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Page history last edited by Jeff Martinek 13 years, 4 months ago

"An eminent scientist of this city...is said to be on the point of publishing a series of important discoveries, and exhibiting an instrument invented by him by means of which objects or persons standing or moving in any part of the world may be instantaneously seen anywhere and by anybody."

---March 1877 New York Sun letter to the editor



Television is a medium device developed as another form of technology used to evolve and connect the world. Its purpose is to broadcast, receive and develop moving or still pictures and sound through distance. Sounds are transmitted through wires and amongst the beginning creation a radio was needed for audio. It creates the illusion you don’t have to actually be there physically but mentally. An invention began in 1831 and since then has informed people on things they were not aware of and would later influence and change families ways of living. The invention of television like many other technologies recreated lifestyles, started new trends and a new epidemic generated. From 1935 to 2008 television has made a major impact on our society, and in some places of the world television doesn’t exist. This is the beginning of the uproar, which has been questioned and argued for a while amongst concerned theorist. We will take a closer look from the gathered information to stimulate our own personal thoughts on television based on the benefits as well as the problems and as consumers how we are affected.



In 1831 the invention of electromagnetism by Joseph Henry and Michael Faraday was the beginnings of electronic communication and from there were many inventions geared toward the production of television. Television has a long history which was not based on just one inventor but many scientist, engineers, and inventors taking part in this creation and helping it evolve. However, a discovery that greatly impacted later discoveries was the invention of the still images over wires through Abbe Giovanna Caselli, Pantelegraph in 1862. The invention of television began as a thinking process in 1876 from a Boston Civil Servant name George Carey, which resulted into the creation of his developments in 1877. Carey took his drawings and came up with a “selenium camera” this device purpose was to allow people to “see by electricity”. From this point on till 1935 scientist and other men strategize and experimented with techniques to recreate television while inventing and discovering new ways to make it better, this is called the “Mechanical Television Era”. Before television scientist were coming up with ways to communicate messages through devices which a person didn’t have to be there to actually see it or get it. These inventors were interested in systems that would speed up the information which people processed to change the way they lived, thought, and what they use to know. Scientist such as Paiva, Figuier, and Senlecq were interested in allowing humans to see at a distance, this lead to alternative designs for the “telectroscopes”. More developments in this time period that enhanced visions for the product of television were Eugen Goldstein’s “cathode rays”, Sheldon Bidwell’s telephotography, Paul Nipkow’s “electric telescope”, and due to Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison telephone invention to see and hear, AT&T used television for its first demonstration on how to use it, April 7, 1927. Two other men that were apart of this forming technology were Charles Jenkins and John Baird. Baird developed the first color picture tube in England during WWII as he gave the world the first public demonstration of real images of people in 1926. Jenkins in the states tried creating the same effect with the earliest forms of moving silhouettes in North America. Through these many developments it wasn’t until the World’s Fair in 1939 that really started the uproar as television was seen amongst many in the public eye. This fair was the beginning of a new era and is the reason television has generated and populated into what it is today.

The invention of television has a long history and many forms that have progressed from it. Here are some important dates standing out as the aspect of television and it’s steadily evolution continue to advance.

Television goes from this:




(image) to this (image)



Golden Age” 1930s-50s

RCA’s David Sarnoff showcase for the 1st presidential speech based on television and its new discoverers in 1939 at the World’s Fair was the essential beginning of the uproar, which soon after became an experiment that everyone had to be apart of. The growing of commercial television grew within a three year time span 1945-1948 from 9 to 48, as well as cities having commercial stations grew from 8 to 23, leading to sales increasing by 500%. Television rapidly grew so popular that by 1960, 85% of households had a television set. Everyone was interested in this upcoming device not only inventors, scientist, and engineers, but people that could make profits off the screen (actors, artists, entrepreneurs, other media & advertisement forms) and even the consumers were engaged. People were excited about the new things they were being introduced to that they were completely unaware of. The first sport on television for many viewers to witness was June 1946, Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn heavyweight fight at Yankee Stadium, 5,000 sets were being watched from about 30 people. Before Sesame Street there was the “Howdy Doody” children’s series in 1947 as well as NBC debut of “Meet the Press”, the oldest series on network TV. Before shows like “American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance?, America’s Best Dance Crew, Show Time At The Apollo, etc. there was “The Ed Sullivan Show” debuting in 1948 till 1971 being one of the longest running and most successful variety shows. In this same year 933 sponsors want in on the television market as they buy TV time for advertisements. As TV grows more popular in 1949 things become controversial which is the reason FCC adopted the Fairness Doctrine, to make broadcasters responsible for the information viewers were being received, especially pertaining to candidate elections, the were promoting equality for air time. A show that is still on TV today was ranked number one for 6 seasons, “I Love Lucy” debuted in 1951. 1952 a new Television Code was introduced by the National Association of Radio & Television Broadcasters for the sake of social critics who had problems with some things shown on TV becoming too racy. This argument are the same things still being discuss today amongst concerned citizens who care about things being advertised.


December 17, 1953 color television is brought to the U.S. but not yet a big deal due to lack of programs broadcasting in color. 1957 reported weekly 420 commercials for a total of 5 hours and 8 minutes; people were allowing the advertisements to be broadcast more than usual without thinking anything bad or negative about it. 1958 the competition for regular T.V vs. cable television begins as 450,000 subscribe to cable, also the rising of videotapes start to influence less viewers for television shows. In this same time period the criticism for television becomes announced as Edward R. Murrow states “that viewers must recognize television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us”. Regards to this statement it has come up many times that the entertainment provided for us is merely used to keep our attention off things that matter in the world.


Wired, Zapped, and Beamed” 1960s-80s

The more technology the more advanced television began to expand, cable and satellite television was forming. Commercials and the people were growing together creating things that were not seen first other than on TV. 1963 shows the first interracial commercial, leading to August 28 speech from Dr. Martin Luther King where millions tuned in, and month’s later former president Kennedy was shot, people got to witness this from live coverage. In this year newspaper sells decreased due to lack of interest in print information. Since commercials had been introduced there has been controversy over the images and message being portrayed. 1965 color TV is in full effect as 96% of NBC nighttime shows are broadcasted in color. 1966 more people seem to complain about the quality of television later resulting to an article reposting "TV is not an art form or a cultural channel; it is an advertising medium ... it seems a bit churlish and un-American of people who watch television to complain that their shows are lousy. They are not supposed to be any good. They are supposed to make money.” The disappointment of commercials on television showed as Americans were surveyed that 63% of people enjoy TV without commercials. In 1975 certain things became regulated such as violence or sexually explicit content, it couldn’t be shown before 9, and therefore everything broadcast on TV had to be appropriate for an entire household. “Roots” the miniseries is aired on ABC becoming the third most watched program on TV in history in 1977. ESPN the largest and most successful network on cable is debuted in 1979. 1980 networks debuted that are still out today were first broadcast such as CNN and MTV (music television). CNN being geared toward current news information was the exact opposite of MTV targeted for a younger audience involved in the popular culture. 1982 Home shopping network is introduced. 1983 the largest audience in TV history is drawn into the final episode of M*A*S*H, over 125 million homes viewed the last show. 1984 Apple Computer commercial first broadcast during Super Bowl, introducing advertising a new form of news in the media, also making the Super Bowl a way to put ads out. In the same year King of Pop Superstar Michael Jackson begins celebrity ads in a Pepsi-Cola commercial, leading to other celebrities following the trend. TCI spends over $3 billion for 150 cable companies as cable television expands, resulting to over 50% of households wired for cable in 1987. Since the introduction of VCR (Videocassettes Recorder) in 1982 the viewing of watching television decreased by 4% 6 years later in 1988 as VCR’s in the household were being consumed. To add to the cable affect in 1989 Paper-View is introduced, resulting in TV broadcast networks reaching its lowing point of 55% of viewers by July. On a good note in that year FOX TV earns $33 million with their hit show “The Simpsons”, a popular show still today in 2008. As the 80’s wrapped up their inventions to add other effects to television in the 90’s till 2008 more creations are formed.


Digitally Networked” 1990’s-2008

Within the past few decades that has been many technologies and upgrades from the invention of seeing things in a distance to being able to pause television during your favorite show. Everything has become digitally manufactured transforming television and its aspects it use to have, from the physical appearance to the technology of it and not yet mentioning the things broadcast, TV has changed significantly. 1990 A Children’s television act becomes effective so fewer commercials are shown and more educational programs are broadcast. 1992 infomercials becomes the new ad medium. Since the new technologies allowed people to watch whatever they were interested in by 1993 98% of households in the U.S owned a TV set and 64% of homes had more than two sets. MTV is questioned for its new hit animated sitcom “Beavis and Butt-head”, stating that it was a bad influence for children. The O.J Simpson case set the media off as over 95 million viewers got gimps of the trial where the former football player was being accused of murdering his wife in 1994. Next to the VCR, Digital satellite dishes make history becoming the biggest selling electronic item bought after hitting the market in 1996. Following that in 1997 was the mini DV (digital video cassette). Technology continuously booms with the Sony’s release digital 8 video format in 99’. In the year 2000 many items that are still very popular today were introduce such as the DVD (digital disc), recording on a CD from a camcorder is possible through the CDCam and besides the new technologies AOL and Time Warner get together forming the largest company in this category of the world. As DVD players rise in 2001 they become as popular in homes as VHS. YouTube my have generated from this next invention in 2002 that Sonny introduces, the MicroMV Digital MPEG-2, recorders that are extremely small but easily able to transmit videos to a PC and put on the internet. This results to the DVD camcorder the following year you could record straight on a disk in the MPEG2 format, making DVD’s more popular than video tapes considering the fact DVD’s had better quality, they were smaller, and more information could be held on it. 2004 The rise of the DVD’s completely take over VHS sales and as they advanced so did the DVD internet burner allowing people to burn things on a hard drive and put them on a CD, results in today it could be a form of “bootlegging”. There was a time when television was as small as a credit card, in 2005 Flat screen and HDTV’s (high definition) comes out becoming the new popular TV format of that year, LCD TV is predicted to be the most popular TV in the nation by 2009. TV’s with antennas will no longer be useful in 2009 due to all television being in Hi-def digital format. In more years to come with the inventions of new technology for the TV, things that use to be popular like antenna TV’s will cease to exist.



There are many theories made about television from the content to its influence, how much it has changed, and how it shapes our lives. Whether these Media ecologist thinks it is bad or good for us they all have implied valiant viewpoints based on there studies. Experts like Neil Postman, Jerry Mander, and Jeffrey Scheuer, explains how consuming our time watching television is not good for us, as they explain their thoughts individually but all stating the same problems. They explain how today television has no connection and it is one thing after another. [1] Postman says that “The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining”, his arguments are the content of television and how it is formed to a subject matter of simply entertain us and not on realistic situations. He believes people use television to create there identity and people forget who they really are as TV shape and structure their lives. Agreeing with his claims Scheuer reminds us that TV is everywhere, if not just taking a few hours to watch it in your home you can literally go anywhere and see TV. Like Postman he isn’t saying that the production of TV is bad his problem is with the messages being communicated from it and how it controls so much of human behavior. [2] Scheuer article Shouting Heads uses Susan Sontag, "In Plato's Cave," On Photography to back up his arguments on the general purpose that TV serves a fake reality, which the images are quick, as it gives people the illusion that what they are seeing is real. His claim is that it sorts of regenerate our conscious with the ideas of what we are watching and mediating on as hours of television is stored into our memory. While on the other hand Marshall McLuhan makes arguments against the nature of television but from a different viewpoint [3] stating that it “liberates us from our dependence on the printed world”. He describes what the world will become with the new technologies and inventions as a “global village” saying people will forget about the nature of story telling and independent thoughts. Although he can appreciate the “electronic medium” he doesn’t agree with it dismissing the thought of self structuring.[4] In Manders article “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” He explains that with every production there will be a group to follow behind it and either improve it for better or worst but there will still be followers and people to change what started as something but due to technology will end in something else. He states that after something is produce such as mass communications people are subject to react to the machine and become one with it as identities are taken. Mander just accepts the fact that TV is not going to change based on the people producing it and the subjects who make it possible for more production. His arguments are not generally geared toward television but the society’s way of thinking and behaving since television has been invented, pertaining to the structure of people’s lives and why they were so intrigued with the idea of “false images”, created to stimulate the mind. To sum of Manders viewpoints he feels there is no way to get rid of TV although it should be eliminated but to view it as “neutral” and apart of the world. With the thoughts of these theorist on television collectively they assure us that TV is nonsense, and McLuhan presumes that serious things such as the news are not even taking serious just a thought in people’s mind as “okay what’s next”. Well assuming from these arguments one may think that TV is bad for you, but based on Steven Johnson’s perspective “Watching TV Makes You Smarter”. I know you are probably thinking how that is possible, when all the arguments above made great since and are very factual. Well according to Johnson shows that promote violence and that are “bad for us” creates cognitive thinking. His biggest claim is about a study called the Sleeper Curve, claiming that the violence that we absorb watching television or from video games is healthy in a sense or in his words “nutritional”. He goes on to explain why he thinks it’s good for young people to acquire such malice behavior seen on television.[5] Based on his arguments young people are “altering the mental developments” which enhances their cognitive faculties. The word Cognitive by itself holds such a strong meaning, it’s the process of obtaining knowledge by using reasoning, intuition or perception. Therefore Johnson is implying that by watching TV and engaging in certain gruesome episodes it is an education mind stimulating adventure. Besides the point of the violent shows is that in reality TV it is amongst the popularity and what viewers want to see, within those structures people are not just relying on television to entertain them but they are solely entertaining themselves. There is no right or wrong answer for the consumption of television, all the thoughts for you to consciously generate your own perception of television based off the different viewpoints of Media Ecologist who studies the nature of this redeveloping medium.


Original Author: Erica Holden

Comments (7)

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:15 pm on Sep 11, 2008

My playlist of YouTube Television videos are here:


Any of these can be put into this article. See EmbedVideo page on this wiki for code or see me. -- JM
-- AdmiN (2008-04-07 16:19:42)

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:15 pm on Sep 11, 2008

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:15 pm on Sep 11, 2008

TV and Radio links: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Sections/tv.html
-- AdmiN (2008-04-07 17:22:21)

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:15 pm on Sep 11, 2008

Television Studies: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Sections/tv10.html
-- AdmiN (2008-04-07 17:23:11)

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:15 pm on Sep 11, 2008

McLuhan article http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/nov/01/comment.internet/print
-- ZachReiter (2008-04-13 22:52:54)

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:16 pm on Sep 11, 2008

It would be good to included the opposing viewpoints of Postman and Johnson and the arguments that they make on how TV makes us work (or not work) our minds.
-- KathyRodine (2008-04-15 13:44:52)

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:16 pm on Sep 11, 2008

Great job on the article, maybe you could mention the different studies and how some beleive that it is harmful to your health to watch television and the opposing views on those arguments.
-- GabbyCombs (2008-04-25 08:21:17)

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