First Home TV Sets Installed 85 Years Ago Today

Categories: Network TV Press Releases

Written By

January 13th, 2013

via press release:


Profile America — Sunday, January 13th.  Couch potatoes can trace their roots to this date in 1928, when three experimental television sets were installed in private homes in Schenectady, New York.  Not that there was much to see, the test broadcast by General Electric and RCA being of a woman smoking, followed by a man playing a ukulele.  The first home receivers — screens were only 1½ inches square; a far cry from today's theater-sized flat screens.  And in another departure from 1928, the percentage of U.S. households with TV sets now has held steady for many years at over 98 percent.  Even with heavy foreign competition, U.S. manufacturers ship close to $1.2 billion worth of TV sets annually.  Profile America is in its 16th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

U.S. Census Bureau, Facts for Features, CB08-FFSE.03
2007 Economic Census, NAICS 334310, Table 1

Profile America is produced by the Center for New Media and Promotions of the U.S. Census Bureau. These daily features are available as produced segments, ready to air, on a monthly CD or on the Internet at (look for "Multimedia Gallery" by the "Newsroom" button).

SOURCE U.S. Census Bureau

  • CrimTV

    Those were the times when others didn’t bash other shows because their ratings are lower than their favourite show!


    I can’t imagine bashing “Gunsmoke” when it dislodged “I Love Lucy” as the #1 show!

  • Hillbilly

    First Home TV Sets Installed 85 Years Ago Today

    When AppleStinx was 10 years old. :razz:

  • CrimTV


    Lol :)

  • AppleStinx

    That TV set is the “Lucy” who brought us all together in this exact space and time. Otherwise we’d be somewhere else discussing stuff like politics and global warming instead of TV ratings. :grin:

  • outlawz

    and then cbs was born greatest channel ever

  • Misha Lauenstein

    I believe Lady Smoking got six seasons and a movie.

  • Tom

    @ Old Man: There’s no comparison between television in the 1950’s and what’s going on today. The programming standards were considerably higher. So, it didn’t matter if Gunsmoke had higher ratings than Lucy. They were both great shows. Remember, that was also the Golden Age of Comedy. In addition, the networks hosted great dramatic shows like the U.S. Steel Hour. No network hosts anything comparable nowadays.

    I get your point about posters bashing each others’ favorite shows on this site, but you also have to ask yourself why that is. IMHO, the Average Joe doesn’t lurk around a television ratings site. If he does, it’s likely that he has a self-imposed vested interest in one or more programs. Ratings are competitive and that leads to competition among viewers. And – to cite a recent example – the system actually encourages that through shows like the People’s Choice Awards. It’s less than gratifying to watch a few adolescents repeatedly pounding an electronic voting button like monkeys on crack to ensure that their favorite low rated show wins the illusion of a victory. But, that’s what’s going on. If you can figure out a way to take us back to 1950’s quality television, save me seat.


    @ Tom

    My way to get you back to 1950’s quality TV would be DVD box sets (of which I own a vast library of both the 50’s & 60’s), but alas, with the advent of BlueRay & heaven knows whatever technological wonders are with us now as well as those yet to come, I haven’t a clue!

    Agree w/ People’s Choice & would like to add Teen Choice Awards for those monkeys on crack to ensure their show’s victory.

  • Pam

    I just wish that The Twilight Zone was popular when it first aired. It became popular in syndication.

  • 1966

    i’ll bet hillbilly had a coathanger for an antenna.

  • 1966

    I also remember tubes inside our tv. when one went out we would take it to our local drug store test it .if it was bad we would buy a new one there. our tv had about 5 or 6 tubes so we had to take them all to the drug store to test them.

  • Harma

    I wonder if woman smoking is gonna get advd release, it did have a 100 share it’s first episode

  • Joseph

    The 1928 TV sets were mechanical receivers, with a disc perforated with holes that would spin at 30 revolutions per second.

    The disc was in front of a photoelectric cell, and a crude image could be seen on a small screen in front of the disc.

    The picture resolution was very poor.

    The invention of the iconoscope and kinescope (all-electronic pickup and picture-display tubes, respectively) were the main reason the TV industry took off.

    Had TV remained mechanical, as it was in 1928, it would have remained a toy.

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