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How Does a Television Work?

The television is a key part of the modern lifestyle. Studies show that Americans watch about two to six hours of television a day!

But how does a television work? It converts electromagnetic waves, which are wirelessly transmitted, into acoustic (sound) and light (visual) energy. The concept for the television emerged as early as the 1830s, when Michael Faraday showed that electricity and light were interrelated. However, the actual production of the television set only became feasible a hundred years later, in the 1940’s. Then, the television became available to the public, forever transforming mass communication and even everyday life.

Television technology, however, came about by a series of inventions that enabled energy to be converted into the pictures we now see on the screen. In 1883, Paul Nipkow was able to “break down” images using a rotating scanning disk that had holes in a spiral pattern. The images were then sent as electrical impulses, then sent through another spinning disk that recomposed the image. However, quality of the image was quite poor.

Then in the 1900s, wireless sound transmission (radio) was developed, and then the cathode ray tube (initially used for x-rays), which could project images with a greater degree of quality. This was demonstrated in1929, though it took over 10 years before the technology could be practical enough for mass production.

The first TVs were black and white; colored sets were available in 1953; and recently, HDTV (high definition television) was introduced. Today, television screens are much thinner and sleeker, and can either be large enough to fill a wall or small enough to be hung on the backrest of a carseat.

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