Farnovision Video Library

A collection of videos that explain the origins of television, how it was invented
-- and who really invented it.

In 1996, the Discovery Channel broadcast this piece describing the "The Origins of Television." The segment includes demonstrations of a Baird Televisor, the kind of mechanical system that was obsolesced when Philo Farnsworth "replaced all the parts with particles." The segment includes an appearance by Paul Schatzkin, author of The Boy Who Invented Television .

And here is how it all began: with the transmission of a single line of light that was focused on the surface of an "Image Dissector" tube and reappeared on the face of a cathode ray tube on September 7, 1927. Even "YouTube" starts here.
After nearly 10 years of development and refinement -- and the issuance of dozens of patents for Philo T. Farnsworth and his "lab gang," television is nearly ready for prime time, as illustrated in this "Paramount Eyes and Ears of the World" newsreel from 1936.
By the mid 1950s, television had become a common household appliance. But despite his earlier renown, by the time television took off, its inventor had become so obscure that he could appear anonymously on a TV game show. Here is Philo Farnsworth's apearance on "I've Got A Secret" in July, 1957.
Twenty years later, the restoration of Philo T. Farnsworth to his proper place in history began with an observation of the Golden Anniversary of that first successful transmission. Family and former colleagues of Philo Farnsworth gathered at the Foothill Museum in Palo Alto, California constructed an working replica of Farnsworth's first successful system, and demonstrated it to the media on September 7, 1977.
The Image Dissector tube used in the 1977 recreation was hand built by Cliff Gardner -- Philo Farnsworth's brother-in-law and the man who built the original with his own hands in 1927. The process shown here uses somewhat more modern equipment (spot welder, glass lathe), but is essentially the same process that was employed to build the original.
In 1997, PBS broadcast an installment of its documentary series The American Experience entitled "Big Dream, Small Screen," which tells the whole story as completely as it has been told for television. Tyler Durden has made David McCullough's introduction to the program available via YouTube. The segment ends with a graphic re-enactment of Farnsworth's moment of conception as he drives a disk harrow, row-by-row, across a field.
In September 2002, the inventor of "electric television" was finally recognized by the industry he started. To mark the 75th Anniversary of the first successful all-electronic television transmission, Philo T. Farnsworth's widow Pem was introduced to the audience at the Emmy Awards telecast. Sadly, the moment was tarnished by the inclusion of a gratuitous nod toward David Sarnoff, via the introduction of his son, Robert Sarnoff, who was a director of the Television Academy.


Thanks to Craig Havighurst and the good people at String Theory Media for production assistance with the video clips offered here.

The material in "The Farnsworth Chronicles" is an abridged, "first draft" of material now found in a new book, The Boy Who Invented Television: A Story of Inspiration, Persistence, and Quiet Passion. Learn more about the book here or click the book store of your choice to order a copy online.