On visiting charity shops full of boxy televisions heavier than your sofa or seeing electronics website HiSpek’s clearance TVs it is easy to see how quickly television technology evolves. From tiny black and white screens in the first half of the twentieth century to the huge high definition screens with 3D capability now, televisions have undergone a massive transformation. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the history one of the most popular pieces of electronic equipment ever invented.
The 1930s saw the first commercially available televisions as advertisers proclaimed ‘radio is blind no longer!’ These new models made by manufacturers such as A.C. Cossor evolved from General Electric’s Octagon which showed the first TV drama ‘The Queen’s Messenger’.
Round screens and TVs on legs were regular features of early television sets in the 50s and 60s. During this time the amount of homes with televisions rose dramatically. At the beginning of 1961, television was still exclusively black and white and only two channels were available in the UK – BBC and ITV. At this point, the average size of a TV screen was between 12 and 14 inches.
Historian Joe Moran revealingly notes that in 1971 “ten per cent of homes still had no indoor lavatory or bath, 31% had no fridge and 62% had no telephone, but only 9% had no TV.” Models such as the Philco-Ford were becoming a must-have product.
The 80s brought the console television model and by now colour was well established since its introduction in the late 60s. By this period the wood grain exterior went out of fashion to be replaced by plastic.
Widescreen televisions were the latest advancement in the late 1990s. Widescreen technology replaced traditional 4:3 screens as programmes were widely broadcast in 16:9 aspect ratio in the late 2000s.
Plasma screens then became the vogue. The first plasma screen was invented as far back as 1964 however. Professors Gene Slottow and Donald Bitzer’s invention only featured one cell whereas today plasma screens have over a million.
Although they exhibited sharp images and great contrast, Plasma screens were found to require more power and were susceptible to screen burn. LCD model soon became the flatscreen television of choice. LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) has the benefit of being easy to read in bright environments and is also being thinner and lighter than its counterparts.
With huge Hollywood blockbusters showing in 3D, the technology made its way to the small screen. 3D televisions offered a better sense of depth but came with the disadvantage of its viewers having to wear glasses. The jury is still out as to whether this latest televisual technology will catch on.
With Apple long rumoured to enter the television market who knows how the technology will advance in the next ten years.