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Inventors Charles Jenkins - Radiovision
By Mary Bellis

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What John Logie Baird did towards the development and promotion of mechanical television in Britain, Charles Jenkins did for mechanical television in North America. Charles Jenkins, an inventor from Dayton, Ohio, invented a mechanical television system called radiovision and claimed to have transmitted the earliest moving silhouette images on June 14, 1923. Charles Jenkins publicly performed his first transmission, from Anacosta, Virginia to Washington in June of 1925. As far back as 1894, Jenkins had been promoting mechanical television when he published an article in the "Electrical Engineer", describing a method of electrically transmitting pictures. In 1920 at a meeting of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, Jenkins introduced his prismatic rings, a device that replaced the shutter on a film projector and an important invention that Charles Jenkins would later use in his radiovision system.

Charles Jenkins - RadiovisionRadiovisors were mechanical scanning-drum radiovision devices manufactured by the Jenkins Television Corporation, founded in 1928 the company sold several thousand sets to the public that cost between $85 and $135. The radiovisor was a multitube radio set that had a special attachment for receiving pictures, a cloudy 40 to 48 line image projected onto a six-inch square mirror. Jenkins preferred the names radiovisor and radiovision over television.

Charles Jenkins also opened and operated North America's first television station, W3XK in Wheaton, Maryland. The short-wave radio station began transmitting across the Eastern U.S. in 1928, regularly scheduled telecasts of radiomovies produced by Jenkins Laboratories Incorporated.

It was said that watching a radiomovie required the viewer to constantly re-tune in the broadcast, but at the time watching the blurry moving image was considered an exciting miracle.

Early / Mechanical Television Systems
In 1926, New York Times radio editor Orrin Dunlap called the new medium "an inventor's will-o'- the-wisp." A year earlier, a Scot, John Logie Baird, and an American, Charles Jenkins, generated the first live pictures by pairing (or synchronizing) primitive mechanical scanning discs at transmitter and receiver ends.

John Logie Baird
John Logie Baird is remembered as the inventor of mechanical television, radar and fiber optics.

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photo: FCC

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