"Tagesbericht. Der elektrische Fernseher" 
(Ein Besuch bei Herrn Jan Szczepanik)", 
Neues Wiener Tageblatt

Donnersdag, 17. März 1898, nr. 75, p. 3

 

Texte original en allemand, annoté par Klaus Beneke.

Notice

   Nous publions ici la traduction en anglais d'un deuxième article paru dans la presse autrichienne sur le Fernseher de l'inventeur austro-polonais Jan Szczepanik. On remarquera que dans cet article le terme Telektroskop, plus cohérent par rapport au terme de télectroscope proposé par Figuier en 1877 est préféré à celui de Telelektroskop utilisé dans l'article du Reichswehr paru six jours plus tôt.

"Daily Report. The Electrical Televisor" (A visit to Mr Jan Szczepanik).

    As the astonished world began to speak and to listen into the distance through the telephone, some people arrived, after a time, who thought that this was really a very easy thing and only astonishing by the fact that it had not been invented before. Fundamentally, it is a child's toy, they said, because Graham Bell - later two more inventors of the telephone have stepped forward - had only observed that the lid of a cylindrical tin, which was hit by sound waves, was set in oscillating motion. From the tin lid arose his telephone membrane, connected to an electromagnet - a totally astonishingly simple affair, an electromagnetic joke, a child's toy … It is not without relevance to bring these matters to recollection at the moment when the Viennese scientific community is preoccupied with a man, who has received the confirmation, through patents from all nations of culture, that he has invented an electrical televisor ("elektrischen Fernsher"), that is an apparatus, which, with the aid of electricity, allows looking into the far distance, quite analogous to what the telephone permits for hearing. Because for this device one may also - as we will later demonstrate - claim that it is dependent on a child's toy. Until now no-one in Vienna, with the exception of one single confidant, has really seen the telectrsoscop (Telektroskop), as the inventor calls the televisor, and no-one who is personally engaged in the question is able to confirm by first-hand experience that the device in fact does what its inventor claims. A large part of the doubt which was expressed has, however, been dissipated through the publication of details that have become known through the awarded patents. These details are, in fact, of such a nature that men, who possess the theoretical and practical knowledge for undertaking such a task themselves, declare without reservation that they would in no way be astonished to see this particular device function in the way promised.

    So far it is certainly only a moral victory that Jan Szczepanik - this is the name of the inventor - has reaped, but within a certain period he will, as he recently told one of our correspondents, provide factual evidence of all his claims through a series of demonstrations of the telektroskop to a small circle of invited guests. The day of conclusive proof will certainly go down in the annals of science, and Mr Szczepanik may, with all due right, add his name to the list of the most illustrious inventors.

                                             * * *

    This is not the place to explain the intricate complexes of learned theories and hypotheses, on the basis of which the scientific world has long been convinced that an optical parallel to the telephone would be feasible. Nor shall it be discussed why the theoreticians thought the solution would be dependent on closer research into the interplay between light and electricity, that is, how everyone was thinking in the same direction, along a path which seemed impossible to complete, due to the current state of theoretical physics. Furthermore, we would like to state here, that Mr Szczepanik, if his telectroscop could be a contribution to the unravelling of this interplay, has completed this theoretical journey. And now we will again speak about a child's toy, and one which is even quite old.

    Today this toy is found in the physics cupboards of all Middle Schools [junior high schools], because due to it, many wonderful discoveries in optics have been made. Thus, for example, the highly acclaimed cinematograph is basically nothing but a refined "Wheel of Life" - which is the name of this child's toy - and the telectroscop is again nothing but a cinematograph, which immediately telegraphs the recorded images of objects off into the distance, and even in natural colours. The "Wheel of Life", the "Zoetrope" or "Stroboscope" is a round tin, with embrasures along the upper rim; the tin is mounted on a stand so that it can be rotated. The play is as follows: A strip of paper is placed against the inner wall of the tin. On this strip of paper is repeatedly pictured - let us say - a troop of soldiers, so that each picture shows a different phase of their marching. If one spins the tin rapidly, and at the same time peeks through the embrasures, then - the soldiers are marching. This optical illusion is caused by the human eye, which for a fraction of a second - approximately 1/10 of a second in duration - imagines to see an object, even if this object has already disappeared from the field of vision. If the object during this fraction of a second is replaced by another one, which is like the first one, only showing a different position, then the eye will believe that the object is in motion. From this child's toy, which probably everyone will know from their school days, as well as from the explanation, is also derived the principle of the telektroskop. Some theoreticians, who have also been pursuing the [notion of] televisor, have realised that one fundamental condition of the electrical television was to be found in the "Wheel of Life". Thus Professor Liesegang expressed his understanding, in his work Beiträge zum Problem des elektrischen Fernshen, that the matter consisted in breaking up the [image of] the object to be seen at a distance, into innumerable dots of light in the course of one tenth of a second; the light from each of these individual dots would have to be sent, by appropriate means, into the distance, and there, in exactly the same sequence as they were produced, to be observed by the eye, once more within one tenth of a second. How does one do all this, then? Of the three requirements: breaking up, transmission, and reassembling, only one was possible with currently known means, and that only in a very imperfect manner, namely the transmission. There exists a metal, an element discovered by Berzelius in 1817, Selenium, which, in addition to other strange qualities, also possesses the capacity to change its resistance to electric currents according to changes in light, - i.e. variations in the intensity and colour of the light influencing the Selenium. With the help of Selenium it has thus been possible for a long time to electrically send varying light in different manners into the distance. But the light changed into electricity in this fashion stayed electricity at its point of reception, and the most one could use it for, would be to feed a light bulb. Then the theoreticians said: "Here is a gap in our knowledge: We have indeed transformed the electrical current produced by light on Selenium into heat in the light bulb; now we must search for a way to transform the electrical waves back into light waves. In addition, we must find a way to break the [image of the] object into dots of light".

    However, Mr Szczepanik explains that he has discovered [how to produce] this breaking-up of the image into dots of light, the first of the theoretical requirements for television; the second one - transmission of the light - had been solved, and Mr Szczepanik now claims that he has subdued the obstinate Selenium into surrendering the imperfection of its electrical properties. Concerning the third requirement, however - or, more correctly, the theoretical basis of this requirement - that is, the transformation of electrical waves into light waves, Mr Szczepanik simply claims that the theory was wrong, that in practice this has proved to be just as unnecessary as, say, the requirement that the telephone would have to transform the electrical waves into sound waves. In practice, in fact, the membrane of the earphone of the telephone is an independent source of sound, and the electricity only serves to put this source of sound waves into the same oscillations as those made by the membrane of the [mouthpiece of the] emitting telephone.

    The theoretical requirements of Mr Szczepanik's telektroskop are thus:

    The [image of the] object to be "telectroscopied" is in a matter of a tenth of a second broken up into an infinite number of dots of light, each of which is of a different [light] intensity and colour; this difference among the spots of light releases varying currencies in the Selenium; each intensity and colour corresponds to a different electrical charge; the electrical charges are fed through wires to a device, which under the influence of these [charges] produces variations in an independent light source, located in the receiver apparatus, which produces light corresponding to the electrical impulses; this light is alike the "broken-up" charges; the effects of light produced by the independent light source, following one after the other, are grouped together through a reassembling device similar to the de-assembling device in the transmitting apparatus, in exactly the same way as they were before the breaking-up, and they arrive to the eye of the distant beholder, who perceives to have before him the "telectroscopied" object.

    One will remark that, in physics, a long journey can be made from the point of departure of a child's toy; and what has happened here for the telectroscop in a highly fragmented analytical manner, may also be applied in analogy to the "child's toy" called the telephone. And now, the theoretical prerequisites having been exposed, we may proceed, without further ado, to describe the telectroscop of Mr. Szczepanik.

                                                * * *

    Through his study of the above-mentioned work by Professor Liesegang the thought struck Mr Szczepansky, who since his youth has occupied himself with physical [sic!] studies of all kinds, if it were not possible to break up [the image of] objects into dots and lines of light through the use of an oscillating mirror. He conducted this experiment - and it proved to be successful. Anyone - Mr Szczepanik claims - can repeat the experiment; if a mirror is set in oscillating motion on a stationary axis, then dots [of light] reflected on it will form lines, and the lines will form planes. The same thing happens to the reflection of objects on the shores of a lake, when the water starts to move. This is - theoretically speaking - the breaking-up of light into dots. That this must be so, Mr Szczepanik proves with the use of a photograph. He photographs the object according to the image in the oscillating mirror, and becomes on the [photographic] plate not an image of the object, but rather a net of black lines, that is, the photographic image of a row of innumerable dots of light; if the exposure is made over a longer period of time, the net becomes so compact that the whole plate turns black. If the oscillation of the mirror is disturbed in its regularity, this shows up on the plate as a break in the line.

    The recording device of the telectroscop - which from the outside looks like an over-size telephone case with a slit across the front, in front of which the object is placed - thus captures the image of the object to be "telectroscopied" on a regularly oscillating mirror. A second mirror, oscillating in perfect time - synchronously - directs the rays of light, that is, the already broken-up image, onto a system of Selenium cells of ingenious construction. Mr Szczepanik is not only using his own, extremely sensitive, Selenium preparation, based on extensive studies, but also a contraption which neutralises the capacity of all metals to retain electricity up to a certain level over longer periods of time .

    The electrical charges, influenced by light, that pass the Selenium cells are conducted by means of wires to the receiver device. Here they turn around an electromagnet, which performs exactly the same service as the electromagnet in the earphone of the telephone. As is known, the membrane of the earphone is pulled towards the electromagnet and then released, thus reproducing the oscillations of the membrane in the mouthpiece. To the armature of the electromagnet in the telectroscop is fixed a rotating glass prism. When a current of a particular characteristic circles the electromagnet, this prism is brought to a [corresponding] particular position. Any change in the electric current leads to a change in the position of the prism, however minute. This moment is of the greatest importance, for it is clear, that when a ray of light from a fixed point hits the prism in its momentarily fixed position, this ray of light is refracted according to the position of the prism, that is, the separate parts of the spectrum which have thus been produced, will fall on another spot in the device [sic!].

    Mr Szczepanik now claims two things: Firstly: This displacement of the spectrum corresponds exactly to the electrical current, which is circling the electromagnet. Secondly: The telectroscop is designed in such a way that exactly the same part of the spectrum, which corresponds to the light which was captured by the recording device, always falls on the same spot in the telectroscop.

    In other words: Mr Szczepanik claims, that he is using the variations in electrical currents, produced by the variation of light, to produce, from a second light source - a light bulb in the receiving device of the telectroscop serves this function - the exactly same variations of light at a quite considerably distant place.

    In the exact place on the telectroscop where Mr Szczepanik wishes the particular part of the spectrum to fall, that is, according to colour and intensity of the light waves, there is a slit. The light travels through this onto an oscillating mirror, is reflecting onto a second, synchronously oscillating mirror, and arrives at the eye of the observer, who stands in front of the telectroscop. The mirrors of the receiver are oscillating in perfect synchronisation with the two mirrors of the recording device, due to the influence of electromagnets, whose armatures have been mounted as axes for the mirrors, and just as the first set of mirrors produced the breaking-up of the image, the second pair will, according to the claims of Mr Szczepanik, produce its re-assembly. The dots of light hit the mirrors and the eye of the observer in the same sequence as during the recording, and within the time-span of a tenth of a second, thus producing in the observer the same effect as that of the "Wheel of Life" - he sees an image of the object which is far removed.

                                                 * * *

    We have - to the extent possible without going into strict scientific arguments and without a drawing - communicated the fundamentals on which Mr Szczepanik has built his apparatus and described the main part of the device itself. We do, however, once more underline: No-one concerned has seen the apparatus, but no-one will make serious theoretical objections. In practice, the case is thus under discussion. More precise experiments will need to establish whether: Oscillating mirrors do, in fact, produce the necessary breaking-up of images into dots and lines of light, as identified by Professor Liesegang, in the way claimed by Mr Szczepanik; the current apparatus reproduces these dots and line of light in a way, which produced an optical illusion that makes what is called in optics an imaginary image possible; the current which passes through the Selenium in fact results in such variations, according to the variations in light, that any light from a second light source may be isolated at will, [being] totally alike to the light which is influencing the Selenium, in all its variations.

    As can be seen, there are topics enough for discussion. These are, however, matters that cannot be theoretically proven, new facts from the natural sciences whose correctness are vouched for by experiments only. Mr Szczepanik has made the reservation to perform this, as demonstrated, most important experiment before invited guests within a period of time. Meanwhile he is proposing a number of important facts as support for his claims, the latest of which is that the German Reichspatentamt has granted him a patent for the televisor. This body examines the patent applications placed before it through scientists of world renown and maintains rigorous standards for the granting of patents. The second fact is that a French syndicate has already secured the [rights to the] telectroscop for the first public screening and exploitation during the Paris World Exhibition in 1900, and has itself assumed all costs, including the building of a pavilion to house 10.000 spectators. In this pavilion the visitors will be able to see, among other things, French land and sea [military] manoeuvres at the very moment when they are taking place, hundreds of kilometres away. The syndicate is estimating six million visitors at [the price of] 3 francs; of this Mr Szczepanik will receive 60 per cent. Finally, Mr Szczepanik is referring to the large number of inventions which, in spite of the protests and objections originally raised against them, are nevertheless being used in practical life. Among those are, as demonstrated by Mr Szczepanik through incontestable evidence, inventions in the filed of optics that were based on hitherto unknown facts or even on facts which were directly contested by eminent theoreticians. And as the relevant devices - Mr Szczepanik are using them in the textile industry - were built in the most primitive manner, the theoreticians have had to admit that they were wrong, as was the case with the aluminium dirigible made by Schwartz.

    We may perhaps have the occasion to speak about those other inventions of the former Galician village schoolmaster - for such one was Mr Szczepanik - and likewise about the manifold improvements he has since made to the telektroskop.

 

(Translated from German by Nils Klevjer Aas)

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Histoire de la télévision      © André Lange
Dernière mise à jour : 28 janvier 2002