of the week
05:25:13 - 06:15:13
05:25:13 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: Atmospheric diving suits, high altitude pressure suits, and space suits from the 1880s to the present day, some of which never progressed beyond the prototype stage.
06:01:13 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: Top picture, television test pattern for UHF (ultra high frequency) station WSBT-TV, which debuted on the air December 21, 1952. Test patterns were broadcast by all television stations in the United States at the end of each day's "on the air" period, usually accompanied by an audio recording of the Star Spangled Banner -- after which only static was seen on the TV set, indicating that the station was no longer broadcasting a signal. Second picture, advertisement for a UHF channel "converter". Third picture, instructions for connecting a UHF converter to a television set. Fourth picture, chart of wavelengths assigned to various television channels.
Up until 1952 television stations were limited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the VHF (very high frequency) wavebands, limiting television broadcasters to 12 available channels in each broadcasting area. After experiencing a growth spurt of television stations following the war, the FCC anticipated that the rapid growth in the number of new television stations would rapidly outpace the available channels. In 1948 the FCC issued a freeze on new TV station licenses, which lasted until 1952, when it authorized broadcasting in the UHF range --- making available 70 new channels in each broadcast area.
UHF carried the advantages of being less subject to electrical interference than VHF (when signal strength was equal), and also promised a superior picture, particularly for the future of color broadcasting. However its signal had less "reach" than VHF, meaning the broadcast signal was considerably weaker in outlying areas. The new UHF channels were jumped on by companies eager to get in on the extremely lucrative TV market, and in the space of a few years more than 1400 new UHF televisions stations were on the air (versus 110 nationwide before UHF). But by 1962 the number of UHF television stations had dwindled back down to 100 nationwide.
Advertisers had avoided UHF stations -- or at least paid much lesser rates -- because VHF physically reached a larger number of television sets. Consumers had avoided UHF because it required a greater expense -- paid either through buying a UHF converter or through paying extra for a television that was UHF-capable, and facing the same situation in a choice of television aerials capable of receiving the UHF wavebands -- after which many might still find themselves with poor or nonexistent reception. And the big television networks -- ABC, CBS, DuMont, and NBC -- themselves had avoided UHF out of fear that more channels would result in new television networks forming as competitors (the DuMont network itself ceased operation in 1956). Hoping to counter all this, the FCC in 1962 ordered that all television sets be built to receive both VHF and UHF (technically, only sets sold through interstate commerce were affected, which in reality equated to all television set manufacturers). Despite this order, UHF television stations remained VHF's much poorer relative until the advent and wide-spread acceptance of cable television, which delivered all broadcast channels equally without the vagaries of a broadcaster's signal strength.
06:08:13 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1952, support crews and equipment behind the flight of the NACA D-558-2 Skyrocket at the High-Speed Flight Station at South Base, Edwards AFB. Included in the picture are two Sabre "chase" planes, the P2B-1S launch aircraft, and a profusion of ground support equipment, including communications, tracking, maintenance, and rescue vehicles. Research pilot A. Scott Crossfield stands in front of the Skyrocket. Three D-558-2 "Skyrockets" were built by Douglas Aircraft, Inc. for NACA (predecessor to NASA) and the Navy. The mission of the D-558-2 program was to investigate the flight characteristics of a swept-wing aircraft at high supersonic speeds. Particular attention was given to the problem of "pitch-up," a phenomenon often encountered with swept-wing configured aircraft. The D-558-2 was a single-place, 35-degree swept-wing aircraft measuring 42 feet in length. It was 12 feet, 8 inches in height and had a wingspan of 25 feet. Fully fueled it weighed from about 10,572 pounds to 15,787 pounds depending on configuration. The first of the three D-558-IIs had a Westinghouse J34-40 jet engine and took off under its own power. The second was equipped with a turbojet engine replaced in 1950 with a Reaction Motors Inc. LR8-RM-6 rocket engine. This aircraft was modified so it could be air-launched from a P2B-1S (Navy designation for the B-29) carrier aircraft. The third Skyrocket had the jet engine and the rocket engine but was also modified so it could be air-launched. The jet engine was for takeoff and climbing to altitude and the four-chambered rocket engine was for reaching supersonic speeds. The rocket engine was rated at 6,000 pounds of thrust. The D-558-2 was first flown on Feb. 4, 1948, by John Martin, a Douglas test pilot. A NACA pilot, Scott Crossfield, became the first person to fly faster than twice the speed of sound when he piloted the D-558-II to its maximum speed of 1,291 miles per hour on Nov. 20, 1953. Its peak altitude, 83,235 feet, a record in its day, was reached with USMC Lt. Col. Marion Carl behind the controls.
06:15:13 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From 1953 through 1954, selections from a much larger wall mural, one of six measuring 12 feet by 100 feet -- all painted by inmate Alfredo Santos during his incarceration at California's San Quentin prison. Santos was 24-years old when he arrived at San Quentin in 1951 to serve a four-year term for possession of heroin. Building on what he had learned in high-school art classes, Santos began sketching portraits of inmates and -- using photos -- of their families. In return he was paid a commission in the convict currency of cigarettes. In 1953 the warden held a competition to paint one mural on a huge partitioning wall in a dining hall, and Santos submitted the winning sketch. Seeing the quality of his work, Santos was given the unpaid commission to paint five more, one on each side of similar partitions. Limited by the prison to the use of sepia-toned oil paint applied directly to plaster, he completed his work over the course of two years -- working at night -- watched over by two guards, and with two other inmates aiding in the scaffolding. Ostensibly created with the intent to chronicle California history, the murals also incorporated touches of humor and even futuristic fantasies of robots and human exploration of space.
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