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Brains behind idiot box: A quick look at the history of television

The first public demonstration of colour TV broadcast happened this week 90 years ago, setting the foundation for a major change in the way audio-visual media is consumed.

ET Bureau|
Jun 22, 2019, 11.30 PM IST
Getty Images
It is generally agreed that the first television images were produced in the 1920s.
Who invented the TV?
There is no one answer. It was the result of the efforts of several people spanning several decades across multiple continents. However, it is generally agreed that the first television images were produced in the 1920s.

The televisor
On January 26, 1926, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gave the first public demonstration of a true television system in London. He called it a “televisor”. It used mechanical rotating disks to scan moving images into electronic impulses. This information was then transmitted by cable to a screen where it showed up as a low-resolution pattern using light and shade.

First commercial televisions
The Baird model mechanical television sets were introduced to the public in 1929. These mechanical TV sets projected orange-red unclear images on a screen about the size of a dollar coin.

Electronic television
American prodigy Philo Taylor Farnsworth was about 21 years old when he made the first successful demonstration of the electronic television, in September 1927. He used cathode ray tubes to display the images and the first image transmitted was a simple line. By 1936, over 2,000 television sets were in use across the world.

Digital TV
The next biggest step in television’s evolution was the advent of digital television, which happened in the 1990s. In June 1990, General Instrument Corporation surprised the industry by announcing the world’s first alldigital television system. Japan is the first country to start regular broadcasting of HDTV programmes. In 1993, a meeting of engineers from 18 countries agreed on a worldwide standard for digital television pictures.

Colour TV
John Baird gave the world’s first demonstration of the colour TV system in July 1928. On June 27, 1929, Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York made the first public demonstration of a colour TV broadcast. Colour TV broadcasting didn’t truly takeoff until the mid-1950s. But it took two more decades for colour TVs to be more widely used. These sets were heavy.

This live image of Paddy Naismith was used to demonstrate Baird’s first all-electronic colour TV system.

Remote Report
The Zenith Radio Corporation created the first commercial TV remote control in 1950 called Lazy Bone. Consumers did not like the wired remote because the cable caused them to frequently trip.

The first wireless TV remote came out in 1955. Zenith’s Flash-matic was operated using four photocells, one in each corner of the TV screen. The viewer used a directional flashlight to activate the functions.

A year later, Zenith came out with the Space Command, a remote with four buttons to power, tune up, tune down, and mute. It worked using a high-frequency tone.

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