The early days of television

by Emma Dunn

Earlier this week the BBC launched their new iPlayer which is optimised for television rather than the computer. We at Nerd Insider reckon that this will revolutionise the way we watch TV, and paves the way for a new age of internet streamed programming.

But, as the old saying goes, you’ve got to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going… or something like that… What I’m trying to say is that I’m using this as an excuse to go all nerdy and delve into the deep depths of history to relive the key milestones in the infancy of television.

Flux capacitor at the ready… here we go!

1926 – John Logie Baird demonstrates TV as we know it

It’s hard to believe that less than a century ago John Logie Baird demonstrated for the first time what would become TV as we know it.

The contraption was made of a large wooden disk with lenses, a revolving shutter and a light sensitive cell. The images it created had a resolution of merely 30 lines, just enough to make out a human face. Compare that to today’s high definition resolution of 1080, and you can see just how far we’ve come.

1936 – The BBC begin broadcasting

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) began broadcasting regular public programming from Alexandra Palace, London, in 1936. Some argue that it was the first regular broadcasting service of its kind, and as a result many hail it as the birthplace of modern television. I mean, can you imagine life without ‘Cash in the Attic’? Nope? Neither can we.

1945 – TV breaks into the mass market

Despite being around for nearly 10 years, televisions were still very much a luxury item in 1945.
As the Second World War stunted production, they were rare and very expensive.

However, once the fighting stopped, manufacturing began again in earnest and the television became cheaper and more widespread. In the late 40s, only a few thousand owned a TV. However, by the early 50s, ownership figures spiralled to over a million.

1955 onwards – Competition is added to the mix

The BBC’s monopoly of the TV schedule was shattered in 1955, when ITV (Independent TV) started broadcasting in London. As TV ownership figures grew, so did choice. BBC 2 launched in 1964, followed by Channel 4 in 1982. The introduction of Satellite in 1989 saw the number of channels explode in number and now there is pretty much a channel for everything, from comedy and sport to teleshopping and holiday planning.

Today and beyond?

The landscape of TV has changed a lot since the early days of just one channel. Now, we have HD, 3D and even 4oD. The technological advances in the past decade have been so vast that it is pretty much impossible to keep a track of them all. However, the latest BBC iPlayer does mark a significant shift from analogue schedules to digital on demand services.

Add that to the analogue signal being switched off for good in 2012, television is bound to change beyond recognition over the next couple of years. If only John Logie Baird could see us now!

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