Invention and entrepreneurship permeate Rensselaers history in many fields, from agriculture to the Internet. No less holds true in entertainment, notably television.
Regarded as the founder of the American television industry, Allen B. Du Mont 24 developed the first commercially viable cathode ray tube (CRT), the picture tube that allowed him to take TV out of the laboratory and into the marketplace.
The Brooklyn native earned an electrical engineering degree at Rensselaer in 1924, though his interests in electronics materialized years earlier. Born in 1901, Du Mont was stricken by polio when he was 11. While he spent a year in bed recuperating, his father bought him a radio. Soon after, he built his own out of an oatmeal box.
Du Mont began his career as an engineer working on radio tubes at the Westinghouse Lamp Company in New Jersey. To devote his interests to the early developments of an experimental system, called the television, Du Mont left the radio industry to start his own business in the garage of his New Jersey home. A year later, he developed the CRT into an inexpensive product that lasted for thousands of hours. Until then, earlier versions of the CRT were expensive and burned out after 25 or 30 hours.
With virtually no market at the time for his new CRT, Du Mont only made $70 from his product the first year. Over the next 25 years, however, Allen B. Du Mont Laboratories annual sales grew to more than $75 million. The company sold CRTs, television transmitters and receivers, radios and hi-fi sets, mobile communications equipment, and a wide variety of electronic instruments for commercial, hospital, and government use.
Du Mont, who held more than 30 patents, built and sold the first home television receivers just before WWII, and invented the first electronic viewfinder. He also was the first to synchronize audio and video broadcasting in 1930.
By 1947, Du Mont had established Du Mont Television Network, which included WABD, the station that launched comedian Jackie Gleason into television stardom. WABD is now WNYW, the New York City station operated by Fox News.
In 1948, Du Mont established the first regular daytime programming. He also helped formulate broadcast standards for black-and-whiteand later colortelevision.
Du Mont, who continued to cultivate the TV industry until his death in 1965, served as vice president of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees and was a lifetime member of the board. To add to the list of his firsts, he was one of the initial inductees into the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame when it was established in 1998.
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