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Shaping the early development of television

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3 Author(s)

Few of the billions of today's television viewers are aware that their early predecessors were served by a mechanical form of television. The central element in this early television was a rotating disc with a spiral series of perforations, called the Nipkow disc. Today the mechanical television is usually regarded as a historical curiosity; a cumbersome machine with a large, motor driven wheel, a window, and flickering, blurred images: at best, merely a technological precursor to electronic television. However, we believe that there were once important incentives supporting mechanical television in its rivalry to electronic television. We focus on the choice between mechanical and electronic television systems, We analyze this choice from a broad perspective, with attention to social and technical factors and their interaction. We employ social constructivist notions, especially the insight that several choices are always present in the historical development of a technology. Furthermore we take upon the idea that social groups, according to the meanings they attribute to the technology, can influence the course of this development. We understand social groups, not on the social constructivist basis of the meanings attached to a given technology, but in the more traditional sociological sense. We also include individuals, organizations, and the relationships between them in our deliberations.

Published in:

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine  (Volume:16 ,  Issue: 4 )