A Decade-by-Decade History of Television


A Decade-by-Decade History of Television

During the 1939 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, many Americans had their first taste of television. But long before then, scientists and innovators were looking into how cathode ray tubes and microscopes could be used to entertain people with moving images. That’s correct, there was a time when you binge-watched your favorite shows on a 55-inch plasma screen TV when television technology was considerably more basic.

Stacker examines how television has changed over the past century by looking at a brief history of television each decade. Newspaper stories, academic articles, and history websites such as the Smithsonian’s online database were used as primary sources.

Do you know about the Russian-American who designed the first television sets? What about America’s longest-running television show, which debuted in the 1940s? Or the product that was formerly widely advertised on television and during commercial breaks but was outlawed in the carefree 1970s?

Continue reading to learn more about the technological advancements and memorable moments in news, sports, and comedy, as well as some of the TV-related inventions that didn’t work out but affected future television programming.

You might also be interested in: The 100 Best Film and TV Soundtracks of All Time


In the 1920s, television as we know it began to take shape. Vladimir K. Zworykin was born in Russia, and his invention of the kinescope, which captured images on motion picture film, made him a television pioneer. John Logie Baird gave a public demonstration of a television system in London in 1926, and the first television stations debuted two years later.


Thanks to RCA and a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, television was debuted to a national audience during the opening of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. NBC resumed nightly broadcasts soon after. DuMont Laboratories, founded in 1931, swiftly rose to prominence as a pioneer in both programming and technology in the early days of television.


In the late 1940s, when black-and-white televisions became more widespread in American homes, the final touches on what we now know as color television were put in place. Professional sports were initially shown on American television stations during this decade, and ABC was founded. Meet the Press premiered in 1947 and went on to become one of the most popular shows on television. This is a condensed version of the information.


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