Tom Butts /
07.30.2014 01:37 PM
True Dedication
Tom Butts
When TV Technology advertised for a new technology editor nine years ago this month, we wanted not only someone who could bring the technical background to the job, but who shared our love for this industry and respect for the people who work behind the scenes to make broadcasting such an important part of our communities. Who we got had those qualities and so much more.

For many of us in broadcasting and related media, our jobs revolve around a 9–5 daily schedule, but for a dedicated few, it’s a 24 hours-a-day passion. James O’Neal, technology editor for TV Technology since 2005, is one of the dedicated few. It’s safe to say that, apart from his family, James’ main interest is in technology in general and the history and legacy of broadcasting in particular. James’ love for this industry is infectious and he never hesitates to share that passion with the rest of us, whether it’s debating when the first radio broadcast actually occurred (including debunking many of the myths surrounding the involvement of one Reginald Fessenden, who, in many circles, is still credited with the first voice and music broadcasts in history), or discussing the differences between HD and Ultra HD or how well the DTV transition was handled.

James’ articles on broadcast history in these pages often garnered the most reader response—and debates—in this magazine’s 35-year history. These included his account of the introduction of the first videotape recorder at the 1956 NAB Show, to a profile of Stanley Lebar, who developed the camera that documented the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the introduction of color television 60 years ago.

James gives a tour of his radio control room.
But his interests don’t just lie in the legacy of broadcasting, either. James is active in most of the broadcast organizations, including SMPTE, SBE and IEEE-BTS, of which he is currently the newsletter editor. He has also built a fully operational radio station in the basement of his country home in central Virginia. In fact, James was profiled about his project several years ago, and you can catch the program at

After nine years as technology editor, James is stepping down from the post, but in some ways, it’s a mere formality. James will continue to write and contribute to TV Technology on a regular basis. After nearly 50 years in this business, he says it’s hard to completely step away. That suits us just fine because James is not only an integral member of the TV Technology team, he’s also a valued friend to us all.

I asked James to come up with a list of what he deems to be the five most important milestones in broadcast history. Here’s his list:

• Dec. 21, 1906 - Reginald Fessenden conducts first public demonstration of wireless speech and music transmission and provides attendees with a “handout” addressing broadcasting’s potential.

• Nov. 2, 1920 – KDKA broadcasts presidential election returns, stirring widespread public interest and setting the stage for radio’s entry into the home.

• Nov. 2, 1936 – BBC inaugurates world’s first regular TV broadcasting schedule.

• July 12, 1962 – First use of satellite technology (Telstar) to relay a transatlantic television broadcast.

• June 12, 2009 – The era of analog television ends in the United States, with all high-power stations required to transmit digitally.

Like so many lists of today, this is bound to lead to some debate. Do you agree or disagree with James’ assessment? Let us know!

We’ve also compiled a list of James’ most popular article on the history of broadcasting. You can access them at

Thank you, James for a job well done and best of luck in your (semi-) retirement!

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Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Fri, 08-01-2014 09:57 AM Report Comment
Let me say that I believe that I speak for myself and many of my colleagues when I say that we are still in complete denial and may be for some time to come. We have his cellphone number.... ~ Deborah
Posted by: David Sica
Fri, 08-01-2014 11:30 AM Report Comment
Yikes! Don't go, James... I've been a reader of TV Technology for decades. Although it's all good, James' writing has been the best part about the magazine. He's one of the most rigorous researchers and joyously enthusiastic writers I've ever met. I hope we are all able to continue to enjoy his thoughts in the pages of TV Technology for a long time to come. As for debate about milestones: I'm pleased you noted his coverage of Stan Lebar, but the first live TV transmission from THEM MOON doesn't make the list? Well, it's on mine! :-)
Posted by: Anonymous
Wed, 07-30-2014 02:48 PM Report Comment
James O'Neal is one of the great bright spots in the history of TV Technology. This is definitely a big change for the magazine, and leaves big shoes to fill. I am glad to hear Mr. O'Neal will continue to contribute to TV Technology, and I look forward to what he comes with. As far as dedication goes, broadcast engineers never die, their filaments just go out! Enjoy your retirement James! It looks like you have some really cool 'toys' to play with!
Posted by: Anonymous
Wed, 07-30-2014 05:09 PM Report Comment
James is a fixture in the industry and we will miss seeing his byline in the magazine, although as we understand it, he'll still be doing some work for you here and there. Cheers on your retirement, James, and thanks for everything. - Karl Winkler, Lectrosonics, Inc.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 08-01-2014 09:39 AM Report Comment
Congratulations, James, on your "retirement," and to Tom for providing the best possible outlets for James' excellent reporting and historical perspective on our fabulous broadcasting industry. While it is relatively easy to focus only on the latest technical developments, James helped us understand how we got to where we are. His reporting and especially his articles based on real life experiences provide the insight into our own history in words and events that make us realize we are part of the larger picture. Thanks James. Look forward to your next article. Ed Williams
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 08-01-2014 09:44 AM Report Comment
Here's to James - one of the best in the business! Although I question his ability to even semi-retire!
Posted by: Anonymous
Sun, 08-03-2014 11:08 AM Report Comment
James and I saw "The Farnsworth Invention" on Broadway many falls ago, a play by Aaron Sorkin about the invention of television. We were in the front row, and I lived in perpetual fear that at any moment James would jump up and interrupt Hank Azaria mid sentence to correct him on the origins of our industry. My fears were unfounded and James contained himself. Needless to say, the after-play dinner was a healthy discourse on the true history of television. The best thing about James' retirement is we'll have even more time for such discussions! And David, we all know that moon landing was faked on a Hollywood stage and that's why those "missing tapes" will really never be found. James was never one to fall for such malarkey.

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