Sunday, 4 May 2008

WRONG: Television was invented by John Logie Baird

“In 1923 a Scotch inventor projected televised shadows on a screen…” So begins a typical guide to television from 1941. Despite what you may have heard, however, John Logie Baird didn’t invent the television. He’s certainly prominent among those who can take credit for innovations in the field – his electro-mechanical “televisor” device, which involved shining light through spinning discs, transmitted an image of a ventriloquist’s dummy called “Stooky Bill” before anyone else had any success. But this was not electronic television.

Baird was also a pioneer of colour television, but his other inventions, including pneumatic shoes and glass razorblades, failed to catch the public’s imagination.

While Vladimir Zworykin and Kalman Tihanyi also deserve credit, the most interesting of TV’s pioneers was Philo Farnsworth. He made his preliminary designs for electron tubes as a 14-year-old living on his parents’ farm in Idaho and by 1929 – at the age of 23 – he had almost single-handedly developed the first true electronic television system. He came to dislike the uses to which TV was put, but, according to his widow, watched the moon landing and declared, “This has made it all worthwhile". He died in 1971, so his thoughts on Hollyoaks will never be known.

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