BAIRD TELEVISION


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This site is about John Logie Baird (1888-1946), the Scotsman who was the first person in the world to demonstrate a working television system. On January 26th, 1926, a viable television system was demonstrated using mechanical picture scanning with electronic amplification at the transmitter and at the receiver. It could be sent by radio or over ordinary telephone lines, leading to the historic trans-Atlantic transmissions of television from London to New York in February, 1928.

This site provides information not only on Baird and his life's work, but also on other pioneers of television and the development of the television industry to the present day. The What's New section is on recent events, anniversaries, publications etc. concerning Baird. The Contents list gives access to a gallery of longer articles, some of which go back to the early 1920s. At the end of Contents are the Links to information about other prominent figures in the history of television and excellent other websites on television history.

Updates are made to the site every few months by its creators Iain L. Baird and Malcolm H.I. Baird who are, respectively, the grandson and the son of J.L. Baird.


CONTENTS


(Last updated 22nd March 2013)

What's new at Bairdtelevision.com?

Part of a 1938 Scophony ES104 discovered

Iain's latest blog for the National Media Museum is about Scophony; specifically its recent acquisition of probably the only part left of their ES104 television. With a 24" x 20" screen, it had the biggest and best picture of any home television set made prior to WWII. Click here to read the full article.


Bradford led the way in modern manufacturing of British television sets

A blog investigating the forgotten history of the most modern and largest TV factory in all of Europe - just down the road from the National Media Museum in Bradford. Click here to read the full article on the Museum's website.


Television fears inspire spooky reading in JB Priestley's Uncle Phil on TV

JB Priestley's (1894 - 1984) short story "Uncle Phil on TV" was published in 1953 only two months before Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation - the live event that would put television on the map in Britain. In fact, the Bradford-born author and broadcaster's contributions to television were many and varied. Click here to read the full article.


The first official reception of BBC television outside London

8th October 1929 marked the first time that television, as transmitted by the BBC, was "officially" received outside London. New findings from ongoing research about this day are revealed in this short blog. Click here to read the full article.


The future of television, past and present

This short blog features four fascinating press photographs from Britain's National Photography Collection and discusses what they can tell us about past predictions of the future of television. What might these predictions mean to-day? Click here to read the full article on the Museum's website.


Professor Malcolm Baird receives Pat Leggatt Award

Malcolm Baird has received a splendid inlaid glass plaque from the Britsh Vintage Wireless Society (BVWS) -- the Pat Leggatt award for their best article in 2012! This article appeared in the BVWS quarterly bulletin, reflecting on the 75th anniversary of the BBC's Alexandra Palace television studios.


The National Media Museum (Bradford, UK) celebrates its 30th anniversary with the first mass-produced British television

The only surviving example of a Baird Model B Televisor is in the Museum's Collection. Iain Baird describes how this set was used to view the first official television broadcast over the BBC on 30 September 1929. That's a lot of history in one object. Click here to read the full article on the Museum's website.


Print versus Television: from Baird to McLuhan

On 26 September 2012, Professor Malcolm Baird spoke at the first public meeting of the Helensburgh Heritage Trust winter season, held at the Helensburgh Tennis Club. The Trust's president, he gave a talk entitled 'Print versus Television: from Baird to McLuhan', but because he had a very sore throat his presentation was read by Trust chairman Stewart Noble. Has television taken the place of print?

To read the full text of the presentation, click here.


Capturing the song of the Nightingale, the first ever live outdoor radio broadcast

Iain Baird has recently started blogging for the National Media Museum web site. The first major article concerns the 1923 Marconi-Sykes microphone, the cultural meanings of the Beatrice Harrison Nightingale broadcasts over the BBC, and examines two later references to the nightingale in feature films: The Demi-Paradise (1943) and Electric Dreams (1984). Some familiar BBC figures (who would soon get involved with television) make an appearance as well.

To read the article, click here.


Documentary, JLB - the man who saw the future - now on YouTube

This television documentary in its entirety is now available on Youtube, thanks to the Alexandra Palace Television Society. The making of the documentary in 2002 is the subject of an article by Malcolm Baird in the Gallery above.


New Recent Books about J.L. Baird

(1) An important book appeared in 2009 under the title Images Across Space. The electronic imaging of Baird television. The author, Dr. Douglas Brown, is Director of the Science and Technology Forum at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. The book is mostly based on his master's and Ph.D. theses (1996, 2000). A detailed review by Malcolm Baird is available on this website.

[this picture of Dr. Brown by courtesy of Helensburgh Heritage Trust]

(2) In 1932, Baird Television Ltd. was rescued from financial difficulties when it was taken over by a major UK film company, the Gaumont British Picture Co. Its leader, Isidore Ostrer, believed that television was an opportunity for the film industry, rather than a threat. He foresaw that large-screen television of a news or sporting event could be shown to cinema audiences as well as conventional feature films. A new book entitled The Ostrers and Gaumont British has been written by Isidore's nephew Nigel Ostrer and it is reviewed by Malcolm Baird in the Gallery above...

(3) The Master Switch is a detailed economic history of major electronic media (including television) by Prof. Tim Wu of Columbia University. A review by Malcolm Baird appears in the Gallery.

(4) A 340-page television history has appeared from Lulu Publications (2011) under the title Spinning Discs, Mirrors and Electrons. It is by Australian authors Robert Forster and Douglas Grant, who give a broad technical coverage from the early scientific observations in the 19th century up to the arrival of video recording in about 1960. The book contains a chapter on J.L.Baird, as well as details on the work of less well-known pioneers such as Tihanyi (Hungary), Von Ardenne (Germany) and Walton (England). This book was favourably reviewed in the March 2012 issue of the AWA Journal which circulates to the members of the Antique Wireless Association of the USA.

(5) On May 15 2012, Dr. Douglas Brown's new book entitled "The Three Dimensions of John Logie Baird" was published by the Radio Society of Great Britain. John Logie Baird is remembered as the inventor of television with the qualification that his first system was mechanical. Dr. Brown's book sets out Baird's later work in electronic colour, 3D and holographic television and his significant contributions to other information sciences and their resulting technologies. It goes into detail about how the systems worked and their later development after John Logie Baird's death. Further details and ordering information can be obtained at the following link: http://www.rsgbshop.org/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_General_Books_30.html. Malcolm Baird has recently reviewed the book on this website to read this review click here.

(6) In May 1927 John Logie Baird made an historic television transmission from his company office in London, to the Central Hotel in Glasgow. The hotel has recently been refurbished and renamed as the Grand Central Hotel. Baird's part in the hotel's history is described in a recent book: Glasgow's Grand Central Hotel: Glasgow's most loved hotel, by Bill Hicks and Jill Scott, published in January 2012 by Waverley Books.


60-line television pictures in colour from France

It is easy for modern critics to scoff at the quality of low-definition television pictures as produced by mechanical means in the 1920s. Readers will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the 60-line colour pictures recently produced by the replica mechanical system of Roger Dupouy who lives in Clermont Ferrand, in France. The scanning lines are much less obvious in a colour picture than in black and white. Roger has also held exhibitions of early mechanical equipment, see poster on right. Please refer to the website http://la-radiovision.fr/a-gallerie7b.htm


Anniversaries in 2013:

90th John Logie Baird's advertisement appears in The Times, 27th June 1923, "Seeing by Wireless, Inventor of apparatus wishes to hear from from someone who will assist (not financially) in making working model". A response is received from Mr. Odhams of Odhams press.

90th 14 July 1923 JLB requests an interview with Mr. Odhams

90th 16 July 1923 Interview with Mr. Odhams

90th 18 July 1923 Visit to Hastings by Albert G D West, Chief Research Engineer of the BBC


Large Screen 3D TV from Sky and the BBC after 64 years

In March 2008 a Scotland vs. England rugby match was shown on large-screen 3D television at the old Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, West London. As reported in the sports section of The Times of March 11 2008, the viewing audience wore special glasses to get the 3D effect. More recently, The Daily Mail of December 19 2008 reported that Sky Television will soon be introducing 3D programmes. Since then there has been a gradual campaign to build up consumer interest in 3D television.

This technology was first developed and patented by John Logie Baird in World War II at his private laboratory in London, while the German bombs were falling. A full-page description of Baird's 3D television appeared in the Illustrated London News on May 9th 1942. In his 1944 testimony to Lord Hankey's commission on postwar television development, Baird had recommended the early use of 3D technology in broadcast programmes. Baird's recommendation has been followed after nearly 70 years, which seems like quite a long time to wait.


Recent books on people in J.L. Baird's circle

John Logie Baird was a public figure during the second half of his life and his circle included many interesting people who were also public figures. Several of these are mentioned in recently published books which are noted below.

Kew Edwin Shelley (1894-1964)

Mr. Shelley was a London barrister who helped Baird to form a new television company in 1944 and later became co-executor of his estate. Shelley was a paternal grandson of Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee (1844-1906) who had been the first president of the Indian National Congress. In 1921 Shelley had changed his surname from Bonnerjee by deed poll. His background is detailed in Family History, by Janaki Agnes Penelope Majumdar (edited by Antoinette Burton, published 2003, Oxford University Press). In her memoir, written in 1935, Mrs.Majumdar provides a personal account of two distinguished anglophile Indian families.

William Le Queux (1869-1927)

Le Queux was a phenomenally successful spy story writer of the early 20th century and his writings are said to have led to the formation of MI5. He was living in Hastings while Baird was doing his early television experiments and he gave moral (but not financial) encouragement. A detailed biography, William Le Queux, Master of Mystery, has been written by Chris Patrick and Stephen Baister and privately published by them in 2007.

John C.W. Reith, (1889-1971)

Sir John Reith was Director General of the BBC while Baird and his company were trying to convince the BBC to broadcast television. In a new memoir entitled My father, Reith of the BBC,(2006, St.Andrew Press, Edinburgh), Marista Leishman provides a unique view of her father's prickly and eccentric personality, against the backdrop of his public achievements and eventual elevation to the peerage. This book confirms that Reith did not like television, though his personal relationship with Baird was not as bad as has sometimes been alleged.

Leonard Frank Plugge (1889-1981)

Mr. Plugge was a pioneer of commercial radio broadcasting to the UK in the 1920s and 1930s, when such programmes were transmitted from continental Europe for legal reasons. He first met Baird in the Hastings days and they met frequently in London during World War II, when Plugge was an M.P. and chairman of the Parliamentary Scientific Committee. A biography of Plugge entitled: And the World Listened -- Leonard Frank Plugge, by Keith Wallis, (Kelly Books, UK) appeared in March 2008 and a review is given on this website. (see above)

Isidore Ostrer (1889-1975)

This book, published in 2010, is the subject of a news item (above) and it has been reviewed by Malcolm Baird in the Gallery.


A Wee Poem

Many books and articles have been written about John Logie Baird, but few poems have appeared. A recent Scottish poem "An Engineer Sae Bricht", shown in the Gallery, is by Andrew Roxburgh McGhie, Associate Director of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter at the University of Pennsylvania.


John Logie Baird: a life
hardback * c. 450 pages * 70 b/w illustrations

...a meticulously researched story based on first hand interviews and quoting many new documentary sources, some of which have only recently become available. At long last we have a book that sounds and feels like the truth about the man who was the first in the world to demonstrate working television (Michael Bennett-Levy, 2002)...click here for the rest of the review

"Kamm and Baird, the latter the inventor's son, paint a strikingly clear portrait of the inventor who started it all." (Russell A Potter, The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (US) 2004)

Read the full text of the JLB promotional brochure here

  • Available in the U.K. (incl. international orders) from Amazon.co.uk
  • Available in the U.S.A. from Amazon.com
  • Available in Canada from Chapters.Indigo
  • Research materials
    The National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh has recently acquired a large collection of research information used in the writing of the above book by Antony Kamm and Malcolm Baird. The Accession Number is 17274. The above book is the basis of a new feature film on John Logie Baird, currently under development.


    Television and Me: The Memoirs of John Logie Baird
    paperback * c. 160 pages * heavily illustrated

    The autobiography of John Logie Baird. A new version of his memoirs, only published previously as a specialist monograph, are written with blunt candour and caustic wit. His memoirs cover the wild escapades of his early business career and the dramatic pioneering days of his scientific work.

    "Television and Me" was named Critic's choice, Scottish book of the year 2004.

    Excerpt: Baird's Story is Pick of the Best
    (Scottish Daily Mail, Jan. 7th, 2005) by Tom Kyle

    It is rare indeed to find a book of real literary, scientific and historical importance.

    So the appearance in the spring of the little-known and almost unpublished, autobiography of the most influential Scot who ever lived was the most significant publishing event of the year. Television and Me: The Memoirs of John Logie Baird ... was living proof that the best books need not always be the most lavish or expensive.

    Baird tells his own story - from his Helensburgh boyhood to the great and precarious days when the first television pictures were transmitted, to his ultimate betrayal by the BBC - with a caustic turn of phrase and a self-deprecating wit.

    His memoir is a fabulous distillation of all the joy and bitterness, hurt and humour of an extraordinary man. I said at the time I doubted there would be a better written, more interesting or more important book published in 2004. I see no reason to revise that opinion now.

    The Scots Magazine, September 2004
    "...Baird was not given the recognition which was his by right during his lifetime."

    As of 2011, "Television and Me" is out of print at the Edinburgh publishers, Birlinn Press. However, copies can be ordered via Amazon.

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