A History of Television

By Tim Lambert

Today television is the main form of entertainment for millions of people worldwide. The word is made up of the Greek word ‘tele’ meaning ‘far off’ and the Latin word for vision ‘sight’.

John Logie Baird the man who invented television was born in 1888. Baird invented a primitive system of television in 1925. In 1926 John Logie Baird gave his first public demonstration of television. However, Baird’s system was mechanical. A more advanced, electronic system was invented by Philo Taylor Farnsworth in 1927. It eventually replaced the mechanical system.

Television broadcasting began in the USA in 1928 but did not become common until the 1950s. By 1953 there were about 20 million television sets in the USA.

German television began in 1935. Television also began in France in 1935.

In 1929, the BBC made its first experimental TV broadcasts. On 1 October 1936, the BBC began TV broadcasting. TV was suspended during the Second World War but it resumed in 1946. By 1956 about 50% of British households had a TV. By 1959 about two-thirds did. At first, there was only one channel but ITV began in 1955 and BBC2 followed in 1964. Channel 4 was added in 1982.

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June 1953. It was the first coronation shown on TV. In the USA the first presidential debate was held between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960. In Britain the House of Commons was first televised in 1989.

The first television advert was broadcast in New York on 1 July 1941. It was for a watch.

Television broadcasting began in other European countries. TV began in Denmark in 1951. It started in Sweden in 1956. Television also started in Spain in 1956. Norway followed in 1960.

Television broadcasting began in Canada in 1952. Television began in Australia in 1956. It started in New Zealand in 1960.

Colour television began in the USA in 1953 but colour TV sets were not common until the 1960s. In Britain, BBC 2 was first broadcast in colour in 1967. BBC 1 and ITV followed in 1969. By 1979 67% of households in Britain had a colour TV set.

Meanwhile, a TV satellite called Telstar was launched in 1962. It allowed the first Transatlantic live television broadcast. Portable TVs became available in the 1960s.

Video recorders were introduced in the 1970s and became common in the 1980s. They made it possible to record television programmes. Television remote controls also became common in the 1980s.

Cable TV began in the USA in 1948 for people in areas with poor reception. The first national cable television networks started in the 1970s. Satellite television began in the USA in 1978. It started in Britain in 1982. In Britain, satellite and cable TV became common in the 1990s. Digital TV began in 1998. In the early 21st century smart TVs became available.

For many years television was banned in Bhutan. In 1999 it became the last country in the world to have TV.