History of television

History of television

The Television technology can be divided along two lines: those developments that depended upon both mechanical and electronic principles, and those dependent only on electronic principles. From the latter descended all modern televisions, but these would not have been possible without the discoveries and insights garnered from the development of the electromechanical systems.

Electromechanical television

The origins of what would become today's television system can be traced back to the discovery of the photoconductivity of the element selenium by Willoughby Smith in 1873, the invention of a scanning disk by Paul Gottlieb Nipkow in 1884, and Philo Farnsworth's Image dissector in 1927.

The 20-year old German university student Nipkow proposed and patented the first electromechanical television system in 1884, [cite book | title = History of Electron Tubes | author = Sogo Okamura | publisher = IOS Press | year = 1994 | isbn = 9051991452 | url = http://books.google.com/books?id=VHFyngmO95YC&pg=PA34&dq=Nipkow+student+old&as_brr=3&ei=3vpMR6H3C4iUtgPLydDUCQ&ie=ISO-8859-1&sig=DnqNsf0ctYuEURYtALXfk9kog_s ] although he never built a working model of the system. Nipkow's spinning disk design is credited with being the first television image rasterizer. Constantin Perskyi had coined the word "television" in a paper read to the International Electricity Congress at the International World Fair in Paris on August 25, 1900. Perskyi's paper reviewed the existing electromechanical technologies, mentioning the work of Nipkow and others. The photoconductivity of selenium and Nipkow's scanning disk were first joined for practical use in the electronic transmission of still pictures and photographs, and by the first decade of the 20th century halftone photographs, composed of equally spaced dots of varying size, were being transmitted by facsimile over telegraph and telephone lines as a newspaper service.

However, it wasn't until 1907 that developments in amplification tube technology made the design practical. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A07E4DA1331E733A25757C2A9649C946697D6CF "Sending Photographs by Telegraph"] , New York Times, September 20, 1907, Sunday Magazine, p. 7.] The first demonstration of the "instantaneous" transmission of still silhouette images was by Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier in Paris in 1909, using a [http://www.earlytelevision.org/yanczer_mirror_drum.html rotating mirror-drum] as the scanner, and a matrix of 64 selenium cells as the receiver. [Henry de Varigny, " [http://histv2.free.fr/rignoux/rignoux1909.htm La vision à distance] ", "L'Illustration", Paris, 11 December 1909, p. 451.]

In 1911, Boris Rosing and his student Vladimir Kosma Zworykin created a television system that used a mechanical mirror-drum scanner to transmit, in Zworykin's words, "very crude images" over wires to the electronic Braun tube (cathode ray tube) in the receiver. Moving images were not possible because, in the scanner, "the sensitivity was not enough and the selenium cell was very laggy".

On March 25, 1925, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gave a demonstration of televised silhouette images in motion at Selfridge's Department Store in London. AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories transmitted halftone still images of transparencies in May 1925. Charles Francis Jenkins was able to demonstrate on June 13, 1925, the transmission of the silhouette image of a toy windmill in motion from a naval radio station to his laboratory in Washington, using a lensed disk scanner with 48 lines per picture, cite book| last = Glinsky| first = Albert| title = Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage| location = Urbana, Illinois| publisher = University of Illinois Press| year = 2000| id = ISBN 0-252-02582-2 pages 41-45] 16 pictures per second. But if television is defined as the live transmission of moving images with continuous tonal variation, Baird first achieved this privately on October 2, 1925. But strictly speaking, Baird had not yet achieved moving images on October 2. His scanner worked at only five images per second, below the threshold required to give the illusion of motion, usually defined as at least 12 images per second. By January, he had improved the scan rate to 12.5 images per second. Then he gave the world's first public demonstration of a working television system to members of the Royal Institution and a newspaper reporter on January 26, 1926 at his laboratory in London. Unlike later electronic systems with several hundred lines of resolution, Baird's vertically scanned image, using a scanning disk embedded with a double spiral of lenses, had only 30 lines, just enough to reproduce a recognizable human face.

In 1927, Baird transmitted a signal over convert|438|mi|km of telephone line between London and Glasgow. In 1928, Baird's company (Baird Television Development Company / Cinema Television) broadcast the first transatlantic television signal, between London and New York, and the first shore-to-ship transmission. He also demonstrated an electromechanical color, infrared (dubbed "Noctovision"), and stereoscopic television, using additional lenses, disks and filters. In parallel, Baird developed a video disk recording system dubbed "Phonovision"; a number of the Phonovision recordings, dating back to 1927, still exist. [ [http://www.tvdawn.com/tvimage.htm Restoring Baird's TV Recordings] ] In 1929, he became involved in the first experimental electromechanical television service in Germany. In November 1929, Baird and Bernard Natan of Pathe established France's first television company, Télévision-Baird-Natan. In 1931, he made the first live transmission, of the Epsom Derby. In 1932, he demonstrated ultra-short wave television. Baird's electromechanical system reached a peak of 240 lines of resolution on BBC television broadcasts in 1936, before being discontinued in favor of a 405-line all-electronic system developed by Marconi-EMI.

Meanwhile in Soviet Russia, Léon Theremin had been developing a mirror drum-based television, starting with 16 lines resolution in 1925, then 32 lines and eventually 64 using interlacing in 1926, and as part of his thesis on June 7, 1926 he electrically transmitted and then projected near-simultaneous moving images on a five foot square screen. By 1927 he achieved an image of 100 lines, a resolution that was not surpassed until 1931 by RCA, with 120 lines.

However, Herbert E. Ives of Bell Labs gave the most dramatic demonstration of television yet on April 7, 1927, when he field tested reflected-light television systems using small-scale (2 by 2.5 inches) and large-scale (24 by 30 inches) viewing screens over a wire link from Washington to New York City, and over-the-air broadcast from Whippany, New Jersey. The subjects, who included Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, were illuminated by a flying-spot scanner beam that was scanned by a 50-aperture disk at 16 pictures per minute.

Electronic television

In 1911, engineer Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton gave a speech in London, reported in "The Times" (UK), describing in great detail how distant electric vision could be achieved by using cathode ray tubes at both the transmitting and receiving ends. The speech, which expanded on a letter he wrote to the journal "Nature" in 1908, was the first iteration of the electronic television method that is still used today. Others had already experimented with using a cathode ray tube as a receiver, but the concept of using one as a transmitter was novel. [Albert Abrahamson, "Zworykin, Pioneer of Television", p. 16] By the late 1920s, when electromechanical television was still being introduced, inventors Philo Farnsworth, Vladimir Zworykin and Hungarian Kálmán Tihanyi were already working separately on versions of all-electronic transmitting tubes.

The decisive solution was first described in 1926 by Tihanyi, and appeared in patent applications for his "Radioskop" he filed in Hungary that same year. In 1928 Tihanyi was awarded patents for his inventions in both France and Great Britain. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Hungary - Kálmán Tihanyi 1926 Patent Application "Radioskop" | work = Memory of the World | publisher = UNESCO | date = | url = http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=4813&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-02-22] He applied for patents in the United States in June of the following year, but the U.S. patent for his display tube would not be granted until October 1938, and the patent for his camera tube the following May.United States Patent Office, Patent No. 2,133,123, Oct. 11, 1938.] United States Patent Office, Patent No. 2,158,259, May 16, 1939]

On September 7, 1927, Philo Farnsworth's Image Dissector camera tube transmitted its first image, a simple straight line, at his laboratory at 202 Green Street in San Francisco. [http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist10/philo.html] By 1928, Farnsworth had developed the system sufficiently to hold a demonstration for the press, televising a motion picture film. In 1929, the system was further improved by elimination of a motor generator, so that his television system now had no mechanical parts. That year, Farnsworth transmitted the first live human images with his system, including a three and a half-inch image of his wife Elma ("Pem") with her eyes closed (possibly due to the bright lighting required).

Farnsworth gave the world's first public demonstration of a complete all-electronic television system on 25 August 1934 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Other inventors had previously demonstrated components of such a system, or had shown an electronic system using still images or motion picture film. Manfred von Ardenne demonstrated an all-electronic television system using cathode ray tubes at the Berlin Radio Show in August 1931, but as he never built a camera tube, his system was limited to using the CRT as a flying spot scanner to transmit motion picture films and slides. Farnsworth became the first to use all-electronic cameras and receivers to transmit and receive live, moving images. Unfortunately, his cameras needed too much light, so his work came to a stop.

Vladimir Zworykin was also experimenting with the cathode ray tube to create and show images. While at Westinghouse in 1923, he developed an electronic camera tube. But in a 1925 demonstration, the image was dim, had low contrast and poor definition, and was stationary. [Albert Abramson, "Zworykin, Pioneer of Television", University of Illinois Press, 1995, p. 51. ISBN 0252021045.] The tube never got beyond the laboratory stage, but RCA (which had acquired the Westinghouse patent) believed the patent on Farnsworth's 1927 image dissector was written so broadly that it would exclude any other electronic formation of an image. And so RCA, armed with Zworykin's 1923 patent application, filed a patent interference suit against Farnsworth. The U.S. Patent Office examiner disagreed in a 1935 decision, finding priority of invention for Farnsworth against Zworykin. Farnsworth claimed that Zworykin's 1923 system would be unable to produce an electrical image of the type to challenge to Farnsworth's patent. Zworykin was unable or unwilling to introduce in evidence a working model of his tube that was based on his 1923 patent description. In October 1939, after losing an appeal in the courts and wishing to go forward with the commercial manufacturing of television equipment, RCA agreed to pay Farnsworth US$1 million (the equivalent of $13.8 million in 2006) over a ten-year period, in addition to license payments, to use Farnsworth's patents. [Daniel Stashower, "The Boy Genius and the Mogul: The Untold Story of Television", Broadway Books, 2002, p. 243–244. ISBN 978-0767907590.]

However, while working at RCA in 1931, Zworykin had designed an improved camera tube based on the technology developed by Tihanyi. Zworykin called the new tube the iconoscope, and it would be the primary type of camera tube used in the U.S. until replaced by the image orthicon tube in 1946. [ [http://www.history-magazine.com/HM_Sample.pdf Doug Elliot, "The Beginning of Television"] , "History Magazine", Vol. 7 No. 3, March 2006, Moorshead Magazines Ltd.] Tihanyi's patents for both his camera and display tubes would eventually be acquired by RCA.

In Britain Isaac Shoenberg used Zworykin's idea to develop Marconi-EMI's own Emitron tube, which formed the heart of the cameras they designed for the BBC. Using this, on November 2, 1936 a 405 line service was started from studios at Alexandra Palace, and transmitted from a specially-built mast atop one of the Victorian building's towers; it alternated for a short time with Baird's mechanical system in adjoining studios, but was more reliable and visibly superior. So began the world's first high-definition regular service. The mast is still in use today.Fact|no source cited|date=August 2008

Color television

Broadcast television

United States and Canada

Below is a list showing when U.S. states and Canadian provinces established their first commercially licensed television stations.

* Alabama (1949)
* Alberta (1954)
* Territory of Alaska (1953)
* American Samoa (1964)
* Arizona (1949)
* Arkansas (1953)
* British Columbia (1953)
* California (1947)
* Colorado (1952)
* Connecticut (1948)
* Delaware (1949)
* Florida (1949)
* Georgia (1948)
* Guam (1956)
* Territory of Hawaii (1952)
* Idaho (1953)
* Illinois (1943)
* Indiana (1949)
* Iowa (1949)
* Kansas (1953)
* Kentucky (1948)
* Louisiana (1948)
* Maine (1953)
* Manitoba (1954)
* Maryland (1947)
* Massachusetts (1947)
* Michigan (1947)
* Minnesota (1948)
* Mississippi (1953)
* Missouri (1947)
* Montana (1953)
* Nebraska (1949)
* Nevada (1953)
* New Brunswick (1954)
* New Hampshire (1954)
* New Jersey (1948)
* New Mexico (1948)
* New York (1941)
* Newfoundland (1955)
* North Carolina (1949)
* North Dakota (1953)
* Northwest Territories (1972)
* Nova Scotia (1954)
* Ohio (1943)
* Oklahoma (1949)
* Ontario (1952)
* Oregon (1952)
* Pennsylvania (1941)
* Prince Edward Island (1955)
* Puerto Rico (1954)
* Quebec (1952)
* Rhode Island (1949)
* Saskatchewan (1954)
* South Carolina (1953)
* South Dakota (1953)
* Tennessee (1948)
* Texas (1948)
* Utah (1948)
* Vermont (1954)
* Virginia (1947)
* U.S Virgin Islands (1961)
* Washington (1948)
* Washington D.C (1945)
* West Virginia (1949)
* Wisconsin (1947)
* Wyoming (1954)
* Yukon (1972)

United States

The first regularly scheduled television service in the United States began on July 2, 1928. The Federal Radio Commission authorized C.F. Jenkins to broadcast from experimental station W3XK in Wheaton, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. But for at least the first eighteen months, only silhouette images from motion picture film were broadcast.

Hugo Gernsback's New York City radio station began a regular, if limited, schedule of live television broadcasts on August 14, 1928, using 48-line images. Simultaneously, Gernsback published "Television", the world's first magazine about the medium.

General Electric's experimental station in Schenectady, New York, on the air sporadically since January 13, 1928, was able to broadcast reflected-light, 48-line images via shortwave as far as Los Angeles, and by September was making four television broadcasts weekly. It is considered to be the direct predecessor of current television station WRGB.

General Broadcasting System's WGBS radio and W2XCR television aired their regular broadcasting debut in New York City on April 26, 1931, with a special demonstration set up in Aeolian Hall at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-fourth Street. Thousands waited to catch a glimpse of the Broadway stars who appeared on the six-inch (15 cm) square image, in an evening event to publicize a weekday programming schedule offering films and live entertainers during the four-hour daily broadcasts. Appearing were boxer Primo Carnera, actors Gertrude Lawrence, Louis Calhern and Lionel Atwill, WHN announcer Nils Granlund, the Forman Sisters, and a host of others. ["Radio Talkies Put On Program Basis", "The New York Times", April 27, 1931, p. 26.]

CBS's New York City station W2XAB began broadcasting their first regular seven days a week television schedule on July 21, 1931, with a 60-line electromechanical system. The first broadcast included Mayor Jimmy Walker, the Boswell Sisters, Kate Smith, and George Gershwin. The service ended in February 1933. However, CBS considers it to be an ancestor of WCBS-TV, which first went on the air on July 1, 1941 as one of the first two commercially licensed television stations in the country (the other being the National Broadcasting Company's WNBC). Don Lee Broadcasting's station W6XAO in Los Angeles went on the air in December 1931. Using the UHF spectrum, it broadcast a regular schedule of filmed images every day except Sundays and holidays for several years. It later moved to VHF Channel 1 before World War 2, and to Channel 2 in the post-war television realignment. It was commercially licensed in 1947 as KTSL and is the direct ancestor of current station KCBS-TV.

By 1935, low-definition electromechanical television broadcasting had ceased in the United States except for a handful of stations run by public universities that continued to 1939. The Federal Communications Commission saw television in the continual flux of development with no consistent technical standards, hence all such stations in the U.S. were granted only experimental and not commercial licenses, hampering television's economic development. Just as importantly, Philo Farnsworth's August 1934 demonstration of an all-electronic system at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia pointed out the direction of television's future.

On June 15, 1936, Don Lee Broadcasting began a month-long demonstration of high definition (240+ line) television in Los Angeles on W6XAO (later KTSL) with a 300-line image from motion picture film. By October, W6XAO was making daily television broadcasts of films. RCA demonstrated in New York City a 343-line electronic television broadcast, with live and film segments, to its licensees on July 7, 1936, and made its first public demonstration to the press on November 6. Irregularly scheduled broadcasts continued through 1937 and 1938. ["Eighty-seven video programs were telecast by NBC last year," " [http://www.earlytelevision.org/where_is_television.html Where Is Television Now?] ", "Popular Mechanics", August 1938, p. 178. Regularly scheduled electronic broadcasts began in April 1938 in New York (to the second week of June, and resuming in August) and Los Angeles. "Telecasts Here and Abroad," "The New York Times", April 24, 1938, Drama-Screen-Radio section, p. 10; " [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,849042,00.html Early Birds] ," "Time", June 13, 1938; "Telecasts to Be Resumed," "The New York Times", Aug. 21, 1938, Drama-Screen-Radio section, p. 10; Robert L. Pickering, " [http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist5/donlee.html Eight Years of Television in California] ," "California — Magazine of the Pacific", June 1939.] NBC began regularly scheduled broadcasts in New York on April 30, 1939 with a broadcast of the opening of the 1939 New York World's Fair. By June 1939, regularly scheduled 441-line electronic television broadcasts were available in New York City and Los Angeles, and by November on General Electric's station in Schenectady. From May through December 1939, the New York City NBC station (W2XBS) of General Electric broadcast twenty to fifty-eight hours of programming per month, Wednesday through Sunday of each week. The programming was 33% news, 29% drama, and 17% educational programming, with an estimated 2,000 receiving sets by the end of the year, and an estimated audience of five to eight thousand. A remote truck could cover outdoor events from up to convert|10|mi|km away from the transmitter, which was located atop the Empire State Building. Coaxial cable was used to cover events at Madison Square Garden. The coverage area for reliable reception was a radius of 40 to convert|50|mi|km from the Empire State Building, an area populated by more than 10,000,000 people (Lohr, 1940).

The FCC adopted NTSC television engineering standards on May 2, 1941, calling for 525 lines of vertical resolution, 30 frames per second with interlaced scanning, 60 fields per second, and sound carried by frequency modulation. Sets sold since 1939 which were built for slightly lower resolution could still be adjusted to receive the new standard. (Dunlap, p31). The FCC saw television ready for commercial licensing, and the first such licenses were issued to NBC and CBS owned stations in New York on July 1, 1941, followed by Philco's station in Philadelphia, then licensed as WPTZ and eventually licensed again as the present-day KYW-TV. After the U.S. entry into World War II, the FCC reduced the required minimum air time for commercial television stations from 15 hours per week to 4 hours. Most TV stations suspended broadcasting. On the few that remained, programs included entertainment such as boxing and plays, events at Madison Square Garden, and illustrated war news as well as training for air raid wardens and first aid providers. In 1942, there were 5,000 sets in operation, but production of new TVs, radios, and other broadcasting equipment for civilian purposes was suspended from April 1942 to August 1945 (Dunlap).


The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) adopted the American NTSC 525-line B/W 60 field per second system as its broadcast standard. It began television broadcasting in Canada in September 1952. The first broadcast was on September 6, 1952 from its Montreal, Quebec station CBFT. The premiere broadcast was bilingual, spoken in English and French. Two days later, on September 8, 1952, the Toronto, Ontario station CBLT went on the air. This became the English-speaking flagship station for the country, while CBFT became the French language flagship after a second English language station was licensed to CBC in Montreal later in the decade. The CBC’s first privately owned affiliate television station, CKSO in Sudbury, Ontario, launched in October 1953 (at the time, all private stations were expected to affiliate with the CBC, a condition that was relaxed in 1960–61 when CTV, Canada's second national English language network, was formed).


In November 1929, Bernard Natan established France's first television company, Télévision-Baird-Natan. On April 14, 1931, was the first transmission with a thirty-line standard by René Barthélemy. On December 6, 1931, Henri de France created the Compagnie Générale de Télévision (CGT). In December 1932, Bathélemy carried out an experimental program in black and white (definition: 60 lines) one hour per week, "Paris Télévision", which gradually became daily from early 1933. The first official channel of French television appeared on February 13, 1935, date of the official inauguration of television in France which was broadcast in 60 lines from 8:15 to 8:30 pm. The program was of the actress Béatrice Bretty from the studio of Radio-PTT Vision at 103 rue de Grenelle in Paris. The broadcast had a range of 100 km (62 miles). On November 10, George Mandel, Minister of PTT, inaugurated the first broadcast in 180 lines from the transmitter of the Eiffel tower. On the 18th, Susy Wincker, first announcer since June, carried out a demonstration for the press from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Broadcasts became regular from January 4, 1937 from 11:00 to 11:30 am and 8:00 to 8:30 pm during the week, and from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Sundays. In July 1938, a decree defined for three years a standard of 455 lines VHF (whereas three standards are used for the experiments: 441 lines for Gramont, 450 lines for the Compagnie des Compteurs and 455 for Thomson). In 1939, there were about only 200 to 300 individual television sets, some of which were also available in a few public places.

With the entry of France into World War II the same year, broadcasts ceased and the transmitter of the Eiffel tower was sabotaged. On September 3, 1940, French television was seized by the German occupation forces. A technical agreement was signed by the Compagnie des Compteurs and Telefunken, and a financing agreement for the resuming of the service is signed by German Ministry of Post and Radiodiffusion Nationale (Vichy's radio). On May 7, 1943 at 3:00 evening broadcasts. The first broadcast of Fernsehsender Paris (Paris Télévision) was transmitted from rue Cognac-Jay. These regular broadcasts (5 1/4 hours a day) lasted until August 16, 1944. One thousand 441-line sets, most of which were installed in soldiers' hospitals, picked up the broadcasts.

In 1944, René Barthélemy developed an 819-line television standard. During the years of occupation, Barthélemy reached 1015 and even 1042 lines. On October 1, 1944, television service resumed after the liberation of Paris. The broadcasts were transmitted from the Cognacq-Jay studios. In October 1945, after repairs, the transmitter of the Eiffel Tower was back in service. On November 20, 1948, Mitterrand decreed a broadcast standard of 819 lines; broadcasting begins at the end of 1949 in this definition. France is the only European country to adopt it (others will choose 625 lines).


Electromechanical broadcasts began in Germany in 1929, but were without sound until 1934. Network electronic service started on March 22, 1935, on 180 lines using telecine transmission of film, intermediate film system, or cameras using the Nipkow Disk. Transmissions using cameras based on the iconoscope began on January 15, 1936. The Berlin Summer Olympic Games were televised, using both fully electronic iconoscope-based cameras and intermediate film cameras, to Berlin and Hamburg in August 1936. Twenty-eight public television rooms were opened for anybody who did not own a television set. The Germans had a 441-line system on the air in February 1937, and during World War II brought it to France, where they broadcast from the Eiffel Tower. The American Armed Forces Radio Network at the end of World War II, wishing to provide US TV programming to the occupation forces in Germany, used US TV receivers made to operate at 525 lines and 60 fields. US broadcast equipment was modified; they changed the vertical frequency to 50 Hz to avoid power line wiggles, changed the horizontal frequency from 15,750 Hz to 15,625 Hz a 0.5 microsecond change in the length of a line. With this signal, US TV receivers with only an adjustment to the vertical hold control had a 625 line, 50 field scan, which became the German standard.

United Kingdom

The first British television broadcast was made by Baird Television's electromechanical system over the BBC radio transmitter in September 1929. Baird provided a limited amount of programming five days a week by 1930. On August 22, 1932, BBC launched its own regular service using Baird's 30-line electromechanical system, continuing until September 11, 1935. On November 2, 1936 the BBC began broadcasting a dual-system service, alternating between Marconi-EMI's 405-line standard and Baird's improved 240-line standard, from Alexandra Palace in London, making the BBC Television Service (now BBC One) the world's first regular high-definition television service. The government, on advice from a special advisory committee, decided that Marconi-EMI's electronic system gave the superior picture, and the Baird system was dropped in February 1937. TV broadcasts in London were on the air an average of four hours daily from 1936 to 1939. There were 12,000 to 15,000 receivers. Some sets in restaurants or bars might have 100 viewers for sport events (Dunlap, p56).The outbreak of the Second World War caused the BBC service to be suspended on September 1, 1939, resuming from Alexandra Palace on June 7, 1946.

The first live broadcast from the European continent was made on 27 August 1950. The first live signal to Britain from the United States was broadcast via the Telstar satellite on 23 July 1962.

Soviet Union (USSR)

The Soviet Union began offering 30-line electromechanical test broadcasts in Moscow on October 31, 1931, and a commercially manufactured television set in 1932. The first experimental transmissions of electronic television took place in Moscow on March 9, 1937, using equipment manufactured and installed by RCA. Regular broadcasting began on December 31, 1938.

Later development

The first regular television transmissions in Canada began in 1952 when the CBC put two stations on the air, one in Montreal, Quebec on September 6, and another in Toronto, Ontario two days later.

Technological innovations

The first live transcontinental television broadcast took place in San Francisco, California with U.S. President Harry Truman's speech at the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference on September 4, 1951, using AT&T's transcontinental cable and microwave radio relay system. ["Truman to Be Televised In First National Hook-Up", "The New York Times", September 4, 1951, p. 2.] ["Television Highlights", "The Washington Post", September 4, 1951, p. B13.] ["Coast to Coast Television" (CBS advertisement), "The Wall Street Journal", September 4, 1951, p. 9.] The first live coast-to-coast commercial television broadcast in the U.S. took place on November 18, 1951 on the premiere of "See It Now", which showed a split screen view of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In 1958, the CBC completed the longest television network in the world, from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia. Reportedly, the first continuous live broadcast of a breaking news story in the world was conducted by the CBC during the Springhill Mining Disaster which began on October 23 of that year.

Programming is broadcast on television stations (sometimes called channels). At first, terrestrial broadcasting was the only way television could be distributed. Because bandwidth was limited, government regulation was normal.

In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission in 1941 allowed stations to broadcast advertisements, but insisted on public service programming commitments as a requirement for a license. By contrast, the United Kingdom chose a different route, imposing a television licence fee on owners of television reception equipment, to fund the BBC, which had public service as part of its Royal Charter.

The development of cable and satellite means of distribution in the 1970s pushed businessmen to target channels towards a certain audience, and enabled the rise of subscription-based television channels, such as HBO and Sky.


Practically every country in the world now has developed at least one television channel. Television has grown up all over the world, enabling every country to share aspects of their culture and society with others.

Television sets

In television's electromechanical era, commercially made television sets were sold from 1928 to 1934 in the United Kingdom, [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/Baird%20TV-Early%20Years.htm Early British Television: Baird] , Television History: The First 75 Years.] United States, and Russia. [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/pre-1935.htm Pre-1935] , Television History: The First 75 Years. The French model shown does not appear to have entered production.] The earliest commercially made sets sold by Baird in the UK in 1928 were radios with the addition of a television device consisting of a neon tube behind a mechanically spinning disk (the Nipkow disk) with a spiral of apertures that produced a red postage-stamp size image, enlarged to twice that size by a magnifying glass. The Baird "Televisor" was also available without the radio. The Televisor sold in 1930–1933 is considered the first mass-produced set, selling about a thousand units. [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/PRE-1935-BAIRD.htm Pre-1935 Baird Sets: UK] , Television History: The First 75 Years.]

The first commercially made electronic television sets with cathode ray tubes were manufactured by Telefunken in Germany in 1934, [ [http://www.earlytelevision.org/telefunken.html Telefunken] , Early Electronic TV Gallery, Early Television Foundation.] [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/1934-35-Telefunken-FEIII.jpg1934–35 Telefunken] , Television History: The First 75 Years.] followed by other makers in France (1936), [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/1936%20French%20TV.htm 1936 French Television] , Television History: The First 75 Years.] Britain (1936), [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/1936-Baird-T5.jpg1936 Baird T5] , Television History: The First 75 Years.] and America (1938). [ [http://www.earlytelevision.org/communicating_systems.html Communicating Systems, Inc.] , Early Electronic TV Gallery, Early Television Foundation.] [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/1939%20Du%20Mont%20Brochure.htm America's First Electronic Television Set] , Television History: The First 75 Years.] The cheapest of the pre-World War II factory-made American sets, a 1938 image-only model with a 3-inch (8 cm) screen, cost US$125, the equivalent of US$1,863 in 2007. The cheapest model with a 12-inch (30 cm) screen was $445 ($6,633). [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/tv-prices.htm American TV Prices] , Television History: The First 75 Years.]

An estimated 19,000 electronic television sets were manufactured in Britain, and about 1,600 in Germany, before World War II. About 7,000–8,000 electronic sets were made in the U.S. [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/Annual_TV_Sales_39-59.jpgAnnual Television Set Sales in USA] , Television History: The First 75 Years.] before the War Production Board halted manufacture in April 1942, production resuming in August 1945.

Television usage in the United States skyrocketed after World War II with the lifting of the manufacturing freeze, war-related technological advances, the gradual expansion of the television networks westward, the drop in set prices caused by mass production, increased leisure time, and additional disposable income. While only 0.5% of U.S. households had a television set in 1946, 55.7% had one in 1954, and 90% by 1962. [ [http://www.tvhistory.tv/Annual_TV_Households_50-78.jpgNumber of TV Households in America] , Television History: The First 75 Years.] In Britain, there were 15,000 television households in 1947, 1.4 million in 1952, and 15.1 million by 1968.

For many years different countries used different technical standards. France initially adopted the German 441-line standard but later upgraded to 819 lines, which gave the highest picture definition of any analogue TV system, approximately double the resolution of the British 405-line system. However this is not without a cost, in that the cameras need to produce four times the pixel rate (thus quadrupling the bandwidth), from pixels one-quarter the size, reducing the sensitivity by an equal amount. In practice the 819-line cameras never achieved anything like the resolution that could theoretically be transmitted by the 819 line system, and for color, France reverted to the same 625 lines as the European CCIR system.

Eventually most of Europe switched to the 625-line PAL standard, once more following Germany's example, with France adopting SECAM. Meanwhile in North America the original NTSC 525-line standard from 1941 was retained, although analog television will be totally replaced for broadcast purposes in February 2009.

Television inventors/pioneers

Important people in the development of TV technology in the 19th or 20th centuries.
* John Logie Baird
* Guillermo González Camarena
* Alan Blumlein
* Walter Bruch (PAL television)
* Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton
* Allen B. DuMont
* Philo Taylor Farnsworth
* Boris Grabovsky
* Charles Francis Jenkins
* Earl Muntz
* Paul Gottlieb Nipkow
* Constantin Perskyi
* Boris Rosing
* David Sarnoff
* Kenjiro Takayanagi
* Kálmán Tihanyi
* Vladimir Zworykin

Television museums

* Early Television Museum
* Museum of Television and Radio
* Museum of Broadcast Communications
* National Media Museum
* Nation Australia Film and Acrhives Museum

See also

* History of radio
* How television works
* Television
* Television Hall of Fame
* Golden Age of Television, c1949–1960 in the US
* Archive of American Television
* Dunlap, Orrin E. "The Future of Television". New York and London: Harper Brothers, 1942.
* Lohr, Lenox, "Television Broadcasting". New York: McGraw Hill, 1940.
* Video monitor timeline
* Oldest television station
* List of experimental television stations
* Timeline of the introduction of television in countries
* Timeline of the introduction of color television in countries
* Geographical usage of television


Further reading

* Abramson, Albert. "The History of Television, 1880 to 1941". (1987). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-89950-284-9.
* Abramson, Albert. "The History of Television, 1942 to 2000". (2003). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-78641-220-8.
* Burns, R. W. "Television: An international history of the formative years." (1998). IEE History of Technology Series, 22. London: IEE. ISBN 0-85296-914-7.
* Fisher, David E. and Marshall Jon Fisher. "Tube: the Invention of Television." (1996). Washington: Counterpoint. ISBN 1887178171.
* Shiers, George. "Early Television: A Bibliographic Guide to 1940". (1997). Garland Reference Library of Social Science. ISBN 0-82407-782-2.

External links

Links related to the development or history of television
* [http://histv.free.fr History of television - Includes an anthology of early texts on "seeing at a distance by electricity"]
* [http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bltelevision.htm Television history — inventors] including a [http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bl_television_timeline.htm timeline]
* [http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/12186/?a=f Technology Review - Who Really Invented Television?]
* [http://www.farnovision.com/chronicles/tfc-who_invented_what.html Who Invented Television - Reconciling The Historical Origins of Electronic Video]
* [http://www.tvhistory.tv Photos of early TV receivers]
* [http://www.etsu.edu/cas/comm/broadcasting/broadcastingweb/tvhistory/dvb_tv-history.htm Article describing development of the television]
* [http://www.earlytelevision.org Early television museum] (extensive online presence)
* [http://novia.net/~ereitan/ Ed Reitan's Color Television History]
* [http://www.terramedia.co.uk/Chronomedia/index.htm Detailed timeline of communications media] (including the TV)
* [http://televisionau.siv.net.au The history of Australian television]
* [http://www.videoactive.eu Video Active: Creating Access to Television History]
* [http://www.researchchannel.org/prog/displayevent.aspx?rID=3431&fID=345 A Visit to Our Studios: a television program exploring the studios at Johns Hopkins University in 1951]
* [http://tvinterviewsarchive.blogspot.com Archive of American Television (information and links to videotaped oral history interviews with TV legends and pioneers)]
* [http://archives.cbc.ca Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Archives]

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