History of the Television
History of the Television
Televisions can be found in billions of homes around the world. But 100 years ago, nobody even knew what a television was. In fact, as late as 1947, only a few thousand Americans owned televisions. How did such a groundbreaking technology turn from a niche invention to a living room mainstay?
Techanical Televisions in the 1800s and Early 1900s
These early televisions started appearing in the early 1800s. They involved mechanically scanning images then transmitting those images onto a screen. Compared to electronic televisions, they were extremely rudimentary.
One of the first mechanical televisions used a rotating disk with holes arranged in a spiral pattern. This device was created independently by two inventors: Scottish inventor John Logie Baird and American inventor Charles Francis Jenkins. Both devices were invented in the early 1920s. Prior to these two inventors, German inventor Paul Gottlieb Nipkow had developed the first mechanical television. That device sent images through wires using a rotating metal disk. Instead of calling the device a television, however, Nipkow called it an “electric telescope”. The device had 18 lines of resolution. In 1907, two inventors – Russian Boris Rosing and English A.A. Campbell-Swinton – combined a cathode ray tube with a mechanical scanning system to create a totally new television system.
Ultimately, the early efforts of these inventors would lead to the world’s first electrical television a few years later.
The First Electronic Television was Invented in 1927
The world’s first electronic television was created by a 21 year old inventor named Philo Taylor Farnsworth. That inventor lived in a house without electricity until he was age 14. Starting in high school, he began to think of a system that could capture moving images, transform those images into code, then move those images along radio waves to different devices. Farnsworth was miles ahead of any mechanical television system invented to-date. Farnsworth’s system captured moving images using a beam of electrons (basically, a primitive camera).
The first image ever transmitted by television was a simple line. Later, Farnsworth would famously transmit a dollar sign using his television after a prospective investor asked “When are we going to see some dollars in this thing, Farnsworth?” Between 1926 and 1931, mechanical television inventors continued to tweak and test their creations. However, they were all doomed to be obsolete in comparison to modern electrical televisions: by 1934, all TVs had been converted into the electronic system.