Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The History of Television

The concept of the television was first sketched in 1878, shortly after telephones were invented. At the same time, science fiction authors imagined that light could be transferred over copper lines, much like sound was.

Over the next fifty years, numerous scientists developed the idea and great advances were made. In the early 1930s, John Logie Baird produced about a thousand television sets in the United Kingdom called the "Televisor." The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were carried by cable to television stations in Berlin and Leipzig for the public to view live. In 1939 RCA brought the television to the general public at the World's Fair in New York, but with the outbreak of WWII, mass production was stalled. It wasn't until after the war that televisions began to grow in popularity in American households.

Here are a few pictures documenting the change in televisions from 1930 to 2017.

One of the earliest television sets, introduced in the UK
The Baird "Televisor" - 1930-1933

RCA introduced this television at the 1939
World's Fair in New York

Late 1930's Television Set

The television became popular after WWII
when they became mass produced.

The first national color broadcast took place
on January 1, 1954 - the Tournament of Roses Parade

In 1972, the last of the national networks switched
to color and sales of color televisions surpassed black & white





Your Turn: Did you ever own a black & white television? Which of these models do you remember from your childhood?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Upper Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing historical fiction inspired by real people, places, and events. 

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  1. Interesting. I do remember black and white TV, and antennas. We lived in the country so could only get one or two channels on a good day. From what I vaguely remember, none of our TVs were as grand as the ones you pictured for the 1960's.

  2. I was born in 1981, and until I was 19 I used a tiny black and white, turn knob tv with antennas. I don't have that tv any more, but with the way the signals are today, I still use the old antenna system (I find they get slightly better reception with the digital conversion). Part of me misses that little tv.

  3. I remember watching Lucy and Cid Caesar, Bob Hope, etc on a small black and white TV in the 50's. Then we moved in 1958 and got a bigger floor model. Color came when I was a teen. When I got married we went to Guam and the nice Sony Trinitrons came out in the Navy Exchange. We had one of those 90's models until about 6 years ago and now have a smaller flat model that sits on the shelf. It is still over the air but we can stream Amazon Prime and Netflix. Now we see the ability for others to see US. NOT Skype but a la "1984" ! We've come a long way!

  4. The first tv I bought, of my own, as a young adult in the 1980s was a small black and white model. It was all I could afford! We had black and white when I was a kid and then in the 1970s my parents purchased a color tv. It's amazing how huge tvs are today!

  5. TI remember the antenna and lines leading into the window for our first TV as a family. Our family enjoyed Lassie, Gospel Jubilee on Sunday morning, I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, Our Three Sons--all great family shows. TV's are so different today. I'm not a big tv viewer, thus I have an older model than the 2017 one. : )

  6. Interesting post Gabrielle. I did not realize that they thought about developing TV as far back as 1878!
    Growing up our first TV was a small black and white one and later we got one of those larger color ones encased in wood, (similar to the picture of the 1970 TV you have above).
    Blessings, Tina