When Will 1958's World-Wide TV of the Future Finally Get Here?

Illustration for article titled When Will 1958's World-Wide TV of the Future Finally Get Here?

The living room of the future was supposed to be interactive. It was supposed to have all the world's media at your fingertips. And above all, it was supposed to have a big ass TV. Today, Americans can buy enormous TVs for relatively cheap. But we're still waiting on this wall-to-wall TV of the future from 1958.


The March 23, 1958 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Sunday comic strip "Closer Than We Think" imagined the fantastic world of thin, gigantic TV sets playing programming from around the world:

Tomorrow's world-wide television will bring you bullfights from Spain, exploration from Africa and vacation reports from Tahiti — and in giant size, wall to wall if you wish.

Picture-thin screens will be made of tiny "electroluminescent" crystals, a brand-new development in electronics. They will replace the phosphor screen and electron gun of today's thick TV tube.

According to E.W. Engstrom, a top industry executive, "The compact circuit for such a system may be built into a frame around the screen, and the channel selector and picture adjustment controls may be contained within a small control box."

It's that worldwide element that I'm still waiting on. Thanks to the complex web of international licensing agreements, we still seem so far away from having the world's media at our disposal — despite the technological advances that the internet has brought.

I recently tried to figure out the easiest way to stream a news channel from overseas on my TV. My wife and I would love to watch ABC News in Australia (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) but there are no legal options that I can find. Even the illegal options like getting an Australian VPN and screensharing my Mac on Apple TV or Roku just seems like too much work to make it worth it.

Yes, the world's media choices have become international in so many ways. But everything from the limited VOD release of The Interview to my own experiences with trying to watch international TV, we clearly have quite a ways to go.



I was born in 1949, the year commercial tv broadcasting began, and grew up with television. We had a 14" Airline black and white set, and got one channel. Let me say that again: one channel. I vividly recall when a second channel came on the air in the later '50s. And, those stations went off the air around 11pm, and didn't come on again until around 6am the next morning. Mostly you just watched whatever was on. Our flat-screens with hundreds of channels, DVRs and movies on demand were literally the stuff of science fiction back then.