US History II Honors

7 June 2004

4th MP Research Paper

Because we live in such a technologically advanced world, it is hard for some people to imagine a time without Internet, cell phones, and television. Communication in today’s world is instantaneous, even if the news is coming from all the way around the world. The Internet makes accessing worldwide and national events as easy as clicking a mouse, and cell phones help family and friends keep in touch. But the single most effective instrument in reaching billions of people in an instant is television. Before the time of TV, most people depended on radio, newspapers, and telegrams to get their information across the nation – all means which can be incredibly time consuming. With the invention of the television set, Americans all over the country were able to receive tons of information about groundbreaking events taking place all over the world. Television brought wars right into your living room, and made ignoring such events impossible. The impact of TV can be seen in the general attitudes of many Americans towards the Vietnam War. Because of the television, the Vietnam War became one of the most controversial international conflicts in American history.

Even though one person cannot be accredited with the invention of the television, the process of inventing the television can be broken down into different stages (Paterson 434). The first components of the television were first seen in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. German scientist Karl Braun invented the cathode ray tube in 1897, and continued to perfect the instrument until his death. The cathode ray tube was an instrumental constituent of the television, and was used as the basis for the television picture tube seen in most TV sets today (Abramson 53). Vladimir Kosma Zworykin then perfects the cathode-ray tube, and calls it the kinescope in 1929, a tube needed for TV transmission. Zworykin also invents the iconoscope, an early television camera in his lifetime (Paterson 412). In 1927, Philo Farnsworth was the first inventor to transmit a television image, a dollar sign, comprised of 60 horizontal lines. Farnsworth also developed the dissector tube, the basis of all current electronic televisions (Abramson 39). Although he won an early patent for his image dissection tube, he lost later patent battles to RCA. Farnsworth then went on to invent over 165 different devices, including equipment for converting an optical image into an electrical signal. He is also responsible for inventing many early forms of the amplifier, vacuum tubes, electrical scanners, electron multipliers and other photoelectric materials (Paterson 419).

With the invention of the television and different sets on the market, it was only a matter of time before every single American home was the proud owner of their very own television set. Popular sitcoms included The Honeymooners, Lassie, Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and I Love Lucy featured popular characters who reached the living rooms of millions of viewers (Pavese 201). Families enjoyed variety shows like Disneyland and The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings. Daytime programs known as “soap operas” became popular, such as The Guiding Light, and helped advertise thousands of products to the homemakers of America (Pavese 204). News broadcasting changed from newsmen simply reading the news on the radio to shows which included videotaped pictures of events which had occurred all over the world, and then eventually to live broadcasts of events happening at the time of viewing. This was made possible in 1951 with the development of coaxial cable and microwave relays, which could transmit pictures coast to coast (Abramson 53).

The television brought entertainment into the lives of millions of Americans, but it also served the purpose of bringing information into the lives of Americans as well. The Vietnam War was heavily broadcasted, and Americans could see exactly what was happening in the jungle terrain of Vietnam and witness the hundreds of deaths that could only be reported years before (Tucker 927). The only previous international conflict of this magnitude was World War II, and news in the era of the 1940’s traveled mainly by word of mouth or by the radio. With the invention of the television, Americans were able to see the atrocities occurring on the other side of the Earth,