A Brief History Of Television I Oxford Open Learning


    A Brief History Of Television

    There were an estimated 1.72 billion television households worldwide in 2021. However, despite this having grown from 1.47 billion in 2010 and being expected to surpass 1.8 billion in 2026, media consumption is definitely changing. According to a report from Ofcom, young people now watch almost seven times less broadcast television than people aged over 65. To celebrate World Television Day on 21 November let’s take a look at the history of the television.

    The 1800s And Early 1900s

    Prior to the electronic televisions we have grown to love in modern times, we had the mechanical television. These devices relied on a mechanical scanning device, such as a rotating disk with holes in it or a rotating mirror drum, to scan the scene and generate the video signal, and a similar mechanical device at the receiver to display the picture. Mechanical televisions offered an early way to transmit images without film and paved the way for modern day televisions.

    In the 1920s, Yasujiro Niwa (1893 -1975), a Japanese electrical scientist, invented a simple device for photo-telegraphic transmission through cable and later via radio, a precursor to mechanical television.

    Who Invented The Television?

    This can be a difficult question to answer, as there are not one, but two men who were instrumental in its advent.

    The first mechanical televisions used a rotating disk with holes arranged in a spiral pattern. Who created this first design, and thereafter the actual full television set, is arguable, as two men did so independently at almost the same time: Scottish inventor John Logie Baird and American inventor Charles Francis Jenkins (1867-1934).

    Jenkins published an article on “Motion Pictures by Wireless” in 1913, but it was not until December 1923 that he transmitted moving silhouette images for witnesses, and it was June 13, 1925, before he publicly demonstrated synchronised transmission of silhouette pictures. In comparison to this, Baird demonstrated publicly on 25 March 1925 at Selfridge’s department store in London. As Jenkins followed, albeit very shortly on 13 June 1925, the invention of television is therefore generally credited by many sources to Baird. But it’s quite widely acknowledged that both pioneered it.

    Electronic Television

    The world’s first electronic television is believed to have been created by a 21-year-old American inventor and TV pioneer named Philo Taylor Farnsworth (1906-1971), who had lived in a house without electricity until he was 14. A visionary and technical prodigy from a young age and an avid reader of science magazines as a teenager, at just 13 he envisioned a contraption that would receive an image transmitted from a remote location—the television.

    Farnsworth submitted a patent in January 1927, when he was 19, and began building and testing his invention that summer, and electronic television was first successfully demonstrated in San Francisco on September 7th, 1927.  Another of the instrumental figures in the history of television is Vladimir Zworykin (1889-1982). Zworykin invented television transmitting and receiving systems employing cathode ray tubes. His work became the basis of television as we know it.

    Mass-Produced TV

    The first mass-produced television set was the RCA 630-TS set, which was first sold in 1946. RCA announced the 630-TS in the October of 1946, at a price of $350, along with the seven-inch model 621TS. 1940s televisions had picture screens between 10 and 15 inches wide diagonally, inside large, heavy cabinets.

    From this point on, television was destined only to expand its reach and influence as a medium, and to continuously evolve and develop in the quality of its technology, far beyond the limitations of its origins.

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