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Having easy access to a television set is something that most people take for granted these days. So it’s hard to believe that even just fifty years ago – the average household didn’t even own one.

Despite this, the history of television goes back much farther than most people would expect. First, there were mechanical televisions. Then, the electronic television (which led to the television sets people are familiar with).

Mechanical Systems

Mechanical systems were the earliest renditions of the television. They went back to the early 1800s and were a much more involved process than one might expect. And to think, it all started with an accidental discovery.

In 1872, a man named Joseph May was merely doing his job – sending telegraphs, when he noticed something odd about the selenium wire and its conductive nature. His observation inspired others.

In 1880, Maurice LeBlanc’s article, La Lumiere Electrique, changed the way the world looked at television. His technique included a scanning mechanism, and it could be compared to the way one reads a book.

From there, many other scientists and inventors had roles to play in the advancement of mechanical television. Paul Nipkow, John Logie Baird, Charles Francis Jenkins, and Ernest F.W. Alexanderson.

Electronic Systems

As impressive as those Mechanical Systems were, they quickly became obsolete when Electronic Systems arrived on the scene. The first Electronic System was invented in 1927 by Philo Taylor Farnsworth. Though in truth, there were several discoveries made before 1927 that helped it along. The idea of an electronic television was alive and well, and inventors all over the world were scrambling to make it work.

Electronic television went through many changes from that point, both on a smaller and larger scale. Until it eventually became something similar to the television sets we see today. Albeit in black and white – and not quite as slim. 

Color Television

The idea of color television has been around almost as long as the television itself. Inventors were dreaming of ways to bring the images in color, but it wasn’t until 1946 that inventors started making a concentrated effort to get there.

What changed in 1946? The public demand, for the most part. People had begun to see their classic black and white television sets as old and not the novel contraptions they had once been. Thus the race for color TV had begun.

1952 saw one of the largest changes made for the sake of color TV. The National Television Systems Committee reformed to make color systems (and programming) the norm.

Digital Television

The 1990s saw the beginning of another major change for television. The time of digital televisions had begun. Once again, a race had been started. Companies like General Instrument Corporation and Zenith Electronics were battling to create the best picture. They wanted to have the smartest TV on the market.

Meanwhile, broadcasts were also working on increasing their quality. Working on better ways to transmit the data on a larger scale – without a reduction in quality. Eventually, all of the competition led to the sets people are most used to seeing in their living rooms.