History of television and mass broadcasts

As one of the most influential pieces of technology to emerge in the last hundred years, it’s important to remember that the television has developed incredibly quickly and over a relatively short period of time.

From the first mechanical television to the modern flat screen TV, the humble television has gone through an extraordinary number of changes and documented events as important as the moon landing and Kennedy’s assassination along the way.

Here we take a brief look at the history of the television and mass broadcasts and examine how they’ve changed over time. For more detailed information on technical and scientific developments, take a look at this article by Mitchell Stephens.

Early broadcasts

Broadcast television was introduced in different countries at different times. The earliest broadcasts were made in the UK and USA in the last years of the 1920s, with regular broadcasts on the BBC and other stations becoming commonplace in the 1930s.

Though the Second World War halted broadcasts in the UK between 1939 and 1945, and US development was hampered by poor investment and a lack of technical standards for broadcasters to abide by. An estimated 200 television sets were in use by the mid 30s, with this figure increasing dramatically throughout the decade.

High definition broadcasts

During the early stages of television, the number of areas able to receive broadcasts was low. In America, Los Angeles had experimented with early low-definition broadcasts before they ground to a halt and New York began high-definition broadcasts.

In the UK, high-definition broadcasts were resumed in 1946 following the end of the war. By the end of 1947, there were an estimated 44,000 television sets in the USA and an impressive 54,000 in the UK. The global expansion and domination of TV was about to begin.

Quick progression

As the demand for televisions grew, technology made a number of incredible leaps forward, changing the way people lived their lives in the process. In 1948, cable television was introduced in order to deliver the service to rural areas. In 1950, the first colour television was announced and by 1962, satellites had been introduced as a means of delivering television signals so broadcasts could now be relayed internationally.

Over the next few years, colour sets become the norm and satellite technology was developed to the point where broadcasts could be made from the moon and viewers had an incredible amount of channel choice.

During this time, the public broadcast of major events such as the 1969 moon landing (which attracted 530 million viewers) and popular global entertainment shows such as Eurovision (which attracted 125 million annual viewers between 1956 and 2013) cemented the importance of TV.

Development of smart TV

By 1996, there were a billion TV sets worldwide and televisions were being designed with an increasingly incredible quality of picture. After plasma technology pushed picture quality further than ever, the led TV was introduced as the television to beat, boasting fantastic picture clarity and brightness.

As we look to the future, consumer demand for more integrated and responsive technology seems to point toward the widespread adoption of smart TVs.