The Invention of Television: A Revolutionary Leap into the World of Visual Entertainment

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Television (T.V.) is an invention without a doubt that changed the world. The creation has remained to be one of the most significant developments of the 20th century, by revolutionizing a lot of things globally (Bellis, 2018). Nearly 60 years ago, television barely existed, and no one ever thought of it being a broad communicator as it is in the present generation (Baird, 2010). The invention of television has some challenges contributing to its starting, stopping then restarting in the 1940’s, where its development expanded significantly with the immense technology that attributed to its widespread usage (Bellis, 2018). However, before then great visual storytelling pioneers such as the Scottish, John Logie Baird and the American, Philo Taylor Farnsworth had made history in the television development (Bellis, 2018). This paper scrutinizes about the invention of the television through the two great inventors (John Logie Baird and Philo Taylor Farnsworth) and an overlook on who deserves the title “Inventor of Television.”

John Logie Baird

John was born in 1888 in Scotland. At his teenage, he developed a fascination with electronics and conducted experiments as well as building inventions. He received a science degree and started an engineering job (Baird, 2010). At the age of twenty-six, John Logie decided to quit his job to become an inventor (Baird, 2010). He spent nearly ten years producing creations that eventually failed. However, Baird did not give up and started putting his full thought on the television invention. Through his development, he experienced challenges by lacking funds to finance his projects. Nevertheless, he received financial help from Hutchinson and some local non-professional radio helpers to pursue his dream (Baird, 2010).

Baird played an important role in the television invention. In 1920, after returning to the United Kingdom, he started to explore how to transmit moving images alongside with sound (Baird, 2010). First, he tried to imitate Nipkow using the same materials he used for his invention (Baird, 2010). However, they did not work best for him, since most of the items had been upgraded, thus, performing different purposes (Baird, 2010). For instance, the new models did not have the same image reproduction that they used to have in the previous years (Baird, 2010). Despite the new technology not being favorable to Baird and lack of enough resources, the difficulties motivated him to design his materials from scrounged items such as cardboard, a bicycle lamp, glue, string and wax that formed parts of first “televisor” (Baird, 2010). In 1924, Baird transmitted his first flickered image of plain cardboard, with the camera and transmitter a few feet away on the other side of the room (Baird, 2010).

In 1924, Baird moved to London where he continued with his invention, making progression in the transmission of the images alongside sound (Baird, 2010). In 1925, he succeeded in transmitting a televised image of a ventriloquist’s dummy, which he demonstrated at the Selfridge’s Department Store (Baird, 2010). Viewers strained their eyes in a small dark room to see a flickering image of a doll about four by two inches (Baird, 2010). Despite the image resembling the shadow of a dummy, it portrayed great achievement in the transmission of the visual images, since it was the first time a picture had been created out of reflected light (Baird, 2010). Baird was excited by his progress after the image of the dummy head formed on the screen. In the same year, Baird succeeded in transmitting full televised images. Notably, these were real television pictures, which picked up reflected light, showed it alongside its shade effects (Baird, 2010). He televised the first human being encompassing a terrified teen boy, William Taynton, who was bribed to stay in the hot lights (Baird, 2010). However, Baird’s scanning discs and photo electronics were too slow to capture moving objects; thus, there was no movement of the images (Baird, 2010).

 In 1926, he showed a full working prototype of mechanical television to the members of the royal institution (Baird, 2010). In 1927, Baird impacted significantly in the television invention after transmitting sound and image for over four hundred miles from London to Glasgow (Baird, 2010). In 1928, he spread his television images across the Atlantic Ocean from London to New York (Baird, 2010). Later, in 1929, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) employed Baird’s technology to broadcast its first television programming (Baird, 2010). Nevertheless, the images were ambiguous and lambent, thus, in 1931, Baird continued with his exploration to produce an electronic 3D television; however, the production did not proceed beyond his laboratory (Baird, 2010).

Philo Taylor Farnsworth

Philo is said to be the father of electronic television. He was born in 1906 in India creek, Utah. In his early childhood, he lived with his father in a house with no electricity (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). His dad would entertain him through having conversations about inventions, which he read in magazines. Later Philo and his family moved to a farm in Idaho that owned a power plant (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). He learned about the lighting system and later put in charge of the plant. In 1920, Philo read a magazine about inventors trying to send visual images by mechanical means (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). As a result, he started the proposing that pictures could be transmitted electronically. 

Philo impacted significantly in the invention of electronic television. He was not the first person to dream about TV; however, he pioneered in the ideology work without the mechanical aspect. Notably, his innovation was to rely on the electronic technology that avoided the slowdown of the images unlike the mechanical transmitted ones developed earlier (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). In 1922, he came up with the design of the apparatus he intended to use in his invention and shared the idea with his chemistry teacher, Justin Tolman (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). Philo started working as a canvasser and created some friendship with a businessman, George Everson. He shared his concept with the tycoon, who alongside his ally, Leslie Gorrell invested six thousand dollars in the project (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). Moreover, Philo received support from the group of bankers, where he was given a research lab in San Francisco and given a time span of one year to prove his concept (Brigham Young Academy, 2018).

In 1927, he succeeded in the production of his first electronic transmission, where, he congregated his friends and his engineering associates and showed them his first transmitted electronic visual image (Brigham Young Academy, 2018).  He used a glass slide smoked with carbon, and a single line struck on it. The glass was placed in a carbon arc projector and illuminated on the photocathode of the first camera tube (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). Consequently, it used the phosphor that was not sensitive to light, thus, used to illuminate objects to be televised (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). As time elapsed, Philo made improvements in his invention by using his wife who could withstand the cameras for a few moments before turning away (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). In 1930, he produced an all-electronic television image by projected his wife (Pem) as the first human subject to be transmitted (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). In 1931, she televised her again; however, Pem moved partially from the cameras, since they were hot, but the camera tubes technology developed devices with the light being more cooling for the actors (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). Consequently, there was the development on the tubes with the advent of colors that caused Philo to create his camera tube called “Television System,” which he patented after a long struggle in court with corporate giants (Brigham Young Academy, 2018).

Next, he patented the cathode ray tube (CRT) that was crucial, since it acted as the receiver on the television screen (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). In 1932, Philo was in a legal battle with the RCA and met with Baird in England, who explained to him about his earlier mechanical process in the television invention (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). He returned to his laboratory, and in 1936, his company started transmitting innovative entertainment programs, with some of his dissector cameras were used to broadcast the Olympic Games in Berlin (Brigham Young Academy, 2018). He started the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation with Nicholas as the president and himself being the director, however, in 1939, the RCA conceded the agreement that allowed the patent of Philo to sell electronic television cameras to the public (Brigham Young Academy, 2018).

Conclusively, both Baird and Philo developments impacted significantly towards the invention of the television. However, Philo tends to the greatest inventor in the development of the TV, since he embarked on the electronic television images that were movable, unlike Baird who developed mechanical pictures that could not move. More so, the materials used by Baird were locally available only meant for the prototype, while Philo developed CRT and camera tubes that could project the electronic images to the television screen. Lastly, Baird electronic 3D were not produced to past his laboratory for the public, unlike with Philo who patented to sell the camera tube television to the locals. Thus, following the above arguments, Philo tends to earn himself the title “Inventor of Television.”

References List

Baird, M., 2010. What did John Logie Baird do in World War II? [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 13 10 2018].

Bellis, M., 2018. The Inventors behind the Creation of Television. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 13 10 2018].

Brigham Young Academy, 2018. Philo Taylor Farnsworth. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 13 10 2018].

September 25, 2023




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