A Short Television History

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Today we are well accustomed with television and having hundreds of channels to choose from, but fifty years ago, owning a television set was a luxury for many. In what follows we are going to look at a short television history, and see where this phenomenon started. The beginnings were shy, and they probably started with a paper that proposed the use of cathode rays; it was written and published in 1908 by A.A. Campbell-Swinton.

Subsequently, there were numerous trials and tribulations, but we are going to skip the sciency parts and jump to what is more interesting for the general population. Suffice to say that since the end of the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th, scientists around the world conducted research which put together, helped make progress in this field. We should mention however that the first images projected unto a screen were done using photo-conductivity; electromechanical television it was called, and it was invented and patented by a 23-year old German student by the name of Paul Nipkow. Of course at that time, movie theaters already existed, but compressing that image onto a small screen that would fit the living room was a bit more tricky.

John Logie Baird was one of the most important men in television history, because it was he who managed to show the first demonstration of televised silhouette, and subsequently even managed to transmit a signal from London to Glasgow. Back in America, Herbert E. Ives and Frank Gray, employed at Bell Telephone Laboratories, made a successful demonstration of mechanical television in 1927. At the same time, researchers in the Soviet Union and in Japan were doing their own experiments and reaching their own conclusions, thus helping put the bases of television history.

However, mechanical television had a rival, and that was electronic television; at the time Baird perfected his invention, another one already risked taking the throne; the apparatus had been created by an engineering team under the supervision of Isaac Shoenberg, and it was well superior to Baird’s invention. It was called “the Emitron” and it would be used for BBC transmissions. The Germans had come up with a similar apparatus, out of which patent wars started, but which didn’t stop the production and commercialization of both products. It is complicated to trace television history around the world, because every developed country had some sort of research on this market and each produced various results.

We can say however, when the first broadcasting occurred and who was responsible for it; it happened through Baird’s invention, in 1929, broadcasting for the BBC. A year later, their schedule provided limited programming five days a week. In 1928, they had also managed to send the first transatlantic signal from London to New York, but the first trans-continental live broadcast from Europe to America occurred only in 1950. From then on, nothing seemed to stop television history from unveiling, and this phenomenon exploded all over the world. Programs became more complex and variate, color television appeared, the screens got bigger and more accurate and today those who can afford it can even create their own home cinema, and watch 3D films from the comfort of their sofa.

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