The Invention of Television
By David E. Fisher and Marshall Jon Fisher

        Note from John Dilks, NJARC Web Editor: This is the best historical book to come out in a long time. I planned to (and still do) write "A Radioman's Review of a Television Book." In the mean time, the information in this book is too good to sit on while I read the entire book, then write the report. Hence, I am publishing their News Release for your information.
Tube: The Invention of Television is technicial and historical in nature, conversationally written and easy to understand. Almost every page is noted and the bibliography they used is truly impressive. This book is a must for every collector and historian of radio and television and anyone else interested in the industry. -ED.

"The genius of several individuals coalesced into today's modern TV. In this personality-driven book, the authors look at the key players and their contributions.... An engrossing, in-depth look at the history of the medium." - Publishers Weekly

Who invented television? Surprisingly, most people don't know. Every school child knows the Wright brothers invented the airplane and Alexander Graham Bell the telephone. Marconi invented the radio and Edison the electric light, but ask someone who invented television, and the question will probably be greeted by silence.

Fifty years after television's commercial debut, Counterpoint has published Tube: The Invention of Television [$30]. Part of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Technology Series, Tube presents the turbulent history of one of the most important-most beloved and most reviled-inventions of the twentieth century.

The invention of television was not like the invention of the atomic bomb, which came with a flash of insight followed by experimentation. There was no sudden moment of victory, as with the Wright brothers' first flight. Instead, television was an elusive, tantalizing dream. It took the greatest scientists of the day a long time to make a working prototype, and then it took them longer to perfect it. From the first seed of possibility in 1872 to the TV boom of the 1960s, the race to invent television was filled with little triumphs and devastating failures. Fortunes were made and lost, lives buoyed and wrecked. Divisive battles over patents, broadcasting standards, and color technology raged continuously. World events -WWI, the Depression, WWII, the Korean War- postponed developments at critical moments. And, perhaps most frustrating, the technology itself remained just out of grasp for decades.

An anecdotal history that reads like an adventure story, Tube follows the competing and criss-crossing lives of television's primary inventors:

John Logie Baird, the eccentric Scot who created the first mechanical prototype of television. His earlier inventions-the Baird Under-Sock and the glass rustless razor-met with limited success, but he enjoyed fame and fortune with his televisor. He ignored new technology, however, and watched his dream disappear in the realization of an all-electronic system.

Philo T. Farnsworth, the Idaho farm boy who visualized the first electronic model for television when he was fourteen years old. By the time he was twenty, he'd found private funding and built his model. The youngest and most ambitious of the "lone" inventors, he would nevertheless be defeated by the powerful RCA.

Vladimir Zworykin, the scientist who paved the way for RCA. His electronic system lacked some of the finesse of Farnsworth's model, but his genius, combined with RCA's backing, would prove unstoppable.

There were others. Ernst Alexanderson, the scientist who lost out to Zworykin at RCA. Charles Jenkins, whose broadcasting business (one of the first) died in the Depression. And of course, David Sarnoff, the RCA executive who ruthlessly molded TV into the commercially viable household commodity we know today. In the end, none of them could claim the title 'inventor of television,' for it came into being gradually, through all of their efforts combined.

Tube concludes with a look at the future of television in the digital age. Over the next ten to fifteen years, the American public will increasingly receive television programs as digital signals, collapsing the separation between television and the Internet. With this great metamorphosis approaching, it is a particularly good time to look back at television's past. Tube will tell the MTV generation, if anything can, the story behind the device that has shaped them. It will explain to the nonscientist how television actually works, and it will tell us all about the men who devoted their lives to inventing it and who deserve greater fame.

David E. Fisher, an author celebrated for his ability to make science understandable, and his son Marshall Jon Fisher, have created a book that is more than the history of an invention. It is a compelling story of eccentric personalities, exciting times, unbridled genius and greed. What did you expect? After all, this is TV. Click here for more information about the authors.

Tube: The Invention of Television
September 30, 1996.
ISBN 1-887178-17-I
6 x 9" 448 pages, plus l6 page photo insert: $30.00

Available in most major book stores

or order via the Internet:
(Search on the title:  Tube: The Invention of Television   )

or order direct from the publisher:
1627  I  Street NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20006
tel: 202-887-0363
fax: 202-887-0562
Cover art by Nam June Paik, John Cage Robot (1990),
courtesy Carl Solway Gallery. Photographer: Chris Gomien.

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