The Early History of Television: From Invention Until WWI. The television (TV) has a rich history. Many of TV’s breakthrough moments occurred from its inception up until the WWI era.
Television was not invented by a single inventor. Instead, many people working alone and together contributed to the evolution of TV. TV and its predecessors have a rich early history. The following is a timeline demonstrating the history of the development of television.
19th Century Timeline of The History of Video and Television
- 1831: Joseph Henry’s and Michael Faraday’s work with electromagnetism makes possible the beginning of the era of electronic communication.
- 1862: Abbe Giovanna Caselli invents his “pantelegraph” and becomes the first person to transmit a still image over wires.
- 1873: Scientists May and Smith experiment with selenium and light which opens the door for inventors to transform images into electronic signals.
- 1876: Boston civil servant George Carey was conceptualizing complete television systems. 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.
- Late 1870’s: Scientists and engineers like Paiva, Figuier, and Senlecq were suggesting alternative designs for “telectroscopes.”
- 1880: Inventors like Bell and Edison theorize about telephone devices that transmit image 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.
- 1881: Sheldon Bidwell experiments with telephotography, another photophone.
- 1884: Paul Nipkow sends images over wires using a rotating metal disk technology calling it the “electric telescope” with 18 lines of resolution.
- 1900: At the World’s Fair in Paris, the 1st International Congress of Electricity was held, where Russian, Constantin Perskyi, made the first known use of the word “television.”
Pre-WWI 20th Century Timeline of the History of Video and Television
Soon after the turn of the century, the momentum shifted from ideas and discussions to physical development of TV systems. Two paths were followed:
- Mechanical Television – based on Nipkow’s rotating disks.
- Electronic Television – based on the cathode ray tube work done independently in 1907 by English inventor A.A. Campbell-Swinton and Russian scientist Boris Rosing.
- 1906: Lee de Forest invents the “Audion” vacuum tube that proved essential to electronics. The Audion was the first tube with the ablity to amplify signals. Boris Rosing combines Nipkow’s disk with a cathode ray tube, and builds the first working mechanical TV system.
- 1907: Campbell Swinton and Boris Rosing suggest using cathode ray tubes to transmit images; independent of each other, they both develop electronic scanning methods of reproducing images.
- American Charles Jenkins and Scotsman John Baird followed the mechanical model, while Philo Farnsworth, working independently in San Francisco, and Russian émigré Vladimir Zworkin, working for Westinghouse and later RCA, advanced the electronic model.
During WWI, much attention was diverted from developing television, although many would continue to work towards it. TV and video would become extremely important, even to militaries around the world.