Segments in this Video

Setting the Stage for the Birth of Television (01:56)


In 1922 America, Ford's Model T sold faster than the factory could turn them out. Cities buzzed with the new-found power of electricity. Early technology was changing the way Americans lived with inventions like the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and wireless messaging. In 1908 inventor Lee De Forrest broadcast the first human voice from the Eiffel Tower using the audion tube.

Philo T. Farnsworth (02:15)

On a remote farm in Beaver, Utah, teenager Philo Farnsworth was determined to decode the complex phenomenon of particle physics. At age 14, he presented a set of equations to his science teacher for projecting images over the radio.

David Sarnoff (01:46)

At 14, this young Russian immigrant got a lucky break, landing a job as messenger at Guglielmo Marconi's wireless company. Sarnoff possessed a gift for promotion; he is credited with

RCA and Radio Box Memo (01:36)

In order to alleviate the crowded airwaves, then Secretary of State Roosevelt gathered the companies with a stake in the wireless phenomenon. RCA bought out the Marconi Company. David Sarnoff outlined a proposed broadcast of voice and music. The idea stalled.

Race for Television Heats Up (02:25)

Farnsworth went to work in secret on his television idea. He filed patents. Respected scientists were close at his heels. In 1920 experimental radio broadcasts began. In Pittsburgh, KDKA, America's first radio station went on the air. Broadcast fever had begun.

Vladimir Zworykin (01:22)

David Sarnoff had a lucrative position at RCA. Philo Farnsworth has competition, including inventor Vladimir Zworykin, who tried unsuccessfully to get Westinghouse to back his television research.

Farnsworth's Failed Debut (01:31)

Both Zworykin and Farnsworth's televisions relied on tiny charged electrons scanning and then amplifying the image. Farnsworth set up a demonstration that included stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. The demonstration flopped.

Mechanical Television (01:11)

Successful inventor Charles Francis Jenkins had a reputation that put him ahead of the pack. He unveiled a version of television and broadcast an image of Herbert Hoover.

Baird & Farnsworth Compete (02:04)

British Parliament voted to license Farnsworth's system after a successful demonstration. Cronkite remembers 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. He volunteered to have his picture

Patent Battles (02:54)

Vladimir Zworykin began working for David Sarnoff at RCA. Farnsworth got his patents based on the drawings he had made as a boy. RCA now needed Farnsworth's patents to further develop television and Sarnoff tried to intimidate Farnsworth without success.

Television Interference (02:06)

RCA was selling millions of radios and owned the two biggest networks. Sarnoff's vision for television was bigger than public demand. CBS owner William S. Paley gave Sarnoff stiff programing competition. The technology for television was still imperfect and improvements were expensive.

July 7, 1836 - Radio City Broadcast (01:10)

Eager to begin broadcasting Sarnoff oversees a highly experimental broadcast with live performances. The following day, the Herald Tribune sneered at the blurred and foggy images. The Times found it interesting.

Would Television Ever Catch on? (01:30)

Sarnoff mobilizes his team of researchers, determined to make television work. Technical difficulties and production obstacles continue into the late 1930s. Edward R. Murrow and Orson Wells kept CBS ahead of Sarnoff in the race for television viewers.

1939 World's Fair (01:44)

Few had actually seen the television at the time of the World's Fair. RCA's pavilion offered television demonstration. In this forum Sarnoff announced the beginning of 2 hours per week of regular broadcasting in New York.

Broadcasting Emerges as a Social Voice (01:40)

David Sarnoff if forced to sell off one of his stations after FCC chairman James Fly works to break up Sarnoff's monopoly on broadcasting through anti-trust legislation.

Television Comes of Age (03:39)

Sarnoff beats Dumont by having his technology made standard in Congress, but the two form an alliance to broadcast the World Series of 1947. This decision would bring television into its own.

Television (01:10)

In 1948 Los Angeles car dealer Earl "Madman" Muntz created a stripped down version of the television and sold it for hundreds less than his competitors. By the end of 1949 there were 4 million sets in American homes.

Talent Drives the Tube (01:51)

Television resuscitated Vaudeville was resuscitated by television. Soon, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, and Bob Hope were household names. Aspiring actress Norma Jean became Marilyn Monroe. President Truman conducted a tour of the White House.

The Battle for Color (02:44)

Color television was needed. When Paley got the go-ahead for a mechanical color set, Sarnoff put up a fight, arguing that electronic television was already the standard. He lost the battle in the Supreme Court, but forged ahead to attempt development of electronic color television.

Tri-Color Picture Tube (01:21)

Sarnoff pushed his scientists, and RCA finally invented a whole new process. The FCC had no choice but to declare Sarnoff's version the new standard.

Golden Age of Programming (02:55)

Now, entertainment, wars, a walk on the moon, and the resignation of an American President was brought into the homes of millions, forever changing the way Americans lived.

Television's Place in History (02:17)

Philo Farnsworth died depressed and in relative obscurity. Having secured his place in history, David Sarnoff envisioned the world of faxes and wireless phones. Television has made a huge impact on every corner of the globe.

Credits: Modern Marvels: Television—Window to the World (00:20)

Credits: Modern Marvels: Television—Window to the World

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Modern Marvels: Television—Window to the World

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Modern Marvels celebrates the remarkable story of the evolution of the television. What once seemed like an unimaginable miracle is now part of everyday life, entertaining and educating. Distributed by A&E Television Networks. (45 minutes)

Length: 44 minutes

Item#: BVL42914

Copyright date: ©1996

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.