From the “Boob Tube” to Science Fiction

old_tv_set_Television is an interesting invention.  From the early days, even as far back as the late 19th Century, the transmission of electrical signals across time and space has fascinated technological pioneers.  TV technology grew from the advent of the telephone, which in turn came from telegraphs, each transmitting their signals through an electronic device across vast distances.

The earliest TVs used what is sometimes referred to as “the boob tube”, due to two factors: the negative effect of watching too much TV and thus making someone a “boob” and the “tube”, which is what the main physical component of early TVs were called.  A variety of tubes, including amplifier tubes and then on to cathode ray tubes but these were unsuccessful in transmitting moving pictures at first.


During the 1920’s, various inventors from all around the world were experimenting with different attempts at transmitting video signals using these tubes, including Russians, Japanese, Scottish and Hungarian.

By the 1950’s televisions were in households all over the world. The cathode ray tubes became more advanced by this point and while extremely rare, color television was available by 1953.  Due to the high costs of the sets and dearth of broadcasting programs around, most people stuck with their black and white sets.


These tube sets lasted for many years and the first wave of new TV technology did not come until rear projection sets emerged.  Though available as early as the 1970’s, rear projection, using a much larger TV format screen, did not come into regular use until the 80’s.  The technology used with these is similar to a video projector and thus the name, projecting images onto a screen, only here it happens on the TV, using a beam of light and in some cases utilizing the aforementioned cathode tubes.

Though still in service in some places today, these rear projection TVs have been replaced by several newer sets, including flat panel display.  Flat panel display is broken up into three separate categories: Plasma, LCD and LED.


Plasma sets use a charged ion gas to display the image, which is praised for its deep blacks for better contrast.  Early plasmas often had a “burn in”, causing images to stay on the screen, even after the set was turned off.

LCD, or liquid-crystal display, utilize light modulating technology.  Liquid crystals don’t emit light directly and are not susceptible to screen burn in.  They are praised for their light, compact size but sometimes suffer from a limited viewing angle and motion blur.


The current champion of TV technology is the LED, or light-emitting diode.  While Plasma and LCD are praised for their slim, compact size, LED are even slimmer and use organic semiconductors to emit light.  The incredibly high level of definition possible with LED is staggering.

But this is only the beginning.  TV technology has and will continue to grow.