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The Beginning of Television

By July 25, 2016 No Comments


The Beginning of Television started just 12 years after the North and South stopped fighting the American Civil war in 1876 a civil servant by the name of George Carey had envisioned a complete television system. That following year in 1877 he presented drawings for what he named a “Selenium Camera”. The camera would enable people to see with electricity. Right around the same time Paiva, Figuier and Serlecq wer other scientists who suggested alternate designs for what they called “Telectroscopes”. The possibility of seeing images at a distance was written about in a March 1877 New York Sun letter to the editor which read,”An eminent scientist of this city…is said to be on the verge of publishing a series of important discoveries, and exhibiting an instrument he invented by himself by means of which objects or persons standing or moving in any part of the world may be instantaneously seen anywhere and by anybody.”

A deeper interest was seeded and other people jumped on board. Eugen Goldsrein introduced the term “Catho Rays” which described the light emitted when an electric current flowed through a vacuum tube, which he did in 1876. A gentleman named Sheldon Bidwell experimented in what he called ” Telephotography in 1881. Our friends in Europe entered the race when Paul Nipkow from Germany submitted a patent application for a way to transmit images through electricity. The images were imprinted on a spinning metal disk which he called the “Electric Telescope”.

While Edison and Bell were working together on similar projects at the same time. They were becoming more and more famous because of the many inventions the two had developed. Their intent was to develop a telephone where you can see the person you were talking to at the same time while conversing with them. Bell was very worried that someone would beat him to the patent office. In 1880 he quickly deposited a sealed box containing an invention which he called the “Photophone” with the Smithsonian Institution just in case he needed to prove his ownership of the idea.

Unfortunately other inventors had different ideas. Printed images of people listening to a live concert while a device projected the image of the performance on their wall. It became such a popular notion of the future that it was strongly promoted at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris during the first International Congress of Electricity was held. During that world fair a Russian by the name of Constantin Perskyi was the first known person to call the device a television.

The Worlds Fair shifted the momentum from ideas and discussions to the actual physical development of television technology. There were a couple of alternate paths taken one being the mechanical television based on Nipkow’s rotating disks and the other which was developed by both A.A.Campbell-Swinton an English Inventor and Boris Rosing a Russian Scientist in 1907.

An American Charles Jenkins and a Scotsman named John Baird pursued the mechanical model. Almost simultaneously Philo Farnsworth was working totally independently in San Francisco. Bladimir Zworkin who began working for Westinghouse and later moved to RCA also contributed to the advancement of the electronic model.

In the early 1920’s Jenkins, in the U.S. and Baird from England both got the 1st television programming on the air in the early 1920’s. Both broadcasts were very primitive comprised of stick figures and silhouettes.

Two notable outcomes came out of Jenkins first experiences. Jenkins received the first U.S. television license for W3XK in 1928 for operating out of Weaton, MD. In 1930 he was fined for broadcasting the first TV commercial by the Federal Radio commission which was the predecessor of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

During that same period Farnsworth was demonstrating an electronic pickup and image scanning device called the Image Dissector. Zworkin brought out the first iconoscope camera tube which he named the electric eye. On April 9, 1927 Bell Laboratories and the Department of Commerce demonstrated the first long-distance transmission of a live image and audio simultaneously. The star was the Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover who said afterward:

“Today we have, in a sense, the transmission of sight for the first time in the world’s history. Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance in a new respect, and in a manner hitherto unknown.”

Mostly the american public at the time except for a few electronic and radio hobbyists remained completely unaware of this accomplishment and the world remained totally ignorant of this new technology. Of course some small incidences including the depression, shortly followed by World War 2 seemed to be a bit of a distraction but just think of how far we’ve come in less than 100 years.

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