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From Ploughshares to Primetime: How an Idaho Farm-Boy Invented Television

January 28, 2013

There’s a keystone in every great invention.

The initial seeds of genius of any great invention often begin in some obscure place, in a passing conversation, or through a strange set of circumstances. One such set of circumstances involved the combination of a young man named Philo T. Farnsworth in a house with electricity and a stack of scientific magazines. What eventually resulted was an Televisioninvention that has sparked a global entertainment fire that continues to roar in its present day variations of HD, 3D, LED, and plasma. It has become a must have appliance in every home, especially for that day-of-all-days…the Super Bowl.

In 1918, Philo T. Farnsworth, moved with his parents to Rigby, Idaho, where the soil was thought to be better for farming potatoes. To his delight, the new family farmhouse came with electricity – hardly a commonplace thing at that time. In the farmhouse attic, he discovered a stack of Popular Science magazines. In these, he read about the writings of Hugo Gernsback, a renowned theorist and visionary proponent of television.

With his mind swelling with ideas, Farnsworth experimented with the house’s electricity, eventually electrifying his mother’s manual wash machine. This was just one of his many science projects. Constantly thinking and visualizing, he even saw unique patterns in the rigidly parallel lines he carved into the soil as he planted seeds. He imagined these lines as “slices” of a single, greater image that could be sliced back-and-forth, then transmitted as a continuous sequence. Without his early tinkering with electricity, those science publications, and the tedious years spent farming, Philo might not have achieved what he eventually did: an image dissector camera tube which, had the advantage of being scanned all-electronically.

Football, remote, chipsInventions come in many sizes and in many phases before the final product, and as we sit down with friends to watch America’s Game in the first Sunday of February, we may watch it on an old TV, an HD version, or perhaps on our computer screens, but we can thank a farm kid in Idaho for connecting the dots and pushing forward his ideas.

Keystone knows that it’s these seeds of genius inside all of us that create the big things of life. Keystone products like fuse clips, contacts and holders, LED spacer mounts & lens caps, phono plugs and jacks, USB Plugs and Sockets, Standoffs and Spacers, and PCB Test Points can be found in any television be it HD or 3D. When you turn on that TV for Super Bowl Sunday, stop and remember that it’s what’s on the inside of an invention that really counts.