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Birth of Television

Television Lecture #1

Drew Hamilton

on 26 March 2012

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Transcript of Birth of Television

Birth of Televison
“Television is more interesting than people. If it were not, we would have people standing in the corners of our rooms.”

Alan Corenk, author
Television Stats
The average American watches around 4 hours of TV each day.
That’s roughly about 52 days a year of nonstop TV watching
By age 65, the average American will have spent nearly 9 years watching TV.
Percentage of US households with at least one television?
Average number of TV sets in American homes is 2.25.
Number of TV commercials seen in a year by an average child?
Number of TV commercials seen by the time you reach 65?
2 million
Name 3 of the Three Stooges
59% of Americans can do that.
Name 3 Supreme Court Justices
17% of Americans can do that.
Critics blame television for everything from obesity to the murder rate.
While TV is easy to criticize, and much of the criticism is justified, we also need to keep in mind that television benefits society in many important ways.
In this unit, we’ll look at the history of television and at the effects — both good and bad — of this pervasive medium.
Television's Roots
For decades before its invention, something called "television" had been part of science fiction stories.
Discovering how to send audio through the airwaves opened the door to the possibility of television, but video was far more complex.
It was correctly reasoned that since pictures had millions of times more data than audio, pictures would have to be broken down into bits of information (a data stream) before being transmitted.
Interestingly, the first invention that was able to transmit images wasn’t intended to be used for television
Wirephoto Machine
1st device to transmit images
Wirephoto Machine
Wirephotos were first used to transmit still images to newspapers over telephone lines; basically a scanner
Photo was put in a drum similar to a bank drive-thru cannister where it was photographed from the inside
Sent over phone lines, used for newspapers and magazines
Precursors to TV
While the wirephoto machines did transmit images, they transmitted STILL photos, not “moving pictures”
So, if you were to transmit “moving pictures”…you would have television, right?
It depends on what you consider “television”
The first devices invented and called “television” aren’t really the same type of television we watch today
It was called MECHANICAL television
Mechanical Television
Early approaches were based on mechanical devices using a kind of moving peephole that focused light reflected from a scene on a photocell.
Invented by John Logie Baird
Although these devices worked, they were big, heavy, cumbersome, and of low resolution (producing limited detail).
The first TV image transmitted was a Felix the Cat doll
Even with the obvious limitations, some TV transmitters went on the air using mechanical approaches.
This process will be explained further in the video we’ll watch in a little bit
Electronic Television
Philo Farnsworth - Father of Television
Philo T. Farnsworth, an American engineer, who is most associated with the invention of TV, rejected the mechanical approach and decided that the only thing fast enough to scan a moving image was a stream of electrons
Experimented with electronic TV in his Hollywood home
Accused of being a bomb maker by neighbors
Farnsworth's Invention
Despite his problems, Farnsworth developed the basic element of a TV camera:
a dissector tube that used a moving stream of electrons to "read out" brightness information on a line-by-line basis from the backside of an image focused on a light-sensitive area of a tube.
In the close-up of a black and white TV
screen on the right you can see the individuallines that comprise this type of TV picture.
This scanning approach is still used today, although with today's color systems the
scanning process results in millions of
illuminated colored dots.

A later and much more widely used version of the original camera pickup tube is shown below.
From the coffee cup next to it you can see just how big this camera tube was.
Once the problem of how to dissect images and sequentially transmit them through the air by means of radio waves was solved, we had the central elements of the television equation.

First TV Broadcast
"The Queen's Messenger"
A television drama broadcast from a General Electric station in Schenectady, NY
No one had a TV in their home at this time, so no one saw it
Really just an experiment to test television
Expanding Television
While Farnsworth is generally considered the father of television...3 other men also helped develop it
Allen B. DuMont, Charles Jenkins, and Vladimir K. Zworykin
A few years after all 4 men developed the origins of TV, RCA Corporation put their ideas into development
They "officially" debuted the thing called television in the United States by telecasting parts of 1939 New York World’s Fair. This included a speech by President Franklin Roosevelt.
But, since there still weren't many TV sets in existence, most of the audience was watching the show at the Fair.
The first TV receivers had 5 inch screens and black and white pictures. They cost about half the price of an automobile.
More TV Firsts:
As things picked up, new, less expensive TV sets were introduced with larger screens
On July 1st, 1941, NBC and CBS launched 15 hours of weekly programming, including two 15-minute, Monday through Friday newscasts. It was the first full day of TV programming
The TV news was simply read from a script, radio style, by an announcer in a small announce booth. A single camera was aimed through the window of the booth.
July 1st, 1941 also featured 2 other firsts:
First American sporting event on commercial TV, a baseball game between the Dodgers and the Phillies
The game featured the first TV commercial ever...an ad for Bulova watches
The people who had seen TV were mesmerized by what they saw, and television was poised to immediately take off.
But, it was not to be...not just yet.
Full transcript