quad machine to the playback head on the other. As it turns out, the delay was not needed as Pryor was toeing the line and didn’t need to be bleeped.

Here is one of the all time classics from SNL…Chey Chase and Richard Pryor in the ‘Word Association’ sketch. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://screen.yahoo.com/word-association-000000441.html

Word Association | Saturday Night Live – Yahoo Screen

Richard Pryor’s cutting-edge racial satire from 1975

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Lost and Found: Missing 1927 Walt Disney Cartoon Discovered in Norway

Good News From Norway…First Disney Christmas Film Found

Before you go to the article, take a good look at Oswald The Lucky Rabbit in this photo. If he reminds you of Mickey Mouse with long ears, there’s a good reason.

Turns out, Oswald wasn’t so lucky for Disney after all. Although they had created the The Oswald cartoons, the series was done for Universal and after a short time, Universal claimed the rights to Oswald and shut Disney out. When Walt created his next star, he had rights protection in place and that next star was Mickey Mouse.

Thanks to Maureen Carney for the clip. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.yahoo.com/movies/lost-and-found-missing-1927-walt-disney-cartoon-105011664977.html?soc_src=mags&soc_trk=fb

Lost and Found: Missing 1927 Walt Disney Cartoon Discovered in Norway

A lost Walt Disney cartoon was 1927 was discovered in a library in Norway

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You Mean They Weren’t Really On The Runway? Or Outside?

Picture Parade 3…You Mean They Weren’t Really On The Runway?

Spoiler Alert: NO. The ‘Casablanca’ scene on the runway was shot in a studio, and just out of sight is the paper mache airplane waiting for them. One reason for all the fog was to help hide the not-so-hot looking, half scale plane. A miniature model was used for the takeoff shot. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

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Tis The Season To Be Jolly!

Picture Parade 1…Tis The Season To Be Jolly!

Here’s ‘Today’ show host Dave Garroway pushing a camera sled around the ice rink at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. He hosted for nine years, from the show’s start in 1952, till 1961. Thanks to John Schipp for the photo. Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee

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December 12, 1896…Marconi’s First Public Demonstration Of Radio

December 12, 1896…Marconi’s First Public Demonstration Of Radio

During his early years, Marconi had an interest in science and electricity. One of the scientific developments during this era came from Heinrich Hertz, who, beginning in 1888, demonstrated that one could produce and detect electromagnetic radiation…generally known as “radio waves”. At the time these were more commonly called “Hertzian waves” or “aetheric waves”. Hertz’s death in 1894 brought published reviews of his earlier discoveries, and a renewed interest on the part of Marconi.

Marconi began to conduct experiments, building much of his own equipment in the attic of his home at the Villa Griffone in Pontecchio, Italy. His goal was to use radio waves to create a practical system of “wireless telegraphy”…the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires as used by the electric telegraph. This was not a new idea—numerous investigators had been exploring wireless telegraph technologies for over 50 years, but none had proven commercially successful.

Marconi did not discover any new and revolutionary principle in his wireless-telegraph system, but rather he assembled and improved an array of facts, unified and adapted them to his system. At first, Marconi could only signal over limited distances. In the summer of 1895 he moved his experimentation outdoors. After increasing the length of the transmitter and receiver antennas, and arranging them vertically, and positioning the antenna so that it touched the ground, the range increased significantly. (Although Marconi may not have understood until later the reason, the “ground connections” allowed the earth to act as a waveguide resonator for the surface wave signal.) Soon he was able to transmit signals over a hill, a distance of approximately . By this point he concluded that with additional funding and research, a device could become capable of spanning greater distances and would prove valuable both commercially and militarily.

Finding limited interest in his work in Italy, in early 1896 at the age of 21, Marconi traveled to London, where he gained the interest and support of William Preece, the Chief Electrical Engineer of the British Post Office. A series of demonstrations for the British government followed—by March, 1897, Marconi had transmitted Morse code signals across the Salisbury Plain. On May 13, 1897, Marconi sent the first ever wireless communication over open sea.

Impressed by these and other demonstrations, Preece introduced Marconi’s ongoing work to the general public at at an important London lecture: “Telegraphy without Wires”, at the Toynbee Hall on December 11,1896. The next day, Marconi returned with a tramsmitter and telegraph key, and a wooden box with a bell inside. With the London press in attendance, Preece walked around the hall with a wireless wooden box which magically rang every time Marconi hit the key.

Numerous additional demonstrations followed, and Marconi began to receive international attention. In July 1897, he carried out a series of tests at La Spezia in his home country, for the Italian government. A test for Lloyds between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island, Ireland, was conducted on 6 July 1898. The English channel was spanned by radio on March 19, 1899, from Wimereux, France to South Foreland Lighthouse, England, and in the fall of 1899, the first demonstrations in the United States took place, with the reporting of the America’s Cup international yacht races at New York.

On December 12, 1901, Marconi sucessfully sent a wireless telegraph message from Cornwall in southwest England to St. Johns Nova Scotia. By sending a signal more than 2,100 miles across the Atlantic, Marconi convincingly demonstrated the practicality of worldwide wireless communication. And in 1909, he shared the Nobel Prize for physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun of Germany, whose modifications to Marconi’s transmitters made them strong enough to be practical.

Below is a photo of Marconi (R) with David Sarnoff (L), head of RCA. Sarnoff had once worked for the Marconi Company in New York and was the telegraph operator that received the Titanic SOS and communicated with the rescue ships until they arrived in NY with the survivors. -Bobby Ellerbee

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