The Archive is sad to report the death of early TV engineer John Silva, who passed away on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at the age of 92. Silva started his television career at local Los Angeles station KTLA when it was still experimental station W6XYZ, pioneering technology for mobile units. He is best known for inventing the Telecopter, a helicopter mobile unit used for television reporting, which is still used today for capturing bird’s-eye views of stories down below.
Below are some selections from Silva’s 2002 Archive interview:
On his early fascination with television:
Somewhere in between the ninth or the tenth grade, I suddenly learned that television had been discovered. And even though it was embryonic, the devices they were using at that time, it was transmitting pictures over the air and I just fell in love with it. I thought about it. I read on it and I saw pictures. And I decided right then and there that that’s what I was going to do with my life after I graduated.
On inventing the Telecopter:
I got that idea, as I mentioned before, one day driving in on the Hollywood freeway and then it came to me all of a sudden. ‘How can we beat the competition? Why, of course. If we could build a news mobile unit in a helicopter we could get over it all, get there first, avoid the traffic, and get to all the stories, before anybody in the competition and it’d be a wonderful thing.’ So then I drove back, and that was exciting. I got back to my office there and I sat down and I spent about an hour and a half or so writing things that might have to be done. I made a list of I think it was like 14 questions. I kept them. I logged them and I kept them for posterity. And I needed them for reference. But we had all kinds of things to think about. I spent actually two days developing that list and I still didn’t mention it to anybody because I knew it would have to be something that would have to be kept secret or the competition would probably think about it, too and try to beat us to the punch.
On the highlights of his career:
On the legacy of KTLA: