Eighty-three years ago this week, television programming was born — in Schenectady, a fact recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bureau reported the historic event on its Profile America program. Profile America is a daily, 60-second feature that uses interesting vignettes from key events, observances or commemorations for that day to highlight information collected by the Census Bureau, said spokesman Rick Reed.
Approximately 110 radio stations in the United States carry the program and the Census Bureau sends out scripts through news wires. Reed said the audience numbers in the millions.
According to Profile America, General Electric broadcast the first regular schedule of TV programming on 2XAF, an experimental TV station operated from the company’s Schenectady-Rotterdam campus, on May 11, 1928.
The station transmitted pictures through sets with 1.5 square-inch screens, via shortwave. Sound was transmitted over WGY radio station. Programs were transmitted Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., using 24 lines.
The first play broadcast by television was “The Queen’s Messenger” on Sept. 11, 1928, on W2XAD with sound broadcast over WGY.
The letters in WGY represented the first letter in “wireless,” the first letter of “General Electric” and the last letter in “Schenectady.”
Profile America said the broadcasts lasted a half hour and that viewers were mostly the technical staff at nearby General Electric, which had designed the system and used the broadcasts to refine their equipment. It said a handful of hobbyists who had built their own sets also watched the programs.
Now Americans watch an average of almost five hours each day, according to Profile America. To reach their huge audience, advertisers spend more than $50.5 billion on television advertising annually.
Reed said Profile America selects its daily facts from various research books. “We looked at that fact and spun the story,” he said. “The challenge is to recognize a story hook that can circle back into something we have.”