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Television, circa 1939 different than circa 2011!



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Doug Houston and his 1939 RCA television. About five channels were available pre-WWII. Photo by David Fleet. (click for larger version)
February 09, 2011 - For more than 70 years Brandon Township resident Doug Houston has been knowing what he hears

"Started out with the family Victrola photograph my aunt gave us about," said Houston, 81. "After that I sort of branched out to other electrics."

At 15 years old Houston repaired radios and so it was an easy transition to study electroics after high school.

A Detroit native, Houston attended Cass Tech High School. He later attended Highland Park Junior College before completing his studies at Michigan Technological University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) in 1952. After college Houston was drafted ino the active reserves

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Fort Monmouth is an installation of the Department of the Army in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

"In the early 1950s I often traveled from my base, Fort Monmouth New Jersey to an area of businesses, known as 'Radio Row,' he said.

Located in Lower Manhattan, Radio Row was the hub of the electronics industry in New York City since the 1920s. The block included hundreds of street level stores with shelves and floor spaces were packed with vacuum tubes, condensers, transistors and other then high-tech items he said.

"Years later about all of Radio Row was taken out to build the World Trade Center," said Houston. "I remember when they started tearing down those buildings to for the twin towers—many were not very happy to see them go."

Houston noticed the RCA television in Merit Radio Store about 1952.

"I remember that day because I found a parking place in Lower Manhattan near that store. At the time no one wanted those old televisions—when I found it another television was stacked on top of it."

The pre-war TRK-12 was RCA's most expensive television in 1939, and the best selling model of the four models introduced at the 1939 Worlds Fair, it sold for $600. About 1,600 were built.

"I gave the man $35 for the set and took it back ot Ft. Monmouth where I had my room. I used it for awhile," he said.

According to the owners manual the picture tube was mounted vertically, with a mirror in the cabinet lid, because it was so long that, if mounted horizontally, the cabinet would have been almost three feet deep.

"Today there may be only 27 TRK-12 televison sets let," he said.

After leaving the Army Reserves in the early 1950s, Houston worked as an engineer for Army Tank Automotive Command in Warran and retired in 1991.

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