This is an archived website which has not been updated since 2002.
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Quotes on Television

They got it wrong...

Not more than 10 per cent of the population will take up television permanently.

Raymond Postgate, 1935

Television? The word is half Greek and half Latin. No good will come of this device.

C P Scott, 1936

The word ‘television’ is a poor choice, not merely because ‘tele’ is Greek and ‘vision’ is Latin but also because it is a simple synonym of telescopy. One could have found a more characteristic Greek expression such as ‘teleopsy’ and derivatives from this word.

André Blondel, 1937

The average American family has no time for television; people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen.

New York Times, 1939

It will be of no importance in your lifetime or mine.

Bertrand Russell, 1948

Television won't last because people will get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.

Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox co-founder, 1946

Colour will always be very expensive, and it is quite probable that there will never be more than an average of one to two hours per night.

Said by Kenneth Adam in 1963 when Controller of BBC-TV.
Obviously he hadn't then thought out the strategy of getting a large hike in the TV licence to pay for it all.

...whilst he got it right

Although originally associated with every kind of humour it would seem that of late Charlie Chaplin has been devoting his attention to matters of a more serious character. He was asked the other day to give his views on the question of television, and in reply stated that this great science will do no damage to films. He sees people enjoying "moving pictures" in their own homes, but this will not upset the standard of cinemas for man is a gregarious animal, and likes to take his pleasures in the company of others. Summarised, he just looked upon television as another form of distributing entertainment.

Practical and Amateur Wireless, 28th March 1936

...and so did he

When Mr. David Sarnoff, President of the Radio Corporation of America, has anything to say on the fundamental implications of wireless he is always worth listening to. In an article entitled Probable Influences of Television on Society, published in the Journal of Applied Physics for July, he says, "With the advent of television a new force is being given to the world. Who can tell what the power to extend vision will mean ultimately in the stream of human life?"

As Mr. Sarnoff sees it, the present tendency towards decentralisation of population will be accelerated by television, which, with sound broadcasting, will provide the principal source of entertainment, education and news to those living in ‘satellite’ areas surrounding metropolitan centres.

Wireless World, 13th July 1939

It is probable that television drama of high caliber and produced by first-rate artists will materially raise the level of dramatic taste of the American nation.

David Sarnoff

Sir Thomas Beecham says he believes that television can do much to improve the musical taste of the nation.

The Times (London), 1st September 1936

The main result of all these developments will be to eliminate 99 per cent of human activity, and to leave our descendants faced with a future of utter boredom, where the main problem in life is deciding which of the several hundred TV channels to select.

Arthur C Clarke, The World of 2001, 1968

Technically he was right...

Sir Stephen Tallents, BBC Public Relations Controller, gave this definition of television in a recent after-dinner speech:

"Excited by impulses borne on a carrier wave which vibrates 45,000,000 times a second, a spot of light 1/32 inch in diameter, travelling at a rate of 6,000 miles an hour, and varying in its illumination up to four million times a second, traces 25 times a second in alternate lines, a page of 405 lines on the opposite and sensitised end of a cathode-ray tube. The sight and sound signals are synchronised to within one four-millionth of a second."

Wireless World, 17th November 1938

...and he was first (unless you know better)

In the December 1909 issue of my first magazine, Modern EIectrics, I wrote an article: "Television and the Telephot." This was possibly the first time that the word television was used in any technical article. The article began as follows: "The principle of television may be briefly stated thus: A simple instrument should be invented which would reproduce objects placed in front of a similar instrument (called Telephot) at the other end of the line. In simple language, it should be possible to connect two mirrors electrically, so that one would show whatever object is placed before the other and vice versa. As in a mirror, the objects must be reproduced in motion (at the far-off station). The theory further requires that both instruments (one at each end) must be reversible, that is, each instrument must receive as well as transmit."

Hugo Gernsback’s editorial in Radio-Craft, January 1948

A perceptive insight

Television is a new medium. It's called a medium because nothing is well-done.

Fred Allen on the American radio programme, The Big Show, December 17th 1950

Learn about HDTV

High-definition television: a system of television in which the number of scanning lines into which the complete picture is divided is 100 or more.

British Standard 205-1936, sub-section 108
(not yet superseded as far as we know)

Television has no purpose...

CHINA: Peking television authorities announced that their TV programmes would go off the air between 19.00 and 21.00 hours until further notice. Television has been found to ‘upset’ students and ‘has no purpose during the cultural revolution now in progress’.

Reported in Systems and Communications, April 1967
(This sounds amusing now but the Cultural Revolution was no laughing matter then)

...nor morals

The television business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

A couple of pronouncements from the BBC

"That's except for viewers in Scotland, who have their own programme."

Programme trail guaranteed to arouse delight.

Half a million homes are still using only 405-line sets.

BBC statement, 1980.

Detractors of television

Television is a corporate vulgarity.

John Leonard

Television is now so desperately hungry for material that they're scraping the top of the barrel.

Gore Vidal

Time has convinced me of one thing: television is for appearing on, not for looking at.

Noel Coward

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.

Orson Welles

Television - chewing gum for the eyes.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home.

David Frost

Now you know...!

Thixendale is a rather dour looking hamlet in the East Riding which had the distinction of being unable to receive terrestrial television, because it's set in a valley that prevents line of sight to any transmitter. Until only a couple or so Christmases ago, no-one there had any television equipment; then some idiot off-comer decided to tell Murdoch, and Sky presented the local pub with a satellite system. Now all the poor sods are becoming hooked on the idiot’s lantern.

Brian Hamilton Kelly, on the Internet

More wisdom about television

I've learned from my mistakes; I can repeat them exactly.

Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore

Digital TV, same desert but the sand grains are now all tiny little perfect cubes.

Roberta J. (Bobbi) Barmore

The television business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.

Dr Hunter S. Thompson

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