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The History Of Television


The Pioneers
"The earliest forms of television were electro-mechanical devices, and not what we think of as 'television' today. These early rudimentary systems were not invented by an individual, but were the result of the work carried out by many inventors in various countries with their own ideas, and in their own respective fields of expertise and
experimentation" (Graham J Hayes, 2005).
In about 1880, inventors including William E. Sawyer in the United States and Maurice LeBlanc in France proposed the principle of image scanning. In 1884 The German born Paul Gottlieb-Nipkow proposed and patented the world's first electro-mechanical television system. The Nipkow Disc as it became known is a rotating disc consisting of a spiral of apertures which first dissected an image, successively analyzed the variation in light intensity emmited from the scanned image and then transmitted it sequentially.

In the Scientific American publication of June 5 1880, an article was published about George R. Carey of Boston, Massachusetts and his proposed television system, the idea had been submitted to the publication some months earlier. The text describing the accompanying illustrations states that they are "instruments for transmitting and recording at long distances, permanently or otherwise by means of electricity, the picture of any object that may be projected by the lens of camera upon its disc". The description continues "The operation of this device depends upon the changes in light in the metalloid selium".

The Russian engineer constantin Perskyi received a patent for image transmission in December 1899. Perskyi is generally thought of as the person who first used the term Television, this was on 18 August 1900 at the Fourth International Electotechnical Congress in Paris.

In 1907 Boris Rosing demonstrated his first electro-mechanical proto-type television, and on May 9 1911 Rosing was able to receive an elementary image of four white stripes on a black background on his rudimentary television apparatus.

Charles Francis Jenkins started his company - Jenkins Laboratories in 1921 in Washington D.C. for the development of Radio Movies for home entertainment; the following year on may 19 1922 Jenkins was successful in making a transmission in the laboratory for the first time. Also in 1922 Jenkins used the Naval station - N.O.F. in Anacostia for his first public demonstration, when he transmitted pictures, but not television in the accepted use of the term.

Jenkins went on to produce the first synchronized transmission of both pictures and sound in 1923. Francis Jenkins used a mechanical system using 48 lines to transmit a ten minute film of a windmill with its sails in motion; the signal was transmitted from Anacostia to Washington D.C., approximately five miles away. Jenkins dubbed this feat as "the first demonstration of Radiovision". John Logie-Baird however had conducted a demonstration of working television two months earlier in London, at Selfridge's Department store.

In 1921 at the age of 14, American Philo Taylor Farnsworth was out ploughing his father's potato field one day when he observed the parallel furrows his plough had made; this observation gave him the inspiration to formulate an idea for a means of scanning images electronically, thus enabling the images to be reproduced on equipment elswhere without the need for any mechanical apparatus whatsoever. In 1922 the young Philo T. Farnsworth showed a sketch of his idea for an Image Dissector to high school physics and chemistry teacher Justin Tolman; Tolman was duly impressed by Farnsworth's idea and kept the sketch (which was later used in the patent interference dispute with RCA).

Farnsworth went on to invent and patent the first operational all-electronic television system. On September 7 1927 Farnsworth and a small team of assistants successfully transmitted the first all-electronic television image, and in August 1930 patent number 1,773,980 was issued to Farnsworth, with the all-important claim 15, which related to the electrical image. (An electrical image is fundamental in creating an electronic television signal). Claim 15 in Farnsworth's patent would be pivotal when in 1934 legal disputes over patents between Farnsworth and Dr. Vladimir Zworykin's employer RCA, which resulted eventually in Farnsworth winning the patent interference case.

Zworykin had challenged claim 15 in Farnsworth's patent, with its description of the electrical image. The United States Patent Office ruled in patent interference No. 64,027 in favour of Farnsworth and rejected Zworkin's challenge to the claim, and the assertion that his 1923 patent application would have met the criteria for producing an electronic television signal.

No evidence for the claim was produced, only contradictory verbal accounts given by two of Zworykin's colleagues. Apparently, Dr. Zworykin himself had described the 1923 demonstration as "scarcely impessive". After several appeals against the unfavourable decision of the patent office, RCA accepted a licence from Farnsworth in 1939 which enabled them to use his patents, and for Farnsworth to receive royalties for his patents.

Dr. Vladimir Zworykin, who had visited Farnsworth's laboratory in 1930 whilst working for RCA as an associate research director, had emigrated to the United States from Russia in 1919. In 1920 he joined the Westinghouse Corporation; Westinghouse was one of RCA's manufacturers. Zworykin had initially worked on the development of radio tubes and photo-electric cells, but later turned his attentions to the development of television. In 1923 whilst at Westinghouse, Zworykin applied for patents for the Iconoscope, an image scanner (camera) and the Kinescope (receiver), these systems were based on the ideas taught by his former teacher in Russia, Boris Rosing.

At the time Philo T. Farnsworth was granted his patent in 1930, Dr. Zworykin's patent application no. 2,141,059 for the Iconoscope image scanner was still pending. Fifteen years after the original application, and after undergoing numerous revisions, the patent was finally issued in 1938. Many erroneous references relating to the 1923 date as the the date when Dr. Zworykin invented the Iconoscope for RCA can still be found to this day. Irrespective of the fact that the Iconoscope patent was not issued until 1938, in 1923 Dr.Zworykin was working for Westinghouse, and did not join RCA until 1929. Dr. Zworykin continued to work for RCA until his retirement in 1954.

The British Broadcasting Company was formed in the UK on October 18 1922, and on November 1 of that year a licence fee of 10 Shillings (50 pence) was introduced. John Reith became General Manager of the BBC on December 14 1922, and the British Broadcasting Company became the British Broadcasting Corporation when it was established by Royal charter on January 1 1927.

In the late 1920s John Logie-Baird experimented with colour television, stereoscopic(3D) television, recorded television (Phonovision) and television using infra-red light. In 1927 Baird formed the Baird Television Development Company, Ltd. (BTDC), in that year he also demonstrated his television system over a distance of 438 miles between London and Glasgow using a telephone line, which could be called, effectively, the world's first demonstration of a Cable Television transmission. In 1928, Baird's company achieved its first transatlantic television transmission between London and New York, in the same year Baird was able to transmit for the first time to a ship in mid-Atlantic.

In 1927 Dr. Ernst Frederick Werner Alexanderson demonstated what is considered by some to be the first reception of a television transmission into the home, in the United States. This demonstration in the city of Schenectady, New York, used the G.E. (General Electric) system; 48 lines at 16 frames, and the transmissions were received in the Schenectady homes of Alexanderson himself and two G.E. board members. The transmissions were received on television sets with screens of only 1.5 square inches. (the General Electric Company was formed in 1892 with the merging of the Thomson-Houston Company and the Edison General Electric Company).

On the 20th of August 1929 the BBC began to broadcast experimentally using John Logie-Baird's studio and his 30 line system. In 1930 Luigi Pirandello's play The Man with the Flower in his Mouth became the first simultaneous sound and vision play to be broadcast by the BBC.

John Logie-Baird appeared on the WMCA Radio Station in the United States on October 18 1931 to discuss a proposal for a joint-venture between his company and WMCA to start a television station, this may have been successful had it not been for an objection by Radio Pictures Incorporated on the grounds that Baird's company was not American owned.

Baird will probably be remembered mainly for the development of electro-mechanical television system, although his achievements are by no means limited to this. His other work also included a demonstration of large-screen television in 1930 at London's Coliseum, and also in Berlin and Paris. John Logie-Baird also achieved the first live transmission of the Epsom Derby horse race in 1931.

The 1930s was the decade when vigourous development of electronic television systems was undertaken, primarily by Marconi in the U.S. In 1935 the BBC leased the eastern part of Alexandra Palace (commonly known as The Home of Television), it was from there that the very first public television transmissions in the UK were made. In 1936 Alexandra Palace played host to the BBC's technical trials of the equipment from two competing companies: EMI-Marconi's Emitron electronic system and the Baird mechanical system.

The Marconi-EMI Emitron system was installed in Studio A, while Baird's mechanical system based on the Nipkow disc system was in Studio B. After evaluation of both systems, it was decided that the BBC would opt for the Marconi-EMI Emitron camera system in preference to Baird's 205 line mechanical Nipkow disc system. Thus, the BBC adopted The EMI-Marconi 405 line system for its transmissions.

November 2 1936 saw the official inauguration of the world's first regular high-definition television service from Alexandra Palace in London. One of the very first presenters was Elizabeth Cowell who would introduce the new television service with the words "This is direct television from Alexandra Palace". Alexandra Palace was used as the main centre for BBC transmissions until 1956, after which it was used for the news service only. However, the BBC did produce programming for the Open University at Alexandra Palace until 1981. Alexandra Palace in North London is located between Muswell Hill and Wood Green, it originally opened as The People's Palace in 1873-sixteen days later it was destroyed by fire. On May 1 1875, and a little under two years, the newly re-built Alexandra Palace opened.

The BBC used an ouside-broadcast van for the first time on May 12 1937 for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The BBC closed its television service on September 1 1939 for the duration of the Second World War, it re-commenced on June 7 1946. At around the time the BBC in the UK was closing down in 1939 for the duration, in the United States it was a different story with many new stations starting to broadcast. Many U.S. television firsts were achieved at this time, for example on June 1 1939 the first televised heavy-weight boxing match was held at New York's Yankee Stadium between Max Baer and Lou Nova. Another first was the Major League baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn on August 26 1939, this was broadcast on W2XBS.

The first television recordings in the world were made by John Logie-Baird, not long after his first demonstrations of television; these recordings are on wax discs and are still in existence. Before his death in 1946 John Logie-Baird was planning television systems which would use 1000 lines and 1700 lines respectively; this idea was over 40 years ahead of anyone else though, as it was not until 1990 that the Japanese introduced a system using 1125 lines.



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