Almost every home, business, office, and institution has one or more televisions in its possession. Today, cars and other forms of transportation have miniature television sets as well. Televisions are one of the most popular forms of mass media. Used for news, entertainment, and advertisements, a television is a box that projects sounds and displays moving images. But before people had the luxury of owning and enjoying this extravagant device, many influential people aided in its development. Television has an extensive history that dates all the way back to the late 1800s. The motto “you have to crawl before you walk” is the appropriate way to describe the invention and advancements of the television from past to present.

Early televisions had many contributors. Many different inventors collaborated and branched off of each others ideas to create a working device.  As early as 1876 the first television drawings surfaced. In 1877, George Carey drew out the first set and called it a “Selenium camera”.


His drawing allowed people to see by electricity. Throughout the remainder of the decade, scientists and engineers developed different inventions that allowed the television to operate properly when it was created. By the start of the new decade, the physical development of the actual television began. A mechanical and electronic television set went into construction. John Logie Baird and Charles Jenkins followed the mechanical model and created the world’s first television.



The television was created in England in 1923, and was successful enough to be commercialized. The first television sets were very different than the ones we use today. They were not entirely electronic, and they had very small display screens.

The TV screen had a small motor with a spinning disc that was invented by Paul Nipkow in 1885.

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Named the Nipkow disc after its inventor, it collaborated with a neon lamp giving the TV a blurry orange picture. The screen was about the size of a business card and it broadcasted stick figures and silhouettes. In 1927, John Baird transmitted the first long distance television picture. The signal transmitted 438 miles of telephone line between London and Glasgow.The First person to appear on television was a young boy in the building where John Baird worked. By 1928 Baird attempted to demonstrate the first color television set. The set used three discs that rotated to build an image. The discs added green, red, and blue light to create an image but the television was not a complete success.

In the early 1920s, Vladimir Zworykin, a Russian engineer invented a form of cathode ray tube that electronically captured moving images called the “Iconoscope”.


His invention enhanced television sets picture quality and its development. Electronic Television was successfully invented in 1927 by Philo Taylor Farnsworth.


He created a system that captured moving images in a form that could be coded onto radio waves and transformed back into a picture in a screen by using the Iconoscope. Farnsworth invention scanned images with a beam of electrons and the first image transmitted was a simple line. By 1936 The BBC adopted a fully electronic system of television, and dismissed Baird’s model.

The first American TV Broadcasting was in 1941; Germany broadcasted the television six years earlier. The closing of World War II caused a boom in television sets sales. The war had halted television sales and people were eager to change that when the war ended.


By 1946, televisions were a must have and people were eager to spend their money on them. In the beginning of the 1950s black and white television sets emerged. The first American post war TV set was a RCA 630-Ts.


The pictured set, the Bush TV-12, went on sale in 1948 and was pre-tuned to receive one channel.

On June 25, 1951, the first mechanical television set was placed on the market. The set was a CBS Columbia and it cost $499.95.


Twenty six years after Baird displayed the first television model, there were already a million television sets in the country. During the middle of the decade, remote controllers and color televisions sets popped on the market. In May of 1954 the first All-Electronic Color Television Set was released. The model was RCA CT-100, selling at $1,000.


By 1958 there were 50 million television sets in the USA.

In the 1960s cable made it’s a debut to the public. Cable television was created to enhance poor reception of over-the-air television signals in mountainous or geographically remote areas. The United States had 640 community antenna television systems during this time period.  Before cable, there were three major television networks that included NBC, CBS, and ABC.


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1960’S Television set

These networks purchased air times and began broadcasting TV shows like The Beverly Hillbillies (1962)


and All in the family (1971). Instead of broadcasting adult shows, and children shows, these networks created shows that would entertain an entire family.


Day time television consisted of soap operas and quiz shows until cable television became popular.

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In 1971, cable subscribers peaked. Networks designed to be distributed by the cable system began appearing shortly afterwards. HBO appeared in 1975, and C-SPAN, ESPN, and Nickelodeon all appeared in 1979.

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Television set in the 1970’s.

By the 1980s talk shows that discussed things about sex and drama became popular.

Cable TV in the 1980s.

Home videocassette recorders also became available in the 1980s.

VCRs allowed consumers to record their favorite TV shows. Renting movies, recording programs, and watching programs at select times was made possible during this decade. Towards the middle of the 1980s, video games emerged and cable networks continued to grow.

By 1989 about all of the television sets in the United States were color sets and almost every house hold owned at least one television set.

As time passed, television sets became more and more advanced. The models changed frequently and the sizes began to vary. Television sets became more elaborate, with flatter screens, and clearer pictures. In the 1990s the cable industry became a powerhouse across the country. The 1990s ushered in new cable networks, digital satellite signals, and Web TV. Almost every household in the 1990s used cable television.

Television set in the 1990s

Satellite cable companies updated their dishes to increase sales. The companies introduced smaller 18 inch to a yard in diameter residential satellite dishes for homes (Direct Broadcast Satellite).

These cable dishes received  hundreds of channels of digitally encoded NTSC broadcast signals to digital-to-analog set-top boxes nationally and internationally. The success of the Internet had a positive affect on the television industry. Throughout the decade cable channels continued to grow, and most channels weren’t available to basic television.

Towards the end of 1997, another cool item hit the market. In March of 1997, DVD players were made available to the public.

Consumers waved goodbye to their huge, boxed VCRS and tapes, and hello to their sleek new DVDs and discs. Prices for the first DVD players in 1997 were $1000 and up. When the year 2000 hit, DVD players were being sold for under $100. Three years later, In 2003 DVD players were sold for under $50.

Television sets in 2000.

Today, television sets continue to improve. Flat screen televisions and plasmas are the new trend. They’re extremely flat, and can be mounted on walls, and placed in steering wheels, and chairs inside of vehicles.

HDTV and 3D television sets are currently on the market. HDTV stands for “High Definition Television”. HDTV provides a resolution that is substantially higher than standard definition television. HDTV provides as many as five times the amount of megapixels that SDT has. Television sets are crystal clear, and advanced. Television screens are designed to remain clearly visible even in outdoor lighting. The screens also have anti-reflective coatings to prevent glare. 3D television sets allows a program to be projected into a realistic three dimensional field. While wearing 3D glasses, images on the television screen appear as if they are jumping out at you, and including you in the scene. Television sets have come a long way throughout history. They are no longer huge boxes with tiny, fuzzy screens and bland colors. They have transformed into large plasmas, with even larger screens, and clear pictures.