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From then to now: how the TV has advanced over the years

We spend an ever-increasing amount of time sat in front of the TV, but it can be difficult to appreciate how far the technology behind them has come over the years.

Look at TVs from 30 years ago and you’ll be met with a CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) lump that weighs more than a big dog and could deliver the picture clarity of a cataract. 15 years ago, flatscreen plasma TVs were all the rage, but try and find a brand new one for sale today.

Nowadays, the best 32-inch smart TVs can outperform the very best 60-inch TV from just a decade ago, that’s how quickly TVs have developed. The rate at which TVs have advanced in the past few years is mind-boggling and to illustrate this, we’re breaking down the history of the TV.

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Pre 2000s

The first ‘modern’ TV was first displayed in 1927 and made use of CRT technology to provide a grainy picture. It wouldn’t be until after World War II that televisions would begin to become popular here in the UK.

During these earlier days of TV development, there wasn’t the same cycle of development that we now see with TVs, hence the larger period of time being covered. That’s not to say there weren’t developments; the remote control and colour being two huge advancements. It’s just that those two innovations are so standard that they’re taken for granted.

It was also clear that progress wasn’t as quick as it is nowadays. The technology largely stayed the same with a few ill-fated developments here and there (like rear-projection televisions). By the turn of the Millennium, the CRT unit in the corner of your living room wasn’t all that different to the black and white set your grandparents had owned in the 1950s.

The 2000s

The big development in the 2000s would be the commercial introduction of high definition (1080p) TV technology. There were two real driving forces behind the adoption of HD TVs on mass, broadcast television and DVDs.

HD TV would be broadcast in the UK for the first time in 2006, and although the vast majority of Britons watch TV in standard definition, this did help push HD technology into the mainstream. The introduction of Blue-ray discs in the same year also helped drive demand for HD TVs.

LCD (liquid crystal display) TVs would also begin to replace CRT TVs as the dominant TV type. Allowing for lighter and thinner sets compared to CRT units, LCD technology allowed for flatscreen TVs to become popular, and offered better picture quality.

It’s also worth noting that the 2000s saw the peak and decline of plasma TVs. Introduced commercially in the late 1990s, plasma was popular thanks in part to its slimline design and larger screen size. They were also expensive and quickly surpassed by LCD technology to the point they’re no longer made.

2010s

The 2010s is where TV development became almost relentless. No sooner had one company unveiled a TV with a hundred million colours, another would release a TV with a billion. 4K (also called Ultra High Definition) increasingly became the norm in this decade too, thanks to advancements in games consoles and 4K streaming.

It would be this decade that smart TVs would become mainstream too. The UK launch of streaming service Netflix in 2012 would spearhead the need for internet connectivity, making streaming a central focus of any TV worth its salt. With more and more streaming services now available, smart TVs are the industry standard.

There would be two choices for TVs: LCD or LED (light emitting diode). LCD technology was well established by 2010 and a market leader thanks to its decreasing prices, slim designs and good picture quality. LED on the other hands still has a noticeable price premium but offers even thinner screens, better picture quality and reduced power usage too.

There would be some inevitable stumbles, 3D televisions never found a use beyond a few token movies and 21:9 aspect ratio TVs simply aren’t supported. That being said, the vast majority of modern TVs are now packed with genuinely useful tech and innovation.




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