John Logie Baird and Television

John Logie Baird and the invention of the television are part of History. But the idea of the television did not start with Logie Baird in the 1920’s. In the late C19th, a number of scientists had made important discoveries that Baird would use in his first version of a television. Henri Becquerel found that light could be changed into electricity and, importantly, Ferdinand Braun had invented the cathode ray tube. By the 1920’s there were 50 serious attempts to invent the television from Russia, America, Germany, Britain and Japan. Many researchers had well resourced and staffed laboratories but the man who invented the television did not.

John Logie Baird was born in 1888 near Glasgow. He had made money selling socks and soap. This business he sold off to follow his dream of inventing a television. It became an obsession and to survive he had to borrow money from friends and use whatever materials he could including scraps. By 1925, he was ready to give the first public display of a working television. The chosen place was Selfridges in Oxford Street, London. Shoppers saw slightly blurred but recognisable images of letters.


John Logie Baird with his television

In 1927, Baird demonstrated colour television and a video-recording system he called a “Phonovision”. In 1928, Baird made the first transatlantic television transmission and one year later he started regular 30-line mechanical broadcasts.

In 1936, the BBC started the world’s first regular high-definition service from Alexandra Palace using the Baird system, though it was abandoned one year later in favour of a system developed by Marconi-EMI. BY 1939, 20,000 television sets were in use in Great Britain, just 14 years after Baird’s first public demonstration of his system at work. In 1940, Baird gave a demonstration of a high-definition full colour stereo television.

The editor of the “Manchester Guardian” said at the beginning of the C20th when the word television was thought of that “the word (television) is half-Greek and half-Latin. No good will come of it.”

One of the leading researchers into television in the 1930’s, Issac Shoenberg, told his research team (who had invented the world’s first practical television camera) that they “had invented the world’s biggest time-waster of all time.”