History of the Television

The word 'television' has its roots in the Latin and Greek languages. The word is derived from the Greek word 'tele', which translates as 'far sight' and the Latin word 'visio', which means 'sight'. The invention made it to commercial markets in the late 1930s. Today, television is the most popular form of audio-visual communication in homes and commercial set-ups. The mere mention of the word 'TV', brings to mind a medium that helps us to keep abreast with current affairs and entertainment. The television set is no more a single communications unit. It has evolved in design complexity to broadcast recorded material stored in video cassettes, DVDs, laser discs, and Blu-ray discs.

Television: An Account of its History

The history of television spans over regions and time zones, since the technology evolved at different times in different places. The communication system, as we know it today, is not the brainstorm of any 'one' particular inventor. It has taken the efforts of many engineers, over many decades, to progress along different overlapping designs, to employ commonly accepted mechanical and electronic principles. Even though the electromechanical television sets are now being abandoned in favor of the ultra-modern, completely electronic designs, the basic design rests on the 1873 discovery of selenium photo-conductivity. This discovery made by Willoughby Smith led to the Paul Gottlieb Nipkow invention of a scanning disk, in 1884. Thereafter, in 1926, when John Logie Baird demonstrated televised moving images, the technology was combined with the image dissector designed by Philo Farnsworth, in 1927, to give us the basic principles of the communication device we know today.

These basics were experimented upon in different countries, by different people. However, the earliest records were those maintained and publicized by Nipkow, a 20-year old German student. In 1884, he became the first to propose and patent an electromechanical television system. The discovery of selenium photo-conductivity and Nipkow's scanning disk technology were first combined to produce an electronic transmission in the early 20th century. Thereafter, still pictures composed of spaced dots were a regular feature. Development of the amplification tube technology is credited to Lee DeForest and Arthur Korn. Between 1907 and 1909, the first demonstration of instantaneous transmission by Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier, using the rotating mirror-drum and a 64 selenium matrix, added another chapter to the Information and Communication Revolution.

The first development of sound backed pictures came in 1911, when Boris Rosing and Vladimir Kozmich Zworykin used the mechanical mirror-drum scanner to transmit sound through a Braun or cathode ray tube. Thought the sensitivity was not enough, it was a modest beginning to a revolution in television history. John Logie Baird, the Scottish inventor who first televised moving images, demonstrated silhouette motion-images in 1925. In the same year, the team at AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories was successful in transmitting halftone still images, while the genius of Charles Francis Jenkins experimented with the lensed disk scanner technology, to produce images at the rate of 16 pictures per second. However, the modern definition of technology as 'live transmission of moving images with tonal variation', makes it imperative to credit Baird with the achievement. He gave the world the first demonstration of a working television system on 26th January, 1926. The vertically scanned images were a result of an application that derived functionality from a scanning disk and double spiral of lenses. Thus began our romance with a communication device, that continues to evolve in components and public service efficiency.