Television was not the product of a singular moment of scientific genius or technical insight, but rather a culmination of work by numerous engineers, and inventors. Although Philo Taylor Farnsworth (1906–1971) is credited with having produced the first successful electronic television in 1927, a mechanical television system had been invented as early as 1884 by German inventor Paul Gottlieb Nipkow (1860–1940). The first commercial television sets appeared in England and the United States in 1928. In 1937 Londoners purchased 9,000 television sets, allowing them to watch the coronation of King George VI.


The television is a device that can receive, decode, and display images and sounds sent over a great distance. Television images can be broadcast over radio frequencies and through closed-circuit television loops, as well a through satellite and cable transmissions. The earliest televisions could only display black-and-white analog images, although advances in technology led to colour images, stereo sound, and digital signals.


By 1996, there were approximately one billion televisions in use around the world; a number that has continued to grow. The medium became synonymous with technological advances and significant moments of the 20th century, and has had a profound impact on the way people communicate, interact socially, and spend their time. Its ubiquitous presence is an endless source of entertainment, news, information, and distraction, and it has played a pivotal role in social and political change around the world, used by both tyrant and liberator alike.