nessie and other monsters
Communications Technology, April 1986

Monster is a commonly used descriptive noun that may be attached to widely disparate subjects who share many similar characteristics. Firstly, monster means large, important, attention getting. Secondly, it is mythical and unreal. Thirdly, those individuals associated with the monster mystique are unscientific, mentally unbalanced and part of the lunatic fringe of society.

Nonetheless, the monster streak appears in every endeavor, and I have been involved in both the mainstream of monster research as well as an observer of monster-tainted projects in the electronics arena. By no means can this one article cover all the monsters I have investigated, but it will try to point out the amazing coincidences between the animal and the inanimate monsters.

Loch Ness monster

Robert Rines, a physicist and patent attorney, also an old friend, invited me in 1970 to join a scientific team of amateur cryptozoologists journeying to Loch Ness, Scotland, in search of the famous Loch Ness monster. I arrived a skeptic, and departed a believer. To date, no one has obtained uncontested evidence that Nessie exists—neither bone, nor flesh, nor closeup photography—but ample sightings, sonar traces and grainy photos encourage us to return again and again for that elusive definitive sign that there is a Nessie!


There is another monster, closer to home, in Lake Champlain, N.Y. Champ has not enjoyed the notoriety afforded Nessie. Perhaps New York vineyards are not as potent as the Scotch stills! However, there is a Lake Champlain Phenomena Investigation headed by Joe Zorzyoski and in the summer of '85, Richard Smith and I were privileged to hear firsthand the testimony of two lady golfers (good yardage credibility) who saw Champ in the full afternoon sun with three open coils, about 50 feet long, barrel sized body, traveling about 10 miles per hour. Not a plesiosaur, but your everyday sea serpent!

Pay TV

My choice for the runner up in the electronic monster contest. Commander McDonald of Zenith said it first back in 1929: If you want quality TV entertainment, pay for it! This monster is still invisible on a pay-per-view stage even though parts of the beast may appear as happens in the course of a carnival striptease performance.

Until HBO parted the curtain of pay TV in 1975 with satellite delivery, anyone who expressed confidence in the future of pay TV was deluged with the doleful and expensive sagas of past failed pay TV experiments. If I initiated a discussion on either Nessie or pay TV prior to 1975, the reaction was the same: Take an aspirin and you'll feel better in the morning!

CBS color

The premier electronic monster beyond comparison. This is how it went. Sept. 30, 1946, CBS petitions FCC to authorize UHF color stations. Nov. 4, 1946, RCA demonstrates an all-electronic system for color TV. March 24, 1947, FCC denies CBS petition; wants more research. Oct. 10, 1949, CBS demonstrates its new recommended color standards. Sept. 4, 1950, FCC states it will adopt non-compatible 405-line CBS color. June 4, 1951, Supreme Court affirms FCC adoption of CBS color standards. July 27, 1953, NTSC petitions FCC to drop CBS field sequential system. Dec. 21, 1953, FCC approves the NTSC all-electronic compatible color TV standards.

What did that CBS mechanical monster as authorized by the FCC for three years, look like? The Teleking Television Laboratory in 1950 built a CBS-style TV able to receive the experimental CBS broadcasts in New York. We bolted to the bench a large synchronous motor, which rotated at 600 RPM a 3~/2-foot diameter spiral color wheel positioned in front of a 10" black and white TV set. Never mind the cost of the electronics, we were instantly intimidated by the "roar" of the monster at 600 RPM. It would have had to be enclosed in a soundproof cast iron box weighing hundreds of pounds to pass any reasonable safety standards. Our recommendation to management: Hire an FCC lawyer, if he fails to slay the CBS monster, close the factory!

Other monsters

Here are some other electronic monsters: quadrophonic FM; cordless telephone assignments; 41-56 MHz FM; TV Channel 1; the failure to scramble all microwave channels: failure to eliminate VHF TV channels in favor of UHF; failure to eliminate UHF taboo tables; BTSC stereo sound; AM stereo. Every engineer has his own cherished monsters, I am sure.

If pay-per-view should ever turn profitable, and Nessie would pose for pictures in sunlight, perhaps my few remaining friends will cease suggesting the salubrious ministrations of a psychiatrist.
  Copyright  Isaac Blonder
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