Origins of CCTV

CCTV stands for close circuit television, and is defined as a TV system where the signals are privately monitored, usually for surveillance and security purposes. But what are the origins of CCTV and how did it come to be?


CCTV was first recorded being used in Germany as they introduced preparations for the launch of the V2 rocket. This was a way to safely monitor the launch, and although the camera was crude, it allowed them to view it at a safe distance. In America, a few years later, a company called Vericon tried to bring CCTV to the commercial markets. It was unsuccessful.


CCTV first came to the UK when the Metropolitan police introduced two temporary cameras to Trafalgar Square to monitor crowds during The Royal Family’s visit to London. 1 year later, London Transport installed permanent cameras to help with security. CCTV was mainly government owned and used for police surveillance in the 1960s, although some cameras were introduced to shops and streets when technology improved a few years down the line.


The first home security system to include CCTV was invented by Marie Van Brittan Brown in 1969. Her idea early on was simply peep holes in the front door, and a camera that could slide up and down and see through them. She could let them in with a remote if she recognised them or sound an alarm if she was threatened by them.

Early 1990s

One of the most important things to computer scientists at the University of Cambridge was a full coffee pot. One of the main problems was having the coffee pot so far away that they would get up to get a drink, only to find that it was empty on arrival. They created a camera that removed the need for physical effort to check on the coffee pot. It wasn’t until 22 November 1993 that the coffee pot cam made it onto the world wide web.

Several technological advances help to push CCTV forwards, such as digital multiplex technology.  

The 1990s is best described as the decade of CCTV’s commercial use, with more and more businesses installing cameras to protect their interests.

After the World Trade Centre attack in 1993, CCTV was installed in many public areas in America that were thought to be under threat of terrorist attacks. As the number of cameras used worldwide increased, CCTV surveillance started becoming one of the most common methods of ensuring security.

The first nanny cam was invented in 1993. This is one of the most early on examples of popular home surveillance.

1997 onwards

Digital technology was slowly introduced to CCTV technology and the devices had a second wave of popularity in commercial and private use. On a digital video recording camera, a month’s worth of recordings could be stored on a hard drive, and you were able to brighten and zoom in on these images to help make identification much easier. Mobile surveillance vans also grew in popularity at this time.