Thursday, September 07, 2006

A great day in broadcast history

Ken's a big fan of Philo T. Farnsworth, so I'm surprised he didn't chime in with an entry about this. In September, 1927, Farnsworth successfully transmitted a television image. His "Image Dissector" camera became the conceptual foundation for cathode ray TVs, which have remained the standard for television until the advent of flat-screen plasma, LCD and DRT sets.

From the beginning of the TV era (and actually before), the same drama has been played out time and again. Two competing methods of doing things emerge, vying for the public's attention. One eventually wins, and the other is forgotten. Sometimes the better technology wins, sometimes it doesn't. I'm hoping Ken, who knows far more about TV history can fill in the details about the format wars of the 1950's, but just off the top of my head, here's some of the trauma the buying public has lived through over the past century:

Cylinder recordings vs. disc recordings
Player pianos vs. piano recordings
78 rpm discs vs. 33-1/3 LPs
Vinyl records vs. compact discs
Audio compact discs vs. DVD-Audio discs vs. SACDs
Betamax vs. VHS tape
8-track tapes vs. cassette tapes
Compact discs vs. minidisks vs. digital compact cassettes
Compact discs vs. DAT
AM vs. FM
Broadcast television vs. HDTV

Some of these choices were (in retrospect) obvious; some not so much. The important thing to remember as the industry goes around and around about Blue Ray vs. HD-DVD is that we've been here before. In time it will sort itself out. In my opinion, the best place to be in a format war is on the outside looking in.

Oh - and in response to Ken's post from yesterday - according to Philo Farnsworth's wife, Elma:

We were watching... when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Phil turned to me and said, "Pem, this has made it all worthwhile." Before then, he wasn't too sure.

- Ralph

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