This Day in History 9/7: Philo Farnsworth and the birth of Television

It’s been very busy around here, what with Hurricane Earl putting a damper on my beach vacation, the start of school and a presentation that I need to get done.  Yet today marks an anniversary worth celebrating, as well as some video worth showing to your classroom.

On September 7, 1927, Philo Farnsworth, an American inventor and scientist, sent the first all-electronic television signal through a tube called an “image dissector.” The image broadcast was nothing more than a straight line, but the developments on that early image would signal the beginning of the television age some 20 years later.  Farnsworth has often had to fight for his place among television’s great pioneers, especially his chief rivals Vladimir Zworykin and John Logie Baird

Today, many Americans recognize Farnsworth as one of television’s “founding fathers,” so to speak.

The video we share shows how early television affected national and world events.  It is highlights of NBC’s coverage of the 1948 Presidential election between incumbent Harry Truman and Republican challenger Thomas Dewey.  Clearly, this video can be saved for civics/government lessons to show how political coverage has changed over the decades.

Beyond the obvious differences in picture and voice, take note of the recording quality for your students.  Early television was always live, broadcast on a kinoscope for immediate viewing.  To record anything, you had to point a movie camera in front of the television set to record the program.  It wouldn’t be until the mid-1950s when producers like Desi Arnaz pioneered the practice of filming television broadcasts as if they were movies–this is why reruns of I Love Lucy and other shows of the time appear so crisp and sharp.

Have fun, and enjoy the beginning of school.

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