Archive for Thursday, May 20, 2010

Evolution of television

May 20, 2010

Until the development of the computer, nothing has changed home life around the world as much as the advent of television. In most instances, TV is the major form of entertainment enjoyed by people around the world.

The 20th century had tremendous changes in entertainment. We moved from a time when persons had to go to the theater or a concert to be entertained. Then, in the middle quarter century, radio was the chief source of entertainment. Slowly television moved onto the scene and now is the dominant force in home entertainment.

In 1950, only 10 percent of homes in the United States had TV sets. Those of us who were around in those days remember the old, small, black-and-white sets with limited programming. As technology improved and programming expanded, there was an explosion in the sale of TV sets. By 1960, a total of 88 percent of the homes in the United States had TV sets and, according to the last figures available, now 98.2 percent of U.S. households have at least one TV set. Overall, it was reported there are 327 million TV sets in the United States, which is an average of 2.24 TV sets per household.

Through the decades, TV changed from small, black-and-white screens with pictures that were sometimes not good to technological marvels in full color and high definition.

Probably the biggest improvement in TV coverage came from the growth of satellite and cable systems. Now, we can watch an event while it is going on half a world away. No matter what you like, from live sports and news to traditional dramas and detective shows, it is available in your home around the clock with cable or satellite dish membership. You have to be mature to remember when TV stations left the air at midnight with the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and a time when people gathered in front of the TV to watch the test pattern.

I was surprised to find that wasn’t always the case. The growth and popularity of television got off to a very slow start. Also, I was surprised to find there wasn’t one individual solely responsible for the invention of TV. There were many experiments with some broadcasting silhouettes in the early 1920s. However, the sources I found credit the first actual long-distance TV broadcast to AT&T on April 7, 1927. Herbert Hoover, secretary of commerce, spoke from a makeshift studio in Washington, D.C., and the images and sound were received in New York City, which was 200 miles away.

During the 1930s, there were attempts to develop commercial television. Critics said the medium would never work because people had to sit and devote full attention to the picture. My guess is the early reticence on the part of consumers was high cost and the economic devastation of the Depression. In 1941, the first commercial licenses were granted to WNTB and WCBW, both in New York. Unfortunately, the growth of TV was stunted by World War II. At the end of the war, there were only 7,000 sets in the United States.

News and sports also played a major role in the popular growth of TV. Now, TV is the major source of news for most Americans. Now you can sit in the comfort of your home and watch a game at almost any time of the day or night.

TV still has its critics, too. They complain it is too violent and kids spend too much time in front of the “boob tube,” and they are correct. Television is an economical form of entertainment. In my case, I love the sports broadcasts, PBS, local news, a game show and, yes, a few primetime shows.

I am glad to live in an era where there is a lot of entertainment choices available, however, don’t let TV rule your life. Enjoy the medium, but remember it is just one of many activities available during spare time.

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