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The Evolution of Television Over the Years

It doesn’t matter if it’s the moon landing or the finale of Game of Thrones, TV has had a great impact on culture, and how we experience the world. Prior to the advent of the Internet, TV was the most convenient medium for consuming information, whether that be the news or entertainment.

Sure, it’s easy to enjoy your free time lounging in front of the TV now, with Netflix, HBO, easily accessible 8k tv deals, and so on. But that wasn’t always the case, TV had a very long start. So if you want to know more about its storied history, keep reading.

The Evolution of Television

Phase 1: Electronic images

The primordial grandfather of TV known as the pantelegraph is actually considered an early precursor to the fax machine. First created in the 1860s this machine was a true modern marvel as it could transport writing and drawings through the power of electrochemistry. But this alone was not enough to conjure up the idea of a TV.

Close up of the pantelegraph

Close-up of the pantelegraph: Alessandro Nassiri / CC BY-SA 4.0

Next came the oscilloscope that formed images on a fluorescent screen when struck by electrons. Then in 1907 a Russian scientist merged a cathode ray tube and the relatively newly invented mechanical disc and unveiled the first primitive mechanical television.

Phase 2: The birth of television

John Baird created the first working mechanical “television” in 1925 and later started selling a machine known as the “televisor” commercially in 1929. However, Baird’s invention was still mechanical and therefore not suitable for widespread use, so in 1927 Philo Farnsworth invented the first-ever electric TV. Needless to say, neither of these inventions was particularly advanced so most of them were used in research labs awaiting further improvement.

It wasn’t until the production of Marconi 702 that TV sets first appeared in the living rooms of only the wealthy. It was priced at $130 at the time of release which was half of an annual average salary in the mid-1930s.

Marconi TV

Marconi 702

“Now we add sight to sound.” A monumental statement given at the first publicly available TV broadcast of the World’s Fair in 1939 opened the door for the boom of television in the 40s. Though TV had reared its head in 1939 the beginning of WWII did stall its full potential and commercial usage for about 5 or 6 years.

Phase 3: The post-war TV craze

According to the available data by 1949 Americans were buying approximately 100,00 per month. This was largely due to price decreases and sped-up mass production. It was also around that time that major networks like NBC and ABC started producing series based on radio shows, and broadcasting seven days a week.

And, thus, the popularity of TV slowly grew in the 50s, but what truly solidified its spot as the staple of a home was Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. When it was announced that the royal ceremony is going to be televised people ran to the closest shop and bought out televisions at record speed resulting in a viewership of 20 million people.

Queen Elizabeth coronation

Queen Elizabeth’s coronation

Another great advance in TV history came shortly after in 1956 when Robert Adler invented the first ever remote control known as “ Space Command”. It was sold with over 9 million units and prompted people to replace their old TV sets arguably for the first time in history.

Phase 4: Life in color

What better time to introduce wild and colorful designs to the small screen than the 60s? In 1967 the BBC televised the first color broadcast of Wimbledon, but we don’t only mean wild in terms of color TV. This era also gave birth to a popular living room centerpiece we love to this day – the entertainment center.

As prices continued to drop, and popularity grew the late sixties also saw staggering viewing numbers culminating with the Apollo Moon landing in 1969. The broadcast was watched by 600 million people, and in some cases from more than one TV set in the home.

Phase 5: Convenience and HD

By now it was clear that TV was here to stay, and with more and more people tuning in not wanting to miss their favorite program it was only logical that a portable TV was the next step. The Sinclair Microvision, the world’s first portable TV, saw the light of day in 1976, and TV was no longer just a box in the living room you pointed all of your furniture at.

Sinclair Microvision

Sinclair Microvision

With the rapid technological advancement of the ’70s our one-stop entertainment shop saw another major breakthrough in 1979; an HD TV. Produced and distributed by a Japanese company called NHK, this massive feat in home entertainment allowed consumers to see their favorite shows in greater detail than ever before.

No longer a commodity, about 60% of American households not only had a TV in their homes but also cable. This gave way to the creation of specialized channels and massive engagement in pop culture as well as world news s witnessed by staggering viewing numbers in the 80s and 90s. The Olympic Games’ opening ceremony in 1985 became the most viewed televised event in history reaching a viewership of 3.6 billion people.

Phase 6: No more boxes

Soon after the live broadcasting of Live Aid in 1995, came a day every minimalist lauds. The first flat-screen TV saw the light of day In 1997. Sold for a mindboggling $15,000 and boasting a diameter of 42 inches the “flatscreen” was a luxury few could afford. Slowly but surely flat screens became cheaper and by the mid-noughties started replacing the heavy set boxes of old.

Couple watching TV

And from there, you’re quite familiar with the story. 2005 saw the advent of LED TVs manufactured by Sony and in 2012 we got 4k. Most homes today still have a 4k TV, but ever since 2015 when 8k was introduced more and more people are replacing theirs with the newest clearest models.

The most vital moments in TV history

Reliant Evolution TV

Final thoughts

TV not only frames but also to a certain degree defines our cultural history. The more it evolves the more we can both use it to access information that’s important and enjoy our spare time. The first one hundred years of TV are almost up, so we can only wait to see what will happen next.