Stratovision: TV transmitters in flight

Jul 19, 2007 5:34 am

From David Pescovitz in BoingBoing:

Developed in the 1940s, Stratovision was a system to rebroadcast TV and FM radio signals via transmitters mounted on airplanes. Westinghouse radar engineer Charles E. Nobles invented the technology to bring media to "small town and farm homes" that he believed terrestrial transmitters atop city buildings couldn't reach. A 1948 demonstration fueled hype that Stratovision had the potential to transform media deliver. Two years later though, it was obsolete. From Air & Space Smithsonian:

(On June 23, 2948, a) B-29, orbiting 25,000 feet above Pittsburgh, rebroadcast the Republican convention directly from WMAR-TV in Baltimore, 9 to 10 p.m. EDT. The bomber was outfitted with an eight-foot mast on its vertical stabilizer to receive programs; the signal was sent from the antenna to the cabin, and on to the broadcast antenna. The antenna, stored horizontally in the bomb bay, projected 28 feet down when operating.

After the convention transmission, Martin and Westinghouse representatives trumpeted Stratovision’s future. They foresaw a nationwide Stratovision network, with programs beamed from one airplane to the next. Fourteen airplanes could bring TV and FM radio to 78 percent of the population; a comparable ground installation network would require more than 100 relay points, Westinghouse estimated. A fleet of 60 Martin 202 airliners would suffice...

In 1949, AT&T set up a coaxial cable network to connect the East Coast with the Midwest, largely through underground wiring. Westinghouse dropped Stratovision in 1950.