The Harry Lubcke Page

Personal notes about Harry Lubcke

By Don McCroskey

(Circa 1999)

Unfortunately, Harry Lubcke died about 5 or 6 years ago. There was no notice of his death in the LA papers or the trades, and no one found out about it until about six months after his demise. All of his technical papers and mementoes were apparently trashed.

Harry's career in television started in 1929 with the Farnsworth Labs in San Francisco. His main project was to develop an all-electronic scanning generator system. This was the first scanning system using an electronic sawtooth generator producing a linear scan, blanking to eliminate retrace scan, and pulses to synchronize both transmitter and receiver. The patent (US 2,059,219) also included a means for suppression of the DC component (the black level) at the transmitter and reestablishing at the receiver. This patent was probably one of the more important items in the unprecedented settlement between Farnsworth and RCA in September 1939.

Harry left Farnsworth in June 1930 and convinced the Don Lee Broadcasting System to build a television station in Los Angeles. In May 1932 a self-synchronized cathode ray tube receiver was demonstrated. Only film images were being transmitted at the time using a sine wave vibrating mirror, a CRT flying spot scanner, and a Knipkow disc. By 1936 daily demonstration broadcasts were being made from the DLBS radio studios at 7th & Bixel streets in downtown LA using a 300 line 24-frame system. Interlacing was not used since the LA area was still using a mix of 50 and 60 Hz power. In 1938, RCA purchased certain patents and methods of Mr. Lubcke pertaining to synchronization methods and apparatus.

In 1940 or 41, Harry built a studio/transmitter site for Don Lee atop Mt. Lee above and behind the HOLLYWOODLAND sign. W6XAO on channel 2 broadcast from that site until about 1952 as I recall, with time out for World War II. The building and antenna tower still exist.

KTLA was the second LA station on the air, I believe in 1946. Can't find my KTLA 50th Anniversary videotape to confirm. Klaus Landsberg came out to LA about this time. So you can see that Harry Lubcke antedated Landsberg by at least 14 years. I remember driving up to Mt. Lee in August 1948 and being interviewed by Harry for an engineering position. I had no practical experience so I didn't get the job. I knew Harry mainly as a fellow member in the Society of Television Engineers. Not sure when he left television engineering to become a patent agent.

The pre 1940 info is derived from Al Abramson's "The History of Television".; Post 1940 are personal recollections, which might be off by a year.


Editor's note: Harry Lubcke, while president of the Society of Television Arts and Sciences gave its award, the Emmy, its name. The term "Emmy" comes from a nickname given to the television camera pick-up tube in common use at the time, the Image Orthicon.


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