News from the Archive

65th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Attack

December 8th, 2006

Commercial television was in its infancy in the United States when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. NBC and CBS had gone on the air with commercial television in July of 1941.

Frances Buss Buch worked at CBS at this time and describes hearing the news and how CBS reported it on television. Her reminiscenes can be found at 23 minutes into Part 1 of her interview.

Frances Buss Buch was the first woman director to work at CBS television.

Watch her entire five-part interview here. In order to watch the interview in order, click on each sucessive part: 1, 2, 3...

Interview description:

Frances Buss Buch was interviewed for over two hours in Hendersonville, NC. She described how a two-week summer job at CBS led to an over decade-long association with the network, and her historic role as CBS’ very first female director. She detailed her work at CBS before and after broadcasting was interrupted during World War II. She talked about her assistance creating maps for the news program on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She described several of the earliest commercial broadcasts on CBS which featured her on-camera, including The Country Dance, a monthly dance program by the American Country Dance Society; Children’s Story, in which a story was read to a child, “illustrated” by an artist on camera; and the CBS Television Quiz, which featured such games as “Peanuts in the Bottle” in which a contestant attempted to spoon peanuts into an empty milk bottle that they held on their head. She talked about some of her earliest directorial efforts such as Sorry Wrong Number, an adaptation of the famed radio show. Buch talked about several of the key creative talent at CBS at the time including Worthington Miner and Gilbert Seldes. She spoke in great detail about other early CBS series including The Missus Goes A-Shopping, To the Queen’s Taste with Dione Lucas, The Whistling Wizard, and Mike and Buff. She also talked about CBS’ color experimentation and her role as the director of the first color broadcast for the network on June 25, 1951. She also discussed "Telecolor Clinics," a series of television documentaries done for the American Cancer Society. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on June 16, 2005.

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Los Angeles Residents: Enjoy A Shopping Day at Bloomingdale's Benefiting the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation

December 5th, 2006

On Tuesday, December 5th, from noon to 8 PM, Bloomingdale's (14060 Riverside Drive) in Sherman Oaks, California, is hosting a "Shopping Works Wonders Day" to benefit the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation (the Archive of American Television's parent organization). 10% of the proceeds from receipts turned in to the Foundation's table (located on Level 2) will be donated to the Foundation.

As an extra incentive, Bloomingdale's will give you a $15 gift card for every $150 you spend (some exclusions apply).

Click here for more details.

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50 Years Ago -- Videotape Debuts

November 30th, 2006

The Advent of Videotape....50 Years Ago (November 30, 2006)
By Steve Cox

On November 30, 1956 at 6:15 pm Pacific Standard Time, a milestone in the history of broadcasting occurred: the debut of videotape. In Hollywood, CBS Television recorded and reproduced, on the new Ampex Videotape Recorder, a Douglas Edwards news broadcast in New York which was rebroadcast and seen by thousands of viewers along the Pacific West Coast, from Los Angeles up to the northern tip of Washington. The program was taped from a live New York telecast to achieve a two-hour delay and then broadcast to TV audiences in twelve western cities.

Videotape, a brand new medium, assured a record and playback of what was live television (or kinescope), but now in nearly miracle time. The new Ampex VRX-1000 Videotape Recorder--a complex gargantuan machine about the size of a wall--was installed at CBS Television City in Hollywood and utilized large two-inch format magnetic videotape. Live television broadcasts were now made possible, where kinescopes (filmed TV screens) once served as the delayed medium which to serve up shows. In fact, many television shows which originated in Hollywood as live programs were never seen "live" by West Coast viewers. Shows starring Jack Benny and Red Skelton, for instance, were presented around 4 or 5 pm in Hollywood, live for suitable prime-time air on the East Coast. West Coast viewers watched what was called a "hot kinny" (very fresh kinescope version).

CBS installed two Ampex machines and began recording news broadcasts on both for protection. The team of engineers who designed the practical videotape recorder included Charlie Ginsberg, Ray Dolby, Alex Maxey, Fred Pfost, Shelby Henderson, and Charles Anderson. These innovative visionaries were recognized by the National Television Academy in September 2005 for their achievement.

Without a doubt, video technology altered the world and the way we view it. The technology enabled was a fundamental shift in modern technology and changed the broadcasting world dramatically, if not instantly, providing choice, accessibility, as well diversity in television. Videotape changed the world in untold ways. Today, 50 years later, hundreds of millions of home-users have this miracle medium to thank for precious preserved personal memories. Not to mention endless bloopers and "live" antics caught because of this invention. Videotape has permeated literally every aspect of our lives, all the while educating, enlightening, witnessing, proving and disproving. It is the invention which has brought our society closer in a moment's glance. Now, with the digital age upon us, the video medium is bowing, a noticeable waning in its home-use, however it is still used widely within broadcasting and news media levels.

Guest Archive blogger Steve Cox is author of more than 15 books on pop culture, film, and television. He has contributed to TV Guide, The Hollywood Reporter, and LA Times. His most recent book is "The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane" (Waston-Guptill/ Backstage Books)

Above left: The Ampex videotape recorder installed at CBS Television City in Hollywood. (courtesy of Steve Cox)

Lower right: The actual first video recording of "Douglas Edwards With the News" on CBS, November 30, 1956 at 6:15 pm. (courtesy of Steve Cox)

© 2006 Steve Cox

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22nd, 2006

The Archive of American Television can't help you in the kitchen, but we can entertain you with an interview with one of American's top television chefs! As you wait for your turkey to be done, take a look at legendary TV chef Julia's Child's Archive of American Television Interview.

Click here to access Julia Child's entire interview.

Interview Description:

Julia Child (1912-2004) was interviewed for three hours in Cambridge, MA. Ms. Child discussed her first television show The French Chef created in 1962 for Boston's PBS station WGBH which was on the air until 1973. In 1978, Ms. Child returned to public television with Julia and Company. She talked about being a regular on Good Morning America throughout the 1980's. The interview was conducted by Michael Rosen on June 25, 1999.

Bon appetit!

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Bob Keeshan's ("Captain Kangaroo" and TV's First Clarabell the Clown) Interview is now Online

November 19th, 2006

Remember Clarabell the clown on The Howdy Doody Show? Or what about Captain Kangaroo, with his menagerie of "Dancing Bear," "Mr. Moose," and "Mr. Greenjeans"? Bob Keeshan, best known as television's "Captain Kangaroo" was interviewed by the Archive of American Television in 1999 and it's now accessible on Google Video.

Interview Description:

Mr. Keeshan related his experiences as an NBC page before going to work for "Buffalo" Bob Smith. Keeshan talked about the beginnings of Smith’s Howdy Doody Show and how he was eventually transformed into the show’s clown, Clarabell. Keeshan discussed his four years on the show, and his eventual falling-out with Smith, which led to Keeshan's departure. He talked about starring in two local New York childrens’ programs before CBS tapped him to star in his own show, which ultimately became Captain Kangaroo. He talked about executive producing and starring in the program for almost 30 years and discussed the ensemble cast and classic moments. The 3-1/2 hour interview was conducted by Karen Herman in Queechee, Vermont on October 19, 1999.

Click here to access the entire interview. (The interview is done chronologically, so it's best to watch the parts in order.)

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