"Television - The Drug of the Nation" -Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

Perhaps one of the most potent drugs, since television effects thought processes from childhood to the rest of adult life.

This is not to say it isn't a useful media, just that most tv watchers do not regulate themselves or affect their families' habits through any form of discourse about programs and their value to life as a whole. Jerry Springer, and all the other tabloid tv shows can have misleading and detrimental effects on people who think an intelligent forum of discussion is ripping off your adversaries' clothes after finding out they were fucking your partner.

Admittedly, there are good television networks, like PBS and TVO, who present materials which enhance life and gives proper balance necessary to be in tune with everything. The visceral primitive semiotics represented on tv, opposed to the linear process of words, both take a back seat to the internet which merges both elements through the now cliche term convergence.

Electronic system to distribute and receive signals of moving images and sound originally brought by air. The basic ideas of television was patented by the German scientist Paul Nipkow in 1884. After further development of the techniques during the early 20th century, a modern television system was demonstrated in England by John L. Baird in 1926. In 1932 the Radio Corporation of America demonstrated a completely electronic system which implemented the cathode-ray tube to show the moving pictures.

The television system has been constantly improved after it was introduced to the public, bringing colour, cable and satellite distributed television, HDTV and digital transmissions, among other things.

Television is a major part of modern society. In his dystopic book 1984, George Orwell envisions television sets as a two-way communication system used by a totalitarian government to watch the individual members of the society as a control method. The astonishing ability of the public to repeat the actions shown and adopt the values presented through television has made this tactic redundant. The two-way communication system has later been introduced with the WWW.

A New York City punk rock band, before "punk" got exported to London. Guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, bassist Richard Hell (ousted and replaced by Fred Smith of Blondie), and drummer Billy Ficca. Creators of the lost 70s masterpiecelet "Little Johnny Jewel" 45, followed by the also-great Marquee Moon LP. A great live band, with twin lead guitarists and an ethos that reached back to 60s garage bands. Lloyd, Verlaine, and Hell all went on to make excellent solo LPs.

TV makes people into tools

I think The Matrix was wrong. I don’t think it will be giant, sentient machines that put us in little entertainment pods designed to keep us docile and immobile and non-thinking.

I think we’ll do that to ourselves.

TV is a multifarious instrument which is best described as ‘history all at once and not at all’. It is by and large alienating, yet we still see it as the locus of the global village. It is empowering if only because all the messages are accessible, and we decide when to watch and what to watch.

Television acts as history's archive. It was the television lens that filtered the Vietnam War, the Immaculate Reception, the Exxon Valdez, the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. How would those of us who missed that episode of Seinfeld (in my opinion, and obviously that of many others, Seinfeld - along with the Simpsons - is the best programme on television) ever catch on to the "Bubbleboy" joke?
Today, cable TV stations broadcast sitcoms and commercials from earlier decades that play as ironic relics from a crude and naïve culture.
The medium continually allows for a re-broadcasting, re-visiting, and re-contextualizing of our cultural moments.

Some critics argue that television birthed the Postmodern condition, creating a realm in which we are alienated from each other personally, but recognize each other in the fears and stereotypes writ large across the small screen. The massive reach of televison broadcasting gives rise to a monitoring of our collective consciousness that has been matched by no other art form. As we watch, we all share the same pair of eyes. We see Rodney King on a L.A. highway; aerial shots of SWAT teams escorting students from a mid-western school; fictional dramas played out between beloved characters; game shows won by people eerily similar to ourselves.

In short, television offers the vocabulary for a large part of our cultural dialogue. The cancellation of a popular series can send our culture into mourning. Who didn’t cry when Seinfeld said goodbye to the world after its ninth season to the sound of Green Day's "The Time Of Your Life"? In moments like this, television seems to slow time down, or at least, to extend it. In no other medium can we follow the development characters and relationships over such lengths of time.

Of course, television also speeds up the passage of time, as we measure time in increments of thirty minute sitcoms. Unlike feature films, television has explored a shortened collage style of representation. To capture the light speed attention spans of the late twentieth century, producers and artists have created new art forms such as music videos, flashy advertisements, documentaries that chronicle 200 years of history in an hour, and real life dramas that offer rapid jump cuts of police chases and daring rescues. More recently, we have been overwhelmed with a series of fly on the wall programs such as Temptation Island or Popstars. We see footage of actual events, but it is a record of life as witnessed by no one: film editors construct the sequence of events and our understandings of their consequences, and voiceovers are our storytellers. Indeed, television is a telling representative of the patchworked psyche of our modern state.

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Mildly diverting 20th Century form of cheap entertainment, more successfully developed as an advertising medium than a way of presenting anything of any real value. Television's greatest power is that of its near-total pervasiveness in society, which has occasionally (but very rarely) been exploited for good reasons.

Unhealthy, antisocial and counterproductive, broadcast television is now largely an irrelevance offering poor value, scant and highly subjective information, and eliciting conditioned responses instead of trying to strive for wit, intelligence or emotional depth. As a result, it trails distantly behind Cinema, Video Games, Radio and the Internet, depending on what criteria you are judging.

Television works best when its content providers can evade the influence of the networks, advertisers and the moral majority. Brass Eye, The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation are all good examples of TV shows that do their own thing - the latter two simply because they got so big and lucrative they could get a fair amount of creative freedom, and Chris Morris's show because Morris simply does not give a fuck. (As opposed to Tom Green, who is a manufactured attempt at the same goal, carefully prevented from actually doing or saying anything vaguely offensive by a legion of MTV executives.)

But these (ultra-rare) exceptions aside, TV is worthless and pointless. It's shit for all the following reasons, and more:

I could go on, but won't.

A standard television comprises of the following:

An Aerial
A Tuner
A Visual Decoder
An Audio Decoder
A Visual Amplifier
An Audio Amplifier
A TV Tube
Three Electron Guns

When carrier waves (amplitude modulated waves used to carry signals) are picked up by the aerial as high-frequency radio waves, it is carried to the tuner, which picks out the desired frequency selected by the viewer. The visual signal is then separated from the carrier wave in the visual decoder, and the audio signal is separated from its carrier wave by the audio decoder. Both signals are then carried to the visual and sound amplifiers respectively. Here, the signals amplitude is increased in order to strengthen it. The signals are then carried to the TV Tube.

A television screen is coated with a special type of paint which glows when hit with electrons, fired in a stream from an electron gun. A picture is built up by line buildup - the electron gun is moved across, up and down the screen rapidly at a speed of approximately 24000 km/h. On a standard British television, a screen is made up of 625 lines. By varying the number of electrons in the beam, the brightness of the picture can be varied. This is known as brightness variation. Twenty-five images are produced per second, meaning there is a gap of one twenty-fifth of a second between pictures. However, the human eye retains an image for a fraction of a second after it has disappeared (known as image retention or persistence of vision), meaning that the pictures overlap and it is seen as a moving image.

In order to create coloured pictures, the screen must be dotted with three different colours of paint: red, blue and green (the primary colours of light, different from the primary colours of art). Three electron guns are used instead of one, and each is designed only to hit a certain colour. Other colours are produced by mixing the colours together and varying the intensities of the electron beam. For example, magenta can be made by combining the red and blue pixels, and cyan can be made by mixing the blue and green. When all three colours are illuminated, white is displayed and when there is no light, we see black.

Plasma televisions display images using a different method. Voltage is applied to transparent electrodes within the screen, causing them to discharge into noble gases such as neon or xenon, which creates plasma. Electricity is briefly conducted by the plasma and a burst of ultraviolet rays is emitted, stimulating phosphors which emit red, green or blue light. By reversing the polarity, the cell can be cleared of any charge and prepared for the next cycle. Every set of adjacent red, blue and green chambers consist of pixel, meaning that a screen could have up to a million of them. There are several drawbacks to plasma televisions, aside from the price (the cheapest being $5,000). For example, according to experts, if a static image is displayed for long enough on the screen, it would be burned in permanently in the same manner as older computer monitors.

An LCD (liquid crystal display) screen displays an image by way of a back light shining through a matrix of pixels, each filled with liquid crystals. Voltage is applied to each pixel using a film-thin transistor, causing the crystals to align to different degrees, allowing different amounts of red, green and blue light to be displayed. LCD screens can easily be told apart from plasma in that when viewed from extreme angles, the colours of the picture distort and become inverted.

Many believe the future of television to lie in Organic Light Emitting Diodes, thin polymer films which create an image when they glow. Although the largest screen yet created measures only a few centimeters wide, they can be found on mobile phones and other electronic devices. They can be bent like plastic, being only an eighth of an inch thick. Organic Light Emitting Diodes consist of anode metal, organic polymer and cathode metal deposited on flexible glass, which forms a pixel. When current is applied to the anode and cathode, electrons and holes are sent into the polymer, where they collide, causing the polymer to glow red, green and blue.

Telecommunication Section 4, Edinburgh, James Gillespies Physics Department, (Name of author not given)
Scientific American, October 2002; Vying for Eyes, by Mark Fischetti

The Radio Corporation of America, in 1989, produced a series of advertisements proclaiming that year as “The Fiftieth Anniversary of Television”. It apparently wished the general public to believe that television, or perhaps television broadcasting, began with RCA’s first forays into the medium. While that is partially true, there’s much more to the story than that. As Paul Harvey might have remarked, here is “the rest of the story”.


The story begins roughly in 1884 with a German engineering student named Paul Nipkow, who had an idea for a device he called an “electric telescope”. Nipkow reasoned that the action of the human eye, which takes in an image all at once, most likely could not be duplicated by mechanical means. He further reasoned that the image would have to be broken up into small parts which could then be transmitted, perhaps over telegraph lines. At the receiving end, if the image’s small parts were presented quickly enough, the action of the eye (through persistence of vision) would then come into play and reassemble the image.

Nipkow hit upon the concept of a scanning disk to accomplish that purpose. Imagine a disk, of roughly 15 to 24 inches in diameter, with a spiral of small holes drilled in it. The first hole is placed at the very top of the disk near the outer edge, and the holes continue on around the disk in a descending spiral, with about an inch or so separating each hole from the next. In a typical disk, there would be 36 or 48 such holes. The disk is mounted on the shaft of a motor, and rotated at a very fast speed. The subject to be televised could thus be scanned, and the image parts reassembled (with a similar disk) at the receiving end to reproduce the image.

Such was Nipkow’s idea, which he later patented. However, it remained only an idea for many years. Nipkow never built such a device, as far as is known, and it would fall to later experimenters to find a practical use for his scanning disk arrangement.


The action now shifts to the 1920s. The advent of motion pictures and radio naturally caused some experimenters to begin thinking about combining the two and transmitting sight along with sound. Nipkow’s scanning disk was dusted off and given a second look by some of those experimenters. One of the most successful was John Logie Baird of Scotland.

Baird approached the problem in terms of a total system: a transmitting setup, a means of transmission, and a receiving setup. In his early experiments, he attached a scanning disk to an electric motor. A powerful light shone upon the disk, producing a “flying spot” of light as the disk spun, which would then scan the subject. The spot of light bounced off the subject and was detected by a photocell, which converted the light variations to electric impulses. In some experiments, the light was trained upon the subject. The scanning disk was instead mounted in front of the photocell, and scanned its electrode to produce the impulses.

Those electric impulses were fed into a vacuum tube amplifier and sent, over a closed wired circuit, to the receiving apparatus. This consisted of another disk and motor, rotating at roughly the same speed as the transmitting disk. Behind this disk was a light source, connected to the output from the transmitting line. Baird quickly found that he had to use a neon lamp, as a regular incandescent lamp’s filament could not follow quickly enough the variations of the electric impulses from the transmitting setup. The neon lamp contained a small square screen, and the lighting of this screen varied in accordance with the impulses from the transmitter. The receiving disk would scan the lamp’s screen, and thus the image would be reproduced.

One thing that might occur to anyone regarding this entire setup is the problem of synchronization between the transmitting disk and the receiving disk. As the first hole on the transmitting disk scanned the subject, it was necessary that the corresponding hole on the receiving disk (as it scanned the receiving lamp) be in the same spatial position as the transmitting disk. Any mismatch in synchronization produced framing errors in the received image (in later electronic television sets, this would be analogous to problems with the vertical or horizontal hold).

A number of schemes were developed to maintain synchronization. The simplest of them was to provide, on the receiving set, a control to vary the speed of the scanning disk motor. One could then speed up or slow down the receiving disk and bring it into sync with the transmitting disk. This system was later refined by the use of a synchronization signal transmitted along with the picture signal.

In America, similar experiments were conducted by C. F. Jenkins. Though he duplicated some of Baird’s early experiments, Jenkins was more interested in a system to transmit movies. He used a scanning disk made up of lenses, and was able to demonstrate a working system by 1925. Jenkins began transmitting his “radiomovies” in 1928, and formed a company to market receiver kits designed to pick up the transmissions.


By 1927, Baird’s system worked well enough that he was able to demonstrate practical television to a committee of scientists in England. The demonstrations were successful and led to the formation of the Baird Television Developmental Company. The received images were still crude – barely larger than a business card. Nonetheless, Baird kept refining the system, chiefly in improvements to the scanning methods. He was even able to demonstrate a rudimentary form of color television, using a disk with three spirals of holes. His color receiver used, in addition to a neon lamp for the red color, a mercury vapor lamp for blue and green.

In 1929, Baird began talks with the British Broadcasting Corporation after more successful demonstrations. The BBC’s engineers solved one of his last lingering problems – that of transmitting sight and sound simultaneously. He entered into an agreement with the BBC to begin a series of experimental transmissions in 1930. As part of the agreement, Baird’s company began producing commercially available receiving sets, known as “Baird Televisors”.


Though Baird’s television system worked well enough that the BBC scheduled regular television broadcasts –even presenting live dramas – his system was facing sudden obsolescence. The American experimenters had not been idle, and they believed that the future of television lay with all-electronic means of transmission and reception. While Baird had concentrated on mechanical systems, Vladimir Zworykin of the Westinghouse Company, and Philo T. Farnsworth, an independent inventor, had concentrated on purely electronic systems. Their inventions would put an end to any further development of mechanical television.


Loomis, Mary Texanna. Radio Operating and Theory. Washington, DC: Loomis Publishing Company, 1930.
Tiltman, Ronald F. Television in Natural Colors Demonstrated. Radio News, October 1928.
"BBC History - John Logie Baird," BBC Homepage.<http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/baird_logie.shtml> (May 2003).
Bellis, Mary, "Vladmir Zworykin," About.com. <http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blzworykin.htm> (May 2003)
"MZTV Virtual History:The Pioneers," MZTV Homepage. <http://www.mztv.com/pioneers.html> (May 2003)

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