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Development Of The Television Essay, Research Paper

The Development of the Television Television, our link to the changing world around us. Once thought to be just a passing phase through a quickly advancing society, but now a common innovation in every household. Since the l940s television has become the window on the world for much of industrialized society. Anything the eye can see may be brought to the little screens in living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. What comes through the window, however, does not always please everyone. Television has been called “a vast wasteland”(Cheney 14) by Newton Minow, the Federal Communications Commission chairman under U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and now many question the limits television has with respect to the vulgarity exhibited. If television has persisted in offering mindless entertainment, it has also frequently rewarded viewers with outstanding presentations in drama, documentary, and the arts, and it has made such programming available to millions of people across the globe. HISTORY OF TELEVISION TECHNOLOGY The events leading to television began in 1817, when a Swedish chemist named Jons Jakob Berzelius discovered the chemical element selenium. Later it was found that the amount of electrical current that selenium could carry depended on the amount of light that struck it. This property is called photoconductivity. The discovery led an American inventor, G.R. Carey, to make the first crude television system using photoelectric cells. In 1875 he constructed a panel of photoelectric cells with many of them side by side. Each cell was connected by a wire to a corresponding electric light bulb in a panel. As an object was focused through a lens onto the panel of photoelectric cells, each cell controlled the amount of electricity it passed on to its corresponding light bulb. Unclear outlines of the object projected onto the photoelectric cells then showed in the lights on the panel of bulbs. Carey’s device needed many wires, photoelectric cells, and light bulbs. The amount of detail with which the original picture could be reproduced was very limited. (Abramson 29) In an attempt to simplify Carey’s apparatus, Paul Nipkow in 1884 invented the scanning disk. It is a round, flat disk with holes arranged in spiral fashion on its surface. The first hole is placed fairly close to the center of the disk, and the others are spaced closer to the edge. In this early television system, a scanning disk at the sending end was placed between the object to be televised and a photoelectric cell. The disk was whirled around by a motor, causing strips of the object to be exposed to the photoelectric cell through the holes in the disk. The current that the cell gave off corresponded to the amount of light reflected from the object through each hole in the disk. This changing current was transmitted by wire to an electric light bulb. A second scanning disk was placed between the light bulb and the person observing the picture. Both the sending and the receiving disks revolved at the same speed and exposed corresponding holes at the same time. As the disks whirled, a person watching at the receiver could see, through the holes, a series of lines of light, varying in brightness according to the lights and shadows that made up the picture at the sending end. Since the eye has the ability to keep impressions for short periods of time, the viewer could see a picture of the original object. The Nipkow scanning disk therefore simplified the television system. Only one photoelectric cell and one lamp were needed. However, the pictures still were not very clear, mostly because of the limited number of holes that could be punched into a disk and the speed at which the disk could be rotated. (Abramson 32) The 20th century brought many more additions and improvements. The first practical transmissions over wire were accomplished in 1923 by John L. Baird in England and C.F. Jenkins in the United States.(Abramson, 33) Also in the 1920s Vladimir Zworykin and Philo Farnsworth developed devices to serve as television cameras. Zworykin invented the iconoscope, and Farnsworth developed an image-dissector tube. Through 1935 either one or the other was used in television cameras as the light-sensitive device to pick up the images. Later the dissector was used largely in industrial television, and the iconoscope was only used for film work.(Abramson 35) The photoelectric cells in the iconoscope are microscopic in size and are on a plate called a mosaic. The mosaic is about 3″ x 4″ and contains thousands of photoelectric cells, each insulated from the others. When a light image made up of blacks, grays, and whites is focused upon this mosaic plate, each cell takes on an electrical charge. The size of the charge depends on the amount of light striking it. To change these electrical charges back into light energy to make a picture, the charges must be scanned to make them form a new light image at a receiving point. In the neck of the iconoscope a stream of electrons is shot onto the mosaic plate and is made to scan the plate by magnetic means. This “electron eye” moves from left to right and from top to bottom. The stream of electrons reaches each photoelectric cell and causes the release of the charges stored in a definite scanning order. This continuous stream of electric charges is then amplified and passed on to a radio transmitter.(Abramson 36) Unlike the iconoscope, which is a storage device, the image dissector projects the picture onto a light-sensitive surface. From this surface electrons are released in proportion to the strength of the light, thus forming an electron image. These electrons, which are moving slowly, are sped up by a voltage difference between the light-sensitive screen and a coating on the far end of the tube. The amplified charges are passed on to a transmitter.(Abramson 40) By 1945 both of these camera pickup tubes had been replaced by the image orthicon tube. This device is what brought television into the mass market. HOW THE TELEVISION OPERATES The television developed over many years of refinement. The modern television works in the following way. It begins at a receiving antenna which captures the broadcast wave and carries the signal to the television receiver. Inside the receiver the video and audio signals are separated by special electronic circuits. The audio signal is amplified and converted into sound in the speaker. After amplification the video signal passes into the picture tube, a cathode-ray tube that is the heart of the television receiver. Action begins as the cathode produces a stream of electrons. The picture information of the video signal goes into a grid that regulates the strength of the electron stream. The stream is sent to the deflection plates, which make the beam follow the same path as the scanning beam in the camera tube. One or more anodes speed the passage of electrons in the beam. The face of the picture tube is coated with a phosphorescent material that gives off light when struck by the electron beam. Thus, as the beam scans the screen, it re-creates a picture of the original image.(Cohen 23) In the case of colour reception, the receiver separates the colour signal from the luminance signal. The colour information is then decoded. When it is recombined with the brightness information, a series of colour signals is produced. These are then applied to the tricolour picture tube to form a colour image. The tricolour picture tube is a complicated vacuum tube. In its neck are three electron guns, one for each primary colour. Facing the guns is the shadow mask, a metal plate containing an orderly arrangement of tiny holes. There are approximately 200,000 holes in the shadow mask. Each hole is 0.023 centimeters in diameter. The distance between the centers of two holes is only 0.058 centimeters. A metal-coated phosphor-dot plate immediately behind the shadow mask is composed of about 600,000 phosphor dots arranged in triangular groups called trios. Each trio contains a red phosphor dot, a blue phosphor dot, and a green phosphor dot. The electron beams from the three cathode-ray guns continuously scan the phosphor-dot plate. The guns are tilted so that the three beams cross at a hole in the shadow mask. Each beam passes through the hole at a specific angle. As each phosphor dot is struck by a beam, it glows in a colour corresponding to one of the primary colours in the original image. Each of the three sets of glowing dots produces an independent image in one of the primary colours. The three images blend together because of the very close spacing of the dots. As a result, the eyes see a realistic image in full colour.(Cohen 29)THE HISTORY OF TELECASTING Through a series of technical developments in Great Britain, Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States, television was finally accepted by 1931. The first notable outside broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was the procession of the coronation of King George VI from Hyde Park Corner in November 1937. A portable transmitter mounted on a special vehicle was used and several thousand viewers saw the transmission. (Abramson 52) Television developments were slower in the United States. It was not until April 30, 1939, at the opening of the New York World’s Fair, that a public demonstration was made by the National Broadcasting Company.(Abramson 54) The Columbia Broadcasting System and the DuMont network began telecasting in 1939 and 1940. By mid-1940 there were 23 television stations in the United States.(Abramson 57) World War II, however, brought almost all activity to an end. By 1949 there were 1 million receivers in use. In 1951 the 10-million mark was passed and the 50-million mark in 1959.(Abramson 60) In England BBC television service was resumed in June 1946. By 1949 there were 126,567 television licenses, and by 1950 there were 343,882. In the United States there were over 1 million television licenses. Other nations did not begin television broadcasting on a wide scale until the 1950s. (Abramson 72)PROGRAMMING In the late 1940s television made its presence felt, though the television had existed for a few years already. As stated earlier, World War II temporarily halted its development, but once the war was over television sets were put on the market. The first mass television audience watched the broadcast of the World Series in 1947. This event encouraged people to go out to buy sets. The selling of sets, in turn, prompted the networks to expand their programming.(Abramson 81) There were originally four United States networks: the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and the DuMont network. DuMont eventually failed, leaving the other three. The three, however, continue to lead television ratings as cable companies keep them on hand. Since the l970s cable transmission has expanded greatly. There has also been an increase in satellite transmission of programs.(Cheney 25) The era of television as a modern entertainment form began on June 8, 1948, when Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater arrived on the screen. This weekly comedy-variety show was soon followed by Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. These shows attracted millions of viewers and made money for their sponsors, stations, and networks. The early years of television were “a period of trial and error, of diversification, and of learning what the mass audience wanted.”(Abramson 142)TYPES OF SHOWS Now that television is a reality, people begin to pressure broadcasting companies for diversity in programing. Some of the kinds of shows that have proved to be popular over the years are: Family situation comedies, non-family situation comedies, comedy variety shows, variety shows, westerns, police shows, detection programs, adventure shows, suspense programs, lawyer shows, spy programs, soap operas, hospital shows, dramatic productions, quiz and game shows, talk shows, sports events, newscasts, children’s programs, and educational television shows. Family situation comedies were weekly series that included The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, Family Ties, and The Cosby Show. When the show All in the Family was introduced on Jan. 21, 1971, television comedy made a permanent change to adult humor based on controversial subjects that had been previously banned. (Abramson 173) Non-family situation comedies were programs that had continuing stories, others did not. They included The Phil Silvers Show, Our Miss Brooks, Hogan’s Heroes, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi and Cheers.(Abramson 173) Variety shows included much comedy, as in the case of Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, but they were often primarily showcases for performers of all kinds. One of the best of these programs was The Ed Sullivan Show(1948-71). A later variety show was Hollywood Palace (l964-70).(Abramson 174) Westerns were bigger than they are now. Gun smoke was the longest running. It came on the air on Sept. 10, 1955, and lasted until Sept. 1, 1975. Since then it has been in reruns. Many other cowboy dramas followed.(Abramson 174) Police shows have always been popular. Dragnet (1952-70) was the first major police show. Others include Naked City, The Untouchables, Hawaii Five-O, Starsky and Hutch, CHiPS, Police Story, Police Woman, Columbo, Kojak, Baretta, Cagney and Lacey, Hill Street Blues, and Miami Vice. (Abramson 174) Following the lead of police shows came detection programs. These are the private eye and mystery programs that follow the exploits of one or two crime fighters not connected with a police force. One of the earliest was Martin Kane, Private Eye, which started in 1949. Magnum, P.I. was a later favorite. Murder, She Wrote was an example of the amateur detective at work. (Abramson 175) Adventure shows are for people who are not looking for that law abiding aspect when watching television. This category has a number of different types of action programming that do not easily fit into either the police or private eye categories. One of the best early shows was The Wild, Wild West, which had the appearance of a Western but was nothing like the traditional cowboy drama. Some 1980s programs in this category were The A-Team and Knight Rider. (Abramson 175)

Suspense programs were similar to mystery shows. Although, they often emphasized horror. They were series such as Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. A much recent addition would be the X-files and Millenium. (Abramson 176) Lawyer shows were many times based on famous cases seen in the American courts. This category has two main types which range from those in which mysteries are solved and those that attempt to portray the workings of the court system. Perry Mason was the most popular and was long in reruns. Courtroom drama was highlighted on The Defenders. (Abramson 176) Spy programs were for those who wanted their own mystery. One of the early and popular ones was I Led Three Lives. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. used much sophisticated weaponry and skillful planning, as did Mission: Impossible.(Abramson 177) Soap operas were ongoing series of dramas with complex plots. Soaps were popular on radio and easily made the transition to television. They were made for daytime viewing, but on April 2, 1978, CBS introduced the first weekly prime-time soap, Dallas, which was an immediate success. It was soon followed by others such as Knots Landing, Dynasty, Falcon Crest and The Colbys. Among the long-running daytime shows were As the World Turns, All My Children, The Guiding Light, Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live, The Edge of Night, and General Hospital.(Abramson 178) Hospital shows were for those viewers who were interested on the behind the scenes actions of doctors and nurses. One of the earliest was The Doctor, but the most famous was Dr. Kildare, and the popularity of this program inspired others, including Medical Center; Marcus Welby, M.D., Ben Casey, Trapper John, and St. Elsewhere. Just recently a television drama called E.R. (Emergency Room) hit the prime time screen.(Abramson 179) It is said to be one of the most realistic hospital shows in ever. Dramatic productions were weekly series with the same casts, normally programs of social relevance, using different settings to get their messages across. Besides the continuing dramatic series, there have been since the earliest years of television a number of shows that brought viewers essentially theatrical productions on a regular basis. They included Actors Studio, Playhouse 90, Kraft Television Theatre, and Hallmark Hall of Fame.(Abramson 179) Quiz and game shows have been consistently popular, especially during daytime viewing hours. Such shows as the original Jeopardy offered money prizes, while Let’s Make a Deal, The Price Is Right, and Wheel of Fortune gave products such as cars, appliances, furniture and trips.(Abramson 180) Talk shows brought social topics out into open. The style for talk shows was set by NBC’s Today, which was introduced on Jan. 14, 1952. The first host was Dave Garroway, formerly of the variety show Garroway at Large (1949-51). ABC’s Good Morning, America, another early-morning show, succeeded A.M. America in 1975. Other talk shows were Broadway Open House with Jerry Lester (1950-51), The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and The Late Show with David Letterman.(Abramson 181) Sports events are the biggest television attractions. In the United States the greatest number of viewers watch professional games such as football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. On a worldwide basis soccer has probably the largest audiences. In the United States, play-offs and championship games draw the largest audiences, with the World Series and the Super Bowl being the greatest attractions. (Abramson 181) Newscasts are the informative section of broadcasting. Local channels and national networks telecast news every day. Television brings almost instant coverage of events from around the world. Among the events it brought into homes were: the Vietnam War; the assassination and funeral of President Kennedy in 1963; the moon landing in 1969; the Congressional hearings on the Watergate affair in 1973-74; the takeover of the American Embassy in Iran in 1979; the explosion of the space shuttle “Challenger” in 1986; and the O.J. Simpson trial in 1994. (Abramson 182) Children’s programs included a wide variety of programing. Saturday morning cartoons were big attractions. Other shows were Captain Kangaroo, Mickey Mouse Club, Bozo, Howdy Doody, Sesame Street, and The Muppets. (Abramson 182) Educational television included early-morning broadcasting. In all major cities there are now educational channels that offer regular courses and other informational shows. A modern network is TLC, the Learning Channel. (Abramson 183) This explosion of television programing brought rise to an even larger business, mainly television advertising. IT’S A MONEY BUSINESS In the United States especially, television is a commercial business. This means it must make money to pay for all aspects of programming. To do this it sells time to companies who want to advertise their products. The advertisements are called commercials. The cost of television programming, particularly in prime time (evenings from 8 to 11 PM Eastern Standard Time), is very large. During the 1983-84 season the average cost of a one-hour series was about 650,000 dollars. To buy time during a special event such as the Super Bowl cost more than 1.2 million dollars per minute in the late 1980s. Programs that air during daytime hours are much less expensive. In the early years of television, the sponsors bought the programs and were able to dictate policy. By 1960 the networks and stations had taken control of their programming, and they sold advertising time to the sponsors. (Cheney 47)RATINGS ARE EVERYTHING How long commercially sponsored programs stay on the air is a matter of their popularity. No sponsor wants to pay for advertising time if large audiences are not watching to see the commercials. To survive on the air a show must command a 30 percent audience share with consistency. The three leading ratings organizations in the United States are the A.C. Nielsen Company, AGB Television Research, and the American Research Bureau.(Blum 22) The most widely accepted ratings have been those conducted by Nielsen, until 1987 when a new “people meter” (Blum 36) system was introduced. The Nielsen Company collects and publishes two sets of statistics the Nielsen Television Index for network broadcasting and the Nielsen Station Index for local broadcasts. To collect data, Nielsen has used an Audimeter attached to television sets in 1,200 households. (Blum 38) The device can register how long a set is turned on and to which channel it is tuned. Additional data, called the National Audience Composition, was gathered from 2,000 households that kept a log of their viewing habits. (Blum 39) The purpose of the ratings method was to give an accurate picture of the share of households that watched specific programs. In 1987 Nielsen and AGB Television Research each began to use people meters, a more accurate device for registering viewing habits. Each member of a selected household is required to punch in a personal code number on a remote-control device, which then feeds the viewing information to a central computer. The information indicates the number of viewers and provides detailed data on the viewers such as age, sex, income level, and ethnic background. These data are highly valued by advertisers. Another ratings system is called the Arbitron ratings system. For this system the American Research Bureau divides the nation into 208 areas of dominant influence from which information is gathered. Arbitron uses telephone and personal interviews to gather data as well. (Blum, 43)NEW EQUIPMENT After an era of frantic manufacturing competition and increasing consumer demand, the 1980s brought enormous improvements in video equipment. Sales of colour sets in the 1960s had outdated black-and-white telecasting, and the development of sets equipped with MTS (multichannel TV sound) brought high-fidelity transmission. By 1988 all the major networks were scheduling their regular broadcasts in stereo. With MTS capability, there is an extra channel for SAP (second audio program), which broadcasters may use for bilingual transmission or some other sound track. Closed-captioned broadcasts also increased. Television engineers in Europe, Japan, and the United States have been doing individual research for the shift to 1,125-line HDTV (High Definition Television). The United States began to develop a colour system compatible with existing equipment, a compatible HDTV system is the government’s goal for the 1990s. Already available is an IDTV (improved-definition television), which enhances the picture performance of standard broadcast signals through a noninterlaced scanning system. With a PIP (picture-in-picture) feature it can display one, three, or nine images on the screen or preview nine channels at a time. By the end of the 1980s direct-view television sets had tubes up to 35 inches and rear-projection television was popular in 40-, 45-, and 50-inch sizes. Less available and much more expensive, some 60-inch front-projection sets had 800 lines of resolution.(Abramson 235)EFFECTS OF TELEVISION With a changing society comes issues pertaining to what is moral and what is immoral on today’s television screens. Sex and violence steal much of the viewing audience, and many times have very bad effects over the attitudes of viewers. Scenes from violent movies are frequently re- enacted on the streets as children’s minds are taught (from childhood) to use violence. Young children tend to prefer the animated cartoons that are frequently televised. In general, the cartoon’s that display acts of violence receive a greater viewing audience.(Duncan 314) Thus, more children watch television programs that display violence, and from a young age these children are taught to learn that violence is necessary in order to survive in the real world. On the evening news, the main issues tend to contain sexual and violent content. Images of death, war, crime and murder constantly illuminate the television as the broadcaster reports the details of such issues. Details such as what happened and who did it are shown, but we are never given reasons why. Today’s reporters are trained to inform the viewer solely on the broad information, this is the information that attracts the viewers. Reporters know that anything else would confuse and sometimes irritate the viewers, so they hardly ever discuss the issues that led to the situation they are reporting. The fact that they do not cover all circumstances and consequences pertaining to an issue leads to misinterpretations of certain actions. Young viewers, being innocent and unaware, are coerced into forming their own personal opinion on how violent or disturbing an action really is. The downplaying of violent actions causes the young viewer to misunderstand the actual pain and suffering involved in such violent cases. This results in subdued morals and cold hearted consciences. (Duncan 309) Television also gives a false reality pertaining to sex and explicit actions. Many times commercials portray what they think is the perfect person. This person is gorgeous in all aspects having the perfect smile, perfect hair, and perfect figure. People take this false image and attempt to mimic it in their own ways. This causes the rise for diseases such as anorexia and bulemia. Young men and woman are usually the ones to fall into these traps. They try to be what television and the media say they should be, rather than being who and what they really are. These issues are not limited to the magazine pages, but are large over exaggerations portrayed through the biggest media giant of all, namely television. FINAL THOUGHT Over the years television has developed to be the greatest means of displaying information to a wide audience. Slowly, it became a sponsorship program where it grew upon the theme “Supply in Demand.” But, is that really what society wants or needs? Television programs constantly spark controversy as some argue that the television is a means of displaying the worlds corruption. Thus, leading to violence, crime, and other societal problems. The television does impact society, almost everyone spends some time in front of it. Now, whether the affects of television is good or bad depends on the individual; but one things is for sure, the development of the television has brought technology to another level as its uses extend to areas which are still open for further exploration. Works ConsultedAbramson, Albert. The History of Television, 1880-1941. Chicago: McFarland Press, 1987. Allman, Paul. Exploring Careers in Video. New York: Rosen Publishers, 1985. Blum, R.A. and Lindheim, R.D. Primetime: Network Television Programming. New Jersey: Focal Press, 1987. Cheney, G.A. Television in American Society. New York: Watts Publishers, 1983. Cohen, Daniel and Susan. How to Get Started in Video. Vancouver: Watts Publishers, 1986. Duncan, Barry. Mass Media and Popular Culture. Toronto: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1988. Hollingsworth, T.R. Tune in to a Television Career. Montreal: Messner Press, 1984. Irvine, Mat. TV & Video. Vancouver: Watts Publishers, 1983. Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Viking Publishers, 1985. Won, Marie. The Plug-In Drug, rev. ed. New York: Viking Publishers, 1985.


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