Probably, the most important invention of early television was the Nipkow
scanning disk. The patent papers included a complete closed circuit camera
Note that there are no amplifiers in this schematic. This was because the year
was 1884, long before the vacuum tube was invented. Paul Nipkow was never
able to make his invention work. Others would do that later. The most
significant part of the Nipkow invention was the scanning disk itself and the
fact that it could not only dissect the image in an orderly manner, but that
another disk just like it, could reconstruct the image back into its original form.
This was a significant step forward in the advancement of television.
Another important step forward was made by A. A. Campbell Swinton of
Scotland. As early as 1908 he recognized and wrote that mechanical means
were not capable of operating at speeds that would be necessary for high
definition (300-400 lines) television. Only by using cathode rays, which exhibit
no inertia, could this be accomplished. In 1911 he firmed up his idea and
published this schematic. Cathode ray Television of today, all over the world
follows Campbell Swinton's ideas exactly.
Philo T. Farnsworth (at 13 years)
The third important step was the first successful camera tube, the Image Dissector invented by Philo T.
Farnsworth. Just a farm boy from Utah, pictured above at the age of 13, he spent much of his youth concerned
with television. For the most part self educated, he recognized the inherent limitations of the mechanical
methods being considered and so went on to develop a totally electronic television system, much like that
described by Campbell Swinton some years earlier. When he was 16 years old and in high school, he drew this
schematic of the image dissector for one of his instructors. In later years using his image dissector, Philo
Farnsworth was the first to demonstrate a complete operating television system that was totally electronic.
Also very important, were many of the individual patents that comprised his system.
It's worth noting that Philo Farnsworth was also an effective manager/engineer and you might say he was
very efficient in his work. His main competition was the RCA company, including David Sarnoff, Vladimir K.
Zworykin and a staff of about 45 good people. In comparison, Philo Farnsworth was usually operating with
about 25% of the manpower and at best about 10 % of the RCA budget. In spite of this, he produced a totally
electronic system before they could and in doing so, he developed and patented some of the most basic and
important ideas in television. The story of Philo Farnsworth, his life and his work, is important and is an
absolute "must read" for everyone interested in television history.
A book I that I have recently read, and one I recommend you read is: "Philo T. Farnsworth, The Father of
Television" by Donald Godfrey (2001). PY
In 1919, the Farnsworth family moved to a farmhouse near Rigby, Idaho. In the attic, Philo found a stack of
scientific and semi-technical magazines, including issues of Electrical Experimenter /Science and Invention.
Note: I have never seen a complete list of the magazines that were found there, other than to say that of
some I have found, that in the issues for May and June 1918 of this magazine, Hugo Gernsback, the
magazines owner/editor wrote and published a 2-part article "Television and the Telephot". In the second
part of this article, he included and described this drawing of a mechanical/optical camera. Note that the
"Sender" optically causes a focused image to pass back and forth and up and down, just as the electron
image does in Farnsworth's dissector. As this optical image passes across a small diameter tube that is fixed
in place, the tube effectively "samples" the image as it passes by and here again, just as the fixed aperture
does in the Philo's dissector. Can you see the resemblance? Could it be that this particular article, which
included information about the accomplishments of Rosing and Swinton as well as others, that it might have
had a significant effect on Farnsworth and his ideas?? How about that! What do you think??
I am inclined to believe that Philo saw it, read it and it in fact did influence his work on the dissector. I base
this on having read numerous references of how Philo was going out of his way to read everything he could
about electrons, magnetic fields and science in general. This all took place in 1919-1920 and the magazines
were at this time 1 1/2 to 2 years old... so they fit in the correct time frame. I also base this conclusion on my
experience in working with others, in that most ideas, including "new" ones, are based on some previous
ideas or experiences. And if all this is true... to me, it shows the true genius in this man. Because no else
envisioned what he did or when he did. What Philo did was to connect the dots... before anyone else even
saw the dots. He was 13 years old! ... WOW! Amazing! PY