Television has completely revolutionized modern life, playing one of the most integral roles in society since its mainstream adoption in the 1950s. Not only reflecting the cultural values of the time but actively shaping them, too.
While television has been criticized and demonized in every single generation, the social impact that this innovation has had on humanity is one of the most notable changes in history. While it may be critiqued as a negative influence on children, the necessity of television becomes clear when historical events are permanently captured for television, from JFK’s assassination to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
We’ll be exploring the evolution of television: from broadcast to streaming and what the future may hold for the technology.
Where did television start?
Television was technically invented in the 1800s, but this was something of an envision or a distant dream. The idea was there but the technology was not available. In 1907, arguably the first television was birthed by the Russian scientist Boris Rosing. However, it wasn’t until 1926 when British inventor John Logie Baird demonstrated the first-ever television system. This would snowball into what we have become to know as television. In a way, this is the origin of streaming platforms, too.
Television broadcasting began in 1928. Though, it was initially only available to the most privileged in society. For example, the first-ever broadcasting service was only transmitting regular broadcasts to around 5,000 people.
Televisions were a high-end luxury that cost the average person over half of their annual wage. There were only 5 channels, and the screens were a maximum of 12 inches. Initially, the sale of television sets was disappointing which is interesting to consider in hindsight. As a comparison, nowadays, the internet brought the new wave of media democratization, where everyone can access entertainment services like online roulette. Beginner players can indulge in the game from home or on-the-go with both desktop and mobile devices. However, this would be considered a luxury in the past.
When World War II outbroke, the production of television was understandably put on the backbench. Television broadcasting was halted and TV stations only aired for about 4 hours a day.
By the 1950s, broadcast television was much more popular. Colour television was beginning to be introduced into ordinary households, and cable network was eventually available in 1976.
In the 1980s, video stores began to appear – these were set up to sell VCRs. This allowed consumers to watch tapes on demand. This means, for the first time, people could watch a movie at home, multiple times, whenever they wanted.
Of course, you would have to manually rewind the tape and it did come with many logistical problems, but it was an exciting evolution for movie and tv lovers.
DVDs were another evolution in TV that completely wiped out the need for VCRs. Around ten years after VCRs were introduced their superior competitor arrived on the scene. These were much easier to use (no more manual rewinding). Interestingly, DVDs were actually where Netflix began – their subscription service, in the beginning, allowed people to subscribe and have access to unlimited DVDs which would be sent to people’s houses.
It was the main competitor to Blockbuster and even tried to sell its company to Blockbuster who decline because they believed their price was too high.
Analogue to Digital
While the VCR and DVD evolution was happening, television also began to evolve. The transition to digital television began in the late 2000s. Governments all over the world decided to shut down analogue broadcasting television. This was to free up communication services for emergency responders who use analogue systems.
Digital television was a win-win for everybody involved, though. Not only was it highly accessible to the majority of people, but it also had a better picture, more channels, and better sound quality. This is when a lot of homes would transform from 5 channels to hundreds of channels.
Streaming and Video on Demand (VOD).
Streaming has now replaced DVDs which have become slightly obsolete in the modern world. Users are now available to stream movies and tv programs directly to any device, whenever they want, wherever they want.
VOD has had its issues, especially with the rise of every platform and company creating their streaming platform. Think, Netflix, Disney, Hulu, HBO, and Prime – users are becoming severely unhappy with having to pay for every single platform just so they can watch their favourite movies and programs.
A new trend has emerged in the world of entertainment and television. Live streaming platforms such as Twitch are becoming increasingly popular, especially with the younger generations. You can watch people play on sites such as Bodog, watch them play video games, or hear their commentary on certain subjects.
What is the future of television?
It’s hard to imagine how television can evolve more than it already has. With the rise of the metaverse, however, television will likely become more of an immersive experience. Users will no longer just watch a television program, for example, they will participate in it. This was experimented with in the Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch.
The development of television in less than a century has been unbelievable. Predicting how television will look in the next few decades is almost impossible.