WMAQ'S Experimental Television Station
the impatient: View
video of what purports to be an actual W9XAP broadcast. It was shot on or
about 27 January, 1931 (And appeared in a Universal Newspaper Newsreel issued
on 26 February, 1931). Then read what follows....
August 27 1930, WMAQ's Bill Hay (best known as the announcer who introduced Amos
'n' Andy on their nightly broadcasts) sat before a microphone on the 25th floor
of the Daily News building and ushered in what might have been the age of television
I say "might
have been" because the technology of W9XAP (the call letters of WMAQ's experimental
video station) was limited.
Unlike today's all-electronic television systems, W9XAP used the mechanical scanning
technique in the particular implementation of Ulises Sanabria, head of Chicago's
Western Television Company (the licensee of WIBO's experimental television station,
W9XAO). It delivered an image roughly two inches in diameter at the rate of fifteen
per second with a definition of 45 lines. Broadcasts were video-only unless WMAQ's
frequency was utilized.
Technical limitations and the realities of the Great Depression assured the eventual
failure of W9XAP. It went off the air for good at the end of August, 1933.
About these pages:
demise of W9XAP, a certain number of documents pertaining to its operations were
kept in the NBC-Chicago files. They included copies of the station's construction
permits and licenses, engineering reports and reception reports (since W9XAP operated
in the lower ranges of the short waves, its after-dark signal could be received
hundreds of miles from Chicago).
Some of these documents were retrieved in 1968 when Channel 5 was preparing to
celebrate its 20th anniversary. They remained tucked away for another 21 years
until 1989 when WMAQ-TV moved from the Merchandise Mart to its present headquarters
at the NBC Tower. At that point I rescued them from the trash. Before long I will
post many of them on this site. Stay tuned....
you can see now...
account of W9XAP's first broadcast
on 27 August, 1930. True, technical difficulties briefly knocked the station off
the air. But the image of announcer Bill Hay "could be distinguished with
ease." (Among those appearing on the broadcast was Ken Murray, who 20 years
later would host a pioneering Saturday night variety show on CBS television).
station license, issued by the Federal Radio Commission (the predecessor of
the Federal Communications Commission).
of a 1931 newsreel that purports to show an actual W9XAP broadcast, filmed
on or about January 27, 1931. (It was probably staged, as you'll eventually see).
available at other sites:
or suggestions? click
here to send them to Rich Samuels
by Rich Samuels (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org)