We live in an era of mass media. Thousands of movies, television shows, music downloads and radio programs are available instantly at the click of a computer button. Sadly, many inventors who paved the way for today’s media culture are unknown today.
Lee de Forest, a Yale doctorate and ultimately an Oscar winner, was an early pioneer of radio and motion picture sound. A new book, Lee de Forest – King of Radio, Television, and Film
(Springer), by Mike Adams chronicles de Forest’s many contributions and inventions that contributed to the development of radio and film.
A lifelong innovator, de Forest invented the three-element vacuum tube which he developed between 1906 and 1916 as a detector, amplifier, and oscillator of radio waves. As early as 1907, he was broadcasting music programming. In 1918, he began to develop a system for recording and playing back sound by using light patterns on motion picture film. In order to promote and demonstrate his process he made hundreds of short sound films, found theaters for their showing, and issued publicity to gain audiences for his invention. While he received many patents for this technology, he was ignored by the film industry.
By the 1930s, after the radio and the Talkies were regular features of American life, Lee de Forest had seemingly lost everything. Why? Why didn’t he receive the recognition and acclaim he sought his entire life until years later in 1959, when he was awarded an Oscar?Lee de Forest, King of Radio, Television, and Film
is about the process of invention—how inventors really get ideas and how every inventor learns that they must know the work of those who came before. The book also explains why the myth of the lone inventor and the “Aha! moment” is largely fiction.
This new book:
• Clarifies the debate over the invention of sound in movies
• Covers the history and progress of audio technology in cinema
• Demonstrates how scientific technical standards are derived and integrated into the film industry
• Includes primary source historical material and richly illustrated photos of Lee de Forest’s experiments
About the Author:
Mike Adams has been a radio personality and a filmmaker. Currently he is a professor of radio, television, and film at San Jose State University, where he has been a department chair and an associate dean. As a researcher and writer of broadcast and early technology history, he created two award-winning documentaries for PBS, “Radio Collector,” and “Broadcasting’s Forgotten Father.”