And yet this device so vital to daily life remains a complete mystery to most people. While any elementary student can at least produce the more common mistaken identities of those who claim to have invented the light bulb or telephone, very few college professors could probably come up with even one of the many names attached to the invention of television.
In Boston, Massachusetts in 1875 a man named George Carey forwarded a theory that involved arranging a multitude of photoelectric cells arranged on panel; this was to become the very first tentative step toward the creation of modern day television.
The technology of the time made Carey's idea little more than a dream, however. An improvement over Carey's design was forwarded by Constantin Senlecq in 1881. This Frenchman proposed a system involving spinning switches located between the cell panels and lamps; turning at the same rate the consequence would the connection of each cell with the lamp. The result, according to Senlecq, was that the picture could be sent along just one wire, eliminating the needs for the thousands that Carey's idea would require. Unfortunately, this idea had a distinct downside that prevented it from being realized: the number of both cells and lamps required would have been enormous (Burns, 1998, pp. 40-43).
In 1921, a teenager named Philo Farnsworth become conscious of the fact that an image could be duplicated almost instantaneously when an electron beam scanned picture in horizontal lines. At the same time Vladimir Zworykin, a Russian immigrant, had devised a camera through which an image could focused via a lens to a tube that was lined with several photoelectric cells. That image was then scanned with an electron beam before broadcast to a cathode-ray tube (Abramson, 1995, p. 17-18).
Farnsworth's apparatus employed an anode finger, or a very thin tube marked with a small aperture at the top which was used to scan the picture. Within the tube were magnetic coils that turned the electrons captured through the aperture into electric current. Once this was accomplished, the electric current was transmitted to a cathode-ray tube where the image was scanned once more, this time onto a fluorescent surface (Winston, 1998, pp. 108-110). Farnsworth applied for a patent in 1927 for what he called an image dissector, but he ran into a delay due to lack of funding on one hand, and constant challenges to his patent claims for another (Schwartz, 2002, pp. 83-85). It was this constant assault on his integrity that finally caused Farnsworth to sell two licences to on his patent; a British agreement with British Gaumont as well as an American agreement with RCA. RCA then issued a model of Farnsworth's image dissector in 1934 called the iconoscope, using a camera very similar to Farnsworth's tube, but claiming that it was based on Zworykin's ideas. This led to even more patent wars during which time the far richer RCA began investing more and more into the concept. RCA made the announcement that they would soon be financing the creation of commercial television during the 1939 World's Fair in New York.
The World's Fair announcement was followed by the world's first television broadcasts. On May 17 of that year, NBC broadcast a college baseball game,