In the course of human history, there are few technologies that significantly reimagine everything and move culture forward exponentially. Fire. Gunpowder. The Printing Press. The Internet.
The world before television–the projection of visuals into the private home–reimagined how we lived. It proved, in the end, more than just an entertainment evolution. In the 1940s, radio was the king of home entertainment. By 1960 the new king was television (and radio was gasping to survive).
The American family home fixated and centered on television. The box in the corner controlled our “prime time” schedules. Between 8 and 11 p.m. eastern time, television lit up American evenings with dramas, westerns, sitcoms, variety shows, sports, music, movies and other visual entertainment. Our news shifted to create new visual stars like Murrow, Cronkite, Brinkley, Smith and Huntley. Billy Graham reimagined church from a chapel to a stadium, the steeple to an antenna. Sports moved from local favorites to national commodities. Even education shifted thanks to television, the new teacher, mentor and babysitter.
In the 1960s, live television feeds (thanks to satellites in space) and cable television evolved. Three decades later satellite and streamed television would emerge. Television introduced innovations like the remote control, video cassette recorder, DirecTV/Dish, TiVo/DVR Blockbuster/Redbox movie rentals, video gaming, HD and flat screens, Roku/Sling/Apple TV.
Today, many American households have televisions in multiple rooms, including the bathroom, patio and garage. The average channel lineup is in the hundreds. What’s changing now is how we consume our televised programming. The Big Three networks–thanks to cable–are no more. In fact, cable and satellite are dying. Most viewers now watch television via the stream and store their favorite shows in the cloud.
Television changed the world.
And it all started on this day in 1939.