The Invention of Television

In a television interview, Lord Reith the architect of Public Service Broadcasting i.e. Educate, Entertain and Inform, described television as the having the potential to be the biggest social menace that the society had ever seen. And he was responsible for the creation of the BBC and its introduction to the UK! How did we get the “telly”? It’s a convoluted story that I will attempt to tell you now.


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First off, to pick up a signal you need a decent receiver. Whilst we don’t have analogue waves any more an Ariel or dish is still required. As people with TV Aerials Swansea and South Wales will testify will be able to look at that for you easily.

The concept of TV has many people claiming to have invented it. The telephone and telegram had been around for a while and Cinema was going as strong as it ever was. It and the radio were where most people got their news without reading it from a newspaper. What if the cinema could be broadcast to a smaller unit in the home?

The invention of television was a competition to see who could get there first. It was not just individuals but also companies vying for a practical working model that could be sold to the public. It was viewed as having the potential to unit Humanity through communication in ways that had never been dreamed before. There are 5 names that represent the main creators and developers, and these are.

Zworykin and Rosing

Combining the work of previous scientist who had worked to create projected images via signal these two scientists perfected the process so that at least very crude images could be sent and then received via a cathode ray tube in the back of the TV which then put the image on a screen. It was not a moving image as the ray could not keep up with the stream sent. However, this proved the system could work. This was the basis for TV’s working model for many years.


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John Logie Baird

Baird worked on the principle of using the Cathode Ray and a Nipkow Disk in conjunction with amplification of signal and power to enable the sending of images that actually moved. He was also able to do this via a transatlantic link again showing the power of TV and its instant ability to communicate as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Baird also used colour though this was not taken up on the actual sets due to cost until later.

Kalman Tihanyi and James P Mitchell

Tihanyi in 1936 theorised the creation of a Plasma screen that we have today but the Cathode ray would hold sway for many decades after that. Mitchell in 1978 prototyped and showed the LED based screen that we have as standard. All though not actually inventing the TV, they are important moments in the development of the TV you have today.