Brief History of Television (TV)
Television which is also shortly known as TV is a technology that enables transmission of full motion broadcasts to remote receivers; it is a device that is used to watch those broadcasts and is also the name used for the entire process from filming to broadcast and receiving. These days TVs are everywhere in the western world and are increasingly popular in less developed nations and it is estimated that by the middle of the 21st century every home will have at least one television.
The idea of using television for entertainment purposes happened quite late in the development of the technology, in fact the first uses for TV were thought to be more useful for telephones. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone actually created a working photo phone in 1880. In the late 1800s, a number of technologies were being tested and developed, personal photography, the use of electricity, radio broadcasts, the invention of telephones and of course television. While TV took longer to fully develop, it was certainly not a 20th century invention.
The cathode ray tube which was one of the most significant enabling technologies for television was invented in 1876 and it used electricity forced thru a vacuum tube to produce light on glass front. At that time electricity was still in its early stages of development so mechanical means of transmitting an image by using a metal disk punctured with viewing holes were developed in parallel.
The first broadcast of picture over remote distances took place in year 1926 in London when John Logie Baird, a Scotsman and Charles Jenkins an American, broadcasted a series of small moving black and white images using mechanical means. Their signal was only 30 lines, much less than modern TVs at 525 lines but is significant in that for the first time motion was broadcasted wirelessly to a remote location.
The first television broadcasts were basic as compared to today’s TV, it was not much more than a moving slideshow of stick figures or photographs but they proved the technology and were an important step in the development of full motion. In 1927, Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first electronic system with motion camera and broadcasting abilities by transmitting a Hollywood film that had been projected in front of the TV camera.
The techniques of using fully electronic scanning of images was also used in April 1927 by Bell Laboratories and the Department of Commerce to film a broadcast of Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce in the first live broadcast of a person. Picture and sound was simultaneously broadcasted using radio waves, in the same way that television is still broadcasted today.
The technology of TV continued to develop over the next decade but rather at a slower pace after the initial demonstration broadcasts. Bell Laboratories and RCA were actively investing in developing the entire broadcasting and receiving system for commercial gain and there was a race to be first one in the market. RCA’s first major broadcasting breakthrough came at the 1939 New York World’s Fair when RCA successfully broadcasted the President’s speech in black and white.
The full development of TV was prevented by the Second World War although news was broadcasted to the few who had a television. The end of the war saw enormous interest in television from the public that was desperate for new consumer goods. Commercial broadcasting began in 1947 with NBC, ABC and then CBS competing for viewer loyalty using successful network radio shows as their first venture into television.
The first shows which were written for television were the highly popular children’s show called Howdy Doody, the Texaco Star Theater and the Ed Sullivan Show, all of them managed to capture huge audiences and helped encourage the growth of television as an entertainment medium. By the middle of the 1950s over half of all American homes had a television and it was so much that the bigger networks started noticing substantial decline in radio listeners.
Network television in US was not alone in experiencing huge growth over radio, similar growth in the demand for television were witnessed in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and other developed countries. At that time technology standards in the US had been settled since after the war based on older technology, a system known as NTSC which was in use in the US, Canada and Japan. Europe which was several years behind the US decided to implement a different more modern system they called PAL leading to compatibility issues.
The 1960s was a pivotal year for television as John F Kennedy was elected president primarily on his spectacular television performance. The TV had finally reached maturity as a platform for bother entertainment and news, now also as a platform for political coverage and debate. This happened despite the uncertainty of the McCarthy years of the 1950s when many of TV land’s most prominent commentators and hosts had been forced off air.
The second major development of television was in 1960s when the introduction of color in 1964, a revolution transformed the world. It was for the first time that the audiences could see shows, musicals, documentaries and news broadcasts as if they were right there. Wildlife documentaries and current affairs programs benefited most with the audience finally able to appreciate the beauty and horror of the world from their comfortable living rooms.
With the availability of color television and the quickly disappearing black and white as the medium of choice, the impact of watching TV started to be felt. In some instances it became a force for good with notable successes such as Sesame Street which was a children’s show with special educational value being launched. At other times TV has been considered as a force of evil by fringe groups who are determined to protect their traditional family values.
The television’s most important contribution to mankind has been the relative ease of bringing distant people together using satellite uplinks, the very first of which saw the Home Box Office screen Mohammed Ali’s Thriller from Manila live to US audiences in 1975. Cable and satellite television also quickly enabled networks to increase their reach across national boundaries as well.
In 1980s, the high definition television standard with over double number of lines at 1125 was ratified but has yet to gain any real market share and as Internet TV increases in popularity, many within the industry suggest that HDTV may end up being restricted to camera equipment with viewers opting to use the computer monitors and projectors. From the first 90 years of the history of television, the future of TV could be very different.