The Rise of Television – a Brief Timeline Pt. 1


old televisionThe Rise of Television – a Brief Timeline Pt. 1
“a vast wasteland”… Newton B. Minnow’s 1961 description of television programming in his report to the U.S. Congress.


The first television program I remember watching was the coronation of England’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. As low-tech as the picture on that 9″ black-and-white screen was by today’s 5k standard. I was mesmerized by what I saw on that screen. It turned out that like many in that pioneer generation of television watchers in the United States in the post-war (World War II) period, I would spend more time with the television than with my parents.

Photographs of a forest of television antennas jutting out in every direction from the roofs of thousand-year-old dwellings in the world’s poorest neighborhoods are a commonplace of art photography,.

Television today is everywhere; a global  and – and more importantly – globalized “psychic currency” that claims a good share of our attention as well as our time. With a significant impact on reading, radio-listening and film-viewing habits, it has propelled sporting events and reality shows into the limelight and become a constant worry to parents who are afraid that their children will become mindless zombies because of excessive television viewing.

Here is a brief timeline of the “pioneer” stage of television:

Boris Rosing, instructor at the St. Petersburg (Russia) Institute of Technology filed a patent on a cathode ray tube as a receiver for televised signals.

The combined use of cathode rays and electromagnets – the DNA of television transmission and reception – was outlined in a letter from Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton that was published in of the British journal Nature. The name of the article is “Distant Electric Vision”. He wrote: “This part of the problem of obtaining distant electric vision can probably be solved by the employment of two beams of cathode rays (one at the transmitting and one at the receiving station) synchronously deflected by the varying fields of two electromagnets placed at right angles to one another and energized by two alternating electric currents of widely different frequencies.

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Charles Francis Jenkins published the article “motion pictures by wireless.” One of the inventors of the motion picture projector called the Phantascope – which in a later iteration was bought by Thomas Edison and renamed the Vitascope – Jenkin’s main contribution to television technology may have been his groundbreaking work in signal transmission. He was granted a patent for transmitting wireless pictures in 1925.

Electronic television was first successfully demonstrated in San Francisco on Sept. 7, 1927. The system was designed by Philo Taylor Farnsworth, a 21-year-old inventor.

John Logie Baird in England televised objects in motion. In 1929, the German post office gave him facilities to develop a television service.

The Russian-born scientist Vladimir Kosma Zworykin, who had assisted Rosing with the latter’s cathode ray experiments in 1907, heads a research team while in the employ of RCA. The result – the iconoscope – was a breakthrough in cathode ray technology, enabling the replacement of mechanical aspects of transmission with an electronic system.

Television coverage of the New York World’s Fair. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt becomes the first US president to be televised. Later that year RCA paid for a license to use Farnsworth’s television patents.

Advent of widespread commercial television broadcasting in the United States.


Some say the television camera put a presidential candidate in the White House.

The television camera comes of age as a key player in an American presidential race. The first televised presidential debates took place in the United States of America in that year. It was unanimously agreed that the handsome and charismatic Democrat candidate, John F. Kennedy, gained a critical bloc of votes just by virtue of his photogenic good looks. His Republican opponent Richard Nixon looked unappealingly timid and ill at ease in front of the camera.

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