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David Sarnoff:

The Child is Father to the Man

Horatio Alger Comes to Life

Luck Favors the Prepared Mind

Hard Times

The Making of the General

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Imagining the Future

David Sarnoff:

Who was David Sarnoff, Anyway?

David Sarnoff by Yousuf KarshDavid Sarnoff (1891-1971) was not an inventor, an engineer, or a scientist. Instead, as a corporate manager and executive he became technology's champion, especially for broadcast communications, starting at the age of fifteen. He advocated, supported, financed, and oversaw the development of radio in the 1910s and 1920s, and then television from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Sarnoff first posed the concept of broadcast radio in 1915. At that time, more than half of the American population lived in towns of less than 5,000 people; information arrived through newspapers, magazines, mail order catalogs, letters and postcards, and word of mouth. Today, there are nearly 13,000 AM and FM radio stations in the United States, and thousands more abroad, as well as nearly 20,000 internet radio stations.

Sarnoff formally introduced RCA's electronic monochrome television system in 1939 and the world's first electronic color television system in 1946. In 2000 there were over 1,600 television stations in the United States. Only since 1990 have more households acquired complete plumbing facilities than televisions. Some 900 million people watch color TV around the world, and the color picture tube used for television and computer displays was invented at RCA Laboratories.

There is more to Sarnoff's contribution to the electronic revolution of the 20th century. He firmly believed in the possibilities of social improvement through technological progress, and supported the development of RCA's independent research laboratories. Along with Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, the RCA Labs in Princeton were responsible for inventing or innovating nearly every device that enabled the birth of Silicon Valley, Asia's dominance of the electronics industry, and the Digital Revolution, from video displays to the integrated circuit, from electron microscopy to CCD cameras. David Sarnoff and RCA can be regarded as basic ingredients of the Second Industrial Revolution in electronics and chemistry, a revolution that continues to play out around the world today.

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