1930’s Baird Television

On this Day:

In 1926, John Logie Baird gave the first public demonstration of television in his laboratory in London.

John Logie Baird FRSE (13 August 1888 – 14 June 1946) was a Scottish inventor, electrical engineer, and innovator who demonstrated the world’s first live working television system on 26 January 1926. He went on to invent the first publicly demonstrated colour television system, and the first viable purely electronic colour television picture tube.

In 1928 the Baird Television Development Company achieved the first transatlantic television transmission. Baird’s early technological successes and his role in the practical introduction of broadcast television for home entertainment have earned him a prominent place in television’s history.

During 2006, Baird was named as one of the 10 greatest Scottish scientists in history, having been listed in the National Library of Scotland’s ‘Scottish Science Hall of Fame’. In 2015 he was inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame. On 26 January 2017 – IEEE unveiled a bronze street plaque at 22 Frith Street (Bar Italia), London, dedicated to Baird and the invention of television. In 2021 ‘The Royal Mint’ of Great Britain has celebrated the life and work of one of the United Kingdom’s most innovative inventors, with the unveiling of a commemorative John Logie Baird, 50p brilliant uncirculated coin. Year-dated 2021 commemorating the 75th anniversary of Baird’s death.

Television Experiments

In early 1923, and in poor health, Baird moved to 21 Linton Crescent, Hastings, on the south coast of England. He later rented a workshop in the Queen’s Arcade in the town. Baird built what was to become the world’s first working television set using items including an old hatbox and a pair of scissors, some darning needles, a few bicycle light lenses, a used tea chest, and sealing wax and glue that he purchased. In February 1924, he demonstrated to the Radio Times that a semi-mechanical analogue television system was possible by transmitting moving silhouette images. In July of the same year, he received a 1000-volt electric shock but survived with only a burnt hand and, as a result, his landlord, Mr Tree, asked him to vacate the premises. Soon after arriving in London, looking for publicity, Baird visited the Daily Express newspaper to promote his invention. The news editor was terrified and he was quoted by one of his staff as saying: “For God’s sake, go down to reception and get rid of a lunatic who’s down there. He says he’s got a machine for seeing by wireless! Watch him—he may have a razor on him.”

In these attempts to develop a working television system, Baird experimented using the Nipkow disk. Paul Gottlieb Nipkow had invented this scanning system in 1884. Television historian Albert Abramson calls Nipkow’s patent “the master television patent”. Nipkow’s work is important because Baird and many others chose to develop it into a broadcast medium.

Baird in 1926 with his televisor equipment and dummies “James” and “Stooky Bill”
In his laboratory on 2 October 1925, Baird successfully transmitted the first television picture with a greyscale image: the head of a ventriloquist’s dummy nicknamed “Stooky Bill” in a 32-line vertically scanned image, at five pictures per second. Baird went downstairs and fetched an office worker, 20-year-old William Edward Taynton, to see what a human face would look like, and Taynton became the first person to be televised in a full tonal range.

In June 1924, Baird had bought from Cyril Frank Elwell a thallium sulphide (Thalofide) cell, developed by Theodore Case in the USA. The Thalofide cell was part of the important new technology of ‘talking pictures’. Baird’s pioneering implementation of this cell allowed Baird to become the first person to produce a live, moving, greyscale television image from reflected light. Baird achieved this, where other inventors had failed, by applying two unique methods to the Case cell. He accomplished this by improving the signal conditioning from the cell, through temperature optimisation (cooling) and his own custom-designed video amplifier.

First public demonstrations

Baird gave the first public demonstration of moving silhouette images by television at Selfridges department store in London in a three-week series of demonstrations beginning on 25 March 1925.

On 26 January 1926, Baird gave the first public demonstration of true television images for members of the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times in his laboratory at 22 Frith Street in the Soho district of London, where Bar Italia is now located. Baird initially used a scan rate of 5 pictures per second, improving this to 12.5 pictures per second c.1927. It was the first demonstration of a television system that could scan and display live moving images with tonal graduation.

Blue plaque marking Baird’s first demonstration of television at 22 Frith Street, Westminster, W1, London

He demonstrated the world’s first colour transmission on 3 July 1928, using scanning discs at the transmitting and receiving ends with three spirals of apertures, each spiral with a filter of a different primary colour; and three light sources at the receiving end, with a commutator to alternate their illumination.[28][29] The demonstration was of a young girl, 8-year-old Noele Gordon, wearing different coloured hats. Miss Gordon went on to become a successful TV actress, famous for the soap opera Crossroads. That same year he also demonstrated stereoscopic television (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

My wife says she is going to divorce me because of my obsession with television dramas.

But will she really leave me ?

Find out next week…

Second, a Song:

Captain Gizmo features unique tech gear with a focus on geeky gadgets, outdoor gizmos, unique kitchenware, pet gadgets, novelty gifts, and amazing product designs (per YouTube.com).

From the first Baird televisions to the latest screens, this video by Captain Gizmo takes you through the Evolution of Television from1920-2020. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx

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Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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