Video: The Show-and-Sell Machine

At the Smithsonian, a fresh angle on TV's 50th anniversary

Anniversaries are television's most annoying bad habit. No TV series, it seems, can pass a milestone ending in zero (Barbara Walters' 50th special, Sesame Street's 20th season) without leading us on a forced march down Memory Lane. Now, saints preserve us, the 50th anniversary of TV itself has arrived -- at least by one measure. On April 20, 1939, RCA formally introduced the modern system of TV broadcasting at the New York World's Fair. One could just as plausibly trace TV's origin back to 1927, when the nation's first experimental TV stations went on the air. Or ahead to the start...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!