History of the World, Part I: They invented the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine and the telegraph. They also discovered gravity, which explains why we seldom fall off the earth, and the theory of evolution, which explains a lot of other things.

History of the World, Part II: They invented the rotary hay baler, the combine harvester and thresher, matchbook-cover advertising, single-pipe pumped-circulation heating systems and parking meters. For more recreational purposes, they also invented the nail file, the machine gun, the slide rule, the accordion, the cylinder lock, the vacuum cleaner and, of course, the zipper.

History of the World, Part III: They invented television.

Television's partner in cultural crime frequently has been sports. Over the years, we have witnessed the advent of slow motion and instant replay and split screens filmed by underwater cameras, hand-held cameras, wireless cameras, isolation cameras, reverse-angle cameras, minicams, MidgiCams and SkyCams.

And now, from ABC Sports' wide world of unlimited technology, we will be introduced Saturday to a miniature camera mounted to the mask of the home plate umpire during the Little League World Series championship game. As many folks have said repeatedly for years: "Hey, if they could put a man on the moon, why can't they stick a camera on an umpire's mask?"

It is a microminiature color camera about the size of a golf ball. It weighs four ounces. As small as it is, you can still see ABC's familiar logo on the side of the camera. (Presumably, they could fit an ABC logo in the cleft of Kirk Douglas' chin.)

Home plate umpire Frank Rizzo will wear the camera on his mask, out of his line of sight. He also will wear an ultraminiature video transmitter, mounted on a special five-pound weightlifter's belt, which will microwave the pictures to a receiving site behind home plate.

"It was something I've always thought about. As the state of the art developed, it seemed logical," said Dennis Lewin, coordinating producer of ABC's "Wide World of Sports" and the man with this small vision. "It will give a more subjective view of what it's like to be a participant of the game. It will put the viewer right at home plate.

"I don't think the camera will ever second-guess umpires on balls and strikes. To do that, the camera would have to be between his eyes."

When the camera debuts, you might overhear Lewin moaning from the production truck the first time a foul ball caroms off Rizzo's mask.

"It's a one-chip camera and a foul ball probably wouldn't do much damage," Lewin said. "We could've gone to the extent of caging it somehow on the umpire's mask. We opted to leave it exposed. At least for the first test, we didn't want to obstruct the view."

If ABC is happy with the results and can prove the umpire's performance is not affected, the network hopes to incorporate the camera into its major league baseball coverage, perhaps getting permission to use it as early as this year's World Series.

This camera is a smaller version of ones ABC and the other networks have used in recent years to mount on hockey sticks, bicycles and racing cars. Providing us with the umpire's perspective is part of what network executives often call "point-of-view television."

The problem is this: with all this technology, the director and producer can get so caught up with their gadgets and toys that they distract from or clutter the telecast.

"There's no question you have to do things in moderation," Lewin said. "Whatever you use should have a purpose. The tail shouldn't wag the dog. Technology should enhance the telecast."

Lewin thinks the technology eventually might cause a fundamental rethinking in how games are broadcast.

"The state of the art has changed dramatically in the last six or seven years," he said. "It's always been my belief that cameras are going to become so miniaturized that it will change how we can cover sporting events.

"Somewhere down the road, the miniaturization of equipment will allow you to go almost anywhere. Football is basically covered by a string of cameras running along the sidelines. I don't think it's out of the realm that one day you could need less cameras and through miniaturization, you could be along the line of scrimmage with every play."

As we approach the 21st century, television's capabilities are expanding rapidly. Soon, we might have microphones attached to footballs, cameras mounted to sky divers and tape recorders hidden in paddocks to chronicle prerace gossip among horses.

For now, we have this amazing little quarter-pound camera. At last, the perfect vehicle for filming roaches slalom skiing down shoe horns.