Icon / Philips tele­vi­sion

It’s been 90 years since Philips tested its first TV set – a de­vice that has been by turn ex­otic, ubiq­ui­tous, in­tru­sive and el­e­gant, but has changed the way we see the world for­ever.


Few ma­chines have had such wide­spread ef­fect on so­ci­ety as the tele­vi­sion – a de­vice that’s a fea­ture of around four-fifths of the world’s house­holds. The TV was the first ma­chine that al­lowed peo­ple around the world to view news as it hap­pened, en­abling them to see events un­fold­ing in front of their eyes – though those events may have been tak­ing place hun­dreds or thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away.

TV has also – through colour broad­cast­ing, home video and sets be­ing used as com­puter screens – paved the way for the de­vices that many of us carry with us to­day; de­vices such as smart­phones that al­low us to stay in touch, fol­low news and share con­tent from al­most any­where.

The tele­vi­sion set has evolved greatly over the years, oc­cu­py­ing nu­mer­ous po­si­tions in the de­sign world and in wider so­ci­ety.

When it first ap­peared, TV was a tech­no­log­i­cal won­der and home sets were some­thing only the very rich could af­ford.

The im­pos­ing ma­chines were also very bulky, de­spite their tiny black-and-white screens.

Tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments soon re­sulted in the avail­abil­ity of cheaper, mass-pro­duced TVs – and their pop­u­lar­ity drove so­cial change on a large scale. En­ter­tain­ment was no longer some­thing to be cre­ated or sought in venues out­side the home; and the ready avail­abil­ity of this pas­sive form of en­ter­tain­ment was blamed for many so­cial is­sues, es­pe­cially among younger mem­bers of so­ci­ety.

Tele­vi­sion sets them­selves re­mained un­gainly and im­pos­ing things, and few man­u­fac­tur­ers made ef­forts to make them look el­e­gant. Fi­nally, when man­u­fac­tur­ers changed from bulky cath­ode ray tube sets to slen­der flatscreen de­vices dur­ing the late 1990s and early 2000s, de­sign­ers en­joyed more flex­i­bil­ity and users had more choice in where to put their TVs.

While im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able as de­scen­dants of the early wooden boxes with tiny screens, to­day’s TVs are in­creas­ingly at­trac­tive and bring both still and mov­ing images to life with great bril­liance and res­o­lu­tion.

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