The Story and the Characters

As an introduction to this program, let’s make one thing clear. Ted Case’s Thalofide Cell and eventual Movietone system are not the absolute first ever sound film system. From the early 1910’s to the time the Case Lab began developing the Cell in the early 20’s, a number of different systems were developed as a means of playing sound at the same time as a film strip. One of the best known competing systems, Vitaphone, implemented a sound-on-disc system to play a record at the same time as a film. We will take a deeper look at this system during a later program, but it should be noted that what Ted Case’s invention brought to the world was the first commercially successful process of synchronized sound film.

To kick off the program, let’s introduce our “Cast of Characters.” You can reference this convenient list of recurring historical figures throughout the year as we add on to the timeline of events! The figures are ordered based on the number of times they will be mentioned throughout the program.

Return to 100th Anniversary Page

A Brief History of the Case Research Lab

Theodore Case


William Fox

Earl Sponable

Gertrude Case

Lee de Forest

Willard Case

Crediting for Images on this Page (Top Down, Left to Right)

Header: Earl Sponable working at Fox Studios, c. 1926

Image: Ted Case and Earl Sponable working in Case Research Laboratory

Image: Ted Case with camera

Image: Earl Sponable in later years with camera

Image: Lee de Forest with AEO light next to Bell and Howell camera, c. 1923, Bison Archives

Image: Promotional photo of William Fox in Wid’s Year Book, University of Washington, c. 1921

Image: Gertrude Case in front of Case Lab, c. 1918

Image: Willard Case, c. late 19th Century