|It was 6:15 PM
on Wednesday, September 1, 1948... after working hours for most Chicagoans, who
were looking forward to the coming Labor Day weekend. The radio-TV pages of Chicago
newspapers were heavy with radio programming such as WMAQ's "Mr. District
Attorney" and "Marriage in Distress". TV programming listed that
day totaled only 40 minutes for Chicago's two television stations, mostly interviews,
baseball and wrestling.
Only the day before, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, president and publisher of the New
York Times, had said to a publishers' meeting in Saranac Lake, N. Y., "Television
and radio, as I see it, are primarily media of entertainment, and the newspaper,
which gives information, is not threatened by them.'' So few Chicagoans who read
the story in their newspapers that morning would have been impressed with what
was happening on 42nd floor of the Kemper Building. After all, it was only an
engineer pushing a button.
It was really that simple: engineer Walter Lanterman pushed a button---and a soundless
test pattern appeared for the first time on television Channel 5. No blare of
trumpets; no speeches. But I. B. (Chick) Showerman, Vice President of NBC's Central
Division won a ten-dollar bet from Sales Manager Paul McClure. WNBQ NBC's newest
television station, and sister station to WMAQ radio-had made its target air date.
WNBQ test pattern
signal went out to a total potential audience of less than 50,000 TV receivers.
Still, 30 persons reported seeing the test pattern as far away as Valparaiso,
Indiana-30 miles east of Chicago and Flgin, Illinois, a similar distance to the
west. It was a novelty, that first 15-minute test pattern. It was worth talking
about. But nobody seeing it that day in Valparaiso or Elgin could realize that
in just twenty years, that brief test pattern would grow into Chicago's number
one source for news, with 3 1/2hours of news programming every weekday.