Consumer Electronics & Appliance News, Reviews & Information.

May 12

Museum Day: History of Electronics

It’s May 18th. “Yeah, so?” So, it’s Museum day. It’s the day we celebrate the importance of museums and their role in developing an educated society. “Yeah, so?” Well, yeah. Vann’s isn’t a museum, but we do know a thing or two about the history of electronics. We thought we would share. Buckle up, it’s time for some awesome to mildly interesting ride of historical anecdotes and pictures!

Daguerreotype (Image from

Before digital cameras, the first commercially successful camera was the Daguerreotype. It was invented by a french chemist and mechanic of the same name in 1836. Essentially, the picture is a direct positive made on a copper plate coated with silver. It’s treated with iodine vapor to make it react to the light. Interesting enough, Daguerre never profited from his invention. Instead, he made a deal with the French government to release the process for free in exchange for a lifetime pension.

Telautograph (Image from

The history of tablets probably dates farther back than you may have thought. Sure, computers rightfully deserve a big share of the credit, but the tablet goes all the way back to 1888 with the telautograph. Servomechanisms fitted on a pen recorded and sent electrical signals from a sending station to a receiving station. It was an early stylus fitted tablet sending emails to another tablet. In 1911, the workers on the 10th floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were informed via telautographic message that a fire had started two floors beneath them. Push notification indeed!

IBM 701 (Image from

The first commercially viable computer was accredited in 1953 to the IBM 701 General Purpose Computer. Made up of 72 Williams tubes with a memory of 1024 bits, the computer system used electrostatic storage. The 701 was ushered in by the Korean War, and the first computers went to work in American atomic research laboratories, aircraft companies, the Department of Defense, and the Weather Bureau. Thomas Johnson Watson Jr. had to convince his father, IBM’s CEO, that computers wouldn’t hurt their punch card equipment business.

TR-1 (Image from

1954 saw the first commercially produced music player, the Regency TR-1. Transistor Radio 1 was the brainchild of Texas Instruments and Industrial Development Engineering Associates (I.D.E.A.). By reducing the size of the battery and transistor parts, they were able to make it portable. The TR-1 was mostly owned as a novelty, the volume output was low and it went through batteries quickly. Like its Apple descendents, it was known for its sleek design. It came in a variety of colors and was selected for the 1995 American Art and Design Exhibition in Paris.

50's Television (Image from

Television sets really took off in US during the early 1950s. With advancements in war-related technology, the expansion of television networks, and manufacturers turning to peace time products, television sets dropped dramatically in price. In six years, television went from being in 0.5% of American homes to 56%. It only rose from there. These first bulky, electronic television sets used cathode ray tubes to produce their image. TV became such a powerful medium so quickly, it threatened to completely displace movies and radio.

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