It occupies a space in our heart and homes, but how much do we know about the humble TV? LG Electronics’ GM for Marketing, THOMAS VAN DER LINDE looks at the history of the television and where it might be going next.
Just when you were getting used to terms like UHD and OLED, another major new technology has emerged to wow viewers everywhere. RGBW panel design, which adds white colour subpixels to the standard red, green blue, is a major leap forward in display technology. The technology is set to replace the RGB three-colour panel system that has dominated since colour TVs first hit the market.
It’s hard to believe how far the television has come in a little under a century. As we prepare to enter a brighter age of TV thanks to RGBW, let’s look back at the journey we have taken to get to this point.
Who invented the TV?
This a source of great debate. TV was invented by degrees – a multitude of inventors came up with the technologies that define what we know as television. A few names stand out as the top contenders for the job.
A Russian called Vladimir Zworykin was the first to patent the idea for a television as we know it, then known as the Iconoscope. A few years later, Philo Farnsworth was able to produce a working prototype. Credit must also be given to John Logie Baird, who demonstrated a colour television and video-recording system and was also responsible for the first transatlantic television service.
Welcome to SA
While TV was widespread in most of the world by the end of the 1960s, South Africa was slow to catch on. The Apartheid government saw television as a threat to its dominance as it had a monopoly on radio broadcasting. By the 1970s, public demand was such that the SABC was forced to introduce its first television service.
In 1976, nationwide service of South African television finally began. The country was the last in Africa to start broadcasting. Initially, viewers only had one channel to choose from, but in 1981, a second channel was introduced, broadcasting in Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Tswana. M-Net became the first subscription service to launch in 1986, and satellite became a reality almost a decade later in 1995.
Couch potatoes rejoice
For those of us who remember a time where you had to change the channel manually, you might be surprised to learn of the long history of the TV remote. As far back as 1893, chronic overachiever Nikola Tesla came up with the idea of a remote control. By the 1940s, the Germans were using remote control motorboats.
In 1950, the first TV control, fittingly called the Lazybone, was invented. This remote control was attached to the TV set by a bulky cable. It was not until 1955 when the first wireless remote came into being – the Flash-matic, which was shaped like a gun. By the 1980s, infrared remote controls had become commonplace.
Ever wonder why in the 1990s, your grandmother could get away with having an old set from the 1970s in her living room? This is because television technology remained static for a good few decades, barring an upgrade in material components and style! CRT technology has dominated most of TV’s life. That is until the 2000s when broadcasters began transmitting in HD, and TVs started getting slimmer, more connected and capable of better resolution.
The one big technological leap during this time was the introduction of colour TV. Although we associate black and white television with old movies from the 1950s, a man called Peter Goldmark had in fact demonstrated his colour TV system as early as 1946. By the 1960s, most sets were able to broadcast in colour. One advantage of coming to the TV game so late was that South Africa never really experienced black and white broadcasting, but was able to make the leap straight to colour.
A decade of innovation
The last 10 years have seen the greatest leap forward in television technology since the 1920s and 1930s. The reason for this rapid evolution was the switch from PAL and NTSC to HD broadcasting, which gave TV manufacturers an incentive to find new ways of improving image quality. LG has led the way, being the first to develop 60-inch plasma TV, Full HD LCD TV and full LED 3D TV.
First came LCDs, which were quickly replaced by LEDs and Plasma. Now, we speak of terms like OLED, UHD and HDR. While these technologies all work differently from each other, they each represent a step closer to providing the ultimate visual experience.
Flat, flatter, flattest
Today, flat screens are ubiquitous, but as recently as 2004, the average TV was a 27-inch CRT. Nowadays, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a screen under 32 inches. Today’s screen sizes push the boundaries of what we believed was possible even five years ago – take LG’s 105-inch Ultra HD display.
At the same time as they were getting bigger, they were also slimming down. Interestingly, the first flat panel displays are not a product of the 2000s – a limited number were produced for military use in the 1950s. The first flat panel TVs were invented in 1964 but were much too expensive to mass produce using the technology available at the time.
Where will the coming decades take TVs? No-one knows for sure, although there are many exciting technologies on the horizon. Here’s to a future that’s as rich and colourful as the last 90!
Future of TV in 4 letters
Television technology has come a long way, transforming not just the way we consume our entertainment, but also the formats in which media is broadcasted or streamed. Today, TVs can do a lot more than just display our favourite shows, says DEAN DAFFUE, GTM manager at LG Electronics SA.
Today, consumers demand TVs that are not just slim, but so thin that they are like paintings on walls. TVs have become an element of décor that can seamlessly integrate into the design of a home, and render the clearest, sharpest images, with the deepest blacks and crispest whites without compromising on resolution. Home cinema is not just about the picture anymore. Consumers are eyeing TVs that would be able to learn usage patterns and automatically suggest entertainment based on individual preferences. The switch from LCD to LED transformed TV design, allowing for lighter, thinner and easily wall-mountable frames, housing even more sophisticated display tech. The picture quality also dramatically improved with new contrast ratios rendering more vivid colours, deeper blacks and crisper whites. But they were still more functional than aesthetic.
As larger segments of the population embraced internet connectivity and streaming content, the TV became smarter, integrating content-streaming apps for a more seamless viewing experience. As Internet Service Providers (ISPs) upgraded their infrastructures to accommodate the growth in streaming services, TV manufacturers also upgraded their TVs’ ability to tap into different types of content.
In the future, TVs with built in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be able to learn usage patterns and automatically switch modes based on user preference, and even take instructions from multiple users as TVs become increasingly connected to digital home assistant systems.
Six years on, and we see the evolution that continues to lead in the OLED TV market, LG is racking up awards and accolades for its innovative OLED TVs. This pioneering effort in the design and manufacturing of OLED TVs has culminated in complete dominance of the OLED market, leaving the pinnacle challenge of innovation in display technology, redefining the TV viewing experience, and its place in your home. Great efforts have been made on OLED technology being affordable and accessible, allowing more people to enjoy a better-quality television experience than before. No TV is a greater testament to this than last year’s award-winning LG SIGNATURE W7 – also known as wallpaper.
As South Africans are continuously looking for ‘an experience that amazes’, OLED TVs are considered by industry experts to offer the most advanced display technology. As each pixel on the display can be individually switched on and off, OLED offers enhanced picture quality without image degradation. This results in the highest quality image rendering with the purest blacks. With its myriad advantages, OLED panels have become the most desired display technology today and it has become a leading force in making this technology even more ubiquitous and accessible.
With support for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, LG OLED TV is the first of its kind to offer a premium cinema experience in the comfort of your home. It also features Active HDR technology, which optimises HDR picture quality scene-by-scene, rendering brighter scenes and greater shadow detail for a life-like viewing experience.
Despite the market dominance, the development of newer, more innovative technologies does not stop. This year a staggering number of innovative display technologies were unveiled, such as future display technology like roll-able OLED screens and large format curved displays that will become the future of wall art.
AI is also set to make an appearance. There is a unique and personalised AI services built on the deep learning-based DeepThinQ technology, in cooperation with other AI service providers such as Google, giving AI TVs the ability to automatically adjust the settings to Game Mode, or Sports Mode based on whether a user is currently playing Xbox or watching a football match. Ultimately, AI TV will provide care and comfort to users’ mind and body by learning more about its users’ viewing habits.
What does this all mean for consumers? With continued innovation and development of display technologies, as well as advanced design, AI, premium audio integration and support for the latest resolutions, colour and High Dynamic Range (HDR) standards, the TV will no longer be a display, but a complete home viewing experience. This is what new ranges of OLED TVs will bring to fruition in the coming months, making it the ideal time to upgrade your TV to the ultimate home entertainment experience.
Game of screens
When it comes to the ultimate home entertainment experience, what you watch is just as important as how you watch it. With streaming services like Netflix keeping people glued to their screens people are paying a lot more attention to the overall home viewing experience.
Flat panel TV screens have long been favoured as the most cost-efficient and appropriate option for everyday home entertainment. However, more and more people are investing in projectors and fully kitted-out home theatre systems to enhance the experience, as proven by the 28% global market growth of home-used projectors over the past five years. However, choosing between the myriad of options on the market today can be challenging.
When it comes to affordability, TVs are certainly becoming more accessible than ever. Where plasma screens were once the talk of the town, and features like HD quality and larger screen size only added more zeroes to the price, today’s LED and OLED models are far more accessible and affordable for everyone – despite offering even more technologically advanced features, which is the biggest reason why people generally opt for TVs.
However, projectors have become more affordable too, and are just as easy to use. The cutting-edge models available now are a far cry from the clunky ones with poor display quality of the previous tech era. For instance, the full HD Epson TW-600 series offers everything you would expect from high-end projectors – three-times brighter, crystal clear display thanks to 3LCD technology, built-in Wi-Fi, 11 years of lamp life and a great warranty offer – at a much more attractive price point compared to other projectors on the market. Unlike TVs, however, the projectors offer an immersive, real-life experience that TVs simply can’t match.
Screen size and quality
While the cost is almost always the first factor that people consider when purchasing a home entertainment system, factors like quality and screen size are often a close second and third.
On the one hand, LED TVs are great all-rounders for sport, movies, normal TV and gaming, and offer pretty much all the average person needs in terms of a home viewing experience that ranges from adequate to impressive. There are a variety of LED TV models currently on the market that offer great resolutions and good contrast ratios, but TV screens are still limited in terms of size, which impacts the overall viewing experience.
Projectors offer all the benefits of an LED TV with the added benefit of a huge, movie-theatre like screen to enjoy in the comfort of your home. Projectors are also capable of projecting high definition content onto a surface of anywhere from 30 inches right up to 300 inches, allowing you to choose your screen size depending on your requirements.
In terms of quality, 3LCD technology, as offered by world-leading technology brand Epson, is the most popular projector technology available on the market making up more than 69% of all projectors sold worldwide. This technology offers a clearer, crisper image, showing more detail while allowing for smoother motion on-screen and more vibrant, differentiated colours.
Choosing the best screen option for your dream home theatre setup is a decision that’s best made after careful consideration of the options that are currently available. And while the average flat panel TV screen display has certainly improved over the years in terms of technology and affordability, projection technology is cutting edge, and these nifty devices are now more accessible and desirable than ever.