Peter Carl Goldmark (December 2, 1906 – December 7, 1977) was a German-Hungarian engineer who, during his time with Columbia Records, was instrumental in developing the long-playing microgroove 33-1/3 rpm phonograph disc, the standard for incorporating multiple or lengthy recorded works on a single disc for two generations.
The LP was introduced by Columbia’s Goddard Lieberson in 1948. Lieberson was later president of Columbia Records from 1956–71 and 1973–75.
Goldmark got his first exposure to television in 1926 while in graduate school in Vienna. He later hoped to work with John Logie Baird but was turned down for a job after meeting Baird for lunch in London.
In 1936, Goldmark joined CBS Laboratories, and one year later he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Goldmark married Frances Trainer, whom he divorced. Together they had five children; three sons: Peter Jr., Christopher, Andrew and two daughters: Sarah and Frances.
In addition to his work on the LP record, Goldmark developed field-sequential color technology for color television while at CBS. The system, first demonstrated on August 29, 1940, and shown to the press on September 3 used a rapidly rotating color wheel that alternated transmission in red, green and blue.
The system transmitted on 343 lines, about 100 less than a black and white set, and at a different field scan rate, and thus was incompatible with television sets currently on the market without an adapter.
Although CBS did broadcast in color with the Goldmark system in 1950–1951, the “compatible color” technology developed for RCA and NBC (by a team led by Richard Kell, George H. Brown and others) was compatible with existing black and white TVs.
Goldmark and others have pointed out that the CBS color wheel system did provide better picture quality (although lower image resolution) than RCA’s system, but the compatibility problem proved its downfall. An improved RCA/NBC color system submitted in July 1953 became the industry standard chosen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December 1953.
Ironically, cameras using the color wheel system continued to be used for scientific research for several more decades, including the color lunar surface TV cameras during all the 1970s NASA Apollo moon landings.
Goldmark also continued his work in developing new LP-related technologies, such as the Highway Hi-Fi, a system designed to play 7-inch LP records in automobiles.
After the success of the LP record, Goldmark spent the next two decades at CBS Laboratories working on various inventions, chief of which was EVR, the Electronic Video Recorder. This futuristic home video playback device used reels of film stored in plastic cassettes to electronically store audio and video signals, and was first announced in 1967.
A B&W prototype was demonstrated in 1969 (promising color playback in future models), but the invention floundered when it proved to be difficult and costly to manufacture. CBS was also concerned about the potential of competition from home video devices, particularly those that could record — a fear that eventually proved prescient.
As with color television, Goldmark’s EVR film-based system was superseded by another technology, in this case Sony’s U-Matic 3/4″ videocassette format in late 1971, since the cassette tape format was cheaper and more effective. However, Goldmark’s vinyl long-playing records remained the standard in the music industry until the CD replaced the LP in the late 1980s.
Goldmark was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1969.
Approaching the mandatory company retirement age of 65, Goldmark left CBS Laboratories in 1971, and formed Goldmark Communications, where he pursued research on the use of communication technologies to provide services like teleconferencing and remote medical consultations to people in rural areas.
Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation in the early 1970s, the “New Rural Society Project” was housed at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., and conducted pilot studies across the state in Eastern Connecticut’s relatively rural Windham region.
In 1969 he was awarded the David Sarnoff Medal by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. In 1972, he was recognized for his leadership in the field of technology innovation by the Industrial Research Institute when presented with the illustrious IRI Medal.
On November 22, 1977, President Jimmy Carter presented Goldmark with the National Medal of Science “For contributions to the development of the communication sciences for education, entertainment, culture and human service.”
Goldmark died in an automobile accident on December 7, 1977 in Westchester County, New York.