History before the Apple TV. On Monday, January 19, 1953, I Love Lucy aired on CBS, just like it had done every Monday for the previous two years. That week’s episode, “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” filmed in black-and-white and shot on 35 mm film, was a seminal moment in broadcasting that signified how far television had come. Just 30 years prior, this medium didn’t even exist. Now millions of families crowded around a small plastic box watching Lucy and Ricky, turning the dials to increase the volume.
On that evening, 72 percent of all televisions sets were tuned to CBS
a record yet to be broken…
Sixty years later, that same episode is being streamed on the on-demand service Hulu Plus, possibly on an HD television via the most-talked about digital media player out there — Apple TV. The setup box, released in its fourth incarnation on October 30, 2015, is a reminder of how television has evolved since “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” first aired. But how did the medium get to this point? And can Apple redefine the television blueprint for the next 60 years?
The Apple Revolution
If you asked a contestant on Family Feud, another perennially popular TV show that first aired decades ago, to name something associated with Apple, he probably wouldn’t mention the Cupertino-based company’s digital media player. But as Apple supercharges its marketing efforts in the coming months, expect the micro-console to be every bit as recognizable as the iPod, iPad and iPhone in 2016. The company describes the setup box as “the future of television,” offering content from WatchESPN, Netflix, HBO NOW and Lucy’s new home, Hulu.
If Apple’s marketing push is as successful as the promotional drive for the recent iPhone 6s, Tim Cook and the gang can expect big things from the online television streamer.
A one-minute teaser for the fourth generation of Apple TV — the first to feature the new tvOS operating system — has already garnered more than five million views on YouTube since it was uploaded on December 8, 2015.
Most important moments in the History of Television:
1. Who is the Father of the Television?
Apple TV, like Chromecast and Xfinity, wouldn’t be possible without the mechanical television. Based on a technology developed by Frederick Bakewell in 1851, and invented by Alexander Bain a decade before, the standard mechanical TV in the 1920s and ’30s used a rotating disk to generate a video signal, a world away from today’s electronic scanning methods. But it was the electronic television that changed the game. This technology relied on a cathode ray tube that captured an image and relayed it to a captive audience. First came black-and-white TV in 1928, then color, but not before the majority of television services were suspended during World War II.
2. Color Television and The Emergence of Digital
Digital television, which uses a multiplexed and digitally processed signal, became possible in 1990. The biggest change in TV technology since the first color television broadcast in 1954, digital could support more than one program on the same bandwidth and offered better signal quality than analog. Cable and satellite television took viewership away from the Big Three — ABC, CBS and NBC — and changed the TV landscape again.
These two technologies broadcast programs via radio frequency signals traveling through coaxial cables or communication satellites via an outside antenna. By the late 1990s, 98 percent of households had a television set; the small screen had influenced culture, politics and the American way of life. But a new technology was emerging. The World Wide Web was about to revolutionize global communications for the 21st century.
3. A New Dimension
The 2000s welcomed three-dimensional television with its stereoscopic display, an innovation that was popularized in the 1950s. DVRs skyrocketed during this decade too, replacing older technologies like VCRs.
If video killed the radio star, the Internet certainly maimed television. As piracy became prevalent and web users shared content on sites like YouTube, which amassed 50 million users in less than two years, networks retaliated with subscription-based streaming services, a significant moment in the history of television. The technology developed at lightning speed. While the transition from black-and-white to color took 26 years, digital to video-on-demand (VoD) took just four.
Apple TV: The Future of Television
Digital media streamers take VoD to the next level. Following in the footsteps of Roku and Amazon Fire TV, which offer on-demand content from an ever-expanding catalog of content, Apple’s media player streams files from a network media server to your TV or video projector display; just ask Siri to find your favorite shows, and she’ll do it. With its shiny interface and touch pad remote, the setup box connects to your television via HDMI and finds more of the programs you want to watch or download with the App Store app. The choices are endless: You can stream online television, from I Love Lucy to Everybody Loves Raymond, through Hulu, Vevo, YouTube and Netflix. Then there’s Bluetooth 4.0, H.264 video up to 1080p, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, HDMI 1.4 and a built-in games console, all powered by Apple’s A8 64-bit chip.
From mechanical sets to online TV players, the small screen has changed the way Americans access information and consume entertainment. What does the future hold? Who knows, but it’s likely “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” will be broadcast somewhere, perhaps via a hologram or brain-controlled headset. Until then, digital media streamers — like Apple TV 4th Generation — offer unrivaled choice, VoD and more control than ever before.