History of Television

by Mar

The development of television technology can be divided along two lines: those developments that depended upon both mechanical and electronic principles, and those which are purely electronic. From the latter descended all modern televisions, but these would not have been possible without discoveries and insights from the mechanical systems.

The word television is a hybrid word, created from both Greek and Latin. Tele- is Greek for "far", while -vision is from the Latin visio, meaning "vision" or "sight". It is often abbreviated as TV or the telly.

The German student Paul Nipkow proposed and patented the first electromechanical television system in 1884. Nipkow's spinning disk design is credited with being the first television image rasterizer. However, it wasn't until 1907 that developments in amplification tube technology made the design practical. Meanwhile, Constantin Perskyi had coined the word television in a paper read to the International Electricity Congress at the International World Fair in Paris on August 25, 1900. Perskeyi's paper reviewed the existing electromechanical technologies, mentioning the work of Nipkow and others.

A modern 82" (208 cm) LCD television. In 1911, Boris Rosing and his student Vladimir Kosma Zworykin created a television system that used a mechanical mirror-drum scanner to transmit, in Zworykin's words, "very crude images" over wires to the electronic Braun tube (cathode ray tube) in the receiver. Moving images were not possible because, in the scanner, "the sensitivity was not enough and the selenium cell was very laggy." Zworykin later went to work for RCA to build a purely electronic television, the design of which was eventually found to violate patents by Philo Taylor Farnsworth. The decisive solution — television operating on the basis of continuous electron emission with accumulation and storage of released secondary electrons during the entire scansion cycle — was first described by the Hungarian inventor Kálmán Tihanyi in 1926, with further refined versions patented by him in 1928.

On March 25, 1925, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gave a demonstration of televised silhouette images at Selfridge's Department Store in London. But if television is defined as the transmission of live, moving, half-tone (grayscale) images, and not silhouette or still images, Baird achieved this privately on October 2, 1925. Then he gave the world's first public demonstration of a working television system to members of the Royal Institution and a newspaper reporter on January 26, 1926 at his laboratory in London. Unlike later electronic systems with several hundred lines of resolution, Baird's vertically scanned image, using a scanning disk embedded with a double spiral of lenses, had only 30 lines, just enough to reproduce a recognizable human face. In 1927 Baird transmitted a signal over 438 miles of telephone line between London and Glasgow.

In 1928 Baird's company (Baird Television Development Company / Cinema Television) broadcast the first transatlantic television signal, between London and New York, and the first shore to ship transmission. He also demonstrated an electromechanical color, infrared (dubbed "Noctovision"), and stereoscopic television, using additional lenses, disks and filters. In parallel he developed a video disk recording system dubbed "Phonovision"; a number of the Phonovision[1] recordings, dating back to 1927, still exist. In 1929 he became involved in the first experimental electromechanical television service in Germany. In 1931 he made the first live transmission, of the Epsom Derby. In 1932 he demonstrated ultra-short wave television. Baird's electromechanical system reached a peak of 240 lines of resolution on BBC television broadcasts in 1936, before being discontinued in favor of a 405 line all-electronic system.

In the U.S., Charles Francis Jenkins was able to demonstrate on June 13, 1925, the transmission of the silhouette image of a toy windmill in motion from a naval radio station to his laboratory in Washington, using a lensed disk scanner with 48 lines per picture, 16 pictures per second. AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories transmitted halftone images of transparencies in May 1925. But Bell Labs gave the most dramatic demonstration of television yet on April 7, 1927, when it field tested reflected-light television systems using small-scale (2 by 2.5 inches) and large-scale (24 by 30 inches) viewing screens over a wire link from Washington to New York City, and over-the-air broadcast from Whippany, New Jersey. The subjects, which included Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, were illuminated by a flying spot beam and scanned by a 50-aperture disk at 16 pictures per second.

Color television
Most television researchers appreciated the value of color image transmission, with an early patent application in Russia in 1889 for a mechanically-scanned color system showing how early the importance of color was realized. John Logie Baird demonstrated the world's first color transmission on July 3, 1928, using scanning discs at the transmitting and receiving ends with three spirals of apertures, each spiral with filters of a different primary color; and three light sources at the receiving end, with a commutator to alternate their illumination.

Color television in North America
Color television in the United States had a protracted history due to conflicting technical systems vying for approval by the Federal Communications Commission for commercial use. Mechanically scanned color television was demonstrated by Bell Laboratories in June 1929 using three complete systems of photoelectric cells, amplifiers, glow-tubes, and color filters, with a series of mirrors to superimpose the red, green, and blue images into one full color image.

In the electronically scanned era, the first color television demonstration was on February 5, 1940, when RCA privately showed to members of the FCC at the RCA plant in Camden, New Jersey, a television receiver producing images in color by a field sequential color system. CBS began non-broadcast color experiments using film as early as August 28, 1940, and live cameras by November 12. The CBS "field sequential" color system was partly mechanical, with a disc made of red, blue, and green filters spinning inside the television camera at 1,200 rpm, and a similar disc spinning in synchronization in front of the cathode ray tube inside the receiver set. RCA's later "dot sequential" color system had no moving parts, using a series of dichroic mirrors to separate and direct red, green, and blue light from the subject through three separate lenses into three scanning tubes, and electronic switching that allowed the tubes to send their signals in rotation, dot by dot. These signals were sorted by a second switching device in the receiver set and sent to red, green, and blue picture tubes, and combined by a second set of dichroic mirrors into a full color image.

The first field test (i.e., broadcast) of color television was by NBC (owned by RCA) on February 20, 1941. CBS began daily color field tests on June 1, 1941. These color systems were not compatible with existing black and white television sets, and as no color television sets were available to the public at this time, viewership of the color field tests was limited to RCA and CBS engineers and the invited press. The War Production Board halted the manufacture of television and radio equipment for civilian use from April 1, 1942 to October 1, 1945, limiting any opportunity to introduce color television to the general public.

The post-war development of color television was dominated by three systems competing for approval by the FCC as the U.S. color broadcasting standard: CBS's field sequential system, which was incompatible with existing black and white sets without an adaptor; RCA's dot sequential system, which in 1949 became compatible with existing black and white sets; and CTI's system (also incompatible with existing black and white sets), which used three camera lenses, behind which were color filters that produced red, green, and blue images side by side on a single scanning tube, and a receiver set that used lenses in front of the picture tube (which had sectors treated with different phosphorescent compounds to glow in red, green, or blue) to project these three side by side images into one combined picture on the viewing screen.

After a series of hearings beginning in September 1949, the FCC found the RCA and CTI systems fraught with technical problems, inaccurate color reproduction, and expensive equipment, and so formally approved the CBS system as the U.S. Color broadcasting standard on October 11, 1950. An unsuccessful lawsuit by RCA delayed the world's first network color broadcast until June 25, 1951, when a musical variety special titled simply Premiere was shown over a network of five east coast CBS affiliates. Viewership was again extremely limited: the program could not be seen on black and white sets, and Variety estimated that only thirty prototype color receivers were available in the New York area. Regular color broadcasts began that same week with the daytime series The World Is Yours and Modern Homemakers.

While the CBS color broadcasting schedule gradually expanded to twelve hours per week (but never into prime time), and the color network expanded to eleven affiliates as far west as Chicago, its commercial success was doomed by the lack of color receivers necessary to watch the programs, the refusal of television manufacturers to create adaptor mechanisms for their existing black and white sets, and the unwillingness of advertisers to sponsor broadcasts seen by almost no one. In desperation, CBS bought a television manufacturer, and on September 20, 1951, production began on the first and only CBS color television model. But it was too little, too late. Only 200 sets had been shipped, and only 100 sold, when CBS pulled the plug on its color television system on October 20, 1951, and bought back all the CBS color sets it could to prevent law suits by disappointed customers.

Starting before CBS color even got on the air, the U.S. television industry, represented by the National Television System Committee, worked in 1950-1953 to develop a color system that was compatible with existing black and white sets and would pass FCC quality standards, with RCA developing the hardware elements. When CBS testified before Congress in March 1953 that it had no further plans for its own color system, the path was open for the NTSC to submit its petition for FCC approval in July 1953, which was granted in December. The first publicly announced experimental TV broadcast of a program using the NTSC-RCA "compatible color" system was an episode of NBC's Kukla, Fran and Ollie on August 30, 1953.

NBC made the first coast-to-coast color broadcast when it covered the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1954, with public demonstrations given across the United States on prototype color receivers. A few days later Admiral brought out the first commercially made color television set using the RCA standards, followed in March by RCA's own model. Television's first prime time network color series was The Marriage, a situation comedy broadcast live by NBC in the summer of 1954. NBC's anthology series Ford Theatre became the first color filmed series that October.

NBC was naturally at the forefront of color programming because its parent company RCA manufactured the most successful line of color sets in the 1950s, and by 1959 RCA was the only remaining major manufacturer of color sets. CBS and ABC, which were not affiliated with set manufacturers, and were not eager to promote their competitor's product, dragged their feet into color, with ABC delaying its first color series (The Flintstones and The Jetsons) until 1962. The DuMont network, although it did have a television-manufacturing parent company, was in financial decline by 1954 and was dissolved two years later. Thus the relatively small amount of network color programming, combined with the high cost of color television sets, meant that as late as 1964 only 3.1 percent of television households in the U.S. had a color set. NBC provided the catalyst for rapid color expansion by announcing that its prime time schedule for fall 1965 would be almost entirely in color (the exception being I Dream of Jeannie). All three broadcast networks were airing full color prime time schedules by the 1966–67 broadcast season. (It is also worth noting that, while at least one show, CBS' The Lucy Show, did not broadcast its episodes in color until the start of the 1965-66 broadcast season, that show's producers began filming in color in 1963, with the thought that they would command more money when sold into syndication.) But the number of color television sets sold in the U.S. did not exceed black and white sales until 1972, which was also the first year that more than fifty percent of television households in the U.S. Had a color set.

Cuba in 1958 became the second country in the world to introduce color television broadcasting, with Havana's Channel 12 using the NTSC standard and RCA equipment. But the color transmissions ended when broadcasting stations were seized in the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and did not return until 1975, using equipment acquired from Japan's NEC Corporation, and SECAM equipment from the Soviet Union, adapted for the NTSC standard.

In Mexico, Guillermo González Camarena (1917–1965), invented an early color television transmission system. He received patents for color television systems in 1942 (U.S. Patent 2,296,019), 1960 and 1962. The 1942 patent (applied for in 1940) was for a mechanically scanned color filter adapter for an existing monochrome electronic transmission system, similar to experimental systems employed at the time by RCA and CBS in the United States.

In August 31, 1946 González Camarena sent his first color transmission from his lab in the offices of The Mexican League of Radio Experiments in Lucerna St. #1, in Mexico City. The video signal was transmitted at a frequency of 115 MHz. and the audio in the 40 metre band. He obtained authorization to make the first publicly announced color broadcast in Mexico, on February 8, 1963, of the program Paraíso Infantil on Mexico City's Canal 5.

Color television became available in Canada soon after regular color broadcasting began in the neighbouring United States. Canadian stations began their own color broadcasts in 1966.

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