Television Sets

From Ohio History Central

Many scholars credit Dayton, Ohio, native Charles Francis Jenkins for inventing the first television set in the United States. British inventor John Logie Baird managed to broadcast images on a television a few months before Jenkins managed to complete the same task.

Jenkins utilized what became known as mechanical television or radiovision. He used radio receivers that had a special attachment, which allowed the receivers to broadcast moving pictures on a six-inch square mirror. Jenkins made the first public display of his radiovision on June 23, 1925, although he claimed that he transmitted the first moving pictures via radiovision on June 24, 1923. Most scholars believe that Jenkins's earlier broadcast was a lie on Jenkins's part.

On July 2, 1928, Jenkins formed the first television station in the United States and began broadcasting this same day. The station was known as W3XK and was located in Wheaton, Maryland. Jenkins's first program consisted of a ten-minute segment of a revolving windmill. In December 1928, Jenkins formed the Jenkins Television Corporation in New Jersey to manufacture Radiovisors, Jenkins's radiovision receivers, and to market and form television stations across the United States. In 1932, De Forest Radio purchased Jenkins Television Corporation and, a few months later, sold the Jenkins component of the company to RCA, which immediately ended production of the Radiovisors and ceased transmitting programs to mechanical televisions.

The principal reasons for RCA's decision to cease broadcasting and to end production were the expensive cost of Radiovisors -- the sets routinely cost between eighty-five and 135 dollars per set -- and the poor picture quality of mechanical televisions. The pictures commonly were too dark for viewers to see any more than silhouettes. These silhouettes became known as shadowgraphs. Also, by the early 1930s, dramatic improvements had been made in broadcasting images through what was known as electronic scanning television systems. Jenkins continued to seek ways to improve the Radiovisor until his death on June 6, 1934.

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