History of Television


How Television was invented;

The interest in building and creating a Television system started already over 100 years before the name was even invented. There was a desire to create entertainment that would and could reach out to hundreds, if not thousands of people at the same time. The idea and interest started around the same time as the film and film cameras was invented, the need to be able to project content out to people - broadcast it out to people's homes.  The entertainment would be right inside of their own living room. Up until the 1920´s television was still called and referred to by numerous and different  names such as;

" Radiovision, Seeing by Wireless, Distant Electric Vision, Phototelegraphy, The Electric Telescope, Visual Listening, Telectroscopy, Hear-Seeing, Telephonoscope, Audiovision, Radio Movies, The Radio Kinema, Radioscope, Lustreer, Farscope, Optiphone, Mirascope."

- BBC -

Television did not happen, even though investors and people dreamt of it and worked on several ideas before it became a reality in the 1930´s. By this time there had been plenty of serious proposals for television, as many as up to fifty as a matter of fact. The desire to invent and create made it a truly international competition, whereas inventors and companies in 11 different countries competed to create a television. Many of these had no success at all, a few of them was however, able to produce silhouette pictures.

Hailed Inventors;

These few who managed to produce something, were hailed as "the inventors" of television within their own countries. The reason for this is that there were several companies and pioneers in different countries at the same time, therefore there is not accounted for one spesific inventor that get to take all the glory themselves.

- The French say both Belin and Barthelemy were the inventors of television
- Japanese believe the inventors was Takayanagi;
- The Russians say Boris Rosing;
- The German either Nipkow or Karolus;
- The Hungarians Von Mihaly
- In the USA most people believe it was Jenkins or Farnsworth
- And in the UK, we have the choice of Campbell-Swinton for the concept or John Logie Baird for Televisions practical demonstration.

Key Technologies;

For the television to be completely put together and become a possibility, there were four key elements if the technology yet to be developed, that had to come together for it to work. These were,

- A device to change light into an electric current
- A device to change the electric current back into light
- A scanning device to break the image up into small elements
- An electronic amplifier to increase weak signals to a usable level

And even after all the four elements of technology were in order and place, they would still need more development before it could all come together and a successful television system would be made.

Light into electricity;
The first of the four elements, 1873,
A telegraph operator discovered light affected the electrical resistance of selenium. Therefore it was quickly realized that it was possible to change light into electricity using a selenium photocell.

Scanning device;
Second key invention, 1884,
Paul Nipkow in Germany invented a disc with a single spiral of holes in ti as a method of mechanical scanning for television. Nipkow was never able to build a working system however, his method the "Nipkow disc" was later used by several TV pioneers as a basis for their own television systems.

Current back into light; 
Next key invention, Neon lamp; 1902 and cathode-ray tube, 1897,
A neon lamp was developed by Georges Claude in France and was used by many early television pioneers. However, the most important breakthrough happened earlier in 1897, when Karl Braun from Germany invented the cathode-ray tube. The "Braun tube", although it could not be used at the time, would be become the most important television display device for the next century.

- Electronic amplifier;
The last invention, 1906,
Lee De Forest in the USA invented the Amplion (amplifying triode valve), making it possible to amplify the weak video signals created by selenium photocells. It took him another six years to develop an actual working amplifier, and nearly another ten years to pass before this amplifier was improved enough for television.

This means that by 1922 all the key elements to be able to create the Television

John Logie Baird;

Held a demonstration in London, Soho in 1926 to members of the "Royal Institution" and other visitors, where he showed how filmed image could be reproduced and shown and claimed to have thereby solved the problem of television.

"They were shown a transmitting machine consisting of a large wooden revolving disc containing lenses, behind which was a revolving shutter and a light sensitive cell. It was explained that by the means of the shutter and lens disc an image of articles or persons standing in front of the machine could be made to pass over the light sensitive cell at high speed. The current in the cell varies in proportion to the light falling on it, and this varying current is transmitted to a receiver where it controls a light behind an optical arrangement similar to that at the sending end. "

"By this means a point of light is caused to traverse a ground glass screen. The light is dim at the shadows and bright at the high lights, and crosses the screen so rapidly that the whole image appears simultaneously to the eye."

- THE TELEVISOR, Successful test of new apparatus - The Times (London), Thursday 28 January 1926, p.9 column C. - Baird Television

John Logie Baird tests television /

English Television;

BBC - originally called, The British Broadcasting Company, was formed in 1922 by a group of leading wireless manufacturers. The BBC did in 1922 only broadcast radio, as they only had one transmitter on the roof of the Selfridge building in London - the 2LO. Which meant that they could only transmit one channel, sound. For television you need two transmitters to make the signals strong enough, and this did not happen until by March 1930.  John Reith, who at the time was a 33-year-old Scottish engineer was appointed General Manager of the BBC at the end of 1922.

There were no rules at the point of Reith´s appointment, and no standards or established purposes to guide him either. Therefore he started to innovate, organize and experiment - and with help from the newly hired chief engineer, Peter Eckersley, the BBC service started to expand.

The Birth of Television;

In order for Television to sell and become something desirable, they needed the "money to develop it", and these kinds of money would only come by selling television sets. And in order to sell these, they needed programs that could be watched. - John Logie Baird created a television studio in Long Acre - Covent Garden and tried out different ways to transmit television. He quickly realized that he would need a more powerful transmitter to be able to reach out to more people and be able to broadcast his programs.

He realized that BBC had just what he needed, their 2LO transmitter, so he approached them for permission to use the transmitter between close down time 11pm and mid-morning the day after. And eventuallt he got the permission, and by the end of 1929 Baird was running a Television regular broadcast which would continue for the next following six years. Three months after the BBC opened their second radio transmitter, Baird televised the first play with both image and sound to be transmitted in the country - England.

Pirandello's - The Man with a Flower in his Mouth - the first play to be broadcast on television.

The play was produced by the BBC´s Lance Seeking, and chosen to be broadcasted because it only had three acotrs in it. Which as a matter of fact also had long speeches and very little action. However, the BBC took over the program making at the end of 1932, mainly because they had built a television studio in the basement of the broadcasting house. The regular and daily transmissions, that was watched by thousands of enthusiasts that had bought Baird's Televisors continued up until 1935.

The was shut down in 1935, ahead of the launch of the first regular "high-definition" service in November 1936. This was to become the decade that changed everything, and the BBC was aware that they would have to operate in a radically different way should the war come. This did not, however, stop the BBC from developing and investing, and they were the first broadcaster to begin a regularly scheduled TV service in 1936.

- - - 

" I hadn´t the remotest idea as to what broadcasting was. "

- John Reith

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Live Television;

What made transmission possible back in the days, was the key elements and transmitters powerful enough to reach out to all the people. But not long after television took its swing and dazzled the audiences, live television was the next step to create time wasting entertainment for a growing audience.

What made live television possible was NASA developing and testing of satellites. In 1966, the Telstar satellite was shot up into space and sat the base for live television of how we know it today.

Moon Landing;

Later on in 1969, the century's happening was the moon landing, it was the first time mankind had set foot on the moon. This was another moment where the development of a previous pioneer´s creation would come in handy.

The prolific inventor John Logie Baird, developed in 1928 a system of colour television which would later form and become the basis of the thechnique used by NASA to bring live colour TV pictures from the moon.


TV´s Impact on other Media;

Television did not only affect the audience and the way we started to develop and adapt to our role as viewers. It also started to change the other media around us, such as new´s papers and radio. The changes came gradually, but it did make a significant difference as to how the audience connected with the content.

Basically what happened was that the different media started to develop and modernize, the tone and style of new´s shows, radio and papers became more informal and not so uptight and serious anymore. This started to affect the relationship between the media and the audience and have contributed to the developments that have gotten us where we stand today. Closer to the media now than ever, with social media and apps right in our own pockets. The content is "ours" and we as an audience contribute to demand and show interest in the different content and cases we care about. We have become very much a part of the media itself, and help shape the agenda of social media platforms and news.


In the very beginning just as when the radio came, Television became the centre of entertainment in peoples homes. It was a great way to keep up to date on news as well as to be entertained and escape from their everyday lives and relax adter work. The whole family would be gathered in the livingroom, and often relatives or even neighbours that did not have a television would come around to get a piece of the "cake".

People listened less to the radio, and became more and more devoted to the TV. So devoted that when they sat down to relax and turned their TV on, it was their primary activity. Which meant that this was the only media they would focus on to gain something from. - Just like in economics, for the retailer the primary activity would be the buying of merchandise and then the sale of that merchendise. - So, the audience watching TV, would only watch TV when it was on. They would not read papers, listen to radio or such at the same time. The Television was their main interest and focus, in which the desire to be entertained and/or gain important knowledge about the society and the world we live in. And then to be able to contribute and participate in the important debates and matters of the society they lived in.


As the world and technology have moved forward since the first television came to life in the 30´s, the audience and consumers of TV have changed along with it. Most homes today still have a television in their home, and they are being used, even though the amount of people watching TV differs from countries to countries.

In the high tech social media life we live in today of 2016, something significant has turned the media and need of television completely around. We as an audience do no longer desire the need of entertainment trough one device, we are now dazzled by the fact that it is always up to us what entertainment we choose to consume. We have smartphones, tablets, computers, streaming, online video services such as Netflix, apps and the list goes on. We are the tailors, customising our content to ourselves.

And with these developments and changes for the audience, not only has our interests and focus changed, but we are constantly performing on different platforms as a secondary activity. This means that for example; while we have the TV on in the background, we are now focusing on our tablet, mac or iPhone - reading news, playing games, being on social media or just searching the web whilst what used to be our primary activity, now is a secondary activity as it is not of our main priority. And because we now have so many different devices, we constantly keep making choices, unconsciously, of what is being our primary and secondary activity.

Context with our Digital News Production;

This new phenomenon affects how we as television production students have to consider and plan startegies of how we can reach our targeted age groups. As our project is a digital news production, we have had to think about which platforms it is necessary for our channel to be located and found on for the audience to be engaged and interested. As people are now tailoring their own entertainment, watching what they want, when they want - we need to be on the platforms relevant to our production "student news channel", where we know the people we need to reach will be looking.

Therefore we have decided to create users on these social media;

- Facebook
- Twitter
- (Snap chat)
- YouTube

We have also created a website to show our audience that our channel is of professional matter and that we can be taken seriously. It is important for an audience to feel engaged, interested and that we as a channel are trustworthy to them. We have specifically chosen our social media platforms as we ourselves, as students, know where we usually seek and find our entertainment. Popular videos and other cases usually find its way through facebook, twitter and YouTube. Often content from the different platforms are shared, liked and viewed through one of the other platforms.

Eg.  - A youtube video goes viral, through being shared, viewed and liked on Facebook.

Considering the audience which is now in charge, as well as very much used to how we see the media and the world we live in today through their own screens. And comparing this to the development from the early stages of technology, and first steps towards a modernisation of communication and interpretation of the world around us. We find that as the audience keep developing and expanding their knowledge and skills, so has the content and platforms as to keep them stimulated, updated and give a objective and aware picture of what´s actually going on in the world we live in.

Media in general nowadays has become so common, that we have less of a knowledge gap in our society. Which means that most people are somewhat paying attention and keeping up to date, which I believe us human beings will always have a certain interest in. However, there are still people out there in lack of knowledge that are finding themselves in that knowledge gap. Maybe because they cannot read, or don't have the technology available to get the information they need. It has therefore by the beginning and dawn of media, been media´s task, to keep people notified, updated and aware - so that the knowledge gap would be evened out, and we all be unified in the interest of what will happen and how we can affect the decisions being made by the people in power.

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//Images from google.com 

// Sources of information

Previous notes from education at Mysen Videregående
- Media and Communication studies -

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