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Happy Birthday Philo T. Farnsworth

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Say what you want about the so-called "idiot box", but the advent of the television is one of the most powerful creations mankind has ever invented. Common, in everyday use, not just for entertainment but for news, weather, and education. Doctors and dentists use monitors for health care, police for surveillance, pilots for direction.

And live broadcast television has united society through such varied events as the moon landing, the Rodney King beating, Janet Jackson's Super Bowl nipple, and 9/11.

The man responsible for television was just 21 years old when he successfully sent video and audio through the air from one room of his lab to another, an idea that came to him when he was 14.

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Philo T. Farnsworth would have been 100 years old today. He led a fairly obscure life for a man whose invention pretty much fundamentally changed modern society (one that became addicted to his creation).


In 1931, RCA offerred him $100k for the disputed patents; when he refused, they spied on him, sued him, and slandered him. Four years later the courts ruled that Farnsworth was the rightful owner of the patents defining what we know as TV. However, in 1939 he gave in to RCA and sold the patents to them for $1 million.

Even though in 1939 a million was a lot, think about all of the different ways you use the the audio/video technology that Philo busted with sixty years ago.

The LA connection? Young Farnsworth, while looking for a job in Salt Lake City, met two men -- one being George Everson, who hired Philo. Eventually Farnsworth told Everson about his ideas regarding TV, and Everson immediately financed his first lab -- which was here in LA. So, City of Angels, congratulations: you were part of the problem.

top photo by roland via flickr. AP photo of Farnsworth