Television As We Know It:
A travelling exhibition

Please note that Television As We Know It is no longer available as a travelling exhibition. The following is for archival and information purposes only.


This exhibition takes a look at how the video environment Canadians live in and the programming we enjoy has changed. An educational component is included to provide visiting students with an opportunity to interpret some of the artifacts and programs enjoyed by their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents.... There are four different centres in the educational component, each reflecting or supplementing the exhibition's central themes. The exhibition can be presented in English, French, or as a bilingual exhibition, and is also divided into four sections: The First Television, The Television Boom, Television Matures, and The Digital Renaissance. The exhibition focuses on the technology, design, programming, and social impacts of television from a uniquely Canadian perspective.

Exhibit I (small)

15 vintage television receivers.
25 related television background objects.

1000 square feet.

Supplementary Materials
Plinths and cases required.

Educational Component
TV viewing theatre in the style of an early 50s living room, and student activity cards for the use of museum educator.

Special Requirements
Active staff participation to organize and present programs.
Light levels: 150 lux.
Relative humidity requirements: stable RH levels throughout the year, within a range of approximately 35 to 50%.

Personally supervised shipping.
Total Weight: 1700 lbs.

Booking Period: ~ 6 months

Exhibit II (large)

50-70 vintage television receivers.
65 related television background objects.

3000 square feet.

Supplementary Materials
Plinths and cases required.

Educational Component
TV viewing theatre in the style of an early 50s living room, and student activity cards for the use of museum educator.

Special Requirements
Active staff participation to organize and present programs.
Light levels: 150 lux.
Relative humidity requirements: stable RH levels throughout the year, within a range of approximately 35 to 50%.

Personally supervised shipping.
Total Weight: 3700 lbs.

Booking Period: ~ 1 year

Timeline of television's technological milestones

1831: Michael Faraday in Britain and Joseph Henry in the United States experiment with electromagnetism, providing the basis for research into electrical communication.

1844: Samuel Morse publicly demonstrates the telegraph.

1862: Italian physicist, Abbe Giovanni Caselli, is the first to send fixed (facsimilie) images over a long distance, using a system he calls the "pantelegraph".

1873: Two English telegraph engineers, May and Smith, experiment with selenium and light, giving inventors a way of transforming images into electrical impulses.

1880: George Carey builds a rudimentary system using dozens of tiny light-sensitive selenium cells.

1884: In Germany, Paul Nipkow patents the first mechanical television scanning system, consisting of a disc with a spiral of holes.

1895: Italian physicist Guglielmo Marconi develops radio telegraphy and transmits Morse code by wireless for the first time.

1897: Karl Ferdinand Braun, a German physicist, invents the first cathode-ray tube.

1901: Marconi transmits a Morse code signal across the Atlantic Ocean.

1906: Lee Deforest develops the "Audion", a vacuum tube capable of amplifying signals. Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian scientist is the first to send voice by radio.

1907: Russian Boris Rosing transmits black-and-white silhouettes of simple shapes, using a mechanical mirror-drum apparatus as a camera and a cathode-ray tube as a receiver.

1908 and 1911: A.A. Campbell-Swinton, a Scottish electrical engineer, publishes proposals about an all-electronic television system that uses a cathode-ray tube for both receiver and camera.

1923: Having recently emigrated to the U.S.A. from Russia, then Westinghouse engineer Vladimir Zworykin patents an electronic camera tube concept. By the end of 1923 he has also patented a picture display tube. Considerable further experimentation and even more considerable funds are required to develop working tubes.

1924: John Logie Baird is the first to transmit a moving silhouette image, using his mechanical system based on Paul Nipkow's model.

1925: John Logie Baird obtains the first actual television picture in his laboratory. The image is of a ventriloquist dummy's head.

1926: John Logie Baird gives the first successful public demonstration of television to members of the Royal Institution in London. The demonstration receives worldwide attention.

1927: Using apparatus similar to Baird's, Pictures of Herbert Hoover, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, are transmitted by Bell Laboratories 200 miles from Washington D.C. to New York, in the world's first televised speech and first long-distance television transmission. American inventor Philo Farnsworth develops a camera eye tube called "The Image Dissector" which is different from Zworykin's camera tube. Like Zworykin, Farnsworth faces similar challenges with financing further experiments. Canadian Reginald Fessenden patents a mechanical television system.

1928: The world's first television drama, "The Queen's Messenger", is broadcast by General Electric. Also this year, John Logie Baird transmits television images across the Atlantic Ocean via shortwave, and demonstrates the first colour television pictures.

1929: In London, John Logie Baird opens the world's first television studio on a 30-line low-resolution system, and receives a license to use BBC transmitters the following year.

1930: After 3 years of broadcasting his "Radiomovies", the first commercial is televised by American television pioneer, Charles F. Jenkins, who is fined by the U.S. Federal Radio Commission.

1931: Owned jointly by CKAC and La Presse, Canada's first television station, VE9EC, conducts sporadic television broadcasting in Montreal. Also this year, RCA begins experimental television transmissions from the Empire State Building. Zworykin, now working for RCA, first demonstrates an operational prototype camera tube which he names the "Iconoscope".

1933: Western Television Limited's mechanical television system is toured and demonstrated at Eaton's department stores in Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg. Canadian astronomer and inventor Francois C.P. Henroteau takes out U.S. patents on all-electronic TV camera systems.

1934: Early this year, RCA purchases key all-electronic camera patents from Hungarian scientist Kalman Tihanyi towards the implementation of their Iconoscope camera system. The patents involve storage of electrons in the mosaic that makes up the camera 'eye'.

1935: William Hoyt Peck of Peck Television of Canada uses a mechanical television system in Montreal for five weeks of experimental broadcasts. 30-line television broadcasts in the U.K. are shut down.

1936: The BBC begins the world's first public electronic television service. It covers only the London area and uses 405 lines. Baird's 240 line system has lost out to the Marconi-EMI "Emitron" camera in a competition held by the BBC. Farnsworth's camera is also tested and found inferior.

1938: American Allen B. DuMont offers the first all-electronic television set for sale to the North American public. The first public demonstration of colour television is given on a 12' x 9' screen to a theatre audience.

1939: American all-electronic television broadcasts begin as part of the 1939 New York World's Fair proceedings. At first, television is only available to the New York area. Because of the outbreak of WWII, the BBC abruptly stops broadcasting in the middle of a Mickey Mouse cartoon on September 1, resuming at that same point when peace returns in 1945. The first major display of electronic television in Canada takes place at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto as part of the RCA exhibit. This is temporary and on a closed-circuit. In Germany, television broadcasts continue throughout the war mostly as a morale booster for German troops rather than as a pure propaganda medium. America has yet to enter the war, RCA announces the Image Orthicon camera tube will replace the Iconoscopes in TV cameras after settling legal disputes with Philo Farnsworth. NBC broadcasts the first televised big-league baseball game.

1940: In England and the United States, John Logie Baird and Dr. Peter Goldmark of CBS develop colour television systems, using a disc of three filters (red, green and blue), rotated in front of a standard electronic camera pickup tube. This was known as the field sequential colour system.

1941: North America's current 525-line/30-pictures-a-second standard, known as the NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) standard, is adopted.

1944: John Logie Baird demonstrates the world's first all-electronic high-definition colour television system, based on a picture tube called the "Telechrome".

1946: RCA and CBS demonstrate rival colour systems. The world's first television broadcast via coaxial cable is transmitted from New York to Washington D.C. Allen B. DuMont forms the first television network by joining two stations, known as the DuMont television network. In the U.K., the Hankey committee decides on a 1000 line stereoscopic colour TV system developed by Baird in 1944, however plans fall to the wayside due to Baird's death and the high cost of postwar reconstruction. The U.K. resumes with 405-line monochromatic broadcasts.

1947: A permanent network linking four eastern U.S. stations is established by NBC (RCA's broadcast wing) to compete with DuMont. On June 3, Canadian General Electric engineers in Windsor receive the first official electronic television broadcast in Canada, transmitted from the new U.S. station WWDT in Detroit. This year also sees the development of the transistor, on which solid-state electronics are based.

1948: Television manufacturing begins in Canada. The American television audience increases by a staggering 4,000 percent this year, due to a jump in the number of cities with television stations. Over one million homes in the U.S. now have television sets.

1949: The Canadian government establishes an interim policy for television, announcing loans for CBC television development. An RCA research team in the U.S. develops a triple-gun Shadow Mask picture tube, which would lead to an NTSC-compatible colour television system by 1953.

1950: Cable TV begins in the U.S. European broadcasters fix a common picture standard of 625 lines. By the 1970s, virtually all nations in the world used 625-line service, except for the U.S., Canada, Japan, and some others which continued with the lower resolution 525-line U.S. standard.

1951: Colour television transmissions were made in the U.S. this year using the colour wheel system adapted by Peter C. Goldmark of CBS laboratories. Unfortunately, the colour system used is not compatible with several million existing black and white television sets without modifications, including the addition of a colour wheel. After an appeal, it was decided by the Federal Radio Commission that transmissions should be halted until an NTSC-compatible solution could be engineered by RCA.

1952: Regular television broadcasts begin from within Canada, using the 525-line American NTSC standard. CBC opens the first television stations. On September 6th, CBC Television first broadcasts from its Montreal station; on September 8, CBC first broadcasts from the Toronto station.

1953: A microwave network connects CBC television stations in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. The first private television stations begin operation in Sudbury and London. Queen Elizabeth's coronation is also televised this year, and the CBC beats U.S. competitors to the punch by flying footage across the Atlantic. The U.S. begins colour transmission again, this time with full NTSC compatibility. The early colour receivers are found to be expensive, unreliable and costly to maintain by consumers. RCA's early shadowmask was a coarse picture element grid which threw away much of the picture detail. Broadcasters are also slow to adopt the colour system due to the expense of the equipment, and only a fraction of programs were broadcast in colour. Several years passed before colour sets would sell as well as black-and-white sets.

1956: Ampex Corporation demonstrates videotape recording, initially used only by television stations. Henri de France develops the SECAM (sequential colour with memory) system, which has 819 lines of picture resolution. It is adopted in France, and the first SECAM colour transmission between Paris and London took place in 1960.

1957: The Soviet Union launches the world's first Earth satellite, Sputnik.

1958: The CBC's microwave network is extended from Victoria, B.C. to Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, to become the longest television network in the world.

1960: The Nixon-Kennedy debates are televised, marking the first network use of the split screen. Kennedy performs better on television than Nixon, and it is believed that television helps Kennedy win the election. Sony develops the first all-transistor television receiver. Canada's first pay-television service begins in Toronto as an experiment by Famous Players, using special "Telemeter" boxes. The service is cancelled in 1965.

1961: The Canadian Television Network (CTV) begins operations, the first privately owned TV network in Canada.

1962: The Telstar television satellite is launched by the U.S., and begins relaying transatlantic television shortly after its launch. The first programme shows scenes of Paris.

1965: The Vietnam War becomes the first war to be televised, coinciding with CBS's first colour transmissions and the first Asia-America satellite link. Also this year, Sony introduces Betamax, a small home video recorder.

1966: Colour television signals are transmitted by Canadian stations for the first time, 13 years after the U.S. begins NTSC-compatible colour. A few Canadian households have already purchased colour sets to watch cross-border broadcasts, but for most the price of the colour receivers is still too high.

1967: Sony introduces the first lightweight, portable and cheap video recorder, known as the Portapak.

1968: Sony introduces the single-gun Trinitron tube, improving the picture quality of colour television by reducing the surface area of the shadowmask.

1969: On July 20, 1969, the first television transmission from the moon is viewed by 600 million viewers around the world. Both electronic and mechanical television techniques are used by NASA in these broadcasts.

1971: Canada's Anik I, the first domestic geo-synchronous communications satellite, is launched, capable of relaying 12 television programmes simultaneously.

1975: Sony markets the first Betamax VCR for home viewing and recording of video and JVC quickly follows with VHS.

1976: The Olympics, broadcast from Montreal, draw an estimated 1 billion viewers worldwide.

1979: Flat-screen pocket televisions, with liquid crystal display screens, are patented by the Japanese firm Matsushita (Panasonic). Several pocket televisions are released around this time, no bigger than a paperback book.

1991: The V-chip is invented by Canadian engineer Tom Collings. This chip, (called V for viewer control) is designed to help parents gain control over the kinds of programs their children watch on television. The device, which is about the size of a thumbnail, decodes rating information inserted into TV programs by broadcasters and compares it to information that is pre-set by the user.

1996: In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approves a dual digital television standard of 720 or 1080 horizontal lines of picture resolution.

1998: The first HDTV television receivers are sold in North America. Broadcasters begin HDTV broadcasts.

1999: Millions of televisions are produced using V-chip technology for use in Canada and the United States.

All video content presently appearing on this web page is provided courtesy of CBC Archives

Links to Canadian Television Broadcasters:

  • Bravo!
  • TV for BC (British Columbia Television)
  • CBC Television
  • The Comedy Network
  • CPAC (Cable Parliamentary Channel) - in English and French
  • CTV
  • Citytv (Toronto)
  • Discovery Channel Canada
  • Global TV (Edmonton)
  • Know TV (Knowledge Network, Public Educational TV, British Columbia)
  • MTV Canada
  • Showcase Television (fiction network)
  • TSN (The Sports Network)
  • TVOntario (public broadcaster, Toronto) in English and French

    Last updated: February 5th, 2007
    Copyright, 2007.

    Television as we know it is a travelling exhibition about the history of television in Canada. Iain Baird, television, TV, antique, vintage, history, history of television, historic, historical, radio with pictures, radio-vision, distant electric vision, radiovisor, radiovision, TV, television limited, CNE, cinema, canadian television, televisor, radiovisor, Farnsworth, Jenkins, Zworykin, Sarnoff, Ives, Bell, De Forest, Nipkow, Rosing, Mihaly, Henroteau, Fessenden, Rogers, CBC, Canadian Television Museum, History of Television in Canada, PEI, Ontario, Newfoundland, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Quebec, St. John, St. John's, Kingston, Canadian-made television sets, CTV, CHCH, CBC, Canadian Broadcasting, Eaton's, Alphonse Ouimet, Canadian Television Museum, Museum of Canadian Broadcasting, Canadian television sets, Historic video recorders, Canadian television cameras, The History of Television in Canada, Canadian Broadcasting Museum, Canadian travelling exhibition, Vintage Canadian Television Receivers, Hammond Transformers, Canadian General Electric, Canadian Westinghouse, Television Museums in Canada, Electrohome, Clairtone, Fleetwood.

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