What does Emmy mean? Where does the TV award name come from?

Have you ever wondered why the the trademark gold trophies handed out each year at a ceremony honoring the best in television that feature a winged lady and a sphere are called Emmys?  Before the first awards were handed out in 1949, the members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences needed a name for the woman who lifts an atom into the air to represent the link between art and science. Actually, Emmy comes from “immy,” a nickname used by TV crews for image orthicon, a camera tube used in television production.

While naming a statue after a tube might seem a bit strange, the immy revolutionized the medium of television. Back in the early days of TV, cameras weren’t sensitive enough to pick up images in dim lighting. But the image orthicon tube could detect a lit candle and amplify it so it would be brighter than it actually was. The invention made it possible to televise night-time sports, parades under overcast skies or theater productions that used footlights. As bright ideas go, that one was brilliant.

The Emmy statuette was designed by TV engineer Louis McManus, who used his wife as the model. There were 47 prototypes of the trophy before his design was chosen in 1948. Since that time, the statuette has become a symbol of the academy’s goal of supporting and uplifting the art and science of TV. At one point, the nickname Ike was considered, which was a nickname for the TV iconoscope tube. However, that moniker was nixed after future president Dwight D. Eisenhower claimed it first.

Each trophy weighs six pounds and 12 and a half ounces and is made from copper, nickel, silver and gold. Emmy stands 15.5 inches tall with a base that is 7.5 inches and  with a weight of 88 ounces. The “E” in Emmy provides the first initial of an EGOT, a rare achievement for entertainers who earn an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. As of now, 16 people have won an EGOT over the years.

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