“Television is the medium from which most of us receive our news,sports, entertainment, cues for civic discourse, and, most of all, ourmarching orders as consumers.”–Frank Rich,New York Times, 1998•Since replacing radio inthe 1950s as our mostpopular medium,television has sparkedrepeated argumentsabout its social andcultural impact. Duringthe 1990s, for example,teachers, clergy,journalists, and otherswaged a public assault onTV’s negative impact onchildren.•In times of crisis, ourfragmented and pluralisticsociety has turned totelevision as atouchstone, as commonground.•In this age of increasing marketspecialization, television is still theone mass medium that deliverscontent millions can sharesimultaneously—everything from theSuper Bowl to a network game showto the coverage of natural disasters.
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•In 1948, only 1 percent of America’s households had atelevision set;•by 1953, more than 50 percent had one; and by the early1960s, more than 90 percent of all homes had a TV set.•With television on the rise throughout the 1950s, manyfeared that radio—as well as books, magazines, andmovies—would become irrelevant and unnecessary.•What happened, of course, is that both radio and printmedia adapted to this new technology.•In fact, today more radio stations are operating and morebooks and magazines are published than ever before;only ticket sales for movies have flattened and declinedslightly since the 1960s.Early TV Technology•“‘There’s nothing on itworthwhile, and we’renot going to watch itin this household, andI don’t want it in yourintellectual diet.’”•–Kent Farnsworth,recalling the attitudeof his father (Philo)toward TV when Kentwas growing up•On September 7, 1927, atage twenty-one,Farnsworth transmittedthe first TV pictureelectronically by rotatinga straight line scratchedon a square of paintedglass by 90°. Finally, in1930, he patented thefirst electronic television.RCA, then the worldleader in broadcastingtechnology, challengedFarnsworth in a majorpatents battle.•He later licensed thesepatents to RCA andAT&T for use in thecommercial developmentof television. Farnsworthconducted the first publicdemonstration oftelevision at the FranklinInst