Computers and the television evolved simultaneously, many times drawing on the same technology and discoveries. One of the primary differences between the two is the television has historically been a "dumb" terminal with no decision making power. Data on television screens is handed down to users over the air waves from a broadcasting center. All decisions about commercials and programming are made at a local broadcasting station or even farther away at the national network level. Due to the way data is transmitted over the air, currently limits of signal, resolution, and bandwidth restrict the number of options users have. Computer users have the ability to manipulate the data appearing on the screen. They are the people in charge of what happens at the host computer.
The first inventions leading to television and computers occurred thousands of years ago when the Babylonians used stone tablets for keeping records in 3500 BC. The Phoenicians improved on the system 1500 years later with clay tablets that were much easier to write on and less time consuming to make. The Phoenicians also invented the alphabet. A very significant invention in China is the Abacus. The Abacus was the first known calculator invented in 2500 BC. Change was very slow until the 1400's when the first mechanical machines came into existence.
The Guttenburg press was the first significant mechanical machine that operated as a printing press. Guttenburg's press was the first machine capable of mass distribution. The invention began the information revolution. Very early for its time was the Pascaline invented by Blaise Pascal. The Pascaline had the capability to add, subtract and carry tens. Almost thirty years later Gottfried von Leibniz took the idea of the Pascaline much farther with his Stepped Reckoner that could add, subtract, multiply, divide, and find the square root. Although the inventions are far from the modern computer, the idea of using a machine to make calculations easier on humans was a progressive idea. Long before the calculator, slide rules served many of the same functions. The slide rule was invented in 1812.
From an age of mechanical data processing, the middle 1800's to the middle 1900's were an age of electromechanical data processing. Joseph Jacquard, a rug weaver in France took a large step in the development of computers when he developed punch cards to increase rug production. Punch cards were the key to the first programs for computers almost one hundred years later.
A discovery contributing simultaneously to computers and the television was the first signal transmitted over the air in 1830 due to the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Morse. The telegraph was the first step in a long line of inventions leading to the television. In 1843 Alexander Bain transmitted the first alphabet letters over the air and only four years later, Frederick Bakewell succeeded in transmitting handwriting.
In 1877 Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Around the same time cartoonists depicted a new invention by Edison that combined the phonograph with moving pictures. The first moving pictures to be transmitted over the air came only three years later by Maurice LeBlanc. A major step in television's evolution was made by Karl Braun in 1897. His cold cathode ray tube was the key to displaying pictures on a screen. Georges Rignoux and Professor A. Fournier built he first real television system in 1909.
Although many of the materials for public broadcasting were already in existence, a number of years passed before television and radio began transmitting over commercial airways. In 1920, the first commercial radio station by Westinghouse, called KDKA, went into business. Televisions were still too expensive and not developed fully enough to market to the general public. Vladimir Zworykin built the first all electric TV in 1925. The American telephone and television company gave the first television demonstration in 1927.
The first major broadcast occurred during the eleventh Olympic games broadcast from Berlin, Germany. The broadcast occurred before television service existed in the United States. Many inventors were competing for their design to be accepted as the national standard in the United States. In 1937, manufacturers chose a design by Marconi. David Sarnoff opened the first television service in the United States only one year later. The formal debut of TV in the U.S. occurred on April 30, 1939 after a dedication by the president. Commercial broadcasting was underway by 1941.
Major inventions since commercial broadcasting include the transition from black and white television to color in 1964. Currently research for High Definition Television is underway. The first experiments with HDTV were in Japan in 1978.
At the same time television was using the telegraph to put video on the air computer scientists used the technology from the telegraph and telephone to design the first computers. Throughout the 1820's Charles Babbage worked on the Difference Engine. Later he expanded the Difference Engine into a new idea called the Analytical Engine. His design of the Analytical Engine is the very first computer design. Although the machine was too advanced to be built, Babbage is credited as the father of computers. His assistant Ada Byron was the first computer programmer. She wrote programs to be used on the Analytical Engine although it hadn't been built yet.
Although Babbage's design was in existence, computers progressed very slowly. The International Business Machine by Herman Hollerith in 1890 allowed the census results to be calculated much fast than previous years. His company (IBM) became one of the most influential in the development of the computer years later.
The first and only electromechanical computer was the Mark I developed by Howard Aiken in 1944. His machine was huge with 750, 000 moving parts and five-hundred miles of wire. With three million electrical connections the Mark I was very prone to break down. The ENIAC in 1946 could perform operations that took the Mark I eight hours in one minute. The ENIAC was five-hundred times better than Aiken's machine. It could perform five-thousand additions per second. John Mauchly and J. Eckert developed the ENIAC for the navy to calculate the angle required to hit another boat (firing tables).
Six years later the first general purpose computer, the UNIVAC, came out. The UNIVAC had rows of lights with men on roller skates who changed the lights on the panels to keep it working. There were no stored programs on the UNIVAC. John von Neumann came up with the idea for stored programs later in the 1950's.
A momentous invention that made the computers ten times faster and more reliable was the transistor. Later in the 1960's, the integrated circuit allowed the computer to be much smaller.
Today a trend of computers is the graphical user interface making computers much easier to understand by the novice user. The information super highway and internet brought on new technology at an explosive rate.Back to Top