Evolution of the Television Set


Many of us can’t seem to end the day without watching a little television. As kids, we grew up on the sitcoms and cartoons we saw on TV, especially during the weekend. As adults, we’ll watch the news and get caught up on on-screen dramas. Needless to say, TV is an indispensable part of modern life for most people living in the developed world.

Nowadays, with a lot of us owning high-definition, cable-ready flat-screen TVs, we seem to be taking televisions for granted. Still, we should take time to think how the amazing television has evolved through the years since it was invented.

In the beginning, having a “window to the world” in the comfort of one’s home was just a dream for inventors. Eventually, as we know, the whole of the United States has been fascinated, entertained and informed through television since it was invented about 75 years ago. Let’s take a look at this evolution and really understand that colorful screen that’s present in almost every living room.

Baird’s Television Equipment

John Logie Baird is commonly credited as the one who invented the world’s first working television system in 1926, as well as the first colored television system. He worked with televisor equipment and some dummies for testing purposes.

The Father of Television

Dubbed as the “Father of Television,” Russian inventor Vladimir Zworykin’s work is clearly indisputable. He was responsible for creating the all-important kinescope, more familiarly known as the cathode-ray tube. This invention was complete in 1929, though the first electronic television was already there.

First Electronic Demonstration

The first demonstration of electronic television was actually back in 1970, in San Francisco. A 21-year-old Philo Taylor Farnsworth was behind this design, though he didn’t experience electricity in his own home until the age of 14.

The first even transmitted image was a single line, with a dollar sign following soon after that (though not necessarily the second). Farnsworth deliberately used this image because of an investor’s question: “When are we going to see some dollars in these things, Farnsworth?”


Marconi’s First Transmitter

One of the granddaddies of the television is the first transmitter, which was invented by Italian engineer Guglielmo Marconi. It successfully sent the world’s first radio message across the Atlantic. This “radio” did not send music or voice like the radio we know today. Rather, it received buzzing sounds from the spark gap transmitter inside, which then relayed a message using Morse code.

Old Portable Television

Portable televisions came about as early as the 1950s, but they were generally too heavy to be carried. One of the earliest portable TVs (if not the first) was the 1955 Ecko TMB valve TV, which came complete with a handle. While this may not have been a light model, it was still considered a convenience for backyard viewings or having a viewing party at someone else’s house.

The first “miniature TV” was the Sinclair MTV-1, which was introduced to the market in 1970. Only a few years later, companies such as Panasonic and Sony began to introduce handheld TVs in the consumer market.

The World’s First OLED TV

According to many sources, the first OLED TV (curved screen TV) was introduced in the consumer market in 2014. This was by the electronics company LG, which is now one of the leading electronics brands in the global market.

The Philco Safari Portable TV

One of the truly “micro” portable televisions to come out in history is the Philco “Safari” portable television in 1959. This was powered by a small battery and ran using transistors.

The First Mass-Produced TV

The very first mass-produced television set was the RCA-630-TS. Introduced after World War II, the RCA 630-TS became an immediate hit. It was considered a high-tech, large-screen television during its time, measuring 10 inches and housed inside a sleek wooden cabinet.


Throughout the years, television antennae, as well as satellite dishes, have appeared and faded away depending on the changing course of technology. Antennas were around in 1973, and went on to become the standard for every television until the Smart TV was introduced.

SMPTE Color Bars

SMPTE color bars, also known as a test pattern, are a sort of television test signal. These color bars are usually shown when the transmitter is operating but no available program is being broadcast. It is also common when we are about to play videotapes, video CD’s or DVDs, so the color bars are pretty much a standard thing.

These color bars are used for calibrating equipment for broadcasting, recording or playing back videos. Their main function is to help the user to adjust the colors on their sets in order to get correct and accurate hues recorded on tape.

The Philco Predicta

The Philco Predicta is a television set that was released in 1958. What’s so unique about this television is that its screen can be swiveled. Yep, it was the first “swivel” TV to be introduced into the market. However, its slow sales eventually led Philco to file bankruptcy in 1960.

This technology might have been before its time, but as we know now, it wasn’t irrelevant. After all, even some of the most basic LCD TVs can now swivel around on their bases. Some people are still salvaging old Predicta television sets and restoring them to a workable condition, which speaks volumes about the build quality. A Predicta television set was also featured in the Incredibles 2 movie.

The First Mass Produced TV Set in Czechoslovakia

The table model TV called the Tesla 4001A was released for the Czechoslovakian market in 1953. It was made for the first national channel, with inter-carrier audio processing, 11 FM circuits, and an AC supply of 120-220 volts. The market run for this model was short-lived, lasting only until 1957.

Popularity in America

Americans were quickly enchanted by this apparatus, as is still evident in this high-tech, digital age. During the 1950s, there were around six million households who had television sets. By the 1960s, that figure astoundingly increased to about 60 million.

About the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)

The LCD televisions are now the most common kind that can be found in modern homed. In fact, the previous versions, CRT TVs, are now considered more or less obsolete.

LCD TVs are remarkably thinner and lighter than cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions. Although LCD TVs first emerged in the early 80s, it was in 2007 that they surpassed the sales of the CRT TVs for the first time.

Another Curved Television

Television has come a long way for many decades; from thick, heavy-glass CRT monitors to flat, curved high definition flat screen TVs.

The Samsung 105-inch Ultra HD 4K television set was released in 2015. After we progressed from outward-curving television sets to the flatscreen LCDs, this is one of the latest introductions that now boast an inward-curving screen.

Carrying a retail price of “only” $119,999, the Samsung UN1059 4K TV was touted as the most affordable 4K TV yet (that is, if you are a millionaire). This will give you an idea of just how expensive these latest TV sets are. However, technology gets cheaper when it becomes older, so we can easily hope for one of these to grace our living rooms before long!

The American Evolution of Television

This discussion about the evolution of television is one that only summarily touches upon the journey of this particular invention. If you’re in search of more the book called “Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television” by Erik Barnouw might be of interest. Take a look at it here:


This book is based on the United States history of broadcasting, representing the result of decades of hard work and labor. While some might view this history as being a sort of trivia, it is part of the complicated social tapestry that can help us in defining the digital era.

With this work, one can get to know about the rise and decline of the major American networks, the development of cable and satellite TV, the digital switchover, and trace the evolution of VCRs to DVRs.  With the ‘questions for a new millennium’ appendix, we can also look forward to the future of the television along with examining its current state.


If we are to understand this particular century, we have to look at how television has evolved. After all, this is a ‘box’ we’re looking at several hours a day, and it has the potential to shape our thought and actions to some extent. With crisp and clear images on our screen every night, we’re probably extremely spoiled by television today. Still, it’s always a useful activity to trace just what brought us to this point.