Cathode-ray Tube (CRT)

Cathode ray tubes are a vacuum tube with an electron gun at the back. The gun shoots electrons through the vacuum onto a screen which creates images. Thick screens that predate flat-screen televisions and computer monitors are cathode ray technology.

Background

German scientists Julius Plücker and Johan Hittorf discovered cathode-ray tubes. Hittorf noticed a negative electrode, called a cathode, cast shadows on the glowing wall of a tube. In 1980, Arthur Schuster showed magnetic fields could control the rays. By 1897, J.J. Thomson measured the mass of cathode rays showing they were smaller than atoms. Electrons is the name eventually settled on for them.

Ferdinand Braun found that coating the inside of the front of the tube with phosphorous made it glow brighter. Finally, Americans Harry Weinhart and John Johnson of Western Electric created the first commercial CRT in 1922.

Eventually, countless CRT sub-types were invented. There were military uses but the most obvious use was television. Vladimir Zworykin of RCA created a better tube that he claimed is the first television. The entry television goes into more detail about that.

CRT’s Evolve

There were countless improvements to CRT’s. Over the decades they increased steadily in size and shrunk slightly in thickness. Color tubes included three beams aimed at three layers of phosphorous. When combined they created a color image.

CRT televisions worked but they were mechanical devices, even when driven by a digital display like a computer monitor. Due to imperfections in the manufacturing process, small magnets were glued to the outside of a tube to adjusted the beam.

Even the slimmest CRT’s were still heavy and used a lot of electricity. Over time, flat-screen technologies including plasma, LED backlights, and OLED’s replaced CRT’s.

“If you absolutely must have the most authentic, optimal experience and don’t mind having a giant, heavy fucking brick of a television, then yes.”

Anonymous internet commentator on using CRT’s to play old game consoles.

Basketball

We only have two sports on innowiki we think merit inclusion, football (soccer in the US and Australia) and basketball. Global diffusion is the reason for their inclusion. Of course, there are countless regional sports. Fierljeppen is our favorite. However, no matter the appeal of canal jumping, football and basketball are the only two that seem to be played virtually everywhere. Obviously, other sports might be more popular in various regions, but football and basketball are ubiquitous around the globe.

Background

In 1891, Dr. James Naismith worked training coaches for YMCA’s around the US. He was based in Massachusetts. One morning in December it was too cold to train outside. The Superintendent of Physical Education, Dr. Luther Gulick, tasked Naismith to think of something interesting for the class to do inside. “I felt this was a crucial moment in my life as it meant success or failure of my attempt to hold the interest of the class and devise a new game,” Naismith later wrote in his diary.

Naismith’s game required two peach baskets hanging 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground. There are two teams with an equal number of players. Each team attempts to throw a football (soccer ball) into the other team’s basket.

He developed 13 rules. The most significant rules include that the ball can be thrown to another player with one or both hands and players cannot run with the ball “allowance to be made for a man running at good speed.” Eventually, this latter rule referred became dribbling. Other rules included no fouling and switching sides if the ball goes out of bounds.

A Fun Game

The first game of basketball was played December 21, 1891, at the YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts. The court was only slightly larger than half the size of today’s basketball courts. His students loved the game which finished with a score of 1-0.

In 2019, the North American market size for basketball is about $73.5 billion.

Fierljeppen

Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon’s were the original movie theaters. Many had gaudy facades but, inside, they were dark dank rooms with wooden benches to watch short movies. Movies ran on a reel and people could watch as long as they wanted, or as long as they could stand the oftentimes filthy interiors. Possibly because Nickelodeon theaters are successors to Edison’s coin-operated kinetoscopes, the term is often confused for a type of coin-operated machine.

Background

Colonel William Austin coined the term for a museum. However, Harry David and John Harris popularized the term for their chain of movie theaters. They opened the first Nickelodeon movie theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1905. For five cents, a nickel, patrons could enter and watch movies as long as they pleased.

Despite the stark interior, Nickelodeon’s were wildly popular. Early Nickelodeon’s tended to show the same films over-and-over, relying on new people each week.

However, in the early 1900s movie distribution changed. Filmmakers sold films to distributors who rented them to Nickelodeon’s. Therefore, the films changed from week-to-week attracting the same audience to different movies. By 1910, over one-fourth of all Americans went to Nickelodeon movie theaters weekly.

Filmmaking Matures

As time went on, filmmakers found it more profitable to make longer films. Nickelodeon’s also preferred longer films because there was less work splicing together or changing the shorter ones. Movies morphed from reality-based films, that required bringing a camera to a place, to fiction films, that allowed movies to be filmed on sets. Longer fiction films also offered artistic talent, similar to plays.

As films became longer and more professionally produced, the wooden bench Nickelodeon’s became less attractive. In 1913 a new type of theater opened in New York City featuring plush seats, air conditioning, and a beautiful interior, the Palace Theater. Copycat theaters sprung-up around the US. Originally, the theater was dual-use, for both Vaudeville, plays, and movies. But as time went on, they eventually showed only longer, high-quality films. The higher quality Palace theaters eclipsed and eventually shuttered the Nickelodeon’s.

Phonograph

We, the editors of innowiki, have reviewed thousands of inventions. We’ve read through countless idea, rejecting the vast majority not because they lacked merit but because they didn’t rock the world.

Background

Of the innovations we accept there are very few who have more than one invention. Granted, the raw number of innovations does not balance to their impact. Doriot, the inventor of venture capital, created just one but the impact is more nuclear blast than a nudge in moving the world forward.

Still, very few people make more than one thing that genuinely matters, and many of those are hyped-up in hindsight.

Which is a long-winded way of saying Thomas Alva Edison is the real deal. We’re not ready to say he’s the greatest inventor in history because we’re still parsing. But we sure wouldn’t pick a fight with anybody who made that assertion.

Edison’s Phonograph

The phonograph, that changed the world of music and communications, is one of Edison’s lesser contributions. That’s not to say it is unimportant: it certainly belongs on the list of great inventions. It revolutionized music.

But because Edison invented it, and he invented so many other things (ex: the electricity plant and power grid), it tends to lay in the background. He moves the curve, so to speak.

Getting to the point, Edison’s phonograph records and plays back music. Which is a vast understatement. It’s like saying the power plant Edison later invented generates an electric current, which it does without explaining the value it creates.

The ability to record and playback music was, like many Edison inventions, a once-in-a-lifetime breakthrough that changed the world. Except that, for Edison, it wasn’t a one-time thing; it was one of the early, and lest significant, of his countless inventions. We’re tagging the phonograph as automation technology because that’s how musicians treated it. Despite our feelings Edison said “… of all my inventions I like the phonograph the best.” We assume that’s because it allowed him to listen to music while inventing all the rest of the stuff.

Football (Soccer)

Football is one of the few innovations entirely lacking in utility that is impactful enough to warrant inclusion. It’s just fun.

The game of football (soccer in the US and Australia) is a variation of an ancient game. Essentially, two teams work to get a ball into the goal of the other team.

Background

It’s impossible to assign a single specific date to the innovation of football. However, an 1863 Cambridge conference that passed basic rules and banned the use of hands seems like a reasonable date.

Football is one of the few entertainment innovations on innowiki. That’s because of the size and scope of the game. Although not as popular in the US, it is wildly popular everywhere else. And the US is also catching onto the game.

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) estimates about 240 million people around the world play football. Fans number in the billions. In 2017, football is a 25€ billion euro market in Europe alone. The World Cup tournament, a once every four-year tournament, brought in about $6.4 billion of revenue in 2018.

Soccer in the US

American disinterest in football goes back to their isolationist roots. They instead prefer baseball (a variation of cricket), American football (a variation of rugby), and basketball, a purely American invention. Interestingly, basketball – a purely US invention – is the only American sport to gain worldwide popularity.

As of 2019, Argentinian Lionel Messi is the highest-paid football player earning the equivalent of $111 million USD per year, $84 million in salary and $27 million from advertisements. In contrast, American football player Aaron Rodgers is the National Football League’s highest-paid player, earning $66.9 million in 2018.

Although Americans show far less enthusiasm for football than other players in the world, the US women’s national soccer team holds countless FIFA records. They are one of only two teams in the world, the other being football-crazed Germany, to win the FIFA tournament two times in a row.

Broadcasting

David Sarnoff

David Sarnoff is the father of broadcasting. Sarnoff was a Jewish immigrant who became his family’s breadwinner at age 15. He worked as a Morse Code operator, rising up the ranks to become a supervisor. Eventually, he transitioned to radio to transmit messages over long distances.

Early radio technology was for point-to-point communications, like a long-distance walkie-talkie. AT&T used it for long-distance telephone calls and companies communicated with ships. Sarnoff saw radio as a one-to-many technology, beaming entertainment and news directly into houses. The idea was a breakthrough.

GE acquired Sarnoff’s employer, American Marconi, and renamed it the Radio Corporation of America, RCA. Sarnoff proposed that RCA focus on broadcasting. They ignored him until his broadcast of a boxing match, in 1921, proved wildly popular. Interest was strong and drove the sales of radios. Other RCA executives then understood that content would drive radio sales.

Early Radio

There were early sporadic radio broadcasters but most were banned during WWI on national security grounds. After the war ended, in 1919, broadcast networks began to spring up all around the US. The US issued commercial broadcast licenses throughout the 1920s.

One of the first uses of radio voice broadcasts was education. Tufts College professors broadcast lectures in 1922. Other colleges followed.

Commercialization began in earnest when RCA spawned the first real network, the National Broadcasting Company, NBC. They began broadcasting in 1926, using telephone lines to connect multiple stations. William Paley created the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) the following year. In 1939, antitrust regulators forced NBC to spin off the “Blue Network,” a second network they owned. The spun-off company renamed itself the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

These three networks dominated radio and television broadcasting for about 50 years until cable television became popular.

Radio Goes Global

Radio manufacturers in the United Kingdom recognized the need for content to drive radio sales. There were radio stations but they were sporadic low-quality affairs. To encourage high-quality content they formed the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).

Around this time, radio broadcasts popped up in major cities in the world. Radio Paris launched in 1922. German radio went online in 1923 but was seized by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels a decade later. Goebbels created modern electronic propaganda and his core methods are still in use today. Furthermore, Germany broadcast propaganda to neighboring countries who responded by broadcasting their own anti-fascist messages to Germans.

In the US, broadcast networks were primarily advertising supported. Radio manufacturers benefitted from the availability of content paid for by businesses advertising goods and services. In contrast, radio sales drove manufacturers to fund the BBC. Advertising was seen as a nuisance and eventually dropped. The first head of the BBC, Lord Reith, declared that radio broadcasting is a public service, not a commercial product. Most countries throughout the world started with the European public service model but, to some extent, transitioned to the US commercial model. Conversely, the US government-funded and launched a television network, the Public Broadcasting Service, in 1970.

Television

Eventually, RCA moved into television (see the television entry) and NBC, CBS, and ABC became national US television networks. A smaller network, DuMont, tried unsuccessfully to compete. It was shuttered as a network in 1956 though the surviving stations recreated a new broadcast network, Fox Broadcasting Company, in 1986.

Computer Game

Background

Early computers used punch cards to load programs and data into computers. The software was a stack of cards, each card one line of a program. Data input were cards on the top of the stack. Eventually, then the entire thing fed into a card reader. The reader read the stack, processed the data, then printed results.

This process left the computer idle for a large amount of time since the computer did little to nothing while reading the stack of cards.

Computers in the 1950s and 1960s were extremely expensive. However, even with the lag-time and cost, using the computer was vastly faster, and thus less expensive than doing computations by hand. Therefore, companies and governments did not especially mind: the reduction in cost, even with the waiting, was still enormous.

However, this model did not work well for University’s, where many students shared a computer and needed to wait in line to try running their programs. In response, researchers created a new type of operating system, a timesharing operating system, allowing multiple people to use a computer at the same time.

As a side effect, these timesharing operating systems enabled input and output to terminals rather than through punch-cards and printouts. That is, the computer could read keyboard inputs from multiple people, sharing the time required to focus on each, and also run programs.

One side effect to timesharing is that computers became interactive. People could do something, then the computer could respond, then the user could do something else based on the response. This was a dramatically different use for computers which, until that time, functioned more like powerful calculators.

Spacewar!

In 1962, using an interactive DEC computer with circular monitors, Steve Russell created the first modern interactive computer videogame, Spacewar! Two players flew around in ships, with a star in the middle, trying to blast one another. The ships obeyed the laws of physics. The and the sun acted like a gravity well and would destroy ships. Earlier experimental interactive games were dull: tic-tac-toe and mazes.

Computing legend Alan Kay, the inventor of object-oriented programing and the laptop among other things, remarked: “the game of Spacewar blossoms spontaneously wherever there is a graphics display connected to a computer.”

Eventually, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney created a coin-operated knockoff, Computer Space. That game did well and the two went on to create the first computer gaming company, Atari.

Social Network

When they’re not rigging elections, sowing discord, or amplifying hate social networks are a fun, simple, and convenient way to stay in touch. However, they suffer serious privacy issues under current implementations.

Electronic social networks, in various forms, are older than Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The first online bulletin-board enabling people to chat and hang out virtually was created by David Wooley and Doug Brown in 1973 on the PLATO system. Subsequently, Usenet, a similar bulletin-board system that ran primarily on email via the internet, dates to 1979. Afterwards, online communities sprang up on private bulletin-board system in future years. America Online, CompuServe, and The Well all had some form of social networking.

The most notable modern implementation is Friendster, founded in 2002. At one point it had 115 million active users and sold for $39.5 million. However, it eventually botched a strategic pivot to a gaming site and died in June 2015. Eventually, MySpace blasted on the web in 2003, eclipsing Friendster. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp purchased it for $508 million in July 2005. However, thanks to infamous internal political fihghts, they ran it into the ground and sold it for $35 million in June 2011.

As of 2019, there are a countless number of social networks. Unquestionably, the current reigning champ of social networking is Facebook. Founded by Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin in 2004, Facebook boasts over two billion active users and is on-track to recognize about $69 billion in 2019 revenue. Facebook also owns social media darling Instagram, which is especially popular with young people, and communication tool WhatsApp that they paid $21.8 billion for, or $55 per user.

Visual Web Browser

Tim Berners-Lee original world wide web was entirely text-based, mainly used to link textual papers to one another.

Mosaic

Marc Andreesen, then a student at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, extended Andreesen’s HTML. Andreesen extended the original HTML, adding components describing not only the contents of a page but also how it should be laid out.

Andreesen created a web-browser that is graphical, which assembled the text into what looked like a document on-screen. He named his visual web browser Mosaic.

Mosaic quickly gained in popularity, creating a surge of interest in the web. Eventually, Andreesen left school for Silicon Valley to commercialize the product, renaming it Netscape.

Netscape

However, Andreesen failed to receive intellectual property releases from his school. They worked out an arrangement for Netscape but also licensed the technology freely, including and most importantly to Microsoft.

Thereafter, Microsoft bundled a free web browser (Netscape initially sold their browser) into the then-dominant Windows operating system. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer quickly became the leading web browsing software in an era known as the “browser wars.”

Netscape eventually folded, unable to compete with Microsoft’s free browser and failing to find a different workable strategy.

Years later, Netscape released their software as open-source. Eventually, the non-profit Mozilla Foundation adopted it and the browser lives on as Firefox.

Besides fueling the early internet, Netscape also fueled internet investing mania. The company went public on Aug. 9, 1995, about a year after it was founded. At that time, young companies did not offer shares and companies without profits never sold shares. Defying both conventions, Netscape offered shares at $28 and closed the day at $58.25, touching $74.75 at one point. Dot-com mania ensued. Andreesen went on to become a successful entrepreneur and investor in other areas.

Today, the most popular browsers, Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari, are both open-source projects. As of 2019, Microsoft announced plans to eventually shutter the last proprietary closed-source web browser.

One important note: Engelbert’s “Mother of all Demos” demonstrated combined text and graphics, with hyperlinks, in 1968.

Streaming Video

Early streaming video was more science experiment than entertainment. Video over the internet wouldn’t become common for almost 20 more years after the first stream.

Background

However, computer companies, thinking about the early Internet, were interested in using it for television. These early transmissions required expensive and complicated computers and extremely expensive Internet connections to receive the video.

Severe Tire Damage, a group of aspiring musicians from Xerox PARC, is the first video ever streamed over the internet. They served as the “surprise opening act” for The Rolling Stones, who broadcast a 20-minute concert over a system called “Multicast Backbone” or “M-Bone” in July 1993.

“In the Friday broadcast, the image filled only a fraction of the screen, about 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches, and the picture quality was poor. Though videos move at 24 frames a second, these images moved at only 1 to 10 frames a second, resulting in what looked like a high-speed slide show.”

Rolling Stones Live on Internet: Both a Big Deal and a Little Deal. The New York Times. Nov. 22, 1994.

The New York Times noted they couldn’t find anybody in Manhattan who had enough bandwidth to watch the show and ended up in Jersey City, at the office which organized the broadcast.

In 1995, Microsoft was ramping up an entire on-demand video service to compete with cable television. However, after an epiphany by Bill Gates that the internet would supersede on-demand video, the entire division pivoted.

Eventually, RealNetworks became the first to broadcast a baseball game over the Internet in 1995.

Because streaming was seen as “on-demand TV” there were many proprietary streaming video solutions, none of which were widely adopted.

Oops, They Did It Again

Staying true to their mission of inventing great things then botching commercialization, streaming video inventor Xerox PARC made no money.

In many ways, the surprise performance of Severe Tire Damage, which uses the URL std.org, was an indicator of the direction of internet video. As of 2019, the Rolling Stones have 1.6 million subscribers on YouTube. YouTube also features a live Severe Tire Damage concert, with 413 views.

The Internet’s First & Arguably Worst Band
News report about the broadcast
(sans Severe Tire Damage)