New Jersey was and still is home to major consumer electronics manufacturers. Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) were among the first.
To brush up on the history of the consumer electronics industry in the U.S., I suggest a day trip to the Sarnoff Collection at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., near Princeton.
The collection was originally established by RCA in 1967 and called the David Sarnoff Library. Since then, the collection has grown to include a museum, archives and library. The museum collection, which was donated to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in 2010, consists of more than 6,000 artifacts related to broadcasting and consumer electronics. (See TCNJ.edu/Sarnoff for hours and details of the collection.)
The library and archival holdings went to the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Del. Hagley possesses Sarnoff's papers and memorabilia, 25,000 photographs, and thousands of notebooks, reports and publications related to the history of RCA and RCA Laboratories.
At TCNJ, the Sarnoff Collection includes artifacts related to Sarnoff, RCA, NBC, Victor Talking Machine Company and the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. The artifacts recall the history of radio, television, broadcasting, audio and video recording and reproduction, electron microscopy, radar, vacuum tubes, transistors, semiconductors, lasers, liquid-crystal displays, integrated circuits, microprocessors, computers, communications satellites and other technologies in which RCA played a key role in inventing or developing, TCNJ says.
Some of the items on display include a circa-1955 flat-panel display measuring 11 inches by 15 inches by 6 inches and a circa 1925 Radiola No. 26 portable radio, which incorporates Edwin Armstrong’s superheterodyne circuit to make it made it easier to detect and amplify high-frequency radio waves. The circuit was licensed to RCA and incorporated in RCA’s Radiola series of radios sold in the 1920s and early 1930s.
And there’s more: a 1954 color TV, a 1981 videodisc player, and a miniature image orthicon tube from the later 1940s. The “immy” became the standard in TV-broadcasting cameras and is the namesake of the Emmy Award, TCNJ says.
Check it out.
A circa-1955 flat-panel display in the Sarnoff Collection at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., near Princeton
RCA’s circa-1925 Radiola Number 26 portable radio with superheterodyne circuit