Nielsen Audimeter and Cartridge

This device—the “black box” of the television ratings system—gathered information from households about media listening and viewing habits from 1949 until the early 1970s. Connected to a radio or television, it registered set use and station tuning by exposing 16-mm film to a pinpoint of light. When changed by the homeowner weekly, the film cartridge ejected a quarter to ensure timely mailings to the Nielsen Company for analysis. The data gleaned from sample homes enabled campaign pollsters to track viewing patterns during candidates’ television appearances and to refine schedules of paid political advertising.
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
black (overall color)
overall: 8 3/4 in x 8 3/4 in x 11 3/4 in; 22.225 cm x 22.225 cm x 29.845 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
A. C. Nielsen Company
Political Campaigns
Television broadcasts
See more items in
Political History: Political History, General History Collection
Government, Politics, and Reform
American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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