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Since its inception in the late 1940s, in what ways has television had an impact on modern society?

Television is the most widespread form of communication in the world today. The most common use of tv is as a source of information and as entertainment for viewers in their homes.
Although the first practical televisions began operating in the late 1940s, some of the earliest work took place in 1884 when Paul Nipkow, a German engineer, designed a scanning disk in which light passing through the disk created crude television images.  An electronic method of scanning was developed by the Russian-born American physicist Vladimir Zworykin in his iconoscope camera tube of the 1920s.  By the 1930s, cathode rays, or beams of electrons in evacuated glass tubes, were developed for use in television by Allen DuMont, an American electrical engineer.  His method of picture reproduction is essentially the same as that still used today.  The first home television was demonstrated in Schenectady, New York in 1928, by Ernst F. W. Alexanderson. The images were small, poor and unsteady, but the set could be used in the home.
A television broadcasting boom began after World War II, and the industry grew rapidly. At first the development of color television lagged behind because it was technically more complex. Later it was delayed because color television signals had to use the same channels as monochrome television, which also had to be receivable in black and white on monochrome sets. Compatible color television was perfected in 1953.
Television is a system of sending and receiving pictures and sound by means of electronic signals transmitted through wires and optical fibers or by electromagnetic radiation. These signals are usually broadcast from a central television station to reception devices in television sets in homes or to relay stations used by cable television providers.
A television camera changes the light from a scene into an electric video signal. These signals are processed and combined with other video and audio signals to provide a television program. The program's electronic signals are then sent to a transmitter, which amplifies them and combines them with carrier waves (oscillating electric currents that carry information). The carrier waves are sent through the air via a transmitting antenna. The waves cause electric currents to form in television-receiving antennas within their range. A receiver in the television translates the signal back into pictures and sounds.
The high-frequency waves radiated by transmitting antennas can travel only in a straight line. For this reason, transmitting antennas must be placed on tall buildings or towers. Cable television was first developed in the late 1940s to serve areas that are blocked from receiving signals. The signal is picked up on a receiver and redistributed by cable.
The television receiver translates the pulses of electric current from the antenna or cable into images and sounds. Once the viewer selects a channel, the incoming signal is amplified, and the video, audio and scanning signals are separated from the carrier waves. The audio system translates the audio portion of the carrier wave back into sound by running it through an amplifier and a speaker system.  The television picture tube re-creates the original picture by using an electron gun, which shoots a scanning beam of electrons toward the back of the television screen. The screen is coated with phosphor, a substance that glows when it is struck by electrons.
In color television a portion of the video signal is used to separate out the three color signals. The screen is coated by tiny dots arranged in groups of three (blue, green and red). Before light from each beam hits the screen, it passes through a layer of opaque material that partially blocks the beam corresponding to one color and prevents it from hitting dots of another color. The viewer sees an image having the entire spectrum of colors.

  • 1907, Boris Rosing transmitted black-and-white silhouettes of simple shapes using a mechanical mirror-drum apparatus as a camera and a cathode-ray tube as a receiver.
  • 1919, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) is formed.
  • 1923, Vladimir Zworykin patented the "Iconoscope," an electronic camera tube. By the end of 1923, he had also produced a picture display tube, the "Kinescope."
  • 1924, John Baird was the first to transmit a moving silhouette image, using a mechanical system based on Paul Nipkow's model.  The following year he obtained the first actual television picture, while Zworykin took out the first patent for colour television.
  • 1926, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is formed by Westinghouse, General Electric and RCA.
  • 1927, pictures of Herbert Hoover, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, were transmitted 200 miles from Washington, D.C. to New York, in the world's first televised speech and first long-distance television transmission.
  • 1929, John Baird opened the world's first television studio in London.
  • 1936, there were about 2,000 television sets in use around the world.
  • 1938, Allen DuMont manufactured the first all-electronic television set for sale to the North American public.
  • 1941, North America's current 525-line/30-pictures-a-second standard, known as the NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) standard, was adopted.
  • 1945, baseball was televised for the first time.
  • 1946, the world's first television broadcast via coaxial cable was transmitted from New York to Washington D.C.
  • 1947, a permanent network linking four eastern U.S. stations was established by NBC.
  • 1950, cable TV began in the U.S., while European broadcasters fixed a common picture standard of 625 lines.  Over 100 television stations are in operation in the U.S.
  • 1951 color TV introduced in the U.S.  Unfortunately, for technical reasons, the several million existing black-and-white receivers in America could not pick up the colour programs.
  • 1952, the first political ads appeared on U.S. television networks, when the Democrats bought a half-hour slot for Adlai Stevenson, who was bombarded with hate mail for interfering with a broadcast of I Love Lucy. Eisenhower, Stevenson's political opponent, bought only 20-second commercial spots, and won the election.
  • 1953, TV Guide began publication this year, and the U.S. began color transmission again; this time successfully.
  • 1960, the Nixon-Kennedy debates were televised, marking the first network used a split screen. It wa believed that television helped Kennedy win the election. Sony developed the first all-transistor television receiver, making televisions lighter and more portable. Ninety percent of American homes now owned a television set.

WWW sites
There are a variety of museums and organizations devoted to television, radio and broadcasting:  the Museum of Moving Images; the Museum of Radio and Technology (emphasizes radio); the Paley Center for Media; the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in England (nice collections); the UCLA film and television archive (one of the largest); the Museum of Broadcast Communications (often has changing displays of video clips for viewing); and the Newseum (an interactive news museum).
The Media History Digital Library for television indexes many different links about television. 

The best site is the Museum of Television in Canada which includes exhibitions, an oral history project, images and a Timeline of Television history.

Some other good sites iclude:

Recommended Books
A series of authors have examined the effects of television on modern politics and public opinion:  Matthew Kerbel, Edited for Television:  CNN, ABC and American Presidential Elections (1998); Karen Johnson-Cartee and Gary Copeland, Manipulation of the American Voter:  Political Campaign Commercials (1997); Warren Strobel, Late-Breaking Foreign Policy:  The News Media's Influence on Peace Operations (1997); Anthony Corrado and Charles Firestone, eds., Elections in Cyberspace:  Toward a New Era in American Politics (1996); Tom Rosenstiel, Strange Bedfellows:  How Television and the Presidential Candidates Changed American Politics, 1992 (1994); E. Dover, Presidential Elections in the Television Age:  1960-1992 (1994); Roderick Hart, Seducing America:  How Television Charms the Modern Voter (1994); R. J. Donovan and R. Scherer, Unsilent Revolution:  Television News and American Public Life, 1948-l991 (1992); Austin Ranney, Channels of Power: The Impact of Television on American Politics (1983).
For an introduction to the impact of television on modern society, see:  Jay Newman, Religion vs. Television:  Competitors in Cultural Context (1996); Nicholas Abercrombie, Television and Society (1996); Peter Dahlgren, Television and the Public Sphere:  Citizenship, Democracy and the Media (1995); Aletha Huston,  et al., Big World, Small Screen:  The Role of Television in American Society (1992); Conrad Kottak, Prime-Time Society:  An Anthropological Analysis of Television and Culture (1990)
For the history of television, see:  R. Burns, Television:  An International History of the Formative Years (1998); Anthony Smith, ed., Television:  An International History (1995); Michael Ritchie, Please Stand By:  A Prehistory of Television (1994); Michael Winship, Television (1988); Albert Abramson, The History of Television, 1880 to 1941 (1987).

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