Television is a medium characterized by the simultaneous dissemination and reproduction (often thousands of miles away) of either a scene captured and shown while it is taking place, or the recording of such a scene or scenes that took place earlier. The word comes from the prefix, "tele" meaning distant, and "vision" pertaining to sight.
Television is declining in popularity and influence. In 2011, overall television ownership in America declined despite an increase in the number of households. Among the key demographic aged 18-49, television ownership had its sharpest decline.
History of Television as a Medium
As with most inventions, there is controversy as to whom deserves to be considered "the" inventor, with several different television projects being developed independently.
Early experiments in electromechanical television were conducted by Charles Francis Jenkins in the late 1920s in the United States, building on the work of Scottish inventor John Logie Baird. Jenkins patented the first practical television set  and operated the first television broadcasting station in the US, W3XK, in 1928.
Jenkins' system was not commercially successful and was abandoned. This probably occurred because the Great Depression intervened and made the medium a prohibitively expensive extravagance. Government red tape also played a role in Jenkin's failure: the FRC, the forerunner of the FCC, would not allow him the use of two frequencies, so he was unable to broadcast the picture and sound simultaneously.
Other pioneers in the development of television include Philo Farnsworth and Vladimyr Zworykin. Zworkyin developed a series of electronic television camera tubes, all referred to as "iconoscopes." He worked for and was heavily backed by David Sarnoff and the Radio Corporation of America, and his devices are thus in the direct ancestry of commercial television as we know it today.
Television is both a dissemination medium and a means of recording motion pictures for later review, transmittal and exhibition.
Uses of Television
Television has a very wide variety of uses and seems destined not to become obsolete unless and until human civilization becomes obsolete. Its many uses include without limitation:
- As an aid to education, both by recording lectures, demonstrations, or field trips, and by repeating the voice and image of a lecturer to multiple locations in a large room, or even multiple rooms, to ensure that every attendee of a lecture is able to see and hear the speaker(s).
- As a means of disseminating current events.
- As a means of recording any action or actions that might become the subject of a legal contest. This is especially true today of police officers who might stand accused of the use of excessive force in the performance of duty, or otherwise improper performance of duty.
- As a means of setting a watch on any gate, room, or other venue that might become the scene of a crime or come under external attack.
- As a means of improved communication.
- As a safe way of "seeing" the scene of an industrial or other process--or accident--that would create danger to any person close enough to see it with his own eyes.
- As a tool of propaganda.
- As a form of theater.
The last use is definitely the most popular use of television today. Television as theater usually refers to the transmission of dramatic presentations either made especially for the medium or originally made to be exhibited in motion picture exhibition halls ("movie theaters") but now offered for instantaneous mass transmission. Television also is the modern means of allowing millions of people to view public games. Though the original public games of, say, the Roman Empire are no longer being staged, their spiritual descendants continue as, for example, automobile racing and various contact and non-contact sports. Virtually any spectacle that in earlier centuries would draw large numbers of attendees is a candidate for transmission on television. This especially includes the installation of a new head-of-state.
For further discussions of television as theater (and its use and mis-use), see Theater.
Types of broadcasting
- US Patent No.1,544,156