Learn the History of Television and When the First TV Was Invented (2023)

Television was not invented by a single inventor. Instead, many people working together and alone over the years contributed to the evolution of the device.


Joseph Henry's and Michael Faraday's work with electromagnetism jumpstarts the era of electronic communication.


Abbe Giovanna Caselli invents his Pantelegraph and becomes the first person to transmit a still image over wires.


Scientist Willoughby Smith experiments with selenium and light, revealing the possibility for inventors to transform images into electronic signals.


Boston civil servant George Carey was thinking about complete television systems and in 1877 he put forward drawings for what he called a selenium camera that would allow people to see by electricity.

Eugen Goldstein coins the term "cathode rays" to describe the light emitted when an electric current was forced through a vacuum tube.

The Late 1870s

Scientists and engineers like Valeria Correa Vaz dePaiva, LouisFiguier, and ConstantinSenlecq were suggesting alternative designs for telectroscopes.


Inventors Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison theorize about telephone devices that transmit images as well as sound.

Bell's photophone used light to transmit sound and he wanted to advance his device for image sending.

George Carey builds a rudimentary system with light-sensitive cells.


Sheldon Bidwell experiments with his telephotography that was similar to Bell's photophone.


Paul Nipkow sends images over wires using a rotating metal disk technology calling it the electric telescope with 18 lines of resolution.


At the World's Fair in Paris, the first International Congress of Electricity was held. That is where Russian Constantin Perskyi made the first known use of the word "television."

Soon after 1900, the momentum shifted from ideas and discussions to the physical development of television systems. Two major paths in the development of a television system were pursued by inventors.

  • Inventors attempted to build mechanical television systems based onPaul Nipkow'srotating disks.
  • Inventors attempted to buildelectronic television systemsbased on thecathode raytube developed independently in 1907 by English inventor A.A. Campbell-Swinton and Russian scientist Boris Rosing.


Lee de Forest invents the Audion vacuum tube that proves essential to electronics. The Audion was the first tube with the ability to amplify signals.

Boris Rosing combines Nipkow's disk and a cathode ray tube and builds the first working mechanical TV system.


Campbell Swinton and Boris Rosing suggest usingcathode ray tubesto transmit images. Independent of each other, they both develop electronic scanning methods of reproducing images.


VladimirZworykinpatents hisiconoscopea TV camera tube based on Campbell Swinton's ideas. Theiconoscope, which he called an electric eye, becomes the cornerstone for further television development.Zworkinlater develops the kinescope for picture display (aka thereceiver).


AmericanCharles JenkinsandJohn Bairdfrom Scotland each demonstrate the mechanical transmissions of images over wire circuits.

John Bairdbecomes the first person to transmit moving silhouette images using a mechanical system based on Nipkow's disk.

Charles Jenkinbuilt his Radiovisor and in 1931 and sold it as a kit for consumers to put together.

VladimirZworykinpatents acolor televisionsystem.


John Bairdoperates a television system with 30 lines of resolution system running at five frames per second.


Bell Telephoneand the U.S. Department of Commerce conducted the first long-distance use of television that took place between Washington, D.C., and New York City on April 7. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover commented, “Today we have, in a sense, the transmission of sight for the first time in the world’s history. Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance in (this) new respect, and in a manner hitherto unknown.”

Philo Farnsworth files for a patent on the first completely electronic television system, which he called the Image Dissector.


The Federal Radio Commission issues the first television station license (W3XK) toCharles Jenkins.


Vladimir Zworykindemonstrates the first practical electronic system for both the transmission and reception of images using his new kinescope tube.

John Bairdopens the first TV studio; however, the image quality is poor.


Charles Jenkinsbroadcasts the first TV commercial.

The BBC begins regular TV transmissions.


Iowa State University (W9XK) starts broadcasting twice-weekly television programs in cooperation with radio station WSUI.


About 200 television sets are in use worldwide.

Coaxial cable—a pure copper or copper-coated wire surrounded by insulation and aluminum covering—is introduced. These cables were and are used to transmit television, telephone, and data signals.

The first experimental coaxial cable lines were laid by AT&T between New York and Philadelphia in 1936. The first regular installation connected Minneapolis and Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in 1941.

The original L1 coaxial cable system could carry 480 telephone conversations or one television program. By the 1970s, L5 systems could carry 132,000 calls or more than 200 television programs.


CBS begins its TV development.

The BBC begins high-definition broadcasts in London.

Brothers and Stanford researchers Russell and Sigurd Varian introduce the Klystron. A Klystron is a high-frequency amplifier for generating microwaves. It is considered the technology that makes UHF-TV possible because it gives the ability to generate the high power required in this spectrum.


Vladimir Zworykinand RCA conduct experimental broadcasts from theEmpire State Building.

Television was demonstrated at the New York World's Fair and the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition.

RCA's David Sarnoff used his company's exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair as a showcase for the first presidential speech (by Franklin D. Roosevelt) on television and to introduce RCA's new line of television receivers, some of which had to be coupled with a radio if you wanted to hear the sound.

The Dumont company starts making TV sets.


Peter Goldmark invents 343 lines of the resolutioncolor televisionsystem.


The FCC releases the NTSC standard for black and white TV.


Vladimir Zworykindevelops a better camera tube called the Orthicon. The Orthicon has enough light sensitivity to record outdoor events at night.


Peter Goldmark, working for CBS, demonstrated hiscolor televisionsystem to the FCC. His system produced color pictures by having a red-blue-green wheel spin in front of acathode ray tube.

This mechanical means of producing a color picture was used in 1949 to broadcast medical procedures from Pennsylvania and Atlantic City hospitals. In Atlantic City, viewers could come to the convention center to see broadcasts of operations. Reports from the time noted that the realism of seeing surgery in color caused more than a few viewers to faint.

Although Goldmark's mechanical system was eventually replaced by an electronic system, he is recognized as the first to introduce a broadcastingcolor televisionsystem.


Cable televisionis introduced in Pennsylvania as a means of bringing television to rural areas.

A patent was granted to Louis W. Parker for a low-cost television receiver.

One million homes in the United States have television sets.


The FCC approves the firstcolor televisionstandard, which is replaced by a second in 1953.

Vladimir Zworykindeveloped a better camera tube called the Vidicon.


Ampex introduces the first practicalvideotapesystem of broadcast quality.


Robert Adlerinvents the first practicalremote controlcalled the Zenith Space Commander. It was preceded by wired remotes and units that failed in sunlight.


The first split-screen broadcast occurs during the debates between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy.


The All-Channel Receiver Act requires that UHF tuners (channels 14 to 83) be included in all sets.


A joint international collaboration between AT&T, Bell Labs, NASA, British General Post Office, the French National Post, Telegraph, and Telecom Office results in the development and launch ofTelstar, the first satellite to carry TV broadcasts. Broadcasts are now internationally relayed.


Most TV broadcasts are in color.


On July 20, 600 million people watch the first TV transmission made from the moon.


Half the TVs in homes are color sets.


Giant screen projection TV is first marketed.


Sony introducesBetamax, the first home video cassette recorder.


PBS becomes the first station to switch to an all-satellite delivery of programs.


NHK demonstrates HDTV with 1,125 lines of resolution.


DolbySurroundSound for home sets is introduced.


Direct Broadcast Satellite begins service in Indianapolis, Indiana.


Stereo TV broadcasts are approved.


Super VHS is introduced.


Closed captioning is required on all sets.


The FCC approves ATSC's HDTV standard.

TV sets are in excess of 1 billion homes across the world.


When was television first invented? ›

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 who had lived in a house without electricity until he was 14.

What was the first TV in history? ›

In 1922 Jenkins sent a still picture by radio waves, but the first true television success, the transmission of a live human face, was achieved by Baird in 1925. (The word television itself had been coined by a Frenchman, Constantin Perskyi, at the 1900 Paris Exhibition.)

What is the history of televisions? ›

The First Electronic Television was Invented in 1927

Farnsworth was miles ahead of any mechanical television system invented to-date. Farnsworth's system captured moving images using a beam of electrons (basically, a primitive camera). The first image ever transmitted by television was a simple line.

Who first invented television? ›


Why was the TV invented? ›

The very first TV was invented by Philo Taylor Farnsworth in 1927. Until the age of fourteen, Farnsworth lived in a home without electricity, and his original idea for a TV-like device was to create moving images using radio waves.

Where was television invented? ›

On 7 September 1927, U.S. inventor Philo Farnsworth's image dissector camera tube transmitted its first image, a simple straight line, at his laboratory at 202 Green Street in San Francisco.

What did the first TV look like? ›

The earliest commercially made televisions were radios with the addition of a television device consisting of a neon tube behind a mechanically spinning disk with a spiral of apertures that produced a red postage-stamp size image, enlarged to twice that size by a magnifying glass.

Who invented the television in 1927? ›

Philo Farnsworth, in full Philo Taylor Farnsworth II, (born August 19, 1906, Beaver, Utah, U.S.—died March 11, 1971, Salt Lake City, Utah), American inventor who developed the first all-electronic television system. Farnsworth was a technical prodigy from an early age.

What's the oldest TV show? ›

In the experimental days of television, the very first full-length program broadcast in the US was a drama in one act called The Queen's Messenger by J. Harley Manners. The WGY radio station in Schenectady, New York first aired the drama on September 11, 1928.

What is television short essay? ›

The invention of television gave us various benefits. It was helpful in providing the common man with a cheap mode of entertainment. As they are very affordable, everyone can now own television and get access to entertainment. In addition, it keeps us updated on the latest happenings of the world.

What is the importance of television? ›

It broadens knowledge of different cultures, promotes tolerance and global understanding of international issues. Through current affairs, discovery, lifestyle, cooking shows and children's programmes, television encourages scientific and cultural curiosity.

Why the television is important? ›

Television is an inescapable part of modern culture. We depend on TV for entertainment, news, education, culture, weather, sports—and even music, since the advent of music videos. With more and more ways of viewing TV available we now have access to a plethora of both good quality and inappropriate TV content.

When was TV available to the public? ›

TV Turns On

The first practical TV sets were demonstrated and sold to the public at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. The sets were very expensive and New York City had the only broadcast station. When World War II started, all commercial production of television equipment was banned.

What was invented in 1927? ›

There were many inventions made in the year 1927, such as the selective jukebox, electrical television system, garbage disposal, and pressure washer. The first selective jukebox was invented in the year 1927. The selective jukebox was invented by the Automated Musical Instrument Company.

Who invented the television in 1926? ›

The engineer and inventor John Logie Baird gave the world's first demonstration of a working television at 22 Frith Street in Soho in January 1926. He used two attic rooms in the property as his laboratory from November 1924 to February 1926.

How many TV channels were there in 1950? ›

The 1950s truly were the decade of the TV. Three major networks—the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and the American Broadcasting Company (ABC)—provided the majority of TV programming.

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