In September 1944, World War II still had a year to go, but that didn’t stop LIFE from looking ahead to peacetime in its Sept. 4, 1944 issue. The magazine ran big story on the new technology that it predicted would reshape life after the war. The story was headlined, “Television: The Next Great Development in Radio is Ready Now For Its Enormous Postwar Market.”

However odd it seems today to speak of television as a “great development in radio,” LIFE was dead-on in assessing how big a deal the combination of sound and moving pictures would be:

Within the first postwar decade television will be firmly planted as a billion-dollar U.S. industry. Its impact on U.S. civilization is beyond present prediction. Television is more than the addition to sight to the sound of radio. It has a power to annihilate time and space that will unite everyone everywhere in the immediate experience of events in contemporary life and history.

After getting readers excited about the new technology, the story then went on to detail its mechanics. The photos by Andreas Feininger are beautiful and fascinating in the way they contrast the machinery of the tubes and plates with the resulting image they produce of a female model whose presence is a kind of siren song. All that glass and metal, dear reader, will magically bring this woman into your living room.

At the time this LIFE story ran, very few Americans owned television sets. In 1946, the first year the government has data for television ownership, the total number of sets in American households was 8,000. By 1951, though, the number had ballooned to more than 10 million.

The LIFE story correctly predicted that TV would give Americans the new power to witness history live, and that was transformative. Part of the immense power of the signature moments of the original run of LIFE magazine—whether it be triumphs such as the moon landing or tragedies like the assassination of John F. Kennedy—was that Americans experienced those moments together, huddled around their televisions, seeing the same things at the same time.

The lens, at right, focused its image onto a plate in an RCA television camera tube, 1944.

Andreas Feininger/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

This “dissector camera tube” was part of a 1944 story in LIFE on the brand new technology of television. Here’s how the magazine described the tube’s function: “Image is focussed on light-sensitive plate (left). Electrical field transforms visible image into extended electronic image…Electromagnetic field pulls this extended image back and forth in front of scanning finger mounted vertically at front of tube.”

Andreas Feininger/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Schmidt projector threw this image of a model onto a screen. A 1944 article in LIFE on the new TV technology stated that “projection screens will be part of postwar home receivers.”

Andreas Feininger/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A 1944 LIFE story on how television worked showed an image of girl being focused through a lens, 1944.

Andreas Feininger/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A color television camera, 1944.

Andreas Feininger/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

An image from LIFE’s look at the technical side of the emerging technology known as television, 1944.

Andreas Feininger/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

In a 1944 story about emerging television technology, this demonstration photo illustrated how lines came together to make a picture.

Andreas Feininger/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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