There are not very many inventions, one can attribute to one single inventor. In school, we are taught that Thomas Alva Edison invented the light bulb. He did indeed invent and receive a patent for his improved version. He was not, however, the only inventor of the light bulb. There were people before, and after him who invented and received patents for their versions. The idea of projecting live imagines on a screen goes back to the early 1800s. Young students, inventors, and scientists began to create and patent their ideas of what would be known as television. Credit is given to one person, however, for being the first to invent a workable electronic television. That person would be a twenty-one-year-old gentleman by the name of Philo Farnsworth. Rather than elaborating, I would suggest viewing his 1957 appearance on “I’ve Got a Secret” online. On the show, he puts everything into proper perspective and gives his own biography. At that time he still had many ideas for the improvement of television.
PARIS WORLD FAIR 1900
While many people share credit for the invention of the television, only one person is credited for coining the word itself. At the Paris World Fair in 1900 Russian scientist, Constantin Perskyi read a paper before the First International Congress of Electricity, at the World Industrial Exhibition. In the paper, he spoke of transmitting images and used the word television. The paper was read in French. The word is spelled the same in French, and English, with the exception of hyphens over the letter e in French.
NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR 1939
Corona Park in Flushing Meadows New York was the site for two World’s Fairs, the first in 1939, and the second in 1964. The 1939 World Fair has the distinction of being the second-largest American World Fair in history, with St. Louis 1904 Fair being the first. It also had the distinction of being the site where television made its debut, in the United States. [The United Kingdom launched its first broadcast a decade earlier] This was the first televising of the opening ceremonies of an event, major, or minor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the president to deliver a speech broadcast on live television. People were able to view the speech on televisions placed in different locations on the fairgrounds. The National Broadcasting Company, commonly known as N.B.C. was born. To coincide with the 1939 World’s Fair R.C.A. offered television sets for sale. The advertising was geared for the more affluent, with prices ranging from $200 to $600 dollars. This was a lot of money, at the time, far from the reach of the average income. These were 10-inch screens encased in very attractive cabinets. Seeing a television at the World’s Fair was one thing. Having a television in the home didn’t seem to serve any great purpose. There was very little to watch. Sales were not good. . This is where things stood, as we exited the decade of the ’30s and began the new decade.
The opening of the New York World’s Fair occurred on April 30, 1939. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland which started World War Two. As we moved into the new decade, this very major event, put television production on the extreme back burner of the stove, along with automobile production, and many other productions. One thing the war did was create more jobs, which brought families more financial stability. After the war, with families having more money and more television shows springing up, people really began to take an interest in the new media. Television sales were greatly rising. The excitement of this media was about to take on a new meaning. This would occur with the next decade, waiting in the wings.
As the new decade began, television was in competition with another very old and established media. The media was called radio. On the radio, there was music, news, and stories. There were lots and lots of stories, with very devoted fans, forced to use their imaginations, for what they could not see. There was “The Shadow”, “Lights Out”, “Mr. and Mrs. North and “Mr. District Attorney” just to name a few. These fans quickly deserted what they had to listen to, and could not see, for what they could see. A lot of radio programs switched to television. Soap Operas from radio started live productions on television with shows running fifteen minutes. The Ozzie and Harriet Show started on radio in 1944. It made its television debut in 1952 running until 1966. The radio show continued until 1954. Audiences watched Rick Nelson grown from a little boy to a teen idol. A lot of new television shows were tremendous hits with the fans. The Ed Sullivan show, which debut in 1948 would run until 1971. Meet the Press which began a year earlier is still on the air. There were quiz shows such as “What’s my Line”, which ran from 1950 to 1975. Milton Berle had great success with his show. A very top of the list of popularity would have to be “I Love Lucy” with its debut in 1951.
This was very keeping up with the Joneses decade. Car design was very distinctive to its year. It was very easy to distinguish a 1950 Packard from a 1953 Packard, which aged your car rather fast. For those living in apartments, in the city, it didn’t matter as much. Your neighbor didn’t necessarily know your car. Finding a parking space would be the main concern. For those living in the suburbs, they did know your car. The solution was to buy a new car, for appearance's sake. People wanted to own a television not only to watch but because their neighbor owned one. The Screens were getting larger. People with older ten-inch screens wanted the new 21-inch screen, which his neighbor just bought. Record players were also advancing from the Victrola of the 1920s, which played 78 RPM records, with rather raw sound quality, to the new sound of the state-of-the-art High Fidelity [HI Fi] record players. The record player had automatic record changers and played all existing record speeds. Manufactures started combing the new record player with television offering a home entertainment center of that decade, for the Joneses and their neighbors.
Televisions during this era did not hold up as well as they do today. Today a television will usually last a few years, beyond the warranty with no problems at all. Then one day you turn it on, it doesn’t work, and you buy a new one. In the pioneer days of the media, televisions had tubes. The tubes were horizontal, vertical, bright, contrast, volume, and most important picture. Usually, the picture tube lasted the life of the television. The other tubes could go out, without warning, at any time. This was very good for television repairmen, who usually came to the house. Most television sets were too large to bring to a repair shop. There were a few people who would remove the bad tube themselves, and replace it. The average person however didn’t know one tube from another. The hope was to have the repairman in, and out in time to watch that favorite show. This was indeed, the golden age of television.