Development of the Television Camera and Receiver

V. K. Zworykin's iconoscope (1923) was the first successful camera tube in wide use. Its functioning involved many fundamental principles common to all television image pickup devices. The face of the iconoscope consisted of a thin sheet of mica upon which thousands of microscopic globules of a photosensitive silver-cesium compound had been deposited. Backed with a metallic conductor, this expanse of mica became a mosaic of tiny photoelectric cells and capacitors. The differing light intensities of various points of a scene caused the cells of the mosaic to emit varying quantities of electrons, leaving the cells with positive charges proportionate to the number of electrons lost. An electron gun, or "scanner," passed its beam across the cells. As it did so, the charge was released, causing an electrical signal to appear on the back of the mosaic, which was connected externally to an amplifier. The strength of the signal was proportional to the amount of charge released. The iconoscope provided good resolution, but required very high light levels and needed constant manual correction.

The orthicon and image-orthicon camera tubes improved on the iconoscope. They used light-sensitive granules deposited on an insulator and low-velocity scanning. These could be used with lower light levels than required by the iconoscope, and did not require the constant manual manipulation. The vidicon was the first successful television camera tube to use a photoconductive surface to derive a video signal.

Solid state imaging devices were first demonstrated in the 1960s. Today's solid-state television cameras use semiconductor charge-coupled devices or CCDs. Each element in a CCD stores a charge that is determined by the illumination incident on it. At the end of the exposure interval, the charge is transferred to a storage register and the CCD is freed up for the next exposure. The charges in the storage register are transferred to the output stage serially during that time. Although almost all consumer video cameras and camcorders use CCD imagers, camera tubes are still common in professional applications.

In the television receiver, the original image is reconstructed essentially by reversing the operation of the video camera. The final image is typically displayed on the face of a cathode-ray tube, where an electron beam scans the fluorescent face, called the "screen," line for line with the pickup scanning. The fluorescent deposit on the tube's inside face glows when hit by the electrons, and the visual image is reproduced. Liquid crystal displays have also been used, mainly on small, portable sets; they are also finding increasing use as light valves on large-screen projectors. Although LCD technology is advancing rapidly, video projectors that use electron tubes can still produce better pictures. Other devices in the receiver extract the crucial synchronization information from the signal and demodulate (separate the information signal from the carrier wave) it.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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