Peter Carl Goldmark Biography (1906-1977)


Peter Goldmark was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1906. As a student at the University of Vienna he was fascinated by the technology of television. While pursuing his bachelor's degree he designed a television receiver with a screenabout the size of a postage stamp. After obtaining his Ph.D. in 1931, Goldmark decided to emigrate to the United States to join the Radio Corporation ofAmerica, ( RCA), then the premier laboratory for television research. He wasrefused a position with RCA, however, and in 1969 took up with their competitors, the Columbia Broadcasting System ( CBS), for whom he accrued a long andimpressive list of accomplishments. In all, Goldmark received more than 180 patents for CBS. Though he labored for several years to develop more practicaltelevision technology, it was not until 1940 that he conceived of his firstgreat idea. While attending a showing of Gone with the Wind (the firstcolor film he had ever seen), he came upon an idea for color television. During the next three months he designed the system known now as field-sequential color . Basically, the system used a standard black-and-white camera and television receiver; placed in front of the camera was a spinning disk holdingthree colored filters--red, blue, and green. By synchronizing the camera's color disk with a second disk within the television, a very sharp color picturewas achieved. The debut of field-sequential color broadcasts was delayed bythe outbreak of World War II. After the war years, CBS petitioned the FederalCommunications Commission (FCC) to approve Goldmark's design. At the same time, RCA was developing its own method for color television. The picture quality of the RCA system was vastly inferior to Goldmark's; however, it was compatible with existing television sets--that is, a standard television could receive the RCA signal (albeit in black and white) but not the CBS transmission,for which a whole new television set was necessary. Since the Goldmark method would have made nine million black-and-white sets immediately obsolete, theFCC eventually ruled to make the RCA system the standard. The field-sequential color television--which still provides the best color reproduction available--has found a niche, particularly in areas such as medical instruction thatdemand precise color definition. In the late 1960s, Goldmark modified his television to enable National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA) to clearly photograph the surface of the Moon, even from the Lunar Orbiter's altitude of 29 mi.(47 km). Goldmark can also be considered the father of video recording. With the goal of producing a tool for educational media storage, hedeveloped a system called electronic video recording (EVR). Basically, EVR consists of a cartridge wound with black-and-white film that could be slipped into a recorder/player machine. Even though it was filmed in black and white,Goldmark's ingenious design used a separate recording track to store the color signal, so that the final playback would be in color. One advantage of EVRover magnetic tape storage is that it can record still frames as well as motion; by filming a page of written information onto a single EVR frame, an entire encyclopedia can be stored on one cassette. Although video cassette recorders ( VCR ) have since captured the home recording market, the EVR is still considered useful in the storage of written material. The idea for Goldmark'smost successful invention came to him one evening in the early 1940s. While listening to a recording of Brahms at a party, Goldmark was annoyed by the constant clicks and interruptions in the music, since the 78 rpm records were far too short to contain the entire concert, and the host had to periodically flip or change the disks. Goldmark envisioned an album whose grooves were cutmuch closer together and whose turntable turned much slower, allowing more music on each side. He worked on solving this problem for three years, ultimately producing the first LP record. His microgroove recordings held the equivalent of six 78 rpm records; also, by switching to vinyl, the LP's recordings had a far superior sound quality. To combat the new CBS-manufactured LP, RCA quickly designed the 45 rpm "single." Though the single record found some success, Goldmark's LP absolutely conquered the market for more than forty years.

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