A Science Odyssey
People and Discoveries

Television is developed

John Logie Baird (1888-1946) applied for a patent for a mechanical television in 1923. He ran successful experiments in transmitting images in 1926, and in 1930 he worked with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to begin mechanical television broadcasting. He also tried, rather unsuccessfully, to mass-market his television transmitter.

In 1923 Vladimir Zworykin (1889-1982) also applied for a patent. His was for a television camera that converted optical images into electrical pulses. About six years later he had developed a receiver and in 1930 demonstrated his system at RCA.

Meanwhile, in Japan, Kenjiro Takayanagi was developing electronic television, too. He was ahead of Zworykin, but better publicity gave Zworykin the nickname "father of television." Takayanagi transmitted an image electronically in 1926, with a 40-line resolution and film running at 14 frames per second.

In 1932 the BBC ventured the first regularly broadcast programs using Baird's mechanical equipment, though it had been broadcasting special events and other sporadic transmissions since 1927. The first special-purpose television station was built in Germany in 1935 in preparation for the Berlin Olympic Games the following year. That Olympic year, NBC experimented with electronic broadcast from the top of the Empire State Building. The first live journalistic event covered by television was the 1937 coronation of Britain's King George VI. That year, the BBC began the first regular, high-quality broadcasting service using an electronic system.

By 1949, David Sarnoff of RCA had developed a color television tube, but the idea didn't become practical until Bell Labs developed a color system that could transmit signals a black-and-white set could still pick up. It was introduced around 1954 and remains in use today in the United States and Japan.

In the 1990s, high-definition television sets came on the market, with more than 1,000 lines per screen instead of the usual 525 or 625. And in December 1996, the FCC adopted a new technical standard for transmitting television through a digital signal. This allows more of the broadcast bandwidth to be used, enabling high-definition television signals and multiple programs, audio, or data channels to be broadcast from one source simultaneously. The old (analog) channels are slated to go off the air by 2009, at which time the government could auction them for other telecommunications purposes.

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