The History of the Television – Modern Marvels

The television is arguably one of the most significant objects of the modern age. Along with the invention of the radio, the television set up the very framework for how information would be delivered for decades. For the scale and significance of the television, its history is shockingly short and innovation happened at lightning speed as competition in the new industry was fierce.

The beginning of the history of the television starts around the turn of the century. Marconi discovered that messages could be sent through thin air in 1896, and 12 years later, a human voice was finally broadcasted. From the top of the Eifel Tower, that 1908 broadcast Lee Deforest performed proved that information could be sent via electromagnetic waves through the air, not through pesky fragile wires.

The early 1900s were a wonderful time for innovation. Education was increasing in the more developed world and some of the most seemingly insignificant people began to idolize scientist. The first major breakthrough in television occurred in Beaver, Utah by a 14-year-old. Filo Farnsworth, this new inventor, brought the ideas he had discovered in his home about particle physics to his high school and his teacher sent him to BYU to see if he was actually on to something. Amazingly, the young boy was.

Farnsworth envisioned a machine that used the same electromagnetic waves that had worked in Paris to transmit both sound and images. After gaining funding from close friends, he moved to California and secretly worked to create the first television. Similar to how sounds were transmitted through a microphone device into electromagnetic pulses, Farnsworth worked to create a lens that scanned images and turned the lights and darks on the image into the same type of electromagnetic pulses.

At this same time, we move the story to the new financial hub of the world: New York. A young man named Sarnoff was looking for work and mistakenly walked into Marconi’s office. It’s easy enough to say, the rest was history. Sarnoff idolized Marconi and he certainly had a view of where the world was going with respect to electronic technology.

The wireless world of transmitting information over air quickly grew and ran into a problem almost immediately. Airspace was limited, and the independent companies were not going to make any progress on their own. The government stepped in and RCA was born. At this point, the story of the commercial television can really begin.

During the time people were working on the idea of the television, other inventors in Pittsburg began making a new device that would receive the electromagnetic audio signals. That device was built to be able to be put into every American household. On election day in 1920, the first radio broadcast occurred. Therefore, it was from the very start that television and the radio were designed first and foremost for news and information.

At this time, there was still two different approaches to television. Charles Francis Jenkins’s, a famous inventor, had produced the first successful mechanical television, while Farnsworth still pursued his electronic device. Eventually, both men produced a television and Herbert Hoover was used for the first mechanical television broadcast by Jenkins in 1927. However, despite the fact Jenkins had beat Farnsworth in the first step, the second step proved much more difficult. At a demonstration in London, James Bear, another creator of a mechanical television, brought his device to get the mechanical television to be the standard for England. After his demonstration, Farnsworth showed his far superior example and immediately everyone knew who had won.

Farnsworth eventually patented his device in the US despite Westinghouse’s competition. Westinghouse wanted the device and eventually settled to give Farnsworth huge royalties for use of his patent.

At this time, the mid-1930s, radio truly began to be implemented in every American household. It was a wonderful era for both music and news broadcasts and corporations like Westinghouse make huge profits. However, in the race for the implementation of television, what these major corporations made on radios they spend in research and development for the television. Many people saw the radio as a great invention, but the goal was only half there. The inventors still saw television taking off, but the public did not. No one wanted to act for these new televisions and ultimately this hurt public response to the new horrendously expensive devices.

Public response changed drastically at the 1939 World’s Fair. There, Sarnoff announced that they would begin performing regularly scheduled TV broadcasts (NBC). He assured people there would be a reason to own one and many people fascinated by the devices paid massive amounts to take them home. The radio, which in itself was a seemingly new and innovative device, already was ready to be replaced by the original inventions these men had started years ago.

As broadcasting grew, the FCC was born in the early 1940s because even Washington was beginning to see the power of the television. As the war ended, American began to prosper once again and entertainment grew. The television sets were still massively expense but more and more companies began to see the future profitability in this still emerging market.

In an attempt to excite the public, the 1947 World Series was broadcasted and television was changed forever. Multiple cameras were used and ultimately, this single set of broadcasts created more public demand for television than anything had before. Sports were brought into the homes of Americans and many considered it “the best seat in the house.”

The fabulous 50s is when entertainment really started to hit the scene. Televisions had been proven and now stations began looking for entertainment that was not just news or sports. Actors and actresses began engaging audiences in entertainment programs and television even went into the white house for a tour.

At this point, the demand for color began to happen. Again, the debate between mechanical and electronic occurred and Sarnoff demanded RCA produce an electronic color television. Though the process proved massively difficult, the invention went down in history as one of the technologically greatest products ever created.

From there, it can be said that the rest is history. Once color television began to be broadcast into the homes of the majority of Americans, the country viewed everything differently. We saw political events happening in real time, and the Space Race kept people glued to their television and gave them great national pride. At that point, it was here to stay. Even today, though the idea of channels has changed with the invention of subscription services like Netflix, the basic fundamentals of the television have absolutely no end in sight. Instant at home entertainment is here, and the people love it.