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The Ways Television Has Evolved

Updated on February 3, 2014

TV plays a big part in our lives. We can connect ourselves to the news or our favorite TV shows just by pressing a button. It’s evolving quickly, too. Your three year old telly will be visibly dated to the newest ones. But we need to go further back to assess how TV has evolved.

The first TV set.
The first TV set.

The First Sets

Although they were invented in the 1920′s, the first commercial television sets became available in 1939. They weren’t used much, because that same year there were only 1,000 in use (they became mainstream in 1948, when people came home from war). These sets were large pieces of equipment with about 12 inch screens.

They cost around $400 – $500, which sounds okay, but taking into account that the average yearly income was $1300, TVs were incredibly expensive.

Size and Design

As you can see in the image, TV sets have changed drastically in design. What used to be an old wooden jukebox-like telly is now a 3D TV. Their screens used to be made out of heavy glass, and resembled something which rather looked like a microwave.

The evolution of television sets.
The evolution of television sets.

Which decade had the best TVs?

See results

As the 2000s hit, development of TVs soared and we can only expect it to continue. In 2004, the average TV was a CRT (cathode ray tube), which measured only 27 inches. In 2011, that average had transformed to a flat screened, 37 incher. Predictions have the average TV hitting 60 inches by 2015. [s]


The USA transitioned from black and white to color between 1953 and 1968, but people have been making short color films since as early as 1902 by tinting the frames. In 1918, inventor Leon Forrest Douglass filmed ‘Cupid Angling‘ in ‘Natural Color’, a process he invented. This movie is considered to be the world’s first ever full length movie in color.

Then there’s Technicolor. Ever watch an old movie that says “filmed in Technicolor” at the start? That’s it, “a process of color cinematography using synchronized monochrome films, each of a different color, to produce a color print”. The introduction of three-strip Technicolor was in 1932. The first two color version was invented in 1917, wasn’t as successful.

But Technicolor was a slow process. So other companies came forward with other technologies, such as Eastman Color, DeLuxe, TruColor, and Warner Color. Technicolor went unused for years until it was resurrected in The Godfather (1972). [s]


When TVs were first invented, the most recognized show was the showing of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, in which Hitler announced the opening ceremony. The first TV commercial was invented in the 1940s, and people like Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan and Howdy Doody become some of TV’s first stars. In the 50s, The Honeymooners and Lone Ranger were some of the most watched programmes.

In the 60s, everyone became obsessed with space travel. People gathered to watch shuttle launches and moon landings. The Vietnam war was the first conflict to be televised. [s] These harmless programmes evolved into others where women were allowed to show their bellybuttons (sometimes more) and TV got much more violent and personal. It’s all fun and games, I guess, but soon people will be filming our lives and setting them up as separate channels if we’re not careful.


Interesting inforgraphics on the evolution of television: [x] [x] [x]


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    • profile image


      22 months ago

      Well, tv is the most powerfull indoctrination and brainwashing tool...but thinking only about the technology and not it's uses and consequences, the best TV sets were made in the eighties....I just cannot understant how many voted for 2010+ TV sets....maybe if only people under age of 20 voted here....if you are in your fourties (like me) you just cannot forget how magnificent the TV's made in the eighties were. Color and wooden case, remote controlled...the last decade when tv's had wooden case, in the nighties wood was replaced with crappy plastic. And these crappy slim LCD flat panels of today....I hate them. They aren't really TV sets anyway....they are in fact multimedia displays.

    • Danida profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from London

      @billybuc, my family has an old apartment and they have a lot of stuff from decades ago, including a very very old TV set which still works (barely). It's fascinating.

      When I visit the older members of my family they seem to hold on to old things like gramophones and TVs and they haven't broken in years and years. Even with all this HD Bluray bla bla I still feel like the older things are better.

      Thanks for the comment :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, I shudder to admit this, but our family bought our first tv set in 1953 when I was I've pretty much seen it all as far as the advancement of this technology. Nice little history lesson here my new friend.


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