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Camden Lab Photos

These Photos Show People and Equipment from the RCA Camden Television Research Lab, beginning in 1930.

Randall Ballard(l) and Les Flory(r) test an image dissector camera on the rooftop of the Camden Lab.

One of the early assignments that Grandpa had in Zworykin's lab was testing Farnsworth-type image dissector tubes.  Despite the fact that the RCA ones had improved photocathode materials, they were still too insensitive to be practical live pickup tubes.

Les Flory and Vladimir Zworykin Examine an Experimental Iconoscope Tube

Official RCA

Grandpa at the spot welder used to assemble internal metal parts of camera tubes.

T.T. Eaton(l) at oven with iconoscope tube while L. Flory watches galvanometer(r)

The work shown in these pictures is described in detail in "An Outline of Iconoscope Development from April 1930 to October 1933 by Harley Iams.  You can read this at this link:  http://www.davidsarnoff.org/gallery-iams/gallery-ia.html  

Construction of Iconoscope #186
This was a trial of an iconoscope with single-sided mosaic, but with the optical and scanning axes aligned.  This required a gun of small cross-section to minimize shading of the mosaic by the gun, which still caused problems with the image.

Grandpa at his workbench, looking at #186 gun

Close up of #186 gun

Side view of experimental iconoscope #186

Below is a text I found in Grandpa's stuff that I think he wrote when he was retiring.  It mentions a lot of the people he worked with and what they did.

            "Those of us who have retired or are just retiring from active participation in the electronic field have been fortunate indeed to have been present during the development of several major fields of electronics.  My first contact with electronics in a professional way was in 1930 when I came to work as a student engineer for the then RCA Victor Company in Camden.  This company as an engineering and manufacturing company was barely a year old and was made up of technical personnel primarily from General Electric and Westinghouse, with a sprinkling of those from the old Victor Talking Machine Company and the interim Audio-Vision Appliance Company.  At this time the telephone was barely fifty years old and network broadcasting had been in existence only four years.  Most radio receivers still used the triode tube, with the “screen grid tube” just coming in and the pentode only in the laboratory.  Television was still only a dream for want of an electronic camera.  The transistor had not even been dreamed of and the electronic computer not even been suggested outside Hugo Gernsbach’s magazines.

            Radio was in its heyday in 1930 and the RCA Victor Co. was busily engaged in the design and production of a line of home receivers, a few of them including a phonograph.

            Fresh out of college I came to RCA at the then good salary of thirty dollars a week (mind you this was for only five days per week.)  My first assignment was in the phonograph section under Mack Sinnet.  I was directly assigned to Mel Karns to assist in the development of a home recording mode for the Radio-Victrola.  A brute force method was used to emboss a sound track on a pre-grooved plastic coated record.  These instruments were marketed for several years with some measure of success.  Of course, tape recording (or even wire recording) was still years away.            

            Other groups to which I was assigned were:  Transformers and Capacitors with Jim Cornell, Karl Lagerlof and Stanley Starr; Loudspeakers with Jim Albright, Sid Perry and Cy Caulton; RF Design with Art Laughren, Charlie Burrill and others.

            Finally I landed in the Research Division which at that time was under Al Murray.  My assignment was in Television Research headed by Dr. Zworykin.  In the Television Research group at that time were Art Vance, Randall Ballard, Gregory Ogloblinsky, Sam Essig, Lefty Leverenz, Charlie Banca and Emil Kurz.  Later we were joined by Tom Eaton, George Morton, Harley Iams, Ian Rajchman, Lou Malter, Ed Ramberg, Bill Painter, Manny Piore, Charlie Bushovich, Bob Goodrich, John Ruedy, E. Massa, and others.  The primary activity of the group in 1931-1932 was the production of experimental Kinescopes and research on the camera tube later known as the Iconoscope.

            A parallel group known at the time as the Television Development was headed by Ray Kell.  It included “Doc” Tolson, Merrill Trainer, Al Bedford, John Smith, Phil Konkle and others.

            Then in the attic of Building 2 was John Evans with his TV Transmitter making life miserable for those working with video amplifiers.

            In 1931 the Television Development Group was engaged in the design and building of the Field Test equipment for an installation on the Empire State Building which was still under construction.  This system used a flying spot studio scanner (since the iconoscope was still a couple of years away), a mechanical flying spot film scanner and 9-inch cathode ray tube receivers.  The system operated at 120 lines, 30 frames (interlacing was not yet used.) 

            In the research on pickup tubes some experiments by Randall Ballard and myself with the Dissector Tube of the Farnsworth type led to the conclusion that it could never have adequate sensitivity for live pickup and that some storage system would have to be developed. 

            Various mechanical arrays of sensitive elements were tried, some of them consisting of pins projecting through an insulating sheet, photosensitive on one side and scanned on the other, but all were much too crude for the technology of the time to hope to get the resolution and uniformity required.  Single-sided targets were tried, one of the more successful being an evaporated silver film on a sheet of mica, the film being subsequently ruled into tiny squares by a ruling engine.  Fair results were obtained but the process was time consuming and not very practical.  Other methods were tried and Mother Nature came to the rescue.  It was found that a thin layer of silver oxide dust on a mica sheet plunged suddenly into a hot oven (1000 C) resulted in an extremely uniform layer of silver droplets firmly attached to the mica and insulated from each other.  The size of the droplets was smaller than that required for the resolution of the picture.  A pure case of serendipity.  With some care in controlling the process a target could be produced which could be made photosensitive and scanned to produce a useable picture signal.  This was the Iconoscope which with very little refinement was THE pickup tube used for a good may years. 

            Of course no one knew exactly how it worked or even why it worked.  The more we studied it the more we were convinced that it could NOT work.  Another case of serendipity.  If we had understood the processes involved and the complexity of the signal generation in the beginning, the iconoscope would have been rejected as hopeless.  However, with further study the process was finally understood and we could go ahead with improvements in its operation.  From the iconoscope there evolved the Image Iconoscope, the Orthicon and finally the Image Orthicon which ruled the roost until the completion of the photo-conductive tube (Vidicon, Plumbicon, Vistacon etc.) came into the picture.

            It is often the case that collateral lines of development as a result of off-shoots of a project become as interesting and sometimes as important as the original project.  Two developments stemming from the iconoscope development fall into this category.  Various means of improving the performance and sensitivity of the iconoscope were studied.  One of these was means for amplifying the signal within the tube itself.  Secondary emission multiplication was studied and, although it never resulted in a commercially feasible variation in the iconoscope it did result in the electron multiplier.  As a direct outgrowth of this work the photo-multiplier developed by Lou Malter, Jan Rajchman, and Dick Snyder led directly to the 931 and subsequent models of the device which is widely accepted and used today. 

            A second approach was to first form an electron image of the optical image and project this onto the target.  This resulted in what was known as the image-iconoscope which was not much used in this country but enjoyed a considerable use in England as the Super Emitron and also in other European countries.  The technique of forming the electron image coupled with the infra-red image tube (example the 1P25) which was the basis of a war time development which resulted in the snooperscope and its variations.  There are many interesting stories that could be told concerning the use of this device during the war.  It was used for driving vehicles in complete darkness using only infra-red illumination, landing gliders behind enemy lines with infra-red flares, ship to-ship and ship-to-shore signaling and later attached to a rifle with an infra-red source for nighttime sniping (sniperscope). 

            Just prior to the war the government military services became interested in improving their fire control systems.  The computations for fire control had been done completely by mechanical systems.  In fact, these systems were very rudimentary.  So, our group, knowing absolutely nothing about the problems involved, were the logical ones to attack the project.  Bear in mind that there was no background to call upon.  A little work had been done by Wynn-Williams and Eccles-Jordan on scale-of-two count reduction systems for recording pulses from Geiger Counters.  But one could not say that there existed such a thing as an electronic counter.  Therefore we started with the simple idea of counting pulses, and before long had developed circuits for linear counting.  Using a 1000 cycle oscillator and several stages of scale-of-ten counting we were able to measure the speed of a 22-calibre bullet by firing it through aluminum foil start and stop gates.  This sort of technique finally resulted in a commercial pulse counter, the first of its kind, designed by Igor Grosdoff in Charley Young’s Group.

             It soon became apparent that for serious calculation the scale-of-two, or binary system was the way to go. 

            Work on computer circuits progressed through the late 30’s and early 40’s and resulted in some very basic developments such as the shift register used in all computers, scale change circuits to permit counting in any scale using binary circuits etc.  Also the concept of the resistor (later diode) matrix by Jan Rajchman, various memory devices and function generators.  At the same time Art Vance and Ed Goldberg were working on an analog fire-control computer which was eventually sent to the front in France for test.

            With the move to Princeton in 1942 most of the pickup tube work was consolidated in Al Rose’ group to which Harold Law and Paul Weimer were assigned, while the group under George Morton and myself continued to concentrate on infra-red tubes.


                        Later Work


            1946 into the 50’s; reading aids for the blind, joined in 1946 by Win Pike.


            50’s Storage tubes, Graphechon and Radechon with Lou Pensak and Art Jensen.


            50’s on into the 60’s; Vidicon pickup cameras, industrial television, Transistor circuits, Stratoscope television cameras.


            50’s into 60’s Medical electronics continuing into the joint effort with Hoffmann LaRoche in 1967


            50’s and early 60’s Electronic control of Highway Vehicles. "