The following day, the apparatus was demonstrated at Grand Haven High School during a student assembly. The event brought forth much interest and enthusiasm — “especially among the students of the sciences,” the Tribune reported.
Said to be the “only portable type in the world today,” the device had a value of over $125,000 by today's standards. As incredible as it was, the Tribune reported the apparatus “has not been of sufficient value to attract commercial purpose.”
The year was 1939, and the device was called a “television.”
Television, incorporating transmitting and receiving, basically made its debut in the late 1920s. It wasn't until the 1939 World's Fair in New York that the television gained widespread recognition. World War II placed the advancement of the device on hold until soldiers returned following the war.
In the late 1940s to early 1950s, those who could afford a pricey “TV” replaced their living room radios with this new home entertainment device.
The television made its debut in Grand Haven on Oct. 30, 1939, when Professor Lewis Maloney Hoskins, of the National Family Services Committee, demonstrated what was claimed to be the only portable type in the world to the Grand Haven Rotary Club. At the time, Lewis was associated with the School Assembly Service, based in Chicago.
Ulises Armand Sanabria, holder of more than 125 patents in the television field at the time, cooperated with Hoskins to make the demonstration one in which television was actually shown in action.
The Grand Haven Tribune reported that the event “proved to be one of the most interesting scientific lectures” Rotary club members had ever witnessed.
Hoskins stayed in town overnight and appeared at Grand Haven High School on Oct. 31 for an assembly to demonstrate the device for enthusiastic students. Selected youths were asked to stand before a “transmitting” device (or camera), and their images and movements appeared on the receiving screen across the room.
Hoskins explained the model demonstrated, valued at $8,000 at the time, was far beyond home consumer price range. One bulb alone cost $80.
Hoskins told of the development of television and suggested its possibilities from the vocational standpoint. He indicated it was unlikely every American home would have a “set” tomorrow, listing numerous technological “hurdles” that still confronted the TV for consumer home use. However, Hoskins predicted television “would be a factor in the future.”
“Television is not just around the corner, as some would have us believe, due to the fact that the range radius is now about 25 or 30 miles,” Hoskins told the Tribune. “Television employs a single beam of light that cannot be bent to conform to the Earth's curvature — hence, it’s limited in range.”
Today, it's hard to imagine any home in Ottawa County not having a television — but they exist. The home of area historian and author Wallace K. Ewing is one.
“By not watching TV, we have more time to read, to be with friends and to attend to the legion of mundane tasks that await us every day,” Ewing said concerning he and his wife. “Come to think of it, there is no time for television in the first place!”
The Rev. Michael Goers, pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Spring Lake Township, once had a television in his home, but he said he lives fine without one today.
"Our family did not replace our last television and we hardly miss having one,” Goers said. “For all that is heard on TV, nothing beats family conversation."
Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow warned of television programming slipping into mediocrity in a speech he delivered to the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961.
“I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper to distract you,” he said. “Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”
Big-screen TV owners with access to more than 100 cable channels freely acknowledge most often there's nothing on TV worth watching — but, on the bright side, it's all in high-definition now.
The man who introduced Grand Haven to television 75 years ago, Professor Lewis Maloney Hoskins, died Jan. 26, 2011, in Kauai, Hawaii, at the age of 94.