84 years ago a farm boy used an idea he had come up with eight years earlier to produce the first, working electronic television signal. The boy, Philo Farnsworth, originally had the idea for broadcasting electronic signals in “rows” after looking out on an Idaho farm that was tilled in a row-like pattern. Today, thanks to his ideas, the world has seen man walk on the moon, leaders come and go, sports teams become victorious, and much, much more. But many people today have no idea who Farnsworth is, or about the important discoveries he made that helped spur the creative entertainment that more than 70% of American households have today. In a 1957 broadcast of the TV show “I’ve Got A Secret” Philo stated: “There had been attempts to devise a television system using mechanical disks and rotating mirrors and vibrating mirrors, all mechanical. My contribution was to take out the moving parts and make the thing entirely electronic, and that was the concept that I had when I was just a freshman in high school [in the Spring of 1921 at age 14]. . .In television, we’re attempting first to make better utilization of the bandwidth, because we think we can eventually get in excess of 2000 lines instead of 525. . .and do it on an even narrower channel. . .which will make for a much sharper picture. We believe in the picture-frame type of a picture, where the visual display will be just a screen. And we hope for a memory, so that the picture will be just as though it’s pasted on there.” So this young man created an efficient and powerful way to send and receive signals on a screen, but he didn’t have any idea of the impact his discovery had until later on in his life. During a 1996 interview with Elma Farnsworth on YouTube, Elma recounted a notable moment when Philo first watched one of the most memorable broadcasts in recent history. When asked what Philo thought about the moon landing, Elma said: “We were watching it, and, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, Phil turned to me and said, ‘Pem, this has made it all worthwhile.’” To learn more about Philo and his place in television history, checkout the book: “The Boy Who Invented TV” by Kathleen Krull. Today, on the anniversary of the invention of the working electronic television, we remember Philo and his world-changing ideas. Thanks Philo.
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