Goldsmith and Mann

When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!
Alice in Wonderland

Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr., in the early 1950s
Thomas Toliver Goldsmith Jr. (1910–2009) in the early 1950s

U.S. Patent 2455992 (see the patent US2455992), filed by two American physicists—Thomas Toliver Goldsmith Jr. (1910–2009), director of research for DuMont Laboratories in New Jersey, and his colleague Estle Ray Mann (1904-1965), on 25 January 1947, describes the world’s first cathode ray tube based game, so-called “Cathode-ray tube amusement device”. Goldsmith and Mann were granted their patent on 14 December 1948, making it the first-ever patent for an electronic game.

The patent of Goldsmith and Mann describes a game in which a player controls the CRT’s electron gun. The beam from the gun was focused at a single point on the screen to form a dot representing a missile, and the player tried to control the dot to hit paper targets put on the screen, with all hits detected mechanically. By connecting a cathode ray tube to an oscilloscope and devising knobs that controlled the angle and trajectory of the light traces displayed on the oscilloscope, Goldsmith and Mann were able to invent a missile game that, when using screen overlays, created the effect of firing missiles at various targets. To make the game more challenging, its circuits can alter the player’s ability to aim the dot. However, the company simply could not afford to take it further, beyond the patent, so the “Cathode-ray tube amusement device” was never sold. Only several handmade prototypes were ever created.

Biography of Thomas Goldsmith

Thomas Goldsmith and Helen Wilcox-Goldsmith
Thomas Goldsmith and Helen Wilcox-Goldsmith

Thomas Toliver Goldsmith Jr. was born in Greenville, South Carolina, on 9 January 1910. He was the younger of two sons of the insurance and real estate broker Thomas Toliver Goldsmith Sr. (1880-1951), son of Mary Jane Bozeman (1856-1936) and Charles Homer Goldsmith (1854-1919), and Charlotte Broadus Manly-Goldsmith (1882-1978), a concert pianist and Master of Music (1899), Bachelor of Arts (1902) and Master of Arts (1903) from Greenville Female College.

After building crystal radio sets as a teenager, Thomas graduated from Furman University in Greenville (B.S. in physics) in 1931. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Cornell in 1936. For his doctoral research, he needed to build an oscilloscope. He contacted Allen Balcom DuMont (1901–1965), an American electronics engineer, scientist, and inventor best known for improvements to the cathode ray tube in 1931 for use in television receivers, bought a cathode ray tube, and began a correspondence that soon led to his hiring at the DuMont Laboratories, initially as a director of research, and (after 1953) vice president and the chief engineer for the DuMont Television Network. In 1966 he left DuMont to become a professor of physics at Furman, and he retired to become an emeritus professor in 1975. He was a Fellow of IEEE, SMPTE, and Radio Club of America, a chair of the Synchronization Panel of the National Television System Committee and also the Radio Manufacturers Association Committee on Cathode-Ray Tubes, and started WTTG TV Station in Washington, D.C. in 1945.

In 1938 in Tacoma, Washington, Thomas Goldsmith married Helen Wilcox (16 November 1910-7 June 2009), a graduate of the University of Washington with a B.A. in Public School music and a daughter of Judson M. and Elizabeth Cohoe Wilcox from Roy, Washington. They had two sons, Judson Wilcox Goldsmith and Thomas T. Goldsmith III, and a daughter, Virginia Goldsmith-Beekman.

Goldsmith was known for his radiant personality and pioneering work in television development. He died on 5 March 2009, in Lacey, Washington at the age of 99 due to a hip fracture leading to infection.