Monday, July 7, 2008

Television Magazines

The origins and development of TV can be easily documented in magazines. I have enjoyed collecting these hard to find and previously undocumented issues over the years. Here are some of the highlights:

The word "television" was coined by the remarkable futurist Hugo Gernsback. (for a nice review of his publications and many images see The first image I have found of anything resembling the present day television is included in his legendary story "Ralph 124C 41+" which was serialized over twelve issues in 1911 in the first ever magazine devoted to electronics, Modern Electrics, edited and created by- you guessed it- Hugo Gernsback. Over the years I've managed to assemble the complete "Ralph" run. It is quite rare and I'd estimate the value of a complete set to be about $2000, if one was lucky enough to find all the issues. Here are the very first issue of the magazine and the telephot cover:

Gernsback subsequently edited dozens of magazines, mostly technical and science-fiction (another term he coined) related but that's a blog for another day.

In the twenties a few issues of other Gernsback magazines had covers with different early television images:

The first magazine devoted exclusively to television appeared in 1927, lasting two issues. These were the days of the rotating disk, prior to the invention of the modern video tube by Philo T. Farnsworth and Vladimir Zworykin.

Another magazine devoted to television appeared in 1928, also printed in Britain.

This 1931 magazine one really threw me for a loop: I've only seen it once and it probably ran for three issues: It features the first published list of commercial television stations. I don't use the term "rare" lightly. This one is extremely rare and possibly the only copy in existence.

In 1931, a longer running Gernback publication, Television News appeared.

By 1939, television had come a long way technically and was one of the major features of the World's Fair in New York. It was ready for widespread commericial distribution but World War II put that on hold.

In the mid 1940's television manufacturers send out programming schedules by mail. The first weekly programming magazine appeared on January 26, 1948 (two day's after I was born!), Phillipp's Television Weekly, which evolved into Tele-Week. Here is the scarce first and a later issue:

1 comment:

lartronics said...

Great reminder. I actually was hired by Hugo as an assistant editor for Radio Electronics magazine back in the late 50's. I went on to evenutally own the company. In fact I recently published a new "biography" of that famous fellow.

I’ve recently published a new 900-page biography about the life and times of Hugo Gernsback. It is available on Amazon. Just follow this link:

The manuscript was found while I was in the process of closing down Gernsback Publications Inc. in 2003. It was apparently written some time in the 1950’s. It covers all the areas that Hugo found interesting: wireless communications, science fiction, publishing, patents, foretelling the future, and much more.

Want more info? Contact me at