Invented Earlier than You’d Think – Pt. 3 – Television

RADIO Movies in Color (Nov, 1929)
This one was another surprise, apparently Bell Laboratories had a working color television in 1929. It’s pretty damn impressive that someone managed to make an electro-mechanical color television. It sort of reminds me of a reverse version of a DLP chip.


Pay Per View TV (Oct, 1947)
This is the earliest example I’ve seen of Pay Per View TV. The picture would come in blurred from the station and the receiver would get the decoding frequencies over your phone line and the charge would appear on your phone bill.


Color VCR and Flat Screen Television (Sep, 1954)
This article from Colliers magazine has a bunch of stuff that was really ahead of it’s time, but the two best are this picture on the left of the playback from a color VCR and this amazingly modern looking flat screen television on the right. Seriously, doesn’t that look like a 23″ LCD?

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Flat Screen TV in 1958 (Jan, 1958)
While the flat-screen above looks pretty amazing, the article was a little short on the details of how it worked or if it actually worked at all. The one below is the real deal, check out the article and the linked 1996 interview with the inventor, William Ross Aiken.


Recorder stores TV stills (Jan, 1964)
Well, it’s not exactly pausing live television with a  Tivo, but this nifty device from 1964 could record up to 10 still frame grabs on a big metal foil disc spinning at 3,000 RPM.


  1. jayessell says: June 18, 20085:10 am

    Charlie makes this look easy.
    Here are scans from a 1938 magazine:


    I’ll see if I have anything else from the past.

    It’s 2008.
    Where does Television stand today?

  2. nlpnt says: June 18, 20085:27 am

    The technology is widely successful and advancing rapidly. The content is another matter entirely.

  3. Charlie says: June 18, 20089:09 am

    j: What do I make look easy?

  4. jayessell says: June 18, 20089:15 am

    Scanning and posting articles from old magazines.
    (But in reality, it’s hard to make them look good.)

  5. Charlie says: June 18, 20089:20 am

    Ah, yeah, well I’ve had a LOT of practice 🙂 The really hard part is actually making them come out straight.

  6. Max says: June 18, 20085:33 pm

    Fascinating stuff, the history behind the development of television. Thanks to jayessell too for posting his scans.

  7. Shannon says: June 19, 20084:46 am

    I think it’s safe to assume that the flatscreen “tv of the future” is just a mockup… No more real than most of what’s in “…of the future” projections. Unlike flying cars though, this prediction came true.

  8. Blurgle says: June 19, 20088:10 am

    Actually, making a flat screen wasn’t impossible even then. Making an affordable flat screen, on the other hand…

  9. jayessell says: June 19, 20083:47 pm

    Blurgle, shenanigans.
    I don’t remember seeing the 1960s equivalent of Bill Gates having a flat screen TV.
    Elvis didn’t have one.
    Do you mean rear projector TVs?
    3 tube projectors were $5k to $15k in the late 1970s

    In the 1952 Science Fiction movie “The Red Planet”, Peter Graves’ character
    had a sweet widescreen flatscreen which looks like a modern HDTV.
    (As the film was in glorious Black and White, I can’t tell if it was color also.)

  10. Blurgle says: June 19, 20089:10 pm

    Really? I understand that they did exist in places like the Situations Room of the White House, but you’d be looking at a high multiple of Elvis’s net worth in 1976 for one.

  11. George says: August 26, 20083:04 pm

    In the early 1960’s, Zenith had a trial pay TV system on channel 18 in Hartford, CT. I’m not sure what all they did to the picture, but if you weren’t a subscriber it was negative and blocky. The sound was probably frequency inverted and frequency shifted — it sounded like bells at times.

    Sometimes they broadcast live sports so we could get the audio on the radio, and crank up the AGC which would normally make the picture negative, but of course it made the scrambled picture quite watchable.

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