Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The 90th Anniversary of John Logie Baird's 1st Public Television Demonstration

It was 90 years ago today, on January 26 1926,that the first public demonstration of live television took place. It was held at the laboratory of Scottish scientist John Logie Baird at 22 Frith Street in Soho, London. Mr. Baird had developed the first mechanical television, a device through which video could be generated by means of a rotating mechanism. The demonstration was held before members of the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times.

John Logie Baird's demonstration was simple. It was a transmission of the face of Mr. Baird's business partner Oliver Hutchinson. At the time Oliver Hutchinson was in an entirely different room. The picture was small, only 3.5 by 2 inches. The image was also often blurry and faint. That having been said, the demonstration proved that John Logie Baird had achieved something that had never been done before--the transmission of image and sound at a distance. Television was born.

John Logie Baird continued to work on his mechanical television after this initial demonstration. In 1927 he transmitted an image through the telephone line from London to Glasgow, some 438 miles. After founding the Baird Television Development Company Ltd he made the first television transmission across the Atlantic, from London to  Hartsdale, New York. That same year he made the first colour television transmission.

Mr. Baird was responsible for the BBC's first television programme ever. In fact, from 1929 to 1937 the BBC relied upon John Logie Baird's 30 line system. In 1929 he introduced the first mass produced television set. With  Bernard Natan he founded France's first television company,  Télévision-Baird-Natan, in 1929. In 1939 he made the first live broadcast of the Epsom Derby.

Unfortunately John Logie Baird's mechanical television would soon become obsolete. The Thirties saw the development of electronic television. Mr. Baird's mechanical system had more limited range than electronic television, and tended to be less practical as well. After a trial run in 1936 the BBC then decided to go with Marconi-EMI's electronic system over John Logie Baird's mechanical one in 1937.

Despite this John Logie Baird did not leave the field of television. In 1939 he demonstrated colour television utilising a spinning disc similar to the system later developed by American broadcaster CBS. In 1944 he gave the first ever demonstration of a fully electronic colour television system.

Sadly John Logie Baird died relatively young, before he could make any more advances in the field of television. He died on  June 14th 1946 after suffering a stroke. Mr. Baird was only 57 years old.

While the mechanical television that John Logie Baird demonstrated ninety years ago today would eventually fall out of favour, that demonstration was still a pivotal moment in the history of television. It proved that the transmission of images and sounds was possible. As a result it paved the way for the electronic, analogue television that would dominate the medium in the 20th Century, as well as our digital systems today.

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