Mechanical Television Stations

'X' MEANS EXPERIMENTAL. For about six years, many major cities hosted mechanical TV stations. During this period between 1928 and about 1934, US television stations operated on experimental licenses. All such licenses required callsigns incorporating the letter "X."

TESTING VS. PROGRAMMING. Some experimental stations, such as New York's W2XBS, concentrated solely on test transmissions. Others, such as W9XAP in Chicago, W2XAB in New York and W1XAV in Boston, originated groundbreaking programming for the new medium. These entertainment stations had complete studios and control rooms with video switching panels. Typical shows included hand-drawn cartooning, musical groups, boxing, skits and even election coverage.

IN CHICAGO, U.A. Sanabria transmitted 48 and 45-line television starting in 1928. Shortly thereafter, Clement Wade, Sanabria, and several associates formed Western Television. Two Western stations aired periodic entertainment telecasts from Chicago. Chicago television wasn't just local entertainment. Viewers hundreds of miles away reported picking up the Western broadcasts. The Western equipment was so good that some two dozen stations started using it. Western Television stations spread across the Midwest, the South, Canada and Mexico.

WESTERN-EQUIPPED STATIONS. Here are a few of the callsigns for stations that used Western's 45-line equipment...

• W9XAO, Chicago, IL (flagship) • W9XAP, Chicago, IL
• W9XD, Milwaukee, WI • W9XK, Iowa City, IA
• W9XAL, Kansas City, MO • W5XA, Shreveport, LA
• VE9EC, Montreal, QC  

THE PARTY DIDN'T LAST. Chicago's last two mechanical television transmitters, W9XAO and W9XAP, shut down by 1934. In the US, most other mechanical TV transmitters followed suit. Only educational television stations persisted, but even they finally closed in 1939. In England, John Baird's 30-line service quit on September 11, 1935.

Early Chicago Television: 
      Antenna illustration (mechanisches Fernsehen)

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