July 15, 2024


Step Into The Technology

Retrotechtacular: Measuring TV Audiences With The “Poll-O-Meter”

3 min read


It could arrive as a shock to some, but Tv applied to be a large deal — a really large deal. Sitting down in front of the glowing tube for an evening’s amusement was fairly substantially all a single had to do following perform, and though taking in this material was potentially not that wonderful for us, it was a goldmine for anyone with the capacity to monetize it. And monetize it they did, “they” getting the advertisers and entrepreneurs who saw the potential of the new medium as it ramped up in early 1950s The united states.

They confronted a bit of a problem, nevertheless: proving to their customers specifically how lots of people they have been achieving with their adverts. The 1956 movie down below exhibits a single try to reply that dilemma with engineering, relatively than guesswork. The film attributes the “Poll-O-Meter Technique,” a mobile digital tuning recorder developed by the Calbest Electronics Firm. Not a good deal of specialized element is supplied in the film, which appears aimed much more at the advertising and marketing styles, but from a shot of the Poll-O-Meter entrance panel (at 4:12) and a glimpse at its comically outsized rooftop antenna (12:27), it seems harmless to suppose that it labored by obtaining emissions from the Television set’s community oscillator, which would leak a sign from the Television antenna — possibly similar to the method employed by the UK’s Tv set locator vans.

The Poll-O-Meter looks to have supported seven channels even nevertheless there have been twelve channels back again in the day, licenses were being rarely granted for stations on adjacent channels in a presented market place, so getting a hit on the “2-3” channel would have to be regarded in the context of the local industry. The Poll-O-Meter had a charming, homebrew glance to it, proper down to the hand-painted logos and panel lettering. Every single channel experienced an electromechanical totalizing counter, plus a patch panel that seems like it could be utilised to hook up diverse counters to different channels. There even appears to be a way to subtract counts from a channel, despite the fact that why that would be important is unclear. The complete detail lived in the back again of a 1954 VW van, and was pushed around neighborhoods turning heads and collecting facts about what channels were being remaining watched “without enlisting support or cooperation of … customers.” Or, you know, their consent.

It was a distinctive time, while, which is abundantly clear from observing this film, as very well as the reward advert for Westinghouse TVs at the end. The Poll-O-Meter would seem a minimal foolish now, but never decide 1956 too tough — right after all, our planet is on a regular basis prowled by similarly intrusive and consent-free of charge Google Street Watch automobiles. However, it is an interesting glimpse into how a person outfit tried to cling a selling price tag on the eyeballs that had been silently getting in the “Vast Wasteland.”



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