Who Invented The First Television?
by Donna Warren
Who invented the first televison? That should be such an
easy question to answer. However, it is anything but easy. Ever since
the invention of radio, several inventors discussed and even wrote about
the idea of transmitting picture compnents over wires. But, exactly who
invented the first television is not that easy to determine.
Inventor George Carey wrote a paper about sending picture
components over multiple wires. He is credited with the conceiving the
idea of using parallel transmission methods. Apparantely he never actually
built a device capable of doing it. Inventor W. E. Sawyer suggested the
possibility of sending the image over a single wire by scanning parts
of the picture in succession and transmitting each part separately.
So through the work of both of these men, the theoretical
concepts needed for the electronic transmission of pictures was firmly
established. Other engineers such as Jenkins, Ives, Alananderson and Baird
built devices that used spinning disks and mirrors that could scan, transmit,
and reassemble moving images. Their devices worked and were based on an
idea proposed in the 1880s by Paul Nipkow of Germany. The pictures were
extremely crude yet their devices did work.
But, it wasn’t until December 2, 1922 when Edwin Berlin,
an Englishman living in Sorbonne France demonstarated a mechanical scanning
device that an actual working piece of television tranmission equipment
was built. Berlin holds patents for the transmission of photographs by
wire, fiber optics and radar. Berlin’s device took flashes of light
and directed them at a selenium element connected to a device that could
produce sound waves. Then the sound waves were transmited to a receiving
device and remodulated back into flashes of light on a mirror.
John Baird of Scotland used Nipkow’s disk to transmit
pictures to be displayed on selenium coated screens to recreate the images.
Baird demonstrated this technique in 1925 by sending the image of a face
with his device. Charles Jenkins invented the movie projector. Jenkins
demonstrated a 10-minute broadcast of a movie in 1925 and called it radiovision.
Baird later achieved the first transatlantic broadcast and began broadcasting
as the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) in 1929.
Believe it or not, the controversy had just begun. Two American inventors
were working on the problem of making television a reality. One was a
Russian-born American inventor named Vladimir Zworykin who worked for
RCA Corporation. The other was a farm boy from Utah named Philo Farnsworth
who had a private wealthy backer.
Zworykin patented an electronic image scanning device called an iconoscope
in 1923. His invention was basically a primitive television camera. Farnsworth
developed an electronic scanning tube and demonstrated the transmission
of television signals on September 7, 1927 and received a patent for his
device in 1930. Fransworth’s device created and manipulated an electron
beam and didn’t use any mechanical device. As one history book puts
it, “Zworykin had a patent, but Fransworth had a picture.”
In 1929, AT&T broadcast Herbert Hoover over their phone
lines and then a vaudeville act over wireless. They had designed and built
the first very primitive videophone. General Electric was airing TV using
mechanical scanning in 1929 and broadcast dramatic plays and political
speeches over the airwaves.
Mechanical television could not last because it needed such powerful
lighting that actors could not stay on screen for more than a few minutes
at a time because of the heat the lights generated. Electronic TV was
the way to go, and Vladimir Zworykin and Philo Farnsworth were both working
Such a simple question…who invented the first television…with
such a complex answer. So, who invented the first television?
I honestly don’t know…you'll have to decide.
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