Television History; The invention and its Long Term Effects Essay

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Since the evolution of mankind, there have been numerous innovations and inventions that have helped man cope with his environment. It should be noted that without these technological changes, the origins of humanity would have been difficult to determine and explain and further still, the future of mankind would be uncertain. However, with the various inventions, we can clearly ascertain where we are coming from and where we are heading. In this research paper, I will be discussing on the invention of television, life before the invention of television and the long term effects of this invention. In this research, focus will be put on Philo Farnsworth who was the first person to invent an electronic television. However, other contributor’s efforts towards coming up with the television would be acknowledged.

The Invention

The invention of Television emerged from a series of early simple inventions that were later modified to produce the modern kind of Television set. Therefore, credit cannot be exclusively awarded to a specific inventor. However, in this research, emphasis will be put to Philo Farnsworth who is credited with introduction of the first electronic Television. Looking back into history, it was a German engineering student Paul Nipkov who first came up with idea of television thereby acquiring the exclusive rights from the government that resulted to the first mechanical television system. During the year 1884, he came up with a scanning system which incorporated a scanning disk that was used to analyze pictures thereby producing images with eighteen lines.

This was the beginning of the television history and later, Karl Ferdinand; a German scientist, developed a Cathode Ray Tube (CTR) which had a florescent monitor that would produce light when struck with rays of electrons. Basing this on the invention of CTR, Campbell Swinton and Boris Rosing incorporated the idea to invent an electronic technique of repeating images in 1907.  Another modification came when Charles Jenkins introduced the radio vision system that transmitted moving images. It was John Baird that was credited for the introduction of a mechanical television in the early 1920’s when he incorporated Paul’s idea of the scanning disk into developing an electronic system. He used a collection of translucent rods to broadcast images on television thereby producing a thirty line image; an improvement from eight which had been developed by Nipkow. As a result, the first moving image to be produced was in 1925 and later broadcasted a moving object two years later. This marked the introduction of a mechanical television.

 However, it is Philo Farnsworth, an American engineer who is credited with the introduction of the modern electronic television. Phil and his friend Cliff first begun by working on the image dissector that was able to produce an image of sixty lines in 1927. This was done by the help of a chemical known as cesium which contained photo-electric features necessary for the image dissector to break down an image, line by line. To set up a successful television, he installed the television receiver on a chemistry flask and surely, it was able to produce a horizontal clear image in September 1927.

 In 1929, Farnsworth improved on his television by fully eliminating the mechanical moving parts thereby producing the first ever human images. The improvement was done by the elimination of the mechanical energy. He was therefore credited with the introduction of modern electronic television by introducing the video camera tube with the help of Zworykin. This technology has been incorporated in the television history till the end of the twentieth century when other improved technologies were incorporated (Schatzkin, 2002).

Environmental factors influencing the invention

Philo Farnsworth had a great personality since his childhood which contributed to his various inventions. Philo loved doing experimental work especially on electronic motors which made him build his own lab at a very tender age. His brilliancy was seen when he repaired a generator in their farm that had stopped operating. He also converted a washing machine which was initially being operated manually by powering it with an electric current. He was always curious on electric apparatus, a personality which greatly contributed to his inventions. A case in point is the telephone discussion that Philo made with his distant relative that made him inquire on how the information was being transmitted. His interest in science subjects also acted as a stepping stone to his inventions. He loved physics, mathematics and chemistry and was one time seen drawing prototypes of an electron tube; a factor that contributed to the idea of the television invention (Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2007, p.19)

The political environment surrounding Farnsworth at that time was very conducive towards his inventions. The political system that imposed legal requirements on getting patent rights was very helpful in that, duplication of any original work was highly restricted and only original works were acknowledged. This was a motivational factor to Farnsworth since he was sure that nobody would easily steal his invention idea once a patent was issued. He therefore went ahead and obtained a patent to demonstrate that he could improve on the television image which had been invented earlier on. The issue of obtaining a patent helped Farnsworth to win a case against the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1935 who had stolen his idea on the invention of the television. Though he won the case, RCA was too smart and was able to outweigh Farnsworth in business thus denying Farnsworth a chance to gain out of his invention.

The Social, cultural and economic environment also influenced the invention of the television especially by Farnsworth. In his home area, Farnsworth was exposed to electricity and electric devices such as telephones, washing machines and electricity connectivity in his home area. Due to his curiosity for electrical equipments, he went head to study science subjects that would later help him in understanding how electrical devices such telephones functioned. It is this environment that formed his basis for the invention of the television. Other inventors who contributed to the television invention were also influenced by the social surroundings and especially the education that everyone was struggling to obtain. It is through education that they were able to be exposed to various experimental works with electrical devices that gave birth to their idea of television invention.

Technology before television

Before the television came into play, people relied on fax and other related machines to transmit and receive information over long distances. The fax machine which was invented in 1843 used a scanning mechanism to produce lines that would reveal an image. Another machine employed to serve as a means of obtaining news and information was the Pantelegraph. This machine was invented by Giovanni Caselli which incorporated telegraphic wiring mechanisms to send and receive images within wide ranges. It was a modification of the fax machine which used electrochemistry system of scanning the images sent or received. The machines were found mainly in urban areas where electricity was easily available and used mainly by large corporations such as banks in sending and receiving important documents.

 In addition, the use of the telephone was considered a way of relaying information before the introduction of television. Whenever an important news or information was published in one particular area, people could inform others in other areas where the information had not reached via the telephone. This was important because the reliance on other sources of information was quite unreliable since people would get outdated information. The telephone operated by transmitting electric signals from one user to the other by means of sound. It was from telephone that the idea of television originated. This was first drafted in 1878 where telephone was sketched in what was known as telephonoscope; sometimes referred to as a cartoon representation of the television. Through all the above stages, the idea of the television was born and grew over time to become the modern electronic device that dots many homes as a major source of entertainment and information (2002 p.110).

Long term results

As a result of the introduction of the television, the society witnessed a significant change in its lifestyle in most countries. There were both positive and negative contributions of the television towards the society and one of these contributions was the provision of an avenue to showcase talent to a wide range of people. Through television, programs could now be transmitted with ease over long distances. Consequently, the actors in those programs were able to display their talents across many areas.

It should be noted that prior to the introduction of the television, things such as humorous comedy and drama were limited to a confined setting; thus limiting the talent to that particular area. However, with the introduction of the Television, this talent could be showcased to a wider area thereby promoting the entertainment sector.

Secondly, the introduction of the television enhanced the spread of information especially breaking news in a faster and reliable way. Prior to the television, obtaining and relaying news and information was difficult and normally news items took longer periods to be relayed resulting into outdated news. Methods of conveying information especially concerning the government was expensive and inefficient hence limiting the information to a minority rich people.

 Therefore, the introduction of the television greatly improved the way messages were being conveyed and to date, it remains a major source of information and especially breaking news and other important world events. The television also provided an alternative form of entertainment to people. Through the television, entertainment such as music, drama, comedy and other programs became easily available, making the gadget  become one of the leading and cheapest family’s source of entertainment. This led to the exposure of different cultures and customs through the entertainment thus creating a well informed and multi-diverse society. In addition, the invention of television led to the creation of various employment opportunities in the entertainment industry. For example, the broadcasters, the actors, program editors, producers, directors of various programs, musicians and reporters among other related jobs (Sterling & Kittross 2002).

Further still, the television invention has contributed to further electronic innovations that have greatly improved the entertainment industry. The introduction of cinemas and other devices for recording events have really changed the pace with which technology is moving. However, many scholars have alleged that the introduction of the television brought some moral decadence within the society. Issues such as pornography, violence and other related unethical programs have impacted the society in a very negative way. Over indulgence on television viewing has also in many instances been attributed to serious issues like obesity especially among children


In conclusion, I would say that the invention of television was among the greatest inventions in the human history. It has made the conveying of information easier and faster though the introduction of the internet has outweighed it lately.. However, the invention of the television was able to achieve its target by being able to transmit a visual image over long distances. In connection with the invention, I would have wished that the invention could have incorporated a technology that would automatically restrict showing of adult related contents in the television such as nudity and pornography related programs. .


Berries, M. Philo Farnsworth. Accessed on March 12, 2009.

Great Idea Finder. Fascinating facts about the invention of the television by Philo T. Farnsworth in 1927. Accessed on March 12, 2009.

Landen, H. The Birth of Television. Accessed on March 12, 2009.

Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2007). Inventors and Inventions. Marshall Cavendish.

Schatzkin, P. (2002). The Boy who invented Television: A Story of Inspiration, Persistence and Quiet Passion. TeamCom Books.

Sterling, C. H., Kittross J. M. (2002). Stay tuned: a history of American broadcasting. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


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