In early February, Jack Burden of the Consumer Electronics Advisory Group announced his review of LED and plasma TVs to help shoppers determine which of the two options was better. According to his report, the new LED models have a picture that easily rivals the plasma options. This shows just how far the television evolution has come. In only a few short generations, we have gone from small black-and-white boxes to images that just might be better than the big screen. A look at the evolution of the TV is a fascinating study in human innovation.

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The Early Years

The TV first made its appearance in 1922. “The Tube,” as they were known in the early years, didn’t become mainstream in American homes until the end of World War II. Prior to that, radio was the primary means of receiving news and entertainment. After World War II, cathode-ray tube (CRT) technology was the primary option available. This remained true until the 1970s, when rear projection technology came into play. This was also the time when color technology became popular.

Screens Get Bigger

In the 1970s the introduction of rear projection technology allowed screens to get bigger and bigger. The big screen TVs prior to 2000 were bulky and took up a lot of space, but they did deliver the big picture people were craving. As TV has evolved, the goal of getting bigger continues to rule the industry.

The Rise of the Flat Screen

Starting in 2005, television’s more modern evolution took off. In 2006, one of the first innovations since the 1970s hit the scene, and that was digital light processing technology. This was the first HD option and was quite a bit slimmer than standard rear projection TVs, although it still used rear projection technology. These TVs were still big and heavy, though, and didn’t stay popular when slimmer LCD TVs were created. Another innovation in rear projection was the even-slimmer liquid crystal on silicon option.

Throughout the early 2000s, another technology was coming into play. First introduced in1997,the Plasma Display Panel (PDP) was one of the first flat screens to be marketed well. It didn’t last, though, because the more affordable LCD TV was introduced with computers, eventually being incorporated into TV and becoming the best selling TV in 2007. The more affordable technology and the slim size that allowed for wall mounting was the ideal fit for the modern American.

Onward and Upward

LCD and plasma TVs may seem like the final installment in the evolution of the TV, but innovators continue to push for greater refinements. The light emitting diode backlight (LED) technology, for example, has offered thinner panels and clearer images. The introduction of 3D technology puts what was once a theater experience right in your living room.

These innovations have not only transformed television, but how we interact with the world. Now, it is no longer simply a source of entertainment. It has evolved into the main source of news and information for many homes. With a picture that easily rivals that of the big screen, today’s home theater provides an excellent viewing experience.