David Sarnoff

David Sarnoff (Belarusian: Даві́д Сарно́ў, Russian: Дави́д Сарно́в, February 27, 1891 – December 12, 1971) was a Russian emigrant, an American businessman and pioneer of American radio and television. Throughout most of his career he led the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in various capacities from shortly after its founding in 1919 until his retirement in 1970.

He ruled over an ever-growing telecommunications and media empire that included both RCA and NBC, and became one of the largest companies in the world. Named a Reserve Brigadier General of the Signal Corps in 1945, Sarnoff thereafter was widely known as "The General."[4]

Sarnoff is credited with Sarnoff's law, which states that the value of a broadcast network is proportional to the number of viewers.[5]

David Sarnoff
Sarnoff in 1922
Native name
Даві́д Сарно́ў
BornFebruary 27, 1891
Uzlyany near Minsk, Russian Empire (present-day Belarus)
DiedDecember 12, 1971 (aged 80)
Manhattan, New York City, United States
Resting placeKensico Cemetery
Valhalla, New York, United States
41°04′40″N 73°47′11″W / 41.0779°N 73.7865°W
Years active1919–1970
Board member of
Spouse(s)Lizette Hermant (Sarnoff) (1894-1974)
  • Robert W. Sarnoff[1]
  • Edward Sarnoff
  • Thomas W. Sarnoff
  • Abraham Sarnoff (father)
  • Lena (mother)
RelativesEugene Lyons
Military career
Nickname(s)"The General"
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1941-1945
RankBrigadier General[3]
UnitArmy Signal Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II

Early life and career

David Sarnoff was born to a Jewish family in Uzlyany, a small town in Russian Empire, the son of Abraham and Leah Sarnoff. Abraham emigrated to the United States and raised funds to bring the family. Sarnoff spent much of his early childhood in a cheder (or yeshiva) studying and memorizing the Torah. He emigrated with his mother and three brothers and one sister to New York City in 1900, where he helped support his family by selling newspapers before and after his classes at the Educational Alliance. In 1906 his father became incapacitated by tuberculosis, and at age 15 Sarnoff went to work to support the family.[6] He had planned to pursue a full-time career in the newspaper business, but a chance encounter led to a position as an office boy at the Commercial Cable Company. When his superior refused him paid leave for Rosh Hashanah, he joined the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America on September 30, 1906, and started a career of over 60 years in electronic communications.

Over the next 13 years, Sarnoff rose from office boy to commercial manager of the company, learning about the technology and the business of electronic communications on the job and in libraries. He also served at Marconi stations on ships and posts on Siasconset, Nantucket and the New York Wanamaker Department Store. In 1911, he installed and operated the wireless equipment on a ship hunting seals off Newfoundland and Labrador, and used the technology to relay the first remote medical diagnosis from the ship's doctor to a radio operator at Belle Isle with an infected tooth.

The following year, he led two other operators at the Wanamaker station in an effort to confirm the fate of the Titanic.[2] Sarnoff later exaggerated his role as the sole hero who stayed by his telegraph key for three days to receive information on the Titanic's survivors[6][7] The event began on a Sunday, when the store would have been closed. Some researchers question whether Sarnoff was at the telegraph key at all. By the time of the Titanic disaster in 1912, Sarnoff was a manager of the telegraphers.[8]

Over the next two years Sarnoff earned promotions to chief inspector and contracts manager for a company whose revenues swelled after Congress passed legislation mandating continuous staffing of commercial shipboard radio stations. That same year Marconi won a patent suit that gave it the coastal stations of the United Wireless Telegraph Company. Sarnoff also demonstrated the first use of radio on a railroad line, the Lackawanna Railroad Company's link between Binghamton, New York, and Scranton, Pennsylvania; and permitted and observed Edwin Armstrong's demonstration of his regenerative receiver at the Marconi station at Belmar, New Jersey. Sarnoff used H. J. Round's hydrogen arc transmitter to demonstrate the broadcast of music from the New York Wanamaker station.

This demonstration and the AT&T demonstrations in 1915 of long-distance wireless telephony inspired the first of many memos to his superiors on applications of current and future radio technologies. Sometime late in 1915 or in 1916 he proposed to the company's president, Edward J. Nally, that the company develop a "radio music box" for the "amateur" market of radio enthusiasts.[7][9] Nally deferred on the proposal because of the expanded volume of business during World War I. Throughout the war years, Sarnoff remained Marconi's Commercial Manager,[4] including oversight of the company's factory in Roselle Park, New Jersey.

Business career


Albert Einstein with other engineers and scientists at Marconi RCA radio station 1921
Sarnoff with Albert Einstein and other noted scientists and engineers on a tour of the RCA wireless station in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1921

Unlike many who were involved with early radio communications, who often viewed radio as point-to-point, Sarnoff saw the potential of radio as point-to-mass. One person (the broadcaster) could speak to many (the listeners).

When Owen D. Young of General Electric arranged the purchase of American Marconi and turned it into the Radio Corporation of America, a radio patent monopoly, Sarnoff realized his dream and revived his proposal in a lengthy memo on the company's business and prospects. His superiors again ignored him but he contributed to the rising postwar radio boom by helping arrange for the broadcast of a heavyweight boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in July 1921. Up to 300,000 people heard the fight, and demand for home radio equipment bloomed that winter.[10] By the spring of 1922 Sarnoff's prediction of popular demand for broadcasting had come true, and over the next eighteen months, he gained in stature and influence.

In 1925, RCA purchased its first radio station (WEAF, New York) and launched the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the first radio network in America. Four years later, Sarnoff became president of RCA. NBC had by that time split into two networks, the Red and the Blue. The Blue Network later became ABC Radio.[2] Sarnoff was often inaccurately referred to later in his career as the founder of both RCA and NBC, but he was in fact founder of only NBC.[6]

Sarnoff was instrumental in building and establishing the AM broadcasting radio business that became the preeminent public radio standard for the majority of the 20th century. This technology dominance continued until FM broadcasting radio re-emerged in the 1960s despite Sarnoff's efforts to suppress it.


Sarnoff negotiated successful contracts to form Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO), a film production and distribution company.[6] Essential elements in that new company were RCA, the Film Booking Offices of America (FBO), and the Keith-Albee-Orpheum (KAO) theater chain.[11]

Early history of television

Sarnoff RCA videotape recorder 1954
Sarnoff with the first RCA videotape recorder in 1954

When Sarnoff was put in charge of radio broadcasting at RCA, he soon recognized the potential for television, i.e., the combination of motion pictures with electronic transmission. Schemes for television had long been proposed (well before World War I) but with no practical outcome. Sarnoff was determined to lead his company in pioneering the medium and met with Westinghouse engineer Vladimir Zworykin in 1928. At the time Zworykin was attempting to develop an all-electronic television system at Westinghouse, but with little success. Zworykin had visited the laboratory of the inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, who had developed an Image Dissector, part of a system that could enable a working television. Zworykin was sufficiently impressed with Farnsworth's invention that he had his team at Westinghouse make several copies of the device for experimentation.[12]

Zworykin pitched the concept to Sarnoff, claiming a viable television system could be realized in two years with a mere $100,000 investment. Sarnoff opted to fund Zworkyin's research, most likely well-aware that Zworykin was underestimating the scope of his television effort. Seven years later, in late 1935, Zworykin's photograph appeared on the cover of the trade journal Electronics, holding an early RCA photomultiplier prototype. The photomultiplier, subject of intensive research at RCA and in Leningrad, Russia, would become an essential component within sensitive television cameras. On April 24, 1936, RCA demonstrated to the press a working iconoscope camera tube and kinescope receiver display tube (an early cathode ray tube), two key components of all-electronic television.

The final cost of the enterprise was closer to $50 million. On the road to success they encountered a legal battle with Farnsworth, who had been granted patents in 1930 for his solution to broadcasting moving pictures. Despite Sarnoff's efforts to prove that he was the inventor of the television, he was ordered to pay Farnsworth $1,000,000 in royalties, a small price to settle the dispute for an invention that would profoundly revolutionize the world.

In 1929, Sarnoff engineered the purchase of the Victor Talking Machine Company, the nation's largest manufacturer of records and phonographs, merging radio-phonograph production at Victor's large manufacturing facility in Camden, New Jersey.

Sarnoff became president of RCA on January 3, 1930, succeeding General James Harbord. On May 30 the company was involved in an antitrust case concerning the original radio patent pool. Sarnoff negotiated an outcome where RCA was no longer partly owned by Westinghouse and General Electric, giving him final say in the company's affairs.

Initially, the Great Depression caused RCA to cut costs, but Zworykin's project was protected. After nine years of Zworykin's hard work, Sarnoff's determination, and legal battles with Farnsworth (in which Farnsworth was proved in the right), they had a commercial system ready to launch. Finally, in April 1939, regularly scheduled, electronic television in America was initiated by RCA under the name of their broadcasting division at the time, The National Broadcasting Company (NBC). The first television broadcast aired was the dedication of the RCA pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fairgrounds and was introduced by Sarnoff himself. Later that month on April 30, opening day ceremonies at The World's Fair were telecast in the medium's first major production, featuring a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first US President to appear on television. These telecasts were seen only in New York City and the immediate vicinity, since NBC television had only one station at the time, W2XBS Channel 1, now WNBC Channel 4. The broadcast was seen by an estimated 1,000 viewers from the roughly 200 televisions sets which existed in the New York City area at the time.

The standard approved by the National Television System Committee (the NTSC) in 1941 differed from RCA's standard, but RCA quickly became the market leader of manufactured sets and NBC became the first television network in the United States, connecting their New York City station to stations in Philadelphia and Schenectady for occasional programs in the early 1940s.

Meanwhile, a system developed by EMI based on Russian research and Zworykin's work was adopted in Britain and the BBC had a regular television service from 1936 onwards. However, World War II put a halt to a dynamic growth of the early television development stages.

World War II

David Sarnoff becomes brigadier general 1945
Sarnoff receiving his brigadier general's star from Major General Harry C. Ingles, chief signal officer of the US Army.

At the onset of World War II, Sarnoff served on Eisenhower's communications staff, arranging expanded radio circuits for NBC to transmit news from the invasion of France in June 1944. In France, Sarnoff arranged for the restoration of the Radio France station in Paris that the Germans destroyed and oversaw the construction of a radio transmitter powerful enough to reach all of the allied forces in Europe, called Radio Free Europe. In recognition of his achievements, Sarnoff was decorated with the Legion of Merit on October 11, 1944.[13]

Thanks to his communications skills and support he received the Brigadier General's star in December 1945, and thereafter was known as "General Sarnoff."[14] The star, which he proudly and frequently wore, was buried with him.

Sarnoff anticipated that post-war America would need an international radio voice explaining its policies and positions. In 1943, he tried to influence Secretary of State Cordell Hull to include radio broadcasting in post-war planning. In 1947, he lobbied Secretary of State George Marshall to expand the roles of Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. His concerns and proposed solutions were eventually seen as prescient.[15]

Post-war expansion

After the war, monochrome TV production began in earnest. Color TV was the next major development, and NBC once again won the battle. CBS had their electro-mechanical color television system approved by the FCC on October 10, 1950, but Sarnoff filed an unsuccessful suit in the United States district court to suspend that ruling. Subsequently, he made an appeal to the Supreme Court which eventually upheld the FCC decision. Sarnoff's tenacity and determination to win the "Color War" pushed his engineers to perfect an all-electronic color television system that used a signal that could be received on existing monochrome sets that prevailed. CBS was now unable to take advantage of the color market, due to lack of manufacturing capability and color programming, a system that could not be seen on the millions of black and white receivers and sets that were triple the cost of monochrome sets. A few days after CBS had its color premiere on June 14, 1951, RCA demonstrated a fully functional all-electronic color TV system and became the leading manufacturer of color TV sets in the US.

CBS system color TV production was suspended in October 1951 for the duration of the Korean War. As more people bought monochrome sets, it was increasingly unlikely that CBS could achieve any success with its incompatible system. Few receivers were sold, and there were almost no color broadcasts, especially in prime time, when CBS could not run the risk of broadcasting a program which few could see. The NTSC was reformed and recommended a system virtually identical to RCA's in August 1952. On December 17, 1953 the FCC approved RCA's system as the new standard.

Later years

1 David Sarnoff 800
Sarnoff's mausoleum at Kensico Cemetery.

In 1955, Sarnoff received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York."

In 1959 Sarnoff was a member of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund panel to report on U.S. foreign policy. As a member of that panel and in a subsequent essay published in Life as part of its "The National Purpose" series, he was critical of the tentative stand being taken by the United States in fighting the political and psychological warfare being waged by Soviet-led international Communism against the West. He strongly advocated an aggressive, multi-faceted fight in the ideological and political realms with a determination to decisively win the Cold War.[16]

Sarnoff retired in 1970, at the age of 79, and died the following year, aged 80. He is interred in a mausoleum featuring a stained-glass vacuum tube in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

Family life

On July 4, 1917, Sarnoff married Lizette Hermant, the daughter of a French-Jewish immigrant family who settled in the Bronx as one of his family's neighbors.[17][4] The Museum of Broadcast Communications describes their 54-year marriage as the bedrock of his life.[6] Lizette was often the first person to hear her husband's new ideas as radio and television became integral to American home life.[4]

The couple had three sons. Eldest son Robert W. Sarnoff (1918-1997)[1] succeeded his father at the helm of RCA in 1970.[18] Robert's second wife was operatic soprano Anna Moffo.[1] Edward Sarnoff, the middle child, headed Fleet Services of New York.[19] Thomas W. Sarnoff, the youngest, was NBC's West Coast President.

Sarnoff was the maternal uncle of screenwriter Richard Baer.[20] Sarnoff was credited with sparking Baer's interest in television.[20] According to Baer's 2005 autobiography, Sarnoff called a vice president at NBC at 6 A.M. and ordered him to find Baer "a job by 9 o'clock" that same morning.[20] The NBC vice president complied with Sarnoff's request.

Sarnoff's first cousin was Eugene Lyons, U.S. journalist and writer, who wrote a biography of Sarnoff.

David Sarnoff was initiated to the Scottish Rite Freemasonry[21][22] in the Renovation Lodge No. 97, Albion, NY[23][24].


Sarnoff museum

The exhibits are currently located at The College of New Jersey in Roscoe L. West Hall.

See also

  • Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio
  • Sarnoff Corporation, the eponymous successor organization to RCA Laboratories following the 1986 acquisition of RCA by General Electric.


  1. ^ a b c Kleinfeld, N.R. "Robert Sarnoff, 78, RCA Chairman, Dies," New York Times. February 24, 1997.
  2. ^ a b c d Radio Hall of Fame web site
  3. ^ "How the General Earned his Star". Hagley Museum. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Fowle, Farnsworth (10 January 1974). "Mrs. David Sarnoff Dies at 79; Widow of Broadcasting Pioneer". The New York Times. p. 40. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  5. ^ Kovarik, Bill (2015). Revolutions in Communication: Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 314. ISBN 9781441185501.
  6. ^ a b c d e Museum of Broadcast Communications web site
  7. ^ a b Magoun, Alexander "Pushing Technology: David Sarnoff and Wireless Communications" Archived 2015-07-06 at the Wayback Machine paper presented at 2001 IEEE Conference on the History of Telecommunications
  8. ^ Urban Legends Revealed: Did David Sarnoff Work a Telegraph Three Days Straight Covering the Titanic Sinking?, Retrieved July 6, 2015
  9. ^ Benjamin, Louise. "In Search of the Sarnoff 'Radio Music Box' Memo: Nally's Reply." Journal of Radio Studies. June 2002. pp 97-106. Retrieved July 5, 2015. The 1915 memo has not been found, but Benjamin and the curator of Sarnoff's papers found a previously mis-filed 1916 memo that did mention a "radio music box scheme" (the word "scheme" at that time usually meant a plan)
  10. ^ "Big Dream, Small Screen," The American Experience television series. (1997)
  11. ^ RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. -- retrieved February 4, 2006.
  12. ^ ^ Abramson, Albert (1987), The History of Television, 1880 to 1941. Jefferson, NC: Albert Abramson. p. 149-151. ISBN 0-89950-284-9.
  13. ^ a b New York Times. October 12, 1944.
  14. ^ "Sarnoff Becomes a General". Radio Age. January 1945: 27. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  15. ^ "Sarnoff Revives Pleas for U.S. Radio; 1943 Letter to Hull, Now Sent to Marshall, Bids Nation Set Up a 'Voice of America'," New York Times. May 16, 1947.
  16. ^ Sarnoff, David. "National Purpose: Sarnoff Program; Renewed Dedication of Traditions Urged in Fighting Communism," New York Times. June 2, 1960; Sarnoff, David. "Turn the Cold War Tide in America's Favor", Life. June 6, 1960.
  17. ^ The Froehlich/Kent Encycloped of Telecommunications Vol 15 By Allen S. Kent
  18. ^ Kleinfield, N. R. (1997-02-24). "Robert Sarnoff, 78, RCA Chairman, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  19. ^ "David Sarnoff, Head of RCA, Dies". Beckley Post-Herald. 1971-12-13. p. 11. Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  20. ^ a b c Nelson, Valerie J. (2008-02-26). "Richard Baer, 79; wrote for many popular sitcoms". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
  21. ^ "Famous men members of Masonic Lodges". American Canadian Grand Lodge ACGL. Archived from the original on Nov 17, 2018.
  22. ^ "Famous members of Masonic Lodges". Bavaria Lodge No. 935 A.F. & A. M. Archived from the original on Oct 13, 2018.
  23. ^ "List of famous freemasons". Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. Archived from the original on Oct 4, 2001. Retrieved Sep 30, 2018.
  24. ^ "Infomrations about famous members of Freemasonry". Scottish Rite Center (Columbus, Orient of Georgia). Archived from the original on Sep 30, 2014.
  25. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Archived from the original on 2015-03-19. Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  26. ^ "NAB Winners: Distinguished Service Award". National Association of Broadcasters. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  27. ^ "Television Hall of Fame Honorees: Complete List".


Further reading

  • Bilby, Kenneth. (1986). The General: David Sarnoff and the Rise of the Communications Industry. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-015568-1 (cloth) -- The best biography available, by a retired RCA vice president of public affairs.
  • Dreher, Carl Dreher. (1977). Sarnoff: An American Success, New York: New York Times Book Company. ISBN 0-8129-0672-1 (cloth) -- A thoughtful biography by an early associate of Sarnoff's.
  • Lewis, Tom. (1991). Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio. New York: HarperCollins ISBN 978-0-06-018215-1 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-06-098119-8 -- Profiles Sarnoff's life along with those of Edwin Armstrong and Lee De Forest, drawing on archival sources.
  • Lyons, Eugene. (1966). David Sarnoff: A Biography. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 978-600-150-791-5 (cloth) -- A cousin's sympathetic but insightful biography approved by Sarnoff.
  • Sarnoff, David. (1968). Looking Ahead: The Papers of David Sarnoff. New York: McGraw Hill. -- A useful one-volume compendium of Sarnoff's writings, covering his views on innovation, broadcasting, monopoly rights and responsibilities, freedom, and future electronic innovations.
  • Schwartz, Evan I. (2002). The Last Lone Inventor: A Tale of Genius, Deceit, and the Birth of Television. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-621069-8 (cloth)
  • Sobel, Robert. (1984). RCA. New York: Stein and Day. ISBN 978-0-8128-3084-2 (cloth) -- The most authoritative history on the company by a prolific business historian, with a thorough bibliography but no footnotes.
  • Gutterman, Leon. (1968). The Wisdom Society for the Advancement of Knowledge, Learning and Research in Education (1968) The Wisdom of Sarnoff and The World of RCA
  • Woolley, Scott. (2016). The Network: The Battle for the Airwaves and the Birth of the Communications Age New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-224275-4

External links

Digital Video Interactive

Digital Video Interactive (DVI) was the first multimedia desktop video standard for IBM-compatible personal computers. It enabled full-screen, full motion video, as well as stereo audio, still images, and graphics to be presented on a DOS-based desktop computer. The scope of Digital Video Interactive encompasses a file format, including a digital container format, a number of video and audio compression formats, as well as hardware associated with the file format.

Edward B. Roberts

Edward Baer Roberts (born 1935) is a faculty member at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He became the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology in 1974.Ed Roberts, one of the leading authorities on entrepreneurship wrote "Entrepreneurs in High Technology: Lessons from MIT and Beyond" on high-tech business creation and growth. The book won the Association of American Publishers Award for Outstanding Book in Business and Management in 1991. Dr. Roberts is the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Chair of the Sloan School’s Management of Technological Innovation & Entrepreneurship research and education programs, as well as the founder and chair of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center.

Dr. Roberts has been a co-founder, director, and/or angel investor in many emerging companies. He co-founded and for 20 years was a General Partner in the Zero Stage and First Stage Capital Equity Funds, venture capital funds specializing in early-stage technology firms. He co-founded and was CEO of Pugh-Roberts Associates, an international management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and technology management (now a division of PA Consulting Group). He also co-founded and serves as a Director of Sohu.com, a leading Chinese Internet firm.

He earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Engineering, an MBA, and the world’s first Ph.D. in System Dynamics, all from MIT. He has authored more than 150 articles and 11 books, most recently Innovation: Driving Product, Process and Market Change.Professor Roberts serves on the board of advisors of Maverick Ventures Israel, a unique venture capital fund composed of private investors which invests in early growth Israeli startups.

Grand Alliance (HDTV)

The Grand Alliance (GA) was a consortium created in 1993 at the behest of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop the American digital television (SDTV, EDTV) and HDTV specification, with the aim of pooling the best work from different companies. It consisted of AT&T Corporation, General Instrument Corporation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Philips Consumer Electronics, David Sarnoff Research Center, Thomson Consumer Electronics, and Zenith Electronics Corporation. The Grand Alliance DTV system is the basis for the ATSC standard.

Recognizing that earlier proposed systems demonstrated particular strengths in the FCC's Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service (ACATS) testing and evaluation process, the Grand Alliance system was proposed to combine the

advantages of all of the previously proposed terrestrial digital HDTV systems. At the time of its inception, the Grand Alliance HDTV system was specified to include:

Flexible picture formats with a header/Descriptor approach, allowing the inclusion of both 1050 and 787.5 raster formats.

Progressive scanning and square pixel capabilities in both raster formats.

Interlaced scanning and rectangular pixel formats.

Video compression based on MPEG-2, with additional syntax elements that represent contributions from each previously proposed system.

A packetized, prioritized data format, providing flexibility of services and extensibility.Audio and transmission systems had not been decided at the time of the GA agreement. Five channel audio was specified, but a decision among the Dolby AC-3, multi-channel MUSICAM audio, and MIT "AC" systems had not yet been made. Candidate transmission approaches included QAM, Spectrally-Shaped QAM, 6 VSB (with trellis code) and 4/2 VSB. COFDM had been proposed by third parties, but was rejected as not being mature, and not offering fringe-area coverage equivalent to analog transmission. A thorough analysis of service area, interference characteristics, transmission robustness and system attributes would be performed to determine the "best approach."

In the end, 1080, 720 and 480-line resolutions were implemented at various aspect ratios and frame rates, with progressive and interlaced scanning (the so-called "18 formats"), together with 8-VSB modulation and Dolby AC-3 audio. However, the selection of transmission and audio systems was not without controversy. The choice of 8-VSB was later criticised by several groups as being inferior to COFDM under conditions of multipath interference. Improvements in receiver designs would later render this apparently moot. With MUSICAM originally faltering during GA testing, the GA issued a statement finding the MPEG-2 audio system to be "essentially equivalent" to Dolby, but only after the Dolby selection had been made. Later, a story emerged that MIT had entered into an agreement with Dolby whereupon the university would be awarded a large sum if the MUSICAM system was rejected. Following a five-year lawsuit for breach of contract, MIT and its GA representative received a total of $30 million from Dolby, after the litigants reached a last-minute out-of-court settlement. Dolby also offered an incentive for Zenith to switch their vote (which they did), however it is unknown whether they accepted the offer.

Hermann Gummel

Hermann K. Gummel (born 5 July 1923 in Hanover, Germany) is a pioneer in the semiconductor industry.

Gummel received his Diploma in physics (1952) from Philipps University in Marburg, Germany. He received his M.S. (1952) and Ph.D. (1957) degrees in theoretical semiconductor physics from Syracuse University. Gummel joined Bell Laboratories in 1956; his doctoral advisor, Melvin Lax, had moved from Syracuse University to Bell the previous year. At Bell, Gummel made important contributions to the design and simulation of the semiconductor devices used throughout modern electronics.Among the most important of his contributions are the Gummel–Poon model which made accurate simulation of bipolar transistors possible and which was central to the development of the SPICE program; Gummel's method, used to solve the equations for the detailed behavior of individual bipolar transistors,; and the Gummel plot, used to characterize bipolar transistors. Gummel also created one of the first personal workstations, based on HP minicomputers and Tektronix terminals and used for VLSI design and layout, and MOTIS, the first MOS timing simulator and the basis of "fast SPICE" programs.

In 1983, Gummel received the David Sarnoff Award "for contributions and leadership in device analysis and development of computer-aided design tools for semiconductor devices and circuits". In 1985, Gummel was elected to the United States National Academy of Engineering for "contributions and leadership in the analysis and computer-aided design of semiconductor devices and circuits.". In 1994, he was the first recipient of Phil Kaufman Award.

IEEE David Sarnoff Award

The IEEE David Sarnoff Award was a Technical Field Award presented in 1959–2016 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It was awarded annually for exceptional contributions to electronics.The award was established in 1959 by the RCA Corporation; in 1989 the Sarnoff Corporation became its sponsor. It consisted of a bronze medal, certificate and honorarium, and was presented each year to an individual or small team (up to three people).

The award was discontinued in 2016.

Legends and myths regarding RMS Titanic

There have been several legends and myths surrounding the RMS Titanic over the years. These have ranged from the myth about the ship being unsinkable, to the myth concerning the final song played by the ship's orchestra.

M. C. Frank Chang

Mau-Chung Frank Chang (Chinese: 張 懋中, born February 20, 1951) is Distinguished Professor and the Chairman of Electrical Engineering department at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he conducts research and teaching on RF CMOS design, high speed integrated circuit design, data converter, and mixed-signal circuit designs. He is the Director of the UCLA High Speed Electronics Laboratory.

Before joining UCLA in 1997, he was the Assistant Director and Department Manager of the High Speed Electronics Laboratory at the Rockwell International Science Center (now Teledyne Technologies) from 1983 to 1997 in Thousand Oaks, California. In this tenure, he successfully developed and transferred AlGaAs/GaAs Heterojunction Bipolar Transistor (HBT) and BiFET (Planar HBT/MESFET) integrated circuits technologies from the research laboratory to the production line. The HBT and BiFET productions have grown into multibillion-dollar businesses worldwide. He was the inventor of the multi-band, re-configurable RF-Interconnects based on FDMA and CDMA multiple access algorithms for intra- and inter-ULSI communications.

Chang was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2008, for the development and commercialization of GaAs HBT power amplifiers and integrated circuits. He received the IEEE David Sarnoff Award in 2006 and became a Fellow of IEEE in 1996. He also received Pan Wen-Yuan Foundation Award in 2008, Rockwell’s Leonardo da Vinci Award (Engineer of the Year) in 1992, National Chiao Tung University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1997, and the National Tsing Hua University Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2002.

In Nov. 2014, Dr. Chang is elected as the 11th president of National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu,Taiwan. In 2017, he was awarded the IET JJ Thomson Medal ( IET Achievement Medals ) in London.

NBC Symphony Orchestra

The NBC Symphony Orchestra was a radio orchestra established by David Sarnoff, the president of the Radio Corporation of America, especially for the celebrated conductor Arturo Toscanini. The NBC Symphony performed weekly radio concert broadcasts with Toscanini and other conductors and served as house orchestra for the NBC network. The orchestra's first broadcast was on November 13, 1937 and it continued until disbanded in 1954. A new ensemble, independent of the network, called the "'Symphony of the Air'" followed. It was made up of former members of the NBC Symphony Orchestra and performed from 1954 to 1963, notably under Leopold Stokowski.

Otto H. Schade

Otto H. Schade (April 27, 1903 – April 28, 1981) was a noted television pioneer, best known for his work on evaluating the gradation, graininess and sharpness in film and television images, and his aperture theory that mathematically modeled the system performance of photographic lenses, films, television tubes, and electrical circuits.

Schade was born in Schmalkalden, Germany, graduated in 1922 from the Reform-Real-Gymnasium in Halle, Germany, then worked at Telephonfabrik A.G. vorm. J. Berliner in Berlin and Düsseldorf (1922–1924), and at the Ratig company in Berlin (1924–1925). He then emigrated to the United States to work at A. Atwater Kent in Philadelphia (1926–1931).

In 1931 Schade joined the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), where he spent the remainder of his career. From 1944 to 1957, he developed a unified theory of image analysis and specification, including practical methods for measuring the optical transfer function and noise in optical, photographic, and electronic imaging systems. In 1958 he began a study leading to the Nuvistor low-noise tubes for television receivers. He retired from RCA in 1968, continuing as a consultant until 1974.

Schade was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. He received 85 patents and numerous awards, including an honorary Doctorate of Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1953), Modern Pioneer Award of the National Association of Manufacturers (1940), the RCA Victor Award of Merit (1946), the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award (1950), the first David Sarnoff Gold Medal Award (in 1951), David Sarnoff Outstanding Achievement Award (1968), and the Vladimir K. Zworykin Award (1969).

The Society for Information Display awards a prize in his honor.


Project SHAMROCK, considered to be the sister project for Project MINARET, was an espionage exercise started in August 1945, that involved the accumulation of all telegraphic data entering into or exiting from the United States. The Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and its successor, the National Security Agency (NSA), were given direct access to daily microfilm copies of all incoming, outgoing, and transiting telegrams via the Western Union and its associates RCA and ITT. NSA did the operational interception, and, if information that would be of interest to other intelligence agencies was found, the material was passed to them. "Intercepted messages were disseminated to the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and the Department of Defense." No court authorized the operation and there were no warrants.

The precursor to the project according to Budiansky occurred in 1940, "In January 1940 the Army's adjutant general sent a letter to the president of RCA, David Sarnoff, asking if a Lieutenant Earle F. Cook might be assigned to the company..." Cook photographed all international commercial cablegrams. "The clandestine arrangement—almost certainly illegal—set a precedent..." Official wartime censorship began in Dec. 1940, when all cables were "turned over to the government for inspection." According to Tordella, "the collection program 'just ran on' ever since its beginning in World War II 'without a great deal of attention from anyone'..." Three major cable companies provided copies of all international telegrams passing through New York, Washington, and San Francisco. In the 1950s, "New Shamrock" tapped the links of 60–70 foreign embassies.At the height of Project SHAMROCK, 150,000 messages a month were printed and analyzed by NSA personnel.

In May 1975 however, Congressional critics began to investigate and expose the program. As a result, NSA director Lew Allen terminated it, on his own authority rather than that of other intelligence agencies. According to Budiansky, a 1977 US Department of Justice review concluded wiretap laws were violated, but "If the intelligence agencies possessed too much discretionary authority with too little accountability, that would seem to be a 35-year failing of Presidents and the Congress rather than the agencies or their personnel."The testimony of both the representatives from the cable companies and of director Allen at the hearings prompted Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Senator Frank Church to conclude that Project SHAMROCK was "probably the largest government interception program affecting Americans ever undertaken."One result of these investigations was the 1978 creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which limited the powers of the NSA and put in place a process of warrants and judicial review. Another internal safeguard, was United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18 (USSID 18), an internal NSA and intelligence community set of procedures, originally issued in 1980.USSID 18 was the general guideline for handling signal intelligence SIGINT inadvertently collected on US citizens, without a warrant, prior to the George W. Bush Administration. The post-Clinton era interpretations of FISA and USSID 18's principles assume that the executive branch has unitary authority for warrantless surveillance. This assertion came under congressional investigation as an apparent violation of FISA's intent.


The RCA Corporation was a major American electronics company, which was founded as the Radio Corporation of America in 1919. It was initially a wholly owned subsidiary of General Electric (GE); however, in 1932, RCA became an independent company after GE was required to divest its ownership as part of the settlement of a government antitrust suit.

An innovative and progressive company, RCA was the dominant electronics and communications firm in the United States for over five decades. RCA was at the forefront of the mushrooming radio industry in the early 1920s, as a major manufacturer of radio receivers, and the exclusive manufacturer of the first superheterodyne models. RCA also created the first American radio network, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). The company was also a pioneer in the introduction and development of television, both black-and-white and especially, color. During this period, RCA was closely identified with the leadership of David Sarnoff. He was general manager at the company's founding, became president in 1930, and remained active, as chairman of the board, until the end of 1969.

RCA's seemingly impregnable stature began to weaken in the mid-1970s, as it attempted to diversify and expand into a multifaceted conglomerate. The company suffered enormous financial losses in the mainframe computer industry and other failed projects such as the CED videodisc. In 1986, RCA was reacquired by General Electric, which over the next few years liquidated most of the corporation's assets. Today, RCA exists as a brand name only; the various RCA trademarks are currently owned by Sony Music Entertainment and Technicolor, which in turn license the brand name to several other companies including Voxx International, Curtis International, AVC Multimedia, TCL Corporation, and Express LUCK International, Ltd. for their various products.

Radio programming

The original inventors of radio, from Guglielmo Marconi's time on, expected it to be used for one-on-one wireless communication tasks where telephones and telegraphs could not be used because of the problems involved in stringing copper wires from one point to another, such as in ship-to-shore communications. Those inventors had no expectations whatever that radio would become a major mass media entertainment and information medium earning many millions of dollars in revenues annually through radio advertising commercials or sponsorship. These latter uses were brought about after 1920 by business entrepreneurs such as David Sarnoff, who created the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and William S. Paley, who built Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). These broadcasting (as opposed to narrowcasting) business organizations began to be called network affiliates, because they consisted of loose chains of individual stations located in various cities, all transmitting the standard overall-system supplied fare, often at synchronized agreed-upon times. Some of these radio network stations were owned and operated by the networks, while others were independent radio owned by entrepreneurs allied with the respective networks. By selling blocks of time to advertisers, the medium was able to quickly become profitable and offer its products to listeners for free, provided they invested in a radio receiver set.

The new medium had grown rapidly through the 1930s, vastly increasing both the size of its audience and its profits. In those early days, it was customary for a corporation to sponsor an entire half-hour radio program, placing its commercials at the beginning and the end. This is in contrast to the pattern which developed late in the 20th century in both television and radio, where small slices of time were sold to many sponsors and no corporation claimed or wanted sponsorship of the entire show, except in rare cases. These later commercials also filled a much larger portion of the total program time than they had in the earlier days.

In the early radio age, content typically included a balance of comedy, drama, news, music and sports reporting. Variety radio programs included the most famous Hollywood talent of the day. During the 1920s, radio focused on musical entertainment, the Grand Ole Opry, has been focused on broadcasting country music since it began in 1925. Radio soap operas began in the U.S. in 1930 with Painted Dreams. Lørdagsbarnetimen, a Norwegian children's show, with its premiere in 1924 interrupted only by the Second World War, was the longest running radio show in the world until it ceased production in 2010.In the early 1950s, television programming eroded the popularity of radio comedy, drama and variety shows. By the late 1950s, radio broadcasting took on much the form it has today – strongly focused on music, talk, news and sports, though drama can still be heard, especially on the BBC.

Sarnoff Corporation

Sarnoff Corporation, with headquarters in West Windsor Township, New Jersey, though with a Princeton address, was a research and development company specializing in vision, video and semiconductor technology. It was named for David Sarnoff, the longtime leader of RCA and NBC.

The cornerstone of Sarnoff Corporation's David Sarnoff Research Center in the Princeton vicinity was laid just before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. That facility, later Sarnoff Corporation headquarters, was the site of several historic developments, including color television, CMOS integrated circuit technology and electron microscopy.

Following 47 years as a central research laboratory for its corporate owner RCA (and briefly for successor GE) as RCA Laboratories, in 1988 the David Sarnoff Research Center was transitioned to Sarnoff Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of SRI International. In January 2011, Sarnoff Corporation was integrated into its parent company, SRI International, and continues to engage in similar research and development activities at the Princeton, New Jersey facility. Although located adjacent to Princeton University, the two are not, and have not been, directly affiliated.

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) (, rarely ), founded in 1916 as the Society of Motion Picture Engineers or SMPE, is a global professional association, of engineers, technologists, and executives working in the media and entertainment industry. An internationally recognized standards organization, SMPTE has more than 800 Standards, Recommended Practices, and Engineering Guidelines for broadcast, filmmaking, digital cinema, audio recording, information technology (IT), and medical imaging. In addition to development and publication of technical standards documents, SMPTE publishes the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal, provides networking opportunities for its members, produces academic conferences and exhibitions, and performs other industry-related functions.

SMPTE Membership is open to any individual or organization with interest in the subject matter.

SMPTE standards documents are copyrighted and may be purchased from the SMPTE website, or other distributors of technical standards. Standards documents may be purchased by the general public. Significant standards promulgated by SMPTE include:

All film and television transmission formats and media, including digital.

Physical interfaces for transmission of television signals and related data (such as SMPTE time code and the Serial Digital Interface) (SDI)

SMPTE color bars

Test card patterns and other diagnostic tools

The Material eXchange Format, or MXF

SMPTE ST 2110SMPTE's educational and professional development activities include technical presentations at regular meetings of its local Sections, annual and biennial conferences in the US and Australia and the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal. The society sponsors many awards, the oldest of which are the SMPTE Progress Medal, the Samuel Warner Memorial Medal, and the David Sarnoff Medal. SMPTE also has a number of Student Chapters and sponsors scholarships for college students in the motion imaging disciplines.

SMPTE is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization.

Related organizations include

Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC)

Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG)

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)

ITU Radiocommunication Sector (formerly known as the CCIR)

ITU Telecommunication Sector (formerly known as the CCITT)

Digital Video Broadcasting

BBC Research Department

European Broadcasting Union (EBU)

Technological somnambulism

Technological somnambulism is a concept used when talking about the philosophy of technology. The term was used by Langdon Winner in his essay Technology as forms of life. Winner puts forth the idea that we are simply in a state of sleepwalking in our mediations with technology. This sleepwalking is caused by a number of factors. One of the primary causes is the way we view technology as tools, something that can be put down and picked up again. Because of this view of objects as something we can easily separate ourselves from technology, and so we fail to look at the long term implications of using that object. A second factor is the separation of those who make the technology and those who use the technology. This division causes there to be little thought and research going into the effects of using/developing that technology. The third and most important idea is the way in which technology seems to create new worlds in which we live. These worlds are created by the restructuring of the common and seemingly everyday things around us. In most situations the changes take place with little attention or care from us because we are more focused on the menial aspects of the technology (Winner 105-107).The concept can be found in the earlier work of Marshall McLuhan, cf. Understanding Media, where he refers to a comment made by David Sarnoff expressing a socially deterministic view of "value free" technology whose value is solely defined by its usage as representing, "...the voice of the current somnambulism". Given that this piece by McLuhan has become standard reading in Media Theory it is reasonable to suspect that Winner encountered the concept there or elsewhere and then went on to develop it further.

Television Hall of Fame

The Television Academy Hall of Fame was founded by a former president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS), John H. Mitchell (1921–1988), to honor individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to U.S. television.

The Farnsworth Invention

The Farnsworth Invention is a stage play by Aaron Sorkin adapted from an unproduced screenplay about Philo Farnsworth's first fully functional and completely all-electronic television system and David Sarnoff, the RCA president who stole the design.

WJY (Hoboken, New Jersey)

WJY was a temporary longwave radio station, located in Hoboken, New Jersey and operated by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which was used on July 2, 1921 for a ringside broadcast of the Dempsey-Carpentier heavyweight boxing match.

The fight details were also telegraphed to station KDKA in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and broadcast from there by a local announcer. These broadcasts were a cooperative effort, designed to raise money for the American Committee for Devastated France and the Navy Club. This also marked RCA's entrance into the radio broadcasting field, which the company would dominate in the U.S. for the next half century.

William Bell (tuba player)

William Bell (Born December 25, 1902, Creston, Iowa, died August 7, 1971, Perry, Iowa) was the premier player and teacher of the tuba in America during the first half of the 20th century. In 1921, he joined the band of John Philip Sousa, and from 1924 to 1937 he served as Principal Tuba with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In 1937 General Electric's David Sarnoff invited conductor Arturo Toscanini to select personnel for The NBC Symphony Orchestra. William Bell was the third musician selected by Toscanini, after his concertmaster Mischa Mischakoff and principal oboe Philip Ghignatti. In 1943 he became principal tubist for the New York Philharmonic. Leopold Stokowski invited Bell to perform and narrate George Kleinsinger's 'Tubby the Tuba', and to perform and sing a special arrangement of 'When Yuba Plays The Rhumba on the Tuba'. In 1955 Bell performed the American premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Concerto for Bass Tuba and Orchestra". He was professor of tuba at the Manhattan School of Music until 1961, and Indiana University from 1961 to 1971. Bell's students included the late Harvey Phillips, the late Ed Livingston, Dennis Parker, Don Harry, Fred Marzan, Dick Babcock, and R. Winston Morris.

As Bell died in 1971, low brass lineage practitioners on the Bell method have become more rare.


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