How Television Was Born

Most of us think of television as having come into being during the 1950s when those TVs with tiny screens became available.  However, the first steps of television were actually taken in the 19th Century, and tottering as they were, they have led up to HDTV and wall wide plasma screens.  It would be fair to say that television has made an enormous impact on the world, both good and bad, and has been instrumental in making the world a much smaller place.

How Television Was Born

The First Experiments

Experiments with electromagnetic fields were what led to the concept of transmitting images over a distance by means of wires.  The very first time this was achieved was in 1862 when an Italian priest, Abbe Caselli, used his Pantelegraph device to send a still image from one place to another.  By 1884, a rotating disk was used by a German student to send a picture of 18 lines to a receiver, and in 1900, at the Paris World’s Fair, the term process was Christened “Television” by ConstantinPerskyi, a Russian scientist attending the event. 
Over the next several decades, a number of scientists and other interested people worked to perfect the concept of not only sending still images, but moving images over the wires.  Using the cathode ray tube was the next stop, and this was brought into being by the Russian scientist Boris Rosling and the Englishman Campbell-Swinton in 1907.

Work continued, with gradual, but steady improvements for the next several decades, and by mid 1920s, inventors were able to transmit moving images that could be recognized (barely) as a human face.

Broadcasts Begin


The first television studio opened in 1929, although the quality of the transmission was awful.  Depressingly, the first television commercial was broadcast in 1930 and involved the sponsorship of a program by a furrier.  By 1941, the Bulova watch company was airing commercials for their products at $9.00 a presentation.

The year 1930 also saw the BBC beginning television programming, and by 1936 there was a grand total of 200 television sets in operation around the world.The use of coaxial cables permitted not only the carrying of television transmissions, but that of telephone calls.  As development continued, stations began to come into being in the United States, and CBS started to work on its television programming in 1937.

One million television sets were being used in the United States by 1948, although the quality of the transmissions were hardly what would be tolerated by users today.  However, at the time, the novelty of being able to see moving pictures right in the home overcame any difficulties of viewing and television was definitely a part of the American scene.

How It Has Grown

By the 1960s there were 13 stations in existence, although CBS, ABC, and NBC were the dominant ones, and an expansion was mandated to allow for 83 stations in total in 1962.  The switchover from black and white to color images occurred in the 1960s as well, and by the end of the decade, over half a million viewers were able to watch the first television transmission from the moon. 

Satellite transmission, which greatly expands the range of service, began to become available in 1978, and today nearly all television transmission is done by satellite.  The development of cassette players to augment programming and then CD players, has all led to providing a greater diversity of programs. Now, too, television grinds out programs 24 hours a day, a far cry from the cessation of broadcasting from midnight to 6 in the morning, as many people will remember from the early days of television.