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A Brief History of Video Technology [Infographic]

It’s easy to put history behind us and forget about the long journey that it took to get here. In today’s modern times, it seems like kids are born with a cell phone in one hand and a tablet in the other – and with technological advancements in handheld devices increasing by the day, there’s no turning back. Surprisingly, video technology has been around quite a bit longer than you would expect. From a big screen to a smaller household device and back again, here’s a brief history of video technology since its inception way back in the 1900s.

The 1900s

The year, 1890; the event, a film! Believe it or not, some of the earliest films were made way back in the 1890s. These films barely resembled what we consider as films today but despite being stop-motion pictures with no color or sound, the invention of film projection was the talk of the western world. By the early 1900s, films had been developed to have more continuity and had sequenced pictures that started to resemble films.

Fun facts:

  • In 1902, French director Georges Méliès created what might very well be the world’s first science fiction movie ‘A Trip to the Moon’. Albeit being soundless and colorless, this film was really something. Have a look and enjoy the iconic picture of a spaceship poking into the moon’s eye in what can only be described as entertaining.
  • Video technology and stop-motion films were actually invented before the radio! The first radio transmissions took place in 1905 and the first public broadcast on air was only in 1910. The first projection films even preceded the founding of the FBI (1908) and the renowned Kodak Brownie camera (1900).

The 1930s

By the 1930s, film showings had become commonplace events. A shocking 65% of the US population was reported to attend weekly movies, with projection films becoming a mainstream social event that included dressing up in your best threads. Every new movie was dissected by movie-goers and discussed for weeks afterward: this was the golden age of Hollywood!

Some fun facts:

  • The 1936 Summer Olympics was the first Olympic Games to be broadcast on television.
  • 1941 saw the first airing of a paid television advertisement in the United States, featuring Bulova watches. As far as advertisements go, it’s absolutely terrible but at the time, it was the champion of something new. Watch the advertisement here. Here are some more commercials from the 1940s that are much better – one even sees Johnson & Johnson band-aids being tested on eggs.

The 1950s

The times were changing and as video technology advanced, the first small screen broadcast televisions were manufactured in Germany. These televisions were made for commercial purposes and despite displaying only black and white images, they became the new hot item for any avid movie-watcher to attain. By the 1950s, small screen televisions were showing up as much-loved and treasured household items worldwide.

Fun facts from the 1950s:

  • Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was the first royal event to be broadcast on television in 1953.
  • The pilot episode of ‘The Flintstones’ was created in 1959 – you can even see some of the original markings from the artist flash across the images.
  • The 1950s was the era of sci-fi cinema, with Hollywood movies indulging in robots, Martians, radiation, and everything extra-terrestrial.
  • The first image to be digitized by a computer was in 1957. This was the precursor for many digital technologies including CAT scans, satellite imaging, and barcodes.

The 1960s

Ah, the 60s. Along with the colorful attire of the hippie era, video technology got its own douse of spunk: televisions were designed with a wheel containing the primary colors of red, green and blue rotating in front of the camera to project color. Television would never be the same again and by the end of the era, people had begun swapping out their outdated black and white television sets for color sets.

Fun facts:

  • The use of television as a channel for something besides entertainment became apparent with the first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy throughout the 1960s. This also gave rise to a new age of television journalism and news. As many as 83 million viewers are thought to have viewed an airing of anti-war protesters outside a 1968 Democratic National Convention.
  • 1969 was a great year in television and saw the first broadcast of great shows including Sesame Street, The Brady Bunch and Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  • The 1980s saw some fantastic technology advertisements, which just goes to show how quickly video technology was gaining ground. Have a look at the great Walkman, Apple, and Texas Instrument ads from way back when… golden!

The 1990s

By this stage, video technology had become such a part of our lives that people were starting to welcome television sets into the bedroom – all color sets of course, and with sound. As disposable incomes rose and television became integral to daily life, many households began acquiring television sets for not only the living room but also the bedroom. This era also saw the development of early flat-screen televisions that made use of Plasma display panels.

And another technological development of the 1990s: cellular phones. Remember those old, indestructible Nokia models? Good times. The Nokia 3210 model sold over 160 million units and by the end of the 90s era, as many as 46% of people in the UK had cell phones. Gaming consoles like the Nintendo Game Boy and home computer systems were also rising in popularity.

Fun fact:

  • IBM is credited with designing the world’s first ‘smart’ phone in 1994: the IBM Simon, a handheld device that was capable of sending e-mail, receiving faxes and even working as a pager. The features were all there, including an address book, calculator and a predictive stylus input screen keyboards. It’s downfall? A battery life of 1 hour. See more about the impressive IBM Simon that was well ahead of its time here.

The 2000s

The beginning of the new millennium is perhaps best marked by the rise of the internet, although back then the concept of the internet was synonymous with long dialing tones and painfully slow loading times. This was the time when video technology really began to take hold of our lives. Although far from the functional internet we know today, the 2000s was an exciting time with new concepts such as websites and e-mail.

Screens had been developed to the point where they were suitable for watching videos, while handheld cellular phones began to flood the markets. Heading to the video store to get the latest DVD? Those were the times. The development of BluRay, better computers, the introduction of laptops, and tablets… the 2000s is where it all started, building on the foundation of mobile devices.

The 2010s

Fad diets, fashion, high-quality screen displays and binge-watching… we live in an era where video technology is continually pushed to the limits and beyond. The beginning of this era saw the introduction of the Apple iPad, the ‘missing link’ between phones and laptops. Facebook was another new form of video technology, bringing with it an alternative to e-mail communication. Social media was also accompanied by the rise of mobile applications and smartphones, changing the landscape of video technology once again.

Now, Netflix, HBO and other online streaming services are ushering in a new trend, with many companies competing for the rights to make the ‘next big thing’. Cell phones are ever-smarter, tablets are more affordable and there’s no telling where video-over-IP technology will take us as it begins to transform into virtual reality. 2018 alone is seeing advances in digital trends such as interactive displays, digital signage, and reflective LCD displays. What an exciting time to be alive!

The Future

It’s difficult to tell what the future holds but recent trends suggest that video walls might be the next video technology development that holds the potential to become a commonplace household object. People have long since moved on from having just one television set – might as well go full out and get a whole wall full, with televisions that are interactive and compatible with any other devices you already have, of course.

Multiple large screens can easily simulate large theatre screens but have the added benefit of displaying multiple channels of entertainment. These screens are designed specifically for use in a video wall and have narrow (almost non-existent) bezels that minimize the spaces between active display panels. Will we be able to watch television while playing a game and video-calling someone all at once? Or perhaps we just want to see everything bigger, and clearer, with crisp visuals – let’s be real, those video wall projections are a bit fuzzy.

There’s no telling what the next video technology development will be but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be big, and great. Now we just need a few extra arms, eyes and ears to keep up with the ever-growing stream of visual and aural stimulation.

Infographic - History Of Video Technology

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Mehul Boricha
Mehul Boricha
Mehul Boricha is the driving force behind Tech Arrival. He is a computer and smartphone geek from Junagadh, Gujarat, India. He is a Software Engineer by Education & a Blogger by Passion. Apart from technology geek, his free time is dedicated to cybersecurity research, server optimization, and contributing to open-source projects.

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