Tubetalk Radio Show Hall of Fame
David Sarnoff (1891-1971) devoted his life to creating the
broadcasting industry of the 20th century. Starting as an office boy
for the American branch of Guglielmo Marconi's Wireless Telegraph
Company in 1906, Sarnoff received his operator's license and rose
through the company ranks while promoting innovations in mobile radio,
radio telephony, and broadcasting. When American Marconi became the
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1919, Sarnoff was the general
manager who pushed his superiors to adapt to the broadcasting boom
that he also encouraged.
During the 1920s, Sarnoff foresaw and promoted the development of
portable, personal radios; network broadcasting (NBC); sound motion
pictures; and television. As vice president of RCA he pushed for it to
become a manufacturer through the purchase of Victor Talking Machine
Company. Sarnoff became RCA's president as the Great Depression
began, during which he persisted in funding research and development
in electronic monochrome television. RCA's technology and much of its
transmission system became the basis for TV systems around the world.
After World War II, during which Sarnoff coordinated the transmission
of news during the invasion of western Europe, RCA led the production
and marketing of television in the U.S. In response to CBS's proposed
electromechanical color TV system, Sarnoff sponsored RCA Laboratories'
invention of monochrome-compatible, electronic color TV between 1949
and 1951. The U.S. adopted this approach in 1953, followed by variants
around the world.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Sarnoff continued to analyze the implications
of developments in electronics, communications, and computation.
Although RCA gave up its patent monopoly in broadcast technologies in
1957, he encouraged investment in solid-state electronics to replace
the vacuum tubes used for 50 years: in digital computers; in
communications satellites; and in flat-panel displays to replace
cathode-ray tube that predated the vacuum tube triode. Ever the
technological optimist, Sarnoff anticipated continued improvements in
electronic technologies and communications, with a concomitant
improvement in global society.