The Origins of Television



wait did you ever wonder how all this happened how you can turn that knob and enjoy a dramatic show laughs at a comedian watch the ballgame or here and see news from anywhere in the world well it's quite a story the story of television at the beginning there were all kinds of different names for what we now call television some people called it radio vision are the telephone oh scope or audio vision or here listening the name that finally stuck of course is television although not everyone liked that the editor of the Manchester Guardian in England said television then the word is half Greek and half Latin no good will come of it what is the origin of that no good technology that sits in our living rooms the smooth electronic picture you're watching right now was it invented by an Idaho farm boy a Russian immigrant or a Scottish inventor named John Logie Baird this is a 1930 Baird televisor this was the first mass-produced television for the British television market essentially the first commercially available television for the average person to to afford you could buy this unit with a cabinet on it with a nice bronze black on the front for about 25 pounds Baird's televisor invented in 1929 looked radically different from the electronic tubes of modern television instead his was a mechanical system made up of rapidly spinning rotating parts in Baird's mechanical television light from a subject hit a spinning disc breaking it into pieces each piece of light hit a photoelectric cell which converted the light into electricity a bright piece generated a lot of electricity a dark piece a little the changing electricity was sent to a receiver causing a neon bulb to rapidly flicker bright or dark for each bit of the picture a receiving disc spinning at the same speed as the first put the light and dark pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle early television was a hit in 1925 when John Logie Baird displayed primitive images at a London department store but when he applied for the first broadcast license ever that BBC was nervous well there were two grads to be afraid of television one of them was the fear that it would damage the bowels of the populace the other fear of television was much more irrational and that was the thought that if you had a television set in your house the BBC could see what you were doing and there was one woman who was afraid that the television set would be able to see through the bathroom wall and he wrote a letter to the paper to this effect these fears have proved groundless mechanical TV did have real pitfalls to show up on the screen the actors had to wear bright blue paint to accentuate the eyebrows and lips and the disks could never spend fast enough to create fluid motion the images would always remain flickery and smudged this felix the cat the first ever cartoon character broadcast was as good as it got Baird system never did catch on though a remarkable achievement mechanical TV is now just a footnote in history but even as Baird's idea failed a new electronic vision was being born the summer of 1921 found Philo T Farnsworth in a sugar beet field in Rigby Idaho dreaming of trapping light in an empty jar and sending it one line at a time with a beam of electrons so we'll pretend that we've got an illustration here of Farnsworth beet field from the summer of 1921 and we find him tracing the rows across the beet field on his disc harrow one row after another monotonous ly into the afternoon and then he reaches a point he looks back behind him and he sees these rows in the dirt at that moment he realizes how he can use electrons to trace a TV image and this is exactly how TV is rendered on your screen today one line at a time 525 lines per frame 30 frames per second just the way Philo Farnsworth envisioned it on the back of a disc harrow in the summer of 1921 what 14 year old Farnsworth realized with his tractor was that a beam of electrons could paint a picture finer and faster than a spinning disc and it could be done with a cathode a to a Catholic right to is a glass tube with the all the air pump powder but it was discovered that if you ran electricity through one and a filament at one end of the spectrum tube that electrons would flow from one end to the other and that's when you have a cathode ray tube that's called the cathode ray ray of electrons Farnsworth's electronic television worked on the same principle as mechanical television but instead of spinning disks it used cathode ray tubes the cathode ray tube fired electricity one pixel at a time causing a special coating on the tube to glow a lot of electricity created a bright spot a little electricity a dark spot the cathode ray tube could paint a picture in a 30th of a second fast enough to create fluid motion in 1926 with $25,000 in private funding Farnsworth set up a lab in San Francisco to try to turn his beet field vision into reality in this age when when they were beginning to develop electronic television it's sort of analogous to wanting to you but they were always very high voltages present that could give somebody a tremendous shock and there's some stories about people in the lab gang giving potassium in their eyes and her eyesight 3 Farnsworth was nearing success but he had a rival the brilliant Russian engineer Vladimir Zworykin as early as 1923 this working had submitted a patent for his own television system but it was denied because it didn't quite work he was now trying to perfect his system for the radio giant RCA and their visionary president David Sarnoff who saw televisions future well I think one of the great marriages in 20th century science if you will was the relationship between doctors work and and David Sarnoff Sarnoff was like this great monopoly master buying up all the hotels on the boardwalk and he didn't want to pay anyone he wanted to have total patent control over television and he was hoping sparkin would do that for him but Farnsworth was ahead of them and had some patents from 1927 1928 his workin is given instructions to visit Farnsworth slab in 1930 and Farnsworth does not know that it's working is actually working for RCA because he comes from the Westinghouse labs so Farnsworth is very forthcoming believing that he has met a fellow traveler on this new frontier he is entirely forthcoming and shows him virtually everything that he has developed in the last three or four years in San Francisco and he shows work in the finished image dissector tube and Zworykin holds it in his hand and there are many eyewitnesses to that heard him say this is a beautiful instrument I wish that I had invented it weathers work in actually stole Farnsworth's design is unclear but shortly after his visit he finally had an electronic camera tube that worked it even made a brighter picture than Farnsworth's under a quirk of patent law he was able to submit his new system under the original 1923 patent meanwhile Farnsworth had also been successful with his camera and receiver the key to both men's success the cathode ray tube which is why we still call television the tube but who got there first the corporate spy or the Idaho farm boy with the beet field vision claimed 15 in Farnsworth's patents 1773 980 proves that Farnsworth is truly the father of electronic television she workin is the father of television there is no doubt about that I mean it is filed in the US Patent Office in the late fall of 1923 the first patent of electronic television – he is the father television it was up to the courts to decide the patent battle raged for years and the final decision the father of the modern television Philo Farnsworth it was a big victory for Farnsworth and certainly a great defeat for RCA David David Sarnoff couldn't have been happy about this meant they were gonna have to pay royalties so patent control for electronic television belong to Farnsworth but the problem is he may have done it too early he got his first patents in 1927 by the time television got going commercially after the war his World War two delayed things for five years many of his patents had expired so he was not no longer receiving royalties for it and RCA had taken over the manufacturing of television sets Farnsworth just got left in the cold Farnsworth may have won in court but he lost in the marketplace today we all know his invention but we barely know the name Philo Farnsworth and what would the rival inventors think of what's become of television there's one very interesting story a Bosch working I believe it was in Canada in 1954 when some Canadian reporter asked him what his favorite thing was on television and he always had a very pronounced Russian accent to the end of his life he said the snitch and the man said I beg your pardon he said the switch to turn the damn thing off he was he was very sad and the television didn't realize his potential but in July of 1969 Farnsworth and his wife sat in her home in Salt Lake City and they watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and he turned to his wife and he said this has made it all worthwhile

31 thoughts on “The Origins of Television

  1. Should be re-titled "The Origins of dumbing down technical documentaries". Programs from the 1940's and 50's did a far better job of explaining technical concepts to the public. Writers either became more dumb, or they just catered for a more ignorant public over the years.

  2. The Baird tv scanning disc was Paul Nipkow's Christmas 1883 idea and January 1884 patent! Who invented television? How much time have you got? It is a long list!

  3. The Baird tv scanning disc was Paul Nipkow's Christmas 1883 idea and January 1884 patent! Who invented television? How much time have you got? It is a long list!

  4. They are wrong about Mechanical Television requiring the actors to wear blue makeup , that was for Farnsworth's All Electronic Television System . Get your history right please .

  5. HUGE ERROR right from the start. Farnsworth's original design DID NOT employ cathode ray tubes, in either the camera or the display. He wasn't even aware of CRTs when he first conceived of scanning an image, and his original idea for a display device was to employ a carbon arc light. When he actually built a device, he used a CRT for the display but not for the camera. His "image dissector" converted the visual image into an "electron image" which was subsequently manipulated in front a small aperture with a single anode. After the CRT display prototype was developed, he made improvements to the design which he patented but does appear to have ever built.

  6. Zworykin and Sarnoff were the same kind of thief that Bill Gates became decades later. Inferior, if capable, minds stealing from truly gifted minds and spirits. And getting rich while doing it. Ah, capitalism (and creepy Russian trolls, just like today lol).

  7. False: yes those who make programs knows what you're doing in your house! They know you're watching TV and they know what kind of info is thus in your brain: the ones they have put there !

    All information making of your psychology is made of pictures, sounds, texts, animations, exactly the same nature as what the TV is broadcasting into your brain!

  8. I HATE when people don't enunciate. At 10:45 what does he say? "There is a very interesting story … ABAJHSWORK" … what?! Can someone please help? I don't remember hearing any names that sounded anything like this during the time. It's driving me crazy. (Same thing with the potassium story at 6:46.. getting potassium in their eye and having their eye sockets .. what?? rip??)

  9. Television is actually a german invention. Paul Nipkow first patented it in 1883 at the Kaiser's patent office in Prussia. The Nipkow disc which all later mechanical models were based on (such as the one shown in 1:25 made by John Baird for example) doesn't even get mentioned by name in this shitty documentary. As always, the victors writing their false revisionist propaganda version of history with looted german high technology and genius inventions.

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