Television Quotes

“One image disappears and instead another appears arranged in another way, and thus seems each gesture
to change; for you must understand that this takes place in the quickest time.”
– Lucretius, Roman philosopher, c. 60 B.C.

“Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it.”
– attributed to Charles Prestwich Scott, editor of The Manchester Guardian, 1871-1929

“The only thing that needs to be invented [to make television happen] is a means of transforming this
energy absorbed by the plate into electric currents which then recombine the image. This transformation is
not to be regarded as impossible.”
– Adriano de Paiva, physics professor, March 1878

“I have succeeded in transmitting built-up images of very simple luminous objects.”
– Denis Redmond, Irish inventor, 1879

“Shall we ever see by electricity?”
– The Electrician, March 7, 1890

“It may be well to intimate that complete means for seeing by telegraphy have been known for some time
by scientific men.”
– John Perry and W. E. Ayrton, April 22, 1880

“Inventors who at the present time assert that they are able to transmit… the picture of a head or an even
more complicated object… and make it appear a fraction of a second later at a distant place are not to be
taken seriously.”
– Arthur Korn, fax transmission expert, 1909

Of his own perfect description, first published in 1908, of an all-electronic television system, right down
to synchronization signals, picture tubes, deflection coils, and scanning circuitry: “It is only an idea with
which I am concerned, and such an apparatus will never be built following these principles.”
– A. A. Campbell Swinton, electrical engineer, 1912

“I do not think every home will have its own projecting machine, although the wealthier people will
possess them, no doubt.”
– Thomas Edison, 1913

“Dare we expect a camera with automatic focusing, automatic aperture adjustment, a camera recording in
full color, with bi-visual stereoscopic effect, developing the picture instantly, telegraphing the pictures,
exactly as recorded automatically to be filed, and with mechanism for instantly locating any film without
index, and exhibiting it immediately, a camera with self-sensitizing plates on which no separate pictures but
a continuously changing picture is formed and erased after being telegraphed to the storage room?”
– Henry D. Hubbard, “The Motion Picture of Tomorrow,” Transactions of the SMPE, 1921

Of narrowband FM, the discovery that eventually made video signal recording practical: “This type of
modulation inherently distorts without any compensating advantages whatsoever.”
– John Renshaw Carson, chief theoretical mathematician, Bell Laboratories, February 1922

“The real difficulty in [television] is that it is probably scarcely worth anybody’s while to pursue it.”
– A. A. Campbell Swinton, electrical engineer, 1924

“While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it
an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.”
– Lee DeForest, radio pioneer, 1926

“The elaborateness of the equipment required by the very nature of the undertaking precludes any
possibility of television being available in homes and offices generally.”

– W. S. Gilford, president of AT&T, April 7, 1927

“Some new uses for television: For the toilet — enabling the televisioner to see the back of his head when
brushing his hair.”
– Television, March 1928

“The public is not going to buy picture receiving apparatus [only] to have itself exploited by advertisers.”
– “Picture Broadcasting Must Contain No ‘Ads,'” Radio Broadcasting, May 1928

[Video recording is] “merely a scientific curiosity.”
– Sydney Moseley, “Television To-day and Tomorrow,” 1930

“It may be said without fear of contradiction that the pleasure and satisfaction of a telephone conversation
are enhanced by the ability of the participants to see each other.”
– Herbert Ives, Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1930

“We have heard so much about Television lately that we are apt to forget that no portion of the apparatus
used is foreign to scientists.”
– J. Buckingham, “Matter & Radiation,” 1930

“The over-enthusiastic televisionists are making their big mistake in thinking that television will repeat the
glamorous history of radio broadcasting, when every sign indicates it will not and indeed cannot.”
– Radio Design, Fall 1931

“There is no hope for television by means of cathode-ray tubes.”
– John Logie Baird, television pioneer, 1931

“Cathode-ray tubes are the most important items in a television receiver.”
– John Logie Baird, television pioneer, 1940

“All that can be done with television, short of actual and studied experience with it in the field, has been
– David Sarnoff, president of RCA, chairman of NBC, 1935

“The quality of television pictures, together with the cost of production of receiving apparatus for small
home screens, have taken such a satisfactory turn in the last few months that… we might say that the art has
now reached a state in which an intelligent man might almost take an interest in it.”
– John Wilson, Fellow of the Royal Television Society, 1935

“Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine.”
– Richard Lambert, The Listener, 1936

“There can be no doubt that high definition television is one of the most remarkable technical achievements
of our times.”
– E. E. B. Mackintosh, Director of the London Science Museum, 1937

“We shall stand or fall by television — of that I am quite sure.”
– E. B. White, author, 1938

“The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued to the screen; the average
American family hasn’t time for it”
The New York Times editorial, 1939

“There are words which are ugly because of foreignness or ill-breeding (e.g., television).”
– T. S. Eliot, “Music of Poetry,” 1942

“The number of lines has changed many times since 1934, and I hold the view that the 525-line standard
may very easily be changed in the next few years.”
– Dr. D. C. Espley, Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1945

“The supply of TV channels under the new rules exceeds the demand.”
– Television Digest, September 1, 1945

“Television won’t be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon
get tired of staring aty a plywood box every night.”
– Darryl F. Zanuck, president, 20th Century Fox, 1946

[After a TV program has been seen,] “It’s gone and nothing can be done about it.”
– Orrin Elmer, “The Future of Television,” 1947

“Television is not really complicated but is kept in a state of confusion by the engineers who use abstruse
technical terms to hide their ignorance.”
– Senator Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado, October 14, 1949

“Fundamentally, television exists only at the instant of its transmission and then is gone forever.”
– Richard Hubbell, “Television Programming and Production,” 1950

“Television does not provide storage; film does.”
– Raymond Spottiswoode, “Film and Its Techniques,” 1951

“Television could perform a great service in mass education, but there’s no indication its sponsors have
anything like this on their minds.”
– Tallulah Bankhead, 1952

“Why not pick up the new full-length motion picture at the corner drugstore and then run it through one’s
home TV receiver?”
– Jack Gould, The New York Times TV critic, April 22, 1956

“When television is bad, nothing is worse.” [It is] “a vast wasteland.”
– Newt Minnow, chair of Federal Communications Commission, May 9, 1961

“Parents… should provide a warm and undisturbed televisionless place for homework.”
The Guardian, January 8, 1962

“Television is a medium because anything well done is rare.”
– Fred Allen, comedian, 1894-1956

“The medium is the message.”
– Marshall McLuhan, media philosopher, 1964

“The medium is the massage.”
– Marshall McLuhan, media philosopher, 1967

“You could fill a single wall of a house with 3-D TV — and no special glasses involved.”
– George Crowley, VP engineering, Philco, in Forbes, May 15, 1967

Of home video: “I immediately thought of videotape but quickly discarded the idea because it would cost
too much.”
– Peter Goldmark, CBS inventor, 1973

Upon being shown the first VHS machine: “You’ve made something very nice.”
– Konosuke Matsushita, founder of the company that owns JVC and Panasonic, 1975

“A whole audience, reacting in different ways to different aspects of the presentation, probably
could be satisfied with a rate of information clues not greater than a few thousand bits per second.”
– Donald Fink, member of the committee that created NTSC video, 1981

[HDTV will reach homes] “within five years, but if you asked me five years ago, I’d probably have said
then, ‘within five years.'”
– Renville McMann, president, Thomson-CSF Laboratories, in Videography, 1982

“One may search the Copyright Act in vain for any sign that the elected representatives of the millions of
people who watch television every day have made it unlawful to copy a program for later viewing at home,
or have enacted a flat prohibition against the sale of machines that make such copying possible.”
– Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, for the majority, authorizing the use of VCRs, January 17, 1984

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