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Oral-History:Joseph Maxfield

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== About Joseph Maxfied<br>  ==
 
== About Joseph Maxfied<br>  ==
  
Joseph Maxfield is best known for his contributions to the development of the [[Phonograph|phonograph]] and sound recording for movies. He graduated from college in 1910, and after several years of teaching, took a position with the Western Electric Company. After serving in WWI, he began his work on high-quality recording for Bell.  
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<p>Joseph Maxfield is best known for his contributions to the development of the [[Phonograph|phonograph]] and sound recording for movies. He graduated from college in 1910, and after several years of teaching, took a position with the Western Electric Company. After serving in WWI, he began his work on high-quality recording for Bell. </p>
  
The interview covers Maxfield's work at [[Bell Labs|Bell Laboratories]] in the fields of recording and acoustical engineering. Maxfield discusses the developments leading to motion picture sound as well as similarities between auditorium and movie theater acoustical requirements. During the 1930s, Maxfield worked on manual variation for both broadcasting and recording symphonic music. The interview concludes with some brief remarks on Maxfield's position with the Naval Electronics Laboratory and comments on Harrison's contributions to recording and the invention of the high-speed relay.<br>  
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<p>The interview covers Maxfield's work at [[Bell Labs|Bell Laboratories]] in the fields of recording and acoustical engineering. Maxfield discusses the developments leading to motion picture sound as well as similarities between auditorium and movie theater acoustical requirements. During the 1930s, Maxfield worked on manual variation for both broadcasting and recording symphonic music. The interview concludes with some brief remarks on Maxfield's position with the Naval Electronics Laboratory and comments on Harrison's contributions to recording and the invention of the high-speed relay. </p>
  
<br>
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== About the Interview  ==
  
<br>  
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<p>Joseph Maxfield: An Interview Conducted by Frank A. Polkinghorn, IEEE History Center, April 16, 1973 </p>
  
== About the Interview<br> ==
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<p>Interview # 007 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. </p>
  
Joseph Maxfield: An Interview Conducted by Frank A. Polkinghorn, IEEE History Center, April 16, 1973
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== Copyright Statement  ==
  
Interview # 007 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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<p>This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center. </p>
  
<br>  
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<p>Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. </p>
  
== Copyright Statement<br> ==
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<p>It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: </p>
  
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
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<p>Joseph Maxfield, an oral history conducted in 1973 by Frank A. Polkinghorn, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA. </p>
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.
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== Interview  ==
  
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
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<p>Interview: Joseph Maxfield Interviewer: Frank A. Polkinghorn Date: April 16, 1973 </p>
  
Joseph Maxfield, an oral history conducted in 1973 by Frank A. Polkinghorn, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
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=== Graduation from College  ===
  
<br>  
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
== Interview<br> ==
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<p>Mr. Joseph Maxfield was first at [[Bell Labs|Bell Telephone Laboratories]], later with the movie industry, and then later with the Naval Electronics Laboratory at San Diego. The interview is being made by Frank A. Polkinghorn and the recorder operator is Mr. Reginald G. Banks. Mr. Maxfield, I would like to talk a little about your early experiences in Bell Laboratories and otherwise. When did you graduate from college? </p>
  
Interview: Joseph Maxfield Interviewer: Frank A. Polkinghorn Date: April 16, 1973
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== Graduation from College<br> ===
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<p>1910. Then I went back and taught for four years. I took advanced courses in math and physics. R.L. Jones, whom I think you know from Bell Laboratories,... </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Mr. Joseph Maxfield was first at Bell Telephone Laboratories, later with the movie industry, and then later with the Naval Electronics Laboratory at San Diego. The interview is being made by Frank A. Polkinghorn and the recorder operator is Mr. Reginald G. Banks. Mr. Maxfield, I would like to talk a little about your early experiences in Bell Laboratories and otherwise. When did you graduate from college?
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<p>Yes, I remember him. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
1910. Then I went back and taught for four years. I took advanced courses in math and physics. R.L. Jones, whom I think you know from Bell Laboratories,...  
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<p>We got to be friends. He had been down there a year before I finally quit. He coaxed me to come down to MIT and try it. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
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=== Carbon Research at Western Electric before the War  ===
  
Yes, I remember him.
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
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<p>That wasn't mentioned earlier. You graduated there in 1910, then you worked four years, and then did you go with the Western Electric Company? </p>
  
We got to be friends. He had been down there a year before I finally quit. He coaxed me to come down to MIT and try it.
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== Carbon Research at Western Electric before the War<br> ===
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<p>Yes. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
That wasn't mentioned earlier. You graduated there in 1910, then you worked four years, and then did you go with the Western Electric Company?  
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<p>What kind of work did you undertake there? </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
Yes.  
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<p>I undertook carbon research, which never got to far. I don't think it was very important. Soon World War I came and I was in the war during that period. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
What kind of work did you undertake there?  
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<p>Was there anything particularly interesting there that you might like to tell us about? </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
I undertook carbon research, which never got to far. I don't think it was very important. Soon World War I came and I was in the war during that period.  
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<p>No. There isn't anything of war work that I can talk about, I'm afraid. I wouldn't have gone into war work if I hadn't been told by General Salsman in a letter that I could be of more use to our country there than I could by becoming a major in the Signal Corps. I knew General Salsman very well. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Was there anything particularly interesting there that you might like to tell us about?
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<p>I see. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
No. There isn't anything of war work that I can talk about, I'm afraid. I wouldn't have gone into war work if I hadn't been told by General Salsman in a letter that I could be of more use to our country there than I could by becoming a major in the Signal Corps. I knew General Salsman very well.  
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<p>He said I was so much more valuable where I was that he asked me to stay. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
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=== Early Work on High Quality Recorders  ===
  
I see.
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
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<p>After the war was over what kind of work did you do? </p>
  
He said I was so much more valuable where I was that he asked me to stay.
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== Early Work on High Quality Recorders<br> ===
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<p>Well, then we puttered around. The problem came up on how to make a high-quality recording, how you could get a recorder that would record quite a period of time and put it across long lines. You get line noise samples for laboratory study. Those are transient things, and unless you can record them and study them you can only study them later while they are happening. So I was put on the high-quality recorder, and that's what started the recording. Then Mr. Kraft who, as you know, is very active in getting into outside things, thought that it would be fine to sell to the phonograph people and make some money. So then we began to work upon it, not only for the high quality sounds that were coming over, but also the use of it for speech, music and so forth. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
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=== Efforts to Achieve a Flat Frequency Characteristic  ===
  
After the war was over what kind of work did you do?
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
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<p>Tell us a little about that work and how you went on from there. </p>
  
Well, then we puttered around. The problem came up on how to make a high-quality recording, how you could get a recorder that would record quite a period of time and put it across long lines. You get line noise samples for laboratory study. Those are transient things, and unless you can record them and study them you can only study them later while they are happening. So I was put on the high-quality recorder, and that's what started the recording. Then Mr. Kraft who, as you know, is very active in getting into outside things, thought that it would be fine to sell to the phonograph people and make some money. So then we began to work upon it, not only for the high quality sounds that were coming over, but also the use of it for speech, music and so forth.
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== Efforts to Achieve a Flat Frequency Characteristic<br> ===
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<p>That work depended on getting a recorder that had a flat frequency characteristic or nearly so over a wide range. I think we were flat from 300 to 5500 and then it grouped at 60V for below 300. It did get down into the base, where it was gone. That was done by that completely flat characteristic. The collaboration&nbsp; of it looked almost like the collaboration&nbsp; of an amplifier. We got by with building the recorder and recording with the second section of it. It was built as a many-section filter and terminated ultimately with a resistance, and by recording with the current in the second section we actually got a very flat characteristic. Later we replaced all that junky stuff with a rubber line at the end of the third section. That was known as the "rubber line recorder" in the industry. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Tell us a little about that work and how you went on from there.
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<p>This is all recorded on wax? </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
That work depended on getting a recorder that had a flat frequency characteristic or nearly so over a wide range. I think we were flat from 300 to 5500 and then it grouped at 60V for below 300. It did get down into the base, where it was gone. That was done by that completely flat characteristic. The collaboration&nbsp; of it looked almost like the collaboration&nbsp; of an amplifier. We got by with building the recorder and recording with the second section of it. It was built as a many-section filter and terminated ultimately with a resistance, and by recording with the current in the second section we actually got a very flat characteristic. Later we replaced all that junky stuff with a rubber line at the end of the third section. That was known as the "rubber line recorder" in the industry.  
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<p>All recorded on wax, yes. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
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=== Animosity between Harrison and Kraft  ===
  
This is all recorded on wax?
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
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<p>I have talked to [[Oral-History:Arthur C. Keller|Arthur Keller]] recently about some of this work. </p>
  
All recorded on wax, yes.
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== Animosity between Harrison and Kraft<br> ===
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<p>I think we ought to say a word about Harrison. Kraft took an awful dislike to Harrison. Harrison was an extreme similarity man and Kraft was an extreme difference man. He just made Kraft boil inside. Because if Harrison wanted to explain some simple thing, he started here and went around that lamp, came back here, went around this [[Microphone|microphone]] and around back of you and around the chair and Kraft wanted a "yes" or a "no." </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
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=== Usefulness of Similarity and Difference  ===
  
I have talked to Arthur Keller recently about some of this work.
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
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<p>Is that where John Mills got his "S &amp; D" story? </p>
  
I think we ought to say a word about Harrison. Kraft took an awful dislike to Harrison. Harrison was an extreme similarity man and Kraft was an extreme difference man. He just made Kraft boil inside. Because if Harrison wanted to explain some simple thing, he started here and went around that lamp, came back here, went around this microphone and around back of you and around the chair and Kraft wanted a "yes" or a "no."
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== Usefulness of Similarity and Difference<br> ===
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<p>Oh no! John Mills had that before. In fact, I did a lot of work on S&amp;D. I wrote a paper for the Navy on that. It has been useful and practical. I want to loan you a copy, but I will have to have it back. I don't know whether anything like that should be included or not. That was one of the things I did while I was at Bell. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
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=== Phonic Laboratories  ===
  
Is that where John Mills got his "S &amp; D" story?
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<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
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<p>We were talking about recording in wax. </p>
  
Oh no! John Mills had that before. In fact, I did a lot of work on S&amp;D. I wrote a paper for the Navy on that. It has been useful and practical. I want to loan you a copy, but I will have to have it back. I don't know whether anything like that should be included or not. That was one of the things I did while I was at Bell.
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== Phonic Laboratories<br> ===
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<p>A company known as the Phonic Laboratories was started to carry on this work and probably ultimately obtain a license from Western under its patents. Just what it represented, I don't know. It was not any part of the engineering work. However, up there we set up a dead studio, the theory then being that the reproduction would supply all the reverberation that was needed. We found it much better for speech, that is, than for singing and for band. It was Arthur Prior who really tipped us off. He didn't like to play in the dead studio. He wanted to play outside in a very reverberant environment. We were in a big loft in New York. So we made him a record out there. We were all tremendously surprised because, while it was obviously in a big empty barn, tone quality was tremendously better than anything else we had ever recorded. We really sounded like a band. We went to work then to determine the optimum amount of reverberation to give that increase in quality without the feeling that you are in an empty space. That led to the other branch, which I will speak about later — the auditorium acoustics. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
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=== Records for Movie Sound  ===
  
We were talking about recording in wax.
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<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
+
<p><flashmp3>007 - maxfield - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3></p>
  
A company known as the Phonic Laboratories was started to carry on this work and probably ultimately obtain a license from Western under its patents. Just what it represented, I don't know. It was not any part of the engineering work. However, up there we set up a dead studio, the theory then being that the reproduction would supply all the reverberation that was needed. We found it much better for speech, that is, than for singing and for band. It was Arthur Prior who really tipped us off. He didn't like to play in the dead studio. He wanted to play outside in a very reverberant environment. We were in a big loft in New York. So we made him a record out there. We were all tremendously surprised because, while it was obviously in a big empty barn, tone quality was tremendously better than anything else we had ever recorded. We really sounded like a band. We went to work then to determine the optimum amount of reverberation to give that increase in quality without the feeling that you are in an empty space. That led to the other branch, which I will speak about later — the auditorium acoustics.  
+
<p>By 1924 we had an exceedingly good recording system. We had made records at both [[Columbia Record Company|Columbia]] and [[Victor Talking Machine Company|Victor Talking Machine Company Laboratories]] — demonstration records. They were both interested in licensing and in 1925, they did. Victor is the Orthophonic. Then Kraft said, "If this works well, how about making a movie and synchronizing it with a movie?" So he started us on that. I warned him at the time that the record probably would only last a year or two because another group in the laboratory was recording directly on film, and direct recording on film for a movie has a terrific advantage. They probably could finish with good quality in about two or three years, so he wouldn't have very long to use the record. Nevertheless, he went ahead and they did have about three years, in which Warner Brothers continued to use the record. The other companies about a half year sooner started in on film. When using the record synchronized with the film it was necessary to use a turntable, which would be synchronized with the running of the film. There were all kinds of chances for trouble. You might not get the record on the film, just as they did in the Warner Brothers theater when one of the opera singers got up to sing and banjo came out of his mouth. You can get out of synchronism easily because a bad jar would cause your phonograph to jump a groove. There were all sorts of reasons why film with the sound on the same media that carried the picture was vastly more practical and comparable. That was the reason for this little transition. </p>
  
=== Records for Movie Sound<br> ===
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<p>Having gotten a medium for recording both sound and picture, the problem was that of coordinating the sound with the picture. Not in time but to make the sound appear to come from the same place that the noise was obviously being made in the picture. We developed a method of sound perspective that is completely usable also on single channel phonograph and radio. It doesn't require stereo to get all the before-and-after effect. It does require stereo to get side-wise position. However, we found that we were accused at times of putting an extra large speaker where the source wasn't because it was very live coming from a distance. It was opening a door, so they assumed it came out from that room and they heard it come out of the room — at least they thought they did. That is one of the psychological queernesses of seeing and coordinating, seeing and hearing. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
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<p>You don't have the same problem of coordinating, making the thing sound natural, with a record because you do not have anything visual to coordinate it with. But records that sound as though they were made in an auditorium, where you can hear the acoustics of the auditorium as well as as the direct sound from the orchestra, are much more pleasing and easy to listen to. I have watched audiences in the theater, with talking pictures, listening to two shorts, one made the old dead way and one made with this acoustic perspective. When the dead one was on, they were all leaning forward, listening as hard as they could, they were working. When the other came on, they just suddenly leaned back and enjoyed it. It made a big difference. I don't know how much they have kept it up now because having been blind six years, I don't go to the movies. </p>
  
By 1924 we had an exceedingly good recording system. We had made records at both Columbia and Victor Talking Machine Company Laboratories — demonstration records. They were both interested in licensing and in 1925, they did. Victor is the Orthophonic. Then Kraft said, "If this works well, how about making a movie and synchronizing it with a movie?" So he started us on that. I warned him at the time that the record probably would only last a year or two because another group in the laboratory was recording directly on film, and direct recording on film for a movie has a terrific advantage. They probably could finish with good quality in about two or three years, so he wouldn't have very long to use the record. Nevertheless, he went ahead and they did have about three years, in which Warner Brothers continued to use the record. The other companies about a half year sooner started in on film. When using the record synchronized with the film it was necessary to use a turntable, which would be synchronized with the running of the film. There were all kinds of chances for trouble. You might not get the record on the film, just as they did in the Warner Brothers theater when one of the opera singers got up to sing and banjo came out of his mouth. You can get out of synchronism easily because a bad jar would cause your phonograph to jump a groove. There were all sorts of reasons why film with the sound on the same media that carried the picture was vastly more practical and comparable. That was the reason for this little transition.
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Having gotten a medium for recording both sound and picture, the problem was that of coordinating the sound with the picture. Not in time but to make the sound appear to come from the same place that the noise was obviously being made in the picture. We developed a method of sound perspective that is completely usable also on single channel phonograph and radio. It doesn't require stereo to get all the before-and-after effect. It does require stereo to get side-wise position. However, we found that we were accused at times of putting an extra large speaker where the source wasn't because it was very live coming from a distance. It was opening a door, so they assumed it came out from that room and they heard it come out of the room — at least they thought they did. That is one of the psychological queernesses of seeing and coordinating, seeing and hearing.  
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<p>There a lot of other people that don't go anyway. </p>
  
You don't have the same problem of coordinating, making the thing sound natural, with a record because you do not have anything visual to coordinate it with. But records that sound as though they were made in an auditorium, where you can hear the acoustics of the auditorium as well as as the direct sound from the orchestra, are much more pleasing and easy to listen to. I have watched audiences in the theater, with talking pictures, listening to two shorts, one made the old dead way and one made with this acoustic perspective. When the dead one was on, they were all leaning forward, listening as hard as they could, they were working. When the other came on, they just suddenly leaned back and enjoyed it. It made a big difference. I don't know how much they have kept it up now because having been blind six years, I don't go to the movies.
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=== Architectural Acoustics and Auditoriums  ===
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
There a lot of other people that don't go anyway.  
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<p>Yes. All of the movie houses were just for viewing, the acoustics were terrible in some, good in others, mediocre in others. Some were so bad that you couldn't understand at all. We had to go in and learn enough architectural acoustics and work out the conditions that were best for movie reproduction. Getting those worked out, along with the work that was in the literature on auditoria, we found that we really had the auditorium problem on our hands because the requirements in a movie theater and the requirements in a auditorium are quite alike. One other contribution that we made was the acoustics of auditoria. The difficulty in an auditorium is that the less reverberant sounds you have, the less sonorous will your instruments be. The big heavy Wagnerian numbers need quite a lot of reverberation. A light Bach number or a string quartet wants definition. Now, how are you going to get both at the same time? The extra reverberation covers over, it is fuzzy. You lose some detail. And you need detail in light string music. So we worked up a scheme. I don't know whose idea it was, whether this was one was mine or my smart little helper's. We designed the sidewalls and the ceiling so that it put continuous slabs following one another; the distances were different as you went back into the audience area. In other words, the areas that were reflecting the higher frequencies were small enough not to reflect the low frequencies and therefore we added all this high frequency material. It had a slight hangover. Koussevisky said it was the best hall he ever played in. He said that it has a sonority that the big heavy music needs and it has a definition that's supreme. We tried that stunt first at one of the Bell System exhibitions at the World's Fair to see if it would work, and the listening room over at Murray Hill is completely designed that way now. </p>
  
=== Architectural Acoustics and Auditoriums<br> ===
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
+
<p>This was the World's Fair of 1915? </p>
  
Yes. All of the movie houses were just for viewing, the acoustics were terrible in some, good in others, mediocre in others. Some were so bad that you couldn't understand at all. We had to go in and learn enough architectural acoustics and work out the conditions that were best for movie reproduction. Getting those worked out, along with the work that was in the literature on auditoria, we found that we really had the auditorium problem on our hands because the requirements in a movie theater and the requirements in a auditorium are quite alike. One other contribution that we made was the acoustics of auditoria. The difficulty in an auditorium is that the less reverberant sounds you have, the less sonorous will your instruments be. The big heavy Wagnerian numbers need quite a lot of reverberation. A light Bach number or a string quartet wants definition. Now, how are you going to get both at the same time? The extra reverberation covers over, it is fuzzy. You lose some detail. And you need detail in light string music. So we worked up a scheme. I don't know whose idea it was, whether this was one was mine or my smart little helper's. We designed the sidewalls and the ceiling so that it put continuous slabs following one another; the distances were different as you went back into the audience area. In other words, the areas that were reflecting the higher frequencies were small enough not to reflect the low frequencies and therefore we added all this high frequency material. It had a slight hangover. Koussevisky said it was the best hall he ever played in. He said that it has a sonority that the big heavy music needs and it has a definition that's supreme. We tried that stunt first at one of the Bell System exhibitions at the World's Fair to see if it would work, and the listening room over at Murray Hill is completely designed that way now.
+
=== Manual Variation of Music  ===
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
This was the World's Fair of 1915?
+
<p><flashmp3>007 - maxfield - clip 2.mp3</flashmp3></p>
  
=== Manual Variation of Music<br> ===
+
<p>Alright. What else did I do? This matter of controlling the volume when your system will only stand say 40 db range and you have a symphony orchestra giving you sixty. What are you going to do about it? I had the privilege of doing the sound pick-up on the CBS broadcast of Stokowski's orchestra in 1931 to 1932. He had really worked it out for us. I am an engineer, I am not a musician. What we did was this: we took a score in and we marked where we had to cut it down or where we had to raise it, how long the duration, how many mate [?] and how many db. Then he gave us a score, he took that and studied it and handed us back another score, which we broadcast by. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Alright. What else did I do? This matter of controlling the volume when your system will only stand say 40 db range and you have a symphony orchestra giving you sixty. What are you going to do about it? I had the privilege of doing the sound pick-up on the CBS broadcast of Stokowski's orchestra in 1931 to 1932. He had really worked it out for us. I am an engineer, I am not a musician. What we did was this: we took a score in and we marked where we had to cut it down or where we had to raise it, how long the duration, how many mate [?] and how many db. Then he gave us a score, he took that and studied it and handed us back another score, which we broadcast by.  
+
<p>Manual variation. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
Manual variation.  
+
<p>Yes. According to the score. I took all of those and made a very careful analysis of them. Just to give an example, which is one of the very striking ones: in classical music, big crescendos usually go in three steps: a big rise, then a little let down, and then a rise and then a little let down and then over the top — climax. He had us do all the pulling, cutting down the volume, while the orchestra was cutting down. He wouldn’t let us touch the climb. We soon got used to it and it was alright, but here is the interesting result. I got into Hollywood, and we had to record the Priaturi&nbsp; band. His band was within the range of the more modern equipment then; I didn’t have to touch it at all. But Priaturi let his band run away from him, so they were playing as loud as they could at the end of the second crescendo and they had nothing to go over the top with, except that little let down. We took three recordings of each record, so the bandleader would have a choice of which one he wanted to use. The first two I took just the way he played them. The third one, I cut down when he cut down, four or five db, and the second time I got down another four or five db and putting back these db on the climax. You should have seen that man in there, he almost went crazy. The first one he liked very much. The third one came on and went through the first beat and he almost fainted. He was really excited. He said. “That is impossible, absolutely impossible, that is better than the band played it.” </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Yes. According to the score. I took all of those and made a very careful analysis of them. Just to give an example, which is one of the very striking ones: in classical music, big crescendos usually go in three steps: a big rise, then a little let down, and then a rise and then a little let down and then over the top — climax. He had us do all the pulling, cutting down the volume, while the orchestra was cutting down. He wouldn’t let us touch the climb. We soon got used to it and it was alright, but here is the interesting result. I got into Hollywood, and we had to record the Priaturi&nbsp; band. His band was within the range of the more modern equipment then; I didn’t have to touch it at all. But Priaturi let his band run away from him, so they were playing as loud as they could at the end of the second crescendo and they had nothing to go over the top with, except that little let down. We took three recordings of each record, so the bandleader would have a choice of which one he wanted to use. The first two I took just the way he played them. The third one, I cut down when he cut down, four or five db, and the second time I got down another four or five db and putting back these db on the climax. You should have seen that man in there, he almost went crazy. The first one he liked very much. The third one came on and went through the first beat and he almost fainted. He was really excited. He said. “That is impossible, absolutely impossible, that is better than the band played it.
+
<p>That was one episode; you said you had a couple of episodes. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
That was one episode; you said you had a couple of episodes.  
+
<p>In reminiscing, I can’t help telling you the tale about Stokowski. When he was learning to be a director, he was the top of his class. And as a reward he was allowed to conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in a charity concert. They came in for rehearsal and he let them play about a minute and a half and then leapt on them. He gave them a call-down for bad playing but did not hurt their feelings and made them really work and what do you think he said? </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
In reminiscing, I can’t help telling you the tale about Stokowski. When he was learning to be a director, he was the top of his class. And as a reward he was allowed to conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in a charity concert. They came in for rehearsal and he let them play about a minute and a half and then leapt on them. He gave them a call-down for bad playing but did not hurt their feelings and made them really work and what do you think he said?
+
<p>I haven’t any idea. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
I haven’t any idea.  
+
<p>“Gentlemen, gentlemen. Which one of your conductors lets you play like that?” </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
+
<p>After the war work in the World War Two I was put with a group that was handling the kind of work I had been doing during the time I developed the phonograph and the moving picture, etc., to give them a background in that. Then a year or two later I retired. I was only in there a few years after the war. </p>
  
“Gentlemen, gentlemen. Which one of your conductors lets you play like that?”
+
=== Retirement and Naval Electronics Laboratory  ===
  
After the war work in the World War Two I was put with a group that was handling the kind of work I had been doing during the time I developed the phonograph and the moving picture, etc., to give them a background in that. Then a year or two later I retired. I was only in there a few years after the war.
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
=== Retirement and Naval Electronics Laboratory<br> ===
+
<p>I see. When did you retire? </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
I see. When did you retire?
+
<p>1947. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
1947.  
+
<p>After you retired you went to the Naval Electronics Laboratory. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
After you retired you went to the Naval Electronics Laboratory.  
+
<p>Yes. I can’t tell you anything about the type of work that I did there. I went there as technical director to reorganize the laboratory from a wartime to a peacetime basis. You see, in wartime, you have nothing but projects in most laboratories and this one was one of them. Not even projects, but this, this, and this — no connections with one another. I tried to put it more on the basis of Bell Labs, where one department was doing research on fundamentals that might lead to something and then other groups were working on developing projects. We had a system department, but I don’t care to tell that story. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Yes. I can’t tell you anything about the type of work that I did there. I went there as technical director to reorganize the laboratory from a wartime to a peacetime basis. You see, in wartime, you have nothing but projects in most laboratories and this one was one of them. Not even projects, but this, this, and this — no connections with one another. I tried to put it more on the basis of Bell Labs, where one department was doing research on fundamentals that might lead to something and then other groups were working on developing projects. We had a system department, but I don’t care to tell that story.  
+
<p>I know something of that story, I worked with NAL as a contractor for about six months, about five years ago. So, I know that kind of problem. This was the period also when they were looking things over very carefully to find out what NAL should be doing and what NRL should be doing. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
I know something of that story, I worked with NAL as a contractor for about six months, about five years ago. So, I know that kind of problem. This was the period also when they were looking things over very carefully to find out what NAL should be doing and what NRL should be doing.  
+
<p>Yes. I can’t talk about it. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Yes. I can’t talk about it.  
+
<p>I remember there were some commissions that were doing that. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
I remember there were some commissions that were doing that.  
+
<p>I didn’t get in contact with any of those commissions, unless they just sent members out as visitors. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
I didn’t get in contact with any of those commissions, unless they just sent members out as visitors.  
+
<p>Yes. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
+
=== Harrison: Long Line, Line Recorder, High-Speed Relay  ===
  
Yes.
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== Harrison: Long Line, Line Recorder, High-Speed Relay<br> ===
+
<p>Mr. Kraft, because of difference of temperaments, took quite a dislike to and distrusted the work that Harrison did. I was told not to let Harrison get up and give his part of the speech. I should give it all at our meeting. I disobeyed orders and let him have his word. But in that connection, it was commonly thought that I was the man who first thought of the long line and line recorder. That was Harrison's invention; he holds the patent for it. That was his big contribution to recording. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Mr. Kraft, because of difference of temperaments, took quite a dislike to and distrusted the work that Harrison did. I was told not to let Harrison get up and give his part of the speech. I should give it all at our meeting. I disobeyed orders and let him have his word. But in that connection, it was commonly thought that I was the man who first thought of the long line and line recorder. That was Harrison's invention; he holds the patent for it. That was his big contribution to recording.  
+
<p>Yes. I knew Harrison quite well. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
Yes. I knew Harrison quite well.  
+
<p>They were going to fire him. They were going to ease him out into college teaching, and I asked if I could have him because I realized he rarely finished a job, but boy would he start them. One of the other jobs that he is responsible for is the high-speed relay. He came in one afternoon, after lunch, and told me all this in detail. He needed this relay for the preliminary cable-channel relay people. He said, "I can build if you meet their specifications this afternoon. Let's spend the afternoon." So, I said "Go ahead." He took some old recorder parts and built a relay that would work on half the current required. It would be slanted at one direction as many times as you wanted it to. It was well measurable and would work at two hundred cycles where fifty was enough. He had built it as a vibrating system. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
+
<p>So I called Buckley. That was when he was in charge of Parmelite cable, and I said, "Buckley, can you use a relay like this?" He said, "Look, you're kidding. We can't even approach that. Could we use it?" Well, I said, "Come down, like the one. I got one running here in the lab." Harrison then demonstrated it to him, and that was the beginning of the high-speed relay. </p>
  
They were going to fire him. They were going to ease him out into college teaching, and I asked if I could have him because I realized he rarely finished a job, but boy would he start them. One of the other jobs that he is responsible for is the high-speed relay. He came in one afternoon, after lunch, and told me all this in detail. He needed this relay for the preliminary cable-channel relay people. He said, "I can build if you meet their specifications this afternoon. Let's spend the afternoon." So, I said "Go ahead." He took some old recorder parts and built a relay that would work on half the current required. It would be slanted at one direction as many times as you wanted it to. It was well measurable and would work at two hundred cycles where fifty was enough. He had built it as a vibrating system.
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
So I called Buckley. That was when he was in charge of Parmelite cable, and I said, "Buckley, can you use a relay like this?" He said, "Look, you're kidding. We can't even approach that. Could we use it?" Well, I said, "Come down, like the one. I got one running here in the lab." Harrison then demonstrated it to him, and that was the beginning of the high-speed relay.
+
<p>I see. Harrison went into business for himself, sometime later? </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
I see. Harrison went into business for himself, sometime later?
+
<p>He may have, I don't know. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
He may have, I don't know.  
+
<p>He and a fellow named Graham worked together, I think. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
He and a fellow named Graham worked together, I think.  
+
<p>Harrison was a fertile mind. He couldn't express it well and he could never finish a job. He always wanted another month or another week to make it better. But when you took it away and gave it to someone else, you'd get it going and let him go on with the improvements. I think that man had around 120 patents when he left the laboratory. The most fertile mind I think I've ever known. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
Harrison was a fertile mind. He couldn't express it well and he could never finish a job. He always wanted another month or another week to make it better. But when you took it away and gave it to someone else, you'd get it going and let him go on with the improvements. I think that man had around 120 patents when he left the laboratory. The most fertile mind I think I've ever known.  
+
<p>I interviewed [[Oral-History:Warren P. Mason|Warren Mason]] two weeks ago. He has 211 patents. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''
+
=== WEAF Studios  ===
  
I interviewed [[Warren P. Mason Oral History|Warren Mason]] two weeks ago. He has 211 patents.
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
=== WEAF Studios<br> ===
+
<p>I designed the acoustics of the first WEAF Studios and taught the men the technique of pick-up. When they began broadcasting, WEAF was AT&amp;T staff. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
I designed the acoustics of the first WEAF Studios and taught the men the technique of pick-up. When they began broadcasting, WEAF was AT&amp;T staff.  
+
<p>I was hoping, perhaps, to get Jack Poppolay interested in what we are doing here and perhaps get a few tips from him. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
I was hoping, perhaps, to get Jack Poppolay interested in what we are doing here and perhaps get a few tips from him.  
+
<p>He might. We did work with him and his men. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''  
+
<p>'''Polkinghorn:''' </p>
  
He might. We did work with him and his men.  
+
<p>I hadn't anything to do with him for perhaps about twenty years, but I used to know him. </p>
  
'''Polkinghorn:'''  
+
<p>'''Maxfield:''' </p>
  
I hadn't anything to do with him for perhaps about twenty years, but I used to know him.  
+
<p>I liked him very much. </p>
  
'''Maxfield:'''
+
[[Category:People and organizations|Maxfield]] [[Category:Engineers|Maxfield]] [[Category:Inventors|Maxfield]] [[Category:Signals|Maxfield]] [[Category:Signal generation & recording|Maxfield]] [[Category:Audio recording|Maxfield]] [[Category:Components, circuits, devices & systems|Maxfield]] [[Category:Electronic components|Maxfield]] [[Category:Acoustics|Maxfield]] [[Category:Engineered materials & dielectrics|Maxfield]] [[Category:Elements|Maxfield]] [[Category:Carbon|Maxfield]] [[Category:Culture and society|Maxfield]] [[Category:Defense & security|Maxfield]] [[Category:World War II|Maxfield]] [[Category:Leisure|Maxfield]] [[Category:Music|Maxfield]] [[Category:Theatre & cinema|Maxfield]] [[Category:News|Maxfield]]
 
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I liked him very much.
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[[Category:People_and_organizations]] [[Category:Engineers]] [[Category:Inventors]] [[Category:Signals]] [[Category:Signal_generation_&_recording|Category:Signal_generation_&amp;_recording]] [[Category:Audio_recording]] [[Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&_systems|Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&amp;_systems]] [[Category:Electronic_components]] [[Category:Acoustics]] [[Category:Engineered_materials_&_dielectrics|Category:Engineered_materials_&amp;_dielectrics]] [[Category:Elements]] [[Category:Carbon]] [[Category:Culture_and_society]] [[Category:Defense_&_security|Category:Defense_&amp;_security]] [[Category:World_War_II]] [[Category:Leisure]] [[Category:Music]] [[Category:Theatre_&_cinema|Category:Theatre_&amp;_cinema]]
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Revision as of 19:18, 28 March 2012

Contents

About Joseph Maxfied

Joseph Maxfield is best known for his contributions to the development of the phonograph and sound recording for movies. He graduated from college in 1910, and after several years of teaching, took a position with the Western Electric Company. After serving in WWI, he began his work on high-quality recording for Bell.

The interview covers Maxfield's work at Bell Laboratories in the fields of recording and acoustical engineering. Maxfield discusses the developments leading to motion picture sound as well as similarities between auditorium and movie theater acoustical requirements. During the 1930s, Maxfield worked on manual variation for both broadcasting and recording symphonic music. The interview concludes with some brief remarks on Maxfield's position with the Naval Electronics Laboratory and comments on Harrison's contributions to recording and the invention of the high-speed relay.

About the Interview

Joseph Maxfield: An Interview Conducted by Frank A. Polkinghorn, IEEE History Center, April 16, 1973

Interview # 007 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Joseph Maxfield, an oral history conducted in 1973 by Frank A. Polkinghorn, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: Joseph Maxfield Interviewer: Frank A. Polkinghorn Date: April 16, 1973

Graduation from College

Polkinghorn:

Mr. Joseph Maxfield was first at Bell Telephone Laboratories, later with the movie industry, and then later with the Naval Electronics Laboratory at San Diego. The interview is being made by Frank A. Polkinghorn and the recorder operator is Mr. Reginald G. Banks. Mr. Maxfield, I would like to talk a little about your early experiences in Bell Laboratories and otherwise. When did you graduate from college?

Maxfield:

1910. Then I went back and taught for four years. I took advanced courses in math and physics. R.L. Jones, whom I think you know from Bell Laboratories,...

Polkinghorn:

Yes, I remember him.

Maxfield:

We got to be friends. He had been down there a year before I finally quit. He coaxed me to come down to MIT and try it.

Carbon Research at Western Electric before the War

Polkinghorn:

That wasn't mentioned earlier. You graduated there in 1910, then you worked four years, and then did you go with the Western Electric Company?

Maxfield:

Yes.

Polkinghorn:

What kind of work did you undertake there?

Maxfield:

I undertook carbon research, which never got to far. I don't think it was very important. Soon World War I came and I was in the war during that period.

Polkinghorn:

Was there anything particularly interesting there that you might like to tell us about?

Maxfield:

No. There isn't anything of war work that I can talk about, I'm afraid. I wouldn't have gone into war work if I hadn't been told by General Salsman in a letter that I could be of more use to our country there than I could by becoming a major in the Signal Corps. I knew General Salsman very well.

Polkinghorn:

I see.

Maxfield:

He said I was so much more valuable where I was that he asked me to stay.

Early Work on High Quality Recorders

Polkinghorn:

After the war was over what kind of work did you do?

Maxfield:

Well, then we puttered around. The problem came up on how to make a high-quality recording, how you could get a recorder that would record quite a period of time and put it across long lines. You get line noise samples for laboratory study. Those are transient things, and unless you can record them and study them you can only study them later while they are happening. So I was put on the high-quality recorder, and that's what started the recording. Then Mr. Kraft who, as you know, is very active in getting into outside things, thought that it would be fine to sell to the phonograph people and make some money. So then we began to work upon it, not only for the high quality sounds that were coming over, but also the use of it for speech, music and so forth.

Efforts to Achieve a Flat Frequency Characteristic

Polkinghorn:

Tell us a little about that work and how you went on from there.

Maxfield:

That work depended on getting a recorder that had a flat frequency characteristic or nearly so over a wide range. I think we were flat from 300 to 5500 and then it grouped at 60V for below 300. It did get down into the base, where it was gone. That was done by that completely flat characteristic. The collaboration  of it looked almost like the collaboration  of an amplifier. We got by with building the recorder and recording with the second section of it. It was built as a many-section filter and terminated ultimately with a resistance, and by recording with the current in the second section we actually got a very flat characteristic. Later we replaced all that junky stuff with a rubber line at the end of the third section. That was known as the "rubber line recorder" in the industry.

Polkinghorn:

This is all recorded on wax?

Maxfield:

All recorded on wax, yes.

Animosity between Harrison and Kraft

Polkinghorn:

I have talked to Arthur Keller recently about some of this work.

Maxfield:

I think we ought to say a word about Harrison. Kraft took an awful dislike to Harrison. Harrison was an extreme similarity man and Kraft was an extreme difference man. He just made Kraft boil inside. Because if Harrison wanted to explain some simple thing, he started here and went around that lamp, came back here, went around this microphone and around back of you and around the chair and Kraft wanted a "yes" or a "no."

Usefulness of Similarity and Difference

Polkinghorn:

Is that where John Mills got his "S & D" story?

Maxfield:

Oh no! John Mills had that before. In fact, I did a lot of work on S&D. I wrote a paper for the Navy on that. It has been useful and practical. I want to loan you a copy, but I will have to have it back. I don't know whether anything like that should be included or not. That was one of the things I did while I was at Bell.

Phonic Laboratories

Polkinghorn:

We were talking about recording in wax.

Maxfield:

A company known as the Phonic Laboratories was started to carry on this work and probably ultimately obtain a license from Western under its patents. Just what it represented, I don't know. It was not any part of the engineering work. However, up there we set up a dead studio, the theory then being that the reproduction would supply all the reverberation that was needed. We found it much better for speech, that is, than for singing and for band. It was Arthur Prior who really tipped us off. He didn't like to play in the dead studio. He wanted to play outside in a very reverberant environment. We were in a big loft in New York. So we made him a record out there. We were all tremendously surprised because, while it was obviously in a big empty barn, tone quality was tremendously better than anything else we had ever recorded. We really sounded like a band. We went to work then to determine the optimum amount of reverberation to give that increase in quality without the feeling that you are in an empty space. That led to the other branch, which I will speak about later — the auditorium acoustics.

Records for Movie Sound

Maxfield:

By 1924 we had an exceedingly good recording system. We had made records at both Columbia and Victor Talking Machine Company Laboratories — demonstration records. They were both interested in licensing and in 1925, they did. Victor is the Orthophonic. Then Kraft said, "If this works well, how about making a movie and synchronizing it with a movie?" So he started us on that. I warned him at the time that the record probably would only last a year or two because another group in the laboratory was recording directly on film, and direct recording on film for a movie has a terrific advantage. They probably could finish with good quality in about two or three years, so he wouldn't have very long to use the record. Nevertheless, he went ahead and they did have about three years, in which Warner Brothers continued to use the record. The other companies about a half year sooner started in on film. When using the record synchronized with the film it was necessary to use a turntable, which would be synchronized with the running of the film. There were all kinds of chances for trouble. You might not get the record on the film, just as they did in the Warner Brothers theater when one of the opera singers got up to sing and banjo came out of his mouth. You can get out of synchronism easily because a bad jar would cause your phonograph to jump a groove. There were all sorts of reasons why film with the sound on the same media that carried the picture was vastly more practical and comparable. That was the reason for this little transition.

Having gotten a medium for recording both sound and picture, the problem was that of coordinating the sound with the picture. Not in time but to make the sound appear to come from the same place that the noise was obviously being made in the picture. We developed a method of sound perspective that is completely usable also on single channel phonograph and radio. It doesn't require stereo to get all the before-and-after effect. It does require stereo to get side-wise position. However, we found that we were accused at times of putting an extra large speaker where the source wasn't because it was very live coming from a distance. It was opening a door, so they assumed it came out from that room and they heard it come out of the room — at least they thought they did. That is one of the psychological queernesses of seeing and coordinating, seeing and hearing.

You don't have the same problem of coordinating, making the thing sound natural, with a record because you do not have anything visual to coordinate it with. But records that sound as though they were made in an auditorium, where you can hear the acoustics of the auditorium as well as as the direct sound from the orchestra, are much more pleasing and easy to listen to. I have watched audiences in the theater, with talking pictures, listening to two shorts, one made the old dead way and one made with this acoustic perspective. When the dead one was on, they were all leaning forward, listening as hard as they could, they were working. When the other came on, they just suddenly leaned back and enjoyed it. It made a big difference. I don't know how much they have kept it up now because having been blind six years, I don't go to the movies.

Polkinghorn:

There a lot of other people that don't go anyway.

Architectural Acoustics and Auditoriums

Maxfield:

Yes. All of the movie houses were just for viewing, the acoustics were terrible in some, good in others, mediocre in others. Some were so bad that you couldn't understand at all. We had to go in and learn enough architectural acoustics and work out the conditions that were best for movie reproduction. Getting those worked out, along with the work that was in the literature on auditoria, we found that we really had the auditorium problem on our hands because the requirements in a movie theater and the requirements in a auditorium are quite alike. One other contribution that we made was the acoustics of auditoria. The difficulty in an auditorium is that the less reverberant sounds you have, the less sonorous will your instruments be. The big heavy Wagnerian numbers need quite a lot of reverberation. A light Bach number or a string quartet wants definition. Now, how are you going to get both at the same time? The extra reverberation covers over, it is fuzzy. You lose some detail. And you need detail in light string music. So we worked up a scheme. I don't know whose idea it was, whether this was one was mine or my smart little helper's. We designed the sidewalls and the ceiling so that it put continuous slabs following one another; the distances were different as you went back into the audience area. In other words, the areas that were reflecting the higher frequencies were small enough not to reflect the low frequencies and therefore we added all this high frequency material. It had a slight hangover. Koussevisky said it was the best hall he ever played in. He said that it has a sonority that the big heavy music needs and it has a definition that's supreme. We tried that stunt first at one of the Bell System exhibitions at the World's Fair to see if it would work, and the listening room over at Murray Hill is completely designed that way now.

Polkinghorn:

This was the World's Fair of 1915?

Manual Variation of Music

Maxfield:

Alright. What else did I do? This matter of controlling the volume when your system will only stand say 40 db range and you have a symphony orchestra giving you sixty. What are you going to do about it? I had the privilege of doing the sound pick-up on the CBS broadcast of Stokowski's orchestra in 1931 to 1932. He had really worked it out for us. I am an engineer, I am not a musician. What we did was this: we took a score in and we marked where we had to cut it down or where we had to raise it, how long the duration, how many mate [?] and how many db. Then he gave us a score, he took that and studied it and handed us back another score, which we broadcast by.

Polkinghorn:

Manual variation.

Maxfield:

Yes. According to the score. I took all of those and made a very careful analysis of them. Just to give an example, which is one of the very striking ones: in classical music, big crescendos usually go in three steps: a big rise, then a little let down, and then a rise and then a little let down and then over the top — climax. He had us do all the pulling, cutting down the volume, while the orchestra was cutting down. He wouldn’t let us touch the climb. We soon got used to it and it was alright, but here is the interesting result. I got into Hollywood, and we had to record the Priaturi  band. His band was within the range of the more modern equipment then; I didn’t have to touch it at all. But Priaturi let his band run away from him, so they were playing as loud as they could at the end of the second crescendo and they had nothing to go over the top with, except that little let down. We took three recordings of each record, so the bandleader would have a choice of which one he wanted to use. The first two I took just the way he played them. The third one, I cut down when he cut down, four or five db, and the second time I got down another four or five db and putting back these db on the climax. You should have seen that man in there, he almost went crazy. The first one he liked very much. The third one came on and went through the first beat and he almost fainted. He was really excited. He said. “That is impossible, absolutely impossible, that is better than the band played it.”

Polkinghorn:

That was one episode; you said you had a couple of episodes.

Maxfield:

In reminiscing, I can’t help telling you the tale about Stokowski. When he was learning to be a director, he was the top of his class. And as a reward he was allowed to conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in a charity concert. They came in for rehearsal and he let them play about a minute and a half and then leapt on them. He gave them a call-down for bad playing but did not hurt their feelings and made them really work and what do you think he said?

Polkinghorn:

I haven’t any idea.

Maxfield:

“Gentlemen, gentlemen. Which one of your conductors lets you play like that?”

After the war work in the World War Two I was put with a group that was handling the kind of work I had been doing during the time I developed the phonograph and the moving picture, etc., to give them a background in that. Then a year or two later I retired. I was only in there a few years after the war.

Retirement and Naval Electronics Laboratory

Polkinghorn:

I see. When did you retire?

Maxfield:

1947.

Polkinghorn:

After you retired you went to the Naval Electronics Laboratory.

Maxfield:

Yes. I can’t tell you anything about the type of work that I did there. I went there as technical director to reorganize the laboratory from a wartime to a peacetime basis. You see, in wartime, you have nothing but projects in most laboratories and this one was one of them. Not even projects, but this, this, and this — no connections with one another. I tried to put it more on the basis of Bell Labs, where one department was doing research on fundamentals that might lead to something and then other groups were working on developing projects. We had a system department, but I don’t care to tell that story.

Polkinghorn:

I know something of that story, I worked with NAL as a contractor for about six months, about five years ago. So, I know that kind of problem. This was the period also when they were looking things over very carefully to find out what NAL should be doing and what NRL should be doing.

Maxfield:

Yes. I can’t talk about it.

Polkinghorn:

I remember there were some commissions that were doing that.

Maxfield:

I didn’t get in contact with any of those commissions, unless they just sent members out as visitors.

Polkinghorn:

Yes.

Harrison: Long Line, Line Recorder, High-Speed Relay

Maxfield:

Mr. Kraft, because of difference of temperaments, took quite a dislike to and distrusted the work that Harrison did. I was told not to let Harrison get up and give his part of the speech. I should give it all at our meeting. I disobeyed orders and let him have his word. But in that connection, it was commonly thought that I was the man who first thought of the long line and line recorder. That was Harrison's invention; he holds the patent for it. That was his big contribution to recording.

Polkinghorn:

Yes. I knew Harrison quite well.

Maxfield:

They were going to fire him. They were going to ease him out into college teaching, and I asked if I could have him because I realized he rarely finished a job, but boy would he start them. One of the other jobs that he is responsible for is the high-speed relay. He came in one afternoon, after lunch, and told me all this in detail. He needed this relay for the preliminary cable-channel relay people. He said, "I can build if you meet their specifications this afternoon. Let's spend the afternoon." So, I said "Go ahead." He took some old recorder parts and built a relay that would work on half the current required. It would be slanted at one direction as many times as you wanted it to. It was well measurable and would work at two hundred cycles where fifty was enough. He had built it as a vibrating system.

So I called Buckley. That was when he was in charge of Parmelite cable, and I said, "Buckley, can you use a relay like this?" He said, "Look, you're kidding. We can't even approach that. Could we use it?" Well, I said, "Come down, like the one. I got one running here in the lab." Harrison then demonstrated it to him, and that was the beginning of the high-speed relay.

Polkinghorn:

I see. Harrison went into business for himself, sometime later?

Maxfield:

He may have, I don't know.

Polkinghorn:

He and a fellow named Graham worked together, I think.

Maxfield:

Harrison was a fertile mind. He couldn't express it well and he could never finish a job. He always wanted another month or another week to make it better. But when you took it away and gave it to someone else, you'd get it going and let him go on with the improvements. I think that man had around 120 patents when he left the laboratory. The most fertile mind I think I've ever known.

Polkinghorn:

I interviewed Warren Mason two weeks ago. He has 211 patents.

WEAF Studios

Maxfield:

I designed the acoustics of the first WEAF Studios and taught the men the technique of pick-up. When they began broadcasting, WEAF was AT&T staff.

Polkinghorn:

I was hoping, perhaps, to get Jack Poppolay interested in what we are doing here and perhaps get a few tips from him.

Maxfield:

He might. We did work with him and his men.

Polkinghorn:

I hadn't anything to do with him for perhaps about twenty years, but I used to know him.

Maxfield:

I liked him very much.