Hawes Mechanical Television Archive by James T. Hawes, AA9DT
Who Was First?

PRACTICAL TELEVISION EQUIPMENT appeared worldwide in the 1920's. Today, national pride clouds the story. Many countries claim various television "firsts."

THEY MIGHT ALL BE RIGHT. Television inventors of the 1920's based their inventions on much earlier work. Television would probably be impossible without these components...

  • Scanners
  • Light sensors
  • Electronic amplifiers
  • Television tubes

THE ROOTS of these technologies descended some 60 years into the previous century. Inventors from all over the world contributed ideas. Paul Nipkow's 1884 German television patent was the basis for later work. Other inventions played an essential role.

NINETEENTH-CENTURY INNOVATORS mastered the basic science. Some produced working picture machines. Yet motion pictures awaited the 1920's inventors. The new science of electronics would bring motion to the airwaves. Necessary electronic parts included fast-reacting lamps, triode amplifiers and radio receivers. Researching, finding, matching and assembling the right components was the audacious task of 1920's inventors. Another challenge involved coordinating mechanical, optical and electronic systems.

FUNDING such speculative endeavors presented enormous difficulties. In those times, most scientists advised that television was impossible. As development proceeded, the Great Depression added formidable obstacles.

WHAT ABOUT BAIRD, JENKINS, SANABRIA? Again, all the inventors of the 1920's built on fundamentals from Paul Nipkow and others. No one, including Nipkow, invented the whole contraption. Any other claim simply defies history. Such claims find uses as urban legends, tall tales and public relations. They entertain the gullible and those who spin the story.


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