The Evolution of TV

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NHK STRL Established: Full-scale TV Research Commences

1930   Zworykin applies for a patent for an “image transmission device by storage system” (iconoscope tube principle patent) (May)
1930 STRL established, full-scale TV studies commence (June 1)
1930 Kenjiro Takayanagi applies for a patent for “television image transmission device using integral equation” (December)
1932 BBC opens experimental TV station
1933 Zworykin invents an image pickup tube iconoscope
1935 World’s first regular broadcasting begins in Germany
Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) established the NHK Technical Research Laboratories (the official name in those days. STRL, for short, will be used consistently on this home page) in Kinuta village, Setagaya, Tokyo, in June 1930, just five years after the commencement of radio broadcasting. The initial research staff numbered 16. In 1937, the decision was made to hold the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and with the Olympic Games only three years away in September, a plan was developed to do a TV relay broadcast of them.

1930: The First Sixteen Gather in Kinuta

NHK Technical Research Laboratories Established: Television Research Commences
The site chosen for Nippon Hoso Kyokai’s (NHK) Technical Research Laboratories (STRL) was Kinuta village in Setagaya, Tokyo. In June 1930, just five years after the start of radio broadcasting in Japan, STRL with a staff of 16, including Director-General Yoshihiko Takada (who served concurrently as the NHK Executive Director-General of Engineering) began research on television broadcasting.
In 1937, it was decided to hold the Olympic Games in Tokyo, with NHK to do a TV relay broadcast of them. After a thorough examination of the systems that NHK had previously experimented with, including the Waseda University system and the Hamamatsu Industrial High School system, STRL decided to adopt the Hamamatsu Industrial High School’s electric TV system for the Olympic relay broadcast.
Yamashita, Ishino, and others, had already joined STRL in September 1936, as the first group from Hamamatsu Industrial High School to work with members of STRL’s TV research engineering staff, people like Kingo Nakanishi, on the design and establishment of research facilities. In August 1937, Hamamatsu Industrial High School finished assembly of four “TV automobiles” (four vehicles were needed for imaging, video transmission, sound transmission, and image reception). More than ten new engineers came with the vehicle, bringing the total number of STRL employees to 89 by the end of 1937. (STRL’s reorganization in May 1937 established the three division, one section system, and Takayanagi was appointed Director of the Third Division, dealing with TV-related business.)

100-m Steel Antenna Tower

The TV research facilities in 1937 comprised TV building No. 1, a transformer room, a garage for the TV automobiles, and an air-conditioned studio facility. A full-scale research system for television was completed the following year (1938) with the establishment of TV building No. 2 and a 100-m-high self-supporting triangular steel tower with a transmitting antenna. Thus, Kinuta had become a base for TV research, with an experimental studio, the latest facilities, and an antenna tower capable of broadcasting all over Tokyo.
In such an environment, STRL developed a technology based on Hamamatsu Industrial High School’s imaging tube research, and initiated the development of a prototype iconoscope in January 1938, with a standard prototype completed by June.
Studies on a receiving set began in 1937. Development proceeded on white phosphor, which was used in the set’s fluorescent screen, and on the expansion of the screen. This led to the first 23-cm white fluorescent receiving tube in Japan.

Achieving the World Standard

The new Broadcasting Hall located in Uchisaiwai-cho, Tokyo was completed on May 13, 1939. To commemorate the completion, an experimental TV signal was transmitted from STRL to the Hall (13 km away). This marked the first public television experiment using radio waves in Japan. By this time, Japanese television technology had caught up with the rest of the world. STRL staff reached 266 through successive expansion of the research project.

1. Address by the first Director-General
2. Iconoscope by Zworykin (Image pickup tube)

STRL Staff (1930)


STRL at the time of its opening (1930)


TV experiment (1931), Left: original image; Right: received image
TV experiment at STRL


For shooting, the iconoscope was installed on a large caster.


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