John Baird’s mechanical television invention, in 1923, is based on the inventions of many others. Particularly, its scanning disk is the invention of Paul Julius Gottlieb Nipkow—giving birth to image rasterizer in 1884. Over almost 100 years, 1. Alexander Bain, 2. Frederick Bakewell, 3. Giovanni Caselli, 4. Willoughby Smith, 5. Paul Julius Gottlieb Nipkow, 6. Constantin Perskyi, 7. Lee de Forest, 8. Arthur Korn, 9. Vladimir Zworykin, 10. Philo Farnsworth, and many more made significant contributions to television invention. For sure, under the leadership of David Sarnoff, Zworykin’s ream at RCA fine-tuned and integrated all other previous advancements into the invention of Television in 1939. Hence, there is no straightforward answer to a vital question–who invented television when?
Television is a fascinating household item. Naturally, it raises a vital question: who invented television when? Although we cite the name of John Logie Baird as the inventor of Television, surprisingly, no single individual created it. It did not grow as a sudden spark in the mind of a single genius. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the work of many individuals culminated in the invention of television. The development took place almost over 100 years. Hence, there is neither a specific date for its invention nor the name of a particular inventor. Several inventors contributed to it over almost a century.
The idea of having something that transmits moving images kept inspiring creative minds for a long time. It existed long before the first television was built. A few inventors made a significant contribution in the 19th century in transmitting images. This development became the precursor to support the implementation of the idea of transmitting moving images—giving birth to Television.
Underlying principles of Television Invention:
The basic technique of the invention of the television was to conceive (i) a moving scene as a collection of static frames or pictures, (ii) the representation of each frame as a sequence of picture elements (or lines), (iii) sequential conversion of the intensity of each of those picture elements into current or voltage, (iv) transmission of converted light intensity equivalent electrical signals of the all picture elements of each frame in a sequence, and (v) reception and conversion of sent electrical signals back into the intensity of light.
Names of a few Inventors
Here are a few selected inventors who contributed to developing the techniques over almost 100 years: 1. Alexander Bain, 2. Frederick Bakewell, 3. Giovanni Caselli, 4. Willoughby Smith, 5. Paul Julius Gottlieb Nipkow, 6. Constantin Perskyi, 7. Lee de Forest, 8. Arthur Korn, 9. Vladimir Zworykin, 10. Philo Farnsworth, and many more. A snapshot of their contributions which have culminated into modern television that we know of, is given below.
Facsimile transmission: a precursor to television invention
Telephonic transmission of scanned printed material (both text and images) is the idea. The journey started with the development of a method for mechanically scanning graphics in the early 19th century. Alexander Bain, a Scottish inventor, introduced the facsimile machine between 1843 and 1846. Its laboratory demonstration took place in 1851 due to the work of English Physicist Frederick Bakewell. However, the Italian priest Giovanni Caselli deserves the credit for developing a practical facsimile system. In 1856, he developed and rendered the first functional facsimile system, working on telegraph lines. Furthermore, he kept improving it.
For sure, this invention was vital for having the technique of conversion of a picture into a sequence of picture elements, mechanically converting each picture element into an electrical signal, transmitting voltage or current equivalent of light intensity of each picture element over the electrical wire, and receiving equivalent electrical signals and converting back them into printed dots on paper. Its importance as a precursor increases the difficulty in answering this vital question: who invented television when?
The invention of photoconductive material and Nipkow Disk: vital development for television invention
For the invention of television, one of the main challenges was to transfer the light intensity of each picture element into electrical current or voltage. In 1873, Willoughby Smith discovered the photoconductivity of the element selenium. This invention gave birth to electronic image scanning to send still images through phone lines as early as 1895. Hence, inventors made progress towards telephotography, both still and in motion, and ultimately TV cameras. During the same time, a German student, Paul Julius Gottlieb Nipkow, proposed and patented the Nipkow disk in 1884—giving birth to image rasterizer.
Birth of the word Television
On August 24, 1900, Constantin Perskyi, a Russian scientist, presented a paper reviewing the existing electromechanical technologies, mentioning the work of Nipkow and others on the possibility of transmission and production of moving pictures. In articulating the likelihood, he introduced the word television. However, this possibility remained impractical until Lee de Forest and Arthur Korn developed amplification tube technology in 1907.
First Demonstration of Transmission and Reproduction of Moving Images
In Paris in 1909, Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier demonstrated the instantaneous transmission of images. An 8×8 matrix of 64 selenium cells, individually wired to a mechanical commutator, served as an image sensor for transferring the light intensity of each of the 64 picture elements into equivalent electrical signals in a fixed sequence. Upon reception, for converting those signals back into comparable light intensity, they used a type of Kerr cell for modulating light with the received electrical signals. It’s worth noting that the Kerr cell refers to the quadratic electro-optic (QEO) effect; it is caused due to a change in the refractive index of a material in response to an applied electric field. This demonstration was sufficient for a proof of concept of clearly transmitting individual letters of the alphabet by updating images “several times” each second.
Demonstrations of Television Invention
Using a mechanical mirror-drum scanner and “Braun tube” (cathode ray tube), in 1911 in Russia, Boris Rosing and his student Vladimir Zworykin demonstrated transmission of very crude images over wires. Moving images were not feasible due to the poor sensitivity of laggy selenium cells. Archibald Low gave the first demonstration of his television system at the Institute of Automobile Engineers in London in 1914, giving the impressing of seeing wireless. Further development continued.
John Baird’s First Mechanical Television–does not answer, Who Invented Television When?
By employing the Nipkow disk, in 1923, John Logie Baird envisaged a complete television system. During 1925 and 1926, he started demonstrating the transmission of images of dummy first, followed by real human faces. In 1927, he successfully transmitted TV signals over 438 miles of telephone line. Soon after it, in 1928, Baird’s company broadcast the first transatlantic television signal. Between 1929-1936, he experimented with television services using his mechanical means.
Demonstration of Television by Others:
Charles Francis Jenkins, an American inventor, publicly demonstrated the synchronized transmission of silhouette pictures in 1925. He also used the Nipkow disk. A Japanese inventor, Kenjiro Takayanagi, in 1926, presented a television system with a 40-line resolution. He used a Nipkow disk scanner and CRT display. Subsequently, he improved resolution to 100 lines, not surpassed until 1931. Takayanagi was also the first to transmit human faces in halftones in 1928. Furthermore, work on the advancement of different aspects of mechanical television continued in Russia, France, England, America, and several other places. As a result, there is no single answer to “who invented television when?”.
Birth of Electronic Television Invention
Before emigrating to the USA, Russian-born engineer Vladimir Zworykin had the experience to work on Television as an assistant to Boris Rosing. While working at Westinghouse, he applied for his first television patent in 1923. Subsequently, in 1929, Zworykin demonstrated his all-electronic television system. In Electronic television, the iconoscope transferred images into electrical signals, and at the receiving side, the image formed back through CRT. Here, mechanical scanning is replaced through the scanning with an electronic beam.
At the event of Zworykin’s demonstration, David Sarnoff, an executive at Radio Corporation of America (RCA), was among the audience. He envisioned the future profit-making opportunity in the role of Television transforming the way people communicate. After being the president of RCA in 1930, he hired Zworykin to develop and improve television technology.
Soon after embarking on giving commercial shape to television, RCA got into a patent dispute with Philo Farnsworth, who at the age of 27 completed the prototype of the first working fully electronic TV system. It was based on this “image dissector.” Eventually, the court ordered Sarnoff to pay Farnsworth $1 million in licensing fees. However, despite being viewed as the true father of television by historians, he never got that recognition. Along with settling a legal dispute, RCA kept developing both television and broadcasting companies. In 1939, after investing $50 million in fine-tuning, RCA introduced the public to television in a big way at the World’s Fair in New York City.
Who Invented Television When?–no straightforward answer
As opposed to a single spark, the systematic flow of ideas from the work of many inventors over a century has culminated into television. Hence, there is no straightforward answer for “Who Invented Television When?”. Both academic-type research and the tinkering of individuals contributed. In the end, serious steps for profit-making opportunities gave the final push in combining all the past developments into usable products. Furthermore, the profit-making competition out of this remarkable invention has been contributing to its evolution, turning it into disruptive innovation.