This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for December 2, 2016: Home Town

Dec. 2, 2016: birthday: Peter Carl Goldmark

Today is the birthday of the Hungarian-born American engineer Peter Carl Goldmark, born in Budapest (1906). He became a naturalized American citizen in 1937, not long after he was hired by the Columbia Broadcasting System Laboratory. At CBS, he began working on a prototype for color television. By 1940, he had a working model of his “field sequential system,” which used a rotating, three-color disk. Development was interrupted during World War II, but after the war, the Federal Communications Commission approved his system for commercial use.

The only trouble with Goldmark’s system for color TV was that it didn’t work with the black-and-white televisions that were already in people’s homes. If you wanted to impress your neighbors with color TV, you had to buy a special adapter. His invention was left behind when a competitor came up with a method that worked with existing televisions, but Goldmark’s system was still used for many years in closed-circuit cameras, medical institutions, and in scientific settings — including the Apollo mission to the moon — because his color cameras were smaller and lighter than the alternative.

In the early 1960s, Goldmark developed an electronic video recording system, or EVR, which paved the way the development of the VCR. The “powers that be” at CBS were alarmed at the idea of people recording things in their homes, because they worried it would hurt their business. They would only allow Goldmark to demonstrate and market his EVR as an industrial and educational device, and he eventually abandoned the project in 1970 due to lack of support.

One of his inventions stood the test of time, however, and that was the long-playing record. Goldmark found a new, more flexible material for records, and then he made the grooves narrower, so that he could fit the equivalent of six 78 rpm records onto one 33-1/3 rpm LP. Long-playing records became the industry standard, and they maintained that status until compact discs became popular in the 1980s. Their longer playing time made it easier for people to listen to classical music at home. The development of the LP also gave rise to multitrack record albums, which revolutionized the music business.