In front of the box

After the Netherlands’ first national television broadcast, the Dutch press wondered whether machines would also end up taking over our leisure activities. How much time do you spend in front of the box?

Black-and-white television (1949/1951) by PhilipsNEMO Science Museum

This is a Philips TX400. The first commercial television set produced by Philips, it was soon nicknamed ‘the dog kennel’.

The screen has a diameter of 22 centimetres (8.6 inch). Compare that to your smartphone!

Philips started developing its own television set before World War II, but had to shelve the project when war broke out.

After the war, the very first television broadcast in the Netherlands took place on 18 March 1948 from Philips’ Physical Laboratory, or NatLab for short. However, this broadcast was watched by only 400 viewers, all of whom had been given a television set by Philips.

On 1 November 1950, viewers watched the first television broadcast in a public place. The venue was Poort van Kleef, a café on the market square in Eindhoven, the town where Philips was based. A crowd of people gathered to stare at this little screen together.

This television has a cathode-ray tube. The image is created by firing an electron beam at a fluorescent screen. The electrons are deflected by a magnetic field.

The image is black and white and the screen is rounded. To make the image appear more rectangular, a kind of passe-partout is fitted in front of the screen.

This television gave viewers a choice of four channels. As the years went by, the set was adapted to accommodate up to ten channels.

Newspaper Haagsche Courant (1951-10-03) by Haagsche CourantNEMO Science Museum

First television broadcast

On Tuesday evening, 2 October 1951, the first evening of television was broadcast to viewers across the Netherlands. All over the country, groups of people crowded round in front of these small screens.

The nation’s press described it as a memorable evening. Public opinion on the broadcast was largely positive.

But journalists also wrote about the dangers of this new invention: ‘Now it is no longer only at work where man faces the threat of being replaced by machine. But also in his leisure time...’

The quality of the programming was the main concern: ‘There are still many difficulties to be overcome. The programmes have to be appealing...’

Black-and-white television (1949/1951) by PhilipsNEMO Science Museum

Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine our leisure time without television. Whether it’s traditional TV broadcasts or the countless films and series offered by streaming services.

Credits: Story

Object of the month – August 2020

Every month NEMO Science Museum shows one of the 19,000 unique objects of its collection. An item that was used in everyday life in days gone by and that shows how technology has changed in the course of time.

This story is created with thanks to the Technisch Museum (

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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