Solar paneled street lighting; the umbrella for dogs; the one legged bar stool. There are some inventions that have failed find a spot in the ritual of day-to-day life. Other inventions, however, have not just become part of our lives; they have transformed the way we live in a way that leaves us unable to think of how we managed before.
The television is one of the greatest inventions of our time and has revolutionised the way we receive information and experience the world. The development of the TV goes back as far as 1884 when a 20-year old German student Paul Gotlier Nipkow patented the first electro-mechanical television system. The invention used the process of converting a visual image into a stream of electrical pulses; however moving images were not possible from Nipko’s work.
It is Scottish inventor John Logie Baird who is widely credited with inventing what we know as the television. He first demonstrated the transmission of moving images in London in 1925. Baird Television Limited made Britain’s first television broadcast on September 30, 1929. The system used a scanned image of30 lines; just enough for a close up of one person. Baird’s broadcasts continued until June 1932 but his legacy is forever felt and enjoyed in homes around the world.
The television opened up a world that was previously unseen to all people around the world. But, however much the TV has transformed modern life it is a device that only allows for one way communication, and does not allow for a dialogue or an exchange of information. It was a Boston Professor called Alexander Graham Bell who, as early as 1874, began work on an invention that was to open up the world of communication in a way previously only dreamed of.
Professor Bell’s obsession with sound and communication began from a young age. His mother was profoundly deaf and his father and grandfather were all noted for their work on elocution and speech. Bell’s work led him to win the race to be the first person to patent the telephone in 1876; the first system which converted sounds to electrical impulses and then back to a tone that sounds like the original voice. Bell’s successful experiment with his assistant, Watson, on March 10th 1876 has become a thing of legend, when the first complete sentence was transmitted: ‘Watson, come here; I want you.’ Bell refused to ever have a telephone in his own office stating that it was an intrusion on his real work.
Around 50 years before Bell patented his invention, work had already begun on another device which was to change the landscape of modern life; recording memories and capturing moments in time that would other wise be long forgotten. The first permanent photograph was made in 1826 by Joseph Niepce in Paris with what was the first early camera on record. The camera has since continued to progress and develop throughout time, with a revolution taking place over 100 years later than Niepce’s work in Paris.
In 1975, Steven J Sasson, an electrical engineer began work on inventing the digital camera. The assignment was given to him by his supervisor at the Kodak Company and tasked him with capturing digital images that could be translated on screen within seconds. In December that same year Sasson captured a black and white image that took 23 seconds to record onto a digital cassette and another 23 seconds to show the image of a television. Since then the digital camera has revolutionized the way we use and interact with images, with people becoming their own photo expert; from printing their images to displaying them in digital photo frames – all in the comfort of their own homes.
Great inventions are diverse, complex and amazing but they all have one thing in common: they have changed our world.
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