What's New at Bairdtelevision.com?

Last updated 20 February 2021

Welcome to our new website

All of the content from the old site is still here, but better-formatted, more consistent, and faster to use. It will also be easier to use this site on portable devices. A few new pages have been added. See the 1927 lecture and 1933 article by John Logie Baird, Malcolm Baird's new articles including one about the time JLB met H.G. Wells, and an article by Iain Baird about actor Terry-Thomas' promotional campaign for Baird television sets in 1950.

To navigate the site, there is a quick-reference pull down menu at the top of every page. A more detailed menu can be found at the bottom of this page.

New John Logie Baird coin

A new John Logie Baird 50 pence commemorative coin was released by the Royal Mint on 4 January 2021. Over the past year or so Iain Baird has been acting as an historical advisor for the design, packaging and marketing information of the coin with the inscription “JOHN LOGIE BAIRD TELEVISION PIONEER” accompanied by a depiction of a television mast emitting circular radio waves with a range of dates relating to John Logie Baird and the dates “1888” and “1946” aside the mast. The 2021 Annual Coin Set including the John Logie Baird coin is now 100% available and can be purchased at www.royalmint.com. The JLB coin is also now available as a separate item on numerous coin trading and internet auction sites.

"For 2021, a collection of coins celebrates and explores the stories behind Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, who made history come to life, John Logie Baird and the making of television, and H.G. Wells, the man who made science fiction reality. Interwoven with The Royal Mint’s history, we also celebrate how we were the change makers in 1971 as we mark the 50th anniversary of decimal day, and wish Her Majesty The Queen a happy 95th birthday as she continues to make a nation proud." The sets are available in precious metal editions or struck in their circulating alloys, and are finished to either Proof or Brilliant Uncirculated standard."

A new edition of the John Logie Baird memoirs is now available

For the past year or so Malcolm Baird has been working with Birlinn Publishers to create a new edition of Television and Me: The Memoirs of John Logie Baird. This edition is now available as an e-book. https://birlinn.co.uk/product/television-and-me/

‘A fabulous distillation of all the joy and bitterness, hurt and humour of an extraordinary man… I doubt there will be a better written, more interesting or important book published in Scotland this year'—Daily Mail (2004)

Funds were going down, the situation was becoming desperate and we were down to our last £30 when at last, one Friday in the first week of October 1925, everything functioned properly. The image of the dummy’s head formed itself on the screen with what appeared to me almost unbelievable clarity. I had got it! I could scarcely believe my eyes, and felt myself shaking with excitement.

In one of the most extraordinary and entertaining autobiographies to be written by any scientist or inventor, John Logie Baird tells the story of his life and the scientific journey which led to the creation of television. He writes with blunt candour and caustic wit about his childhood in Scotland and the wild escapades of his early business career, when he marketed his own patent brand of medicated undersocks, failed in a hilarious attempt to set up a jam-making factory in the Caribbean and went on to sell soap wholesale. Then he gives the definitive account of the epoch-making experiments through which television was created, and his later troubled relationship with the fledgling BBC and his bête noir, Lord Reith, who disliked television. The BBC obstructed and snubbed Baird at every opportunity.

Some of his commercial and scientific rivals made a concerted attempt to discredit his status as the central figure in the invention of television, and even today, this has led to his importance being misunderstood. This new edition of his grippingly readable autobiography, edited and introduced by Baird’s only son, Malcolm, will help to set the record straight.

Crystal Palace South Tower Listed

The base of the Crystal Palace’s southern water tower has been listed by Historic England following a proposal from Crystal Palace Foundation chairman Melvyn Harrison. The southern tower was the location of Baird Television Limited's vision and sound transmitter aerials starting in 1933-34, as well as serving as the location of some of John Logie Baird's own experiments concerning colour and large-screen television. Sadly, the upper section of the tower was demolished in 1940-41. https://newsfromcrystalpalace.wordpress.com/2020/09/22/brunel-tower-listed/?fbclid=IwAR1k38oI5JAM-gaYkOqxHOhpRy3m1JvA35L6JVqsEyN334ETVRlsRQ_yon0

The Secret in the Box

On 26 January 1926, John Logie Baird first demonstrated television. This was reported in The Times and other newspapers and witnessed by distinguished scientists from the Royal Institution. And yet it had a mysterious aspect. Although Baird had patented many parts of his system, he did not give out enough information to allow his competitors to build an exact working copy.

For nearly 100 years, this has been a problem for technical historians and museums wishing to build a working replica of the first television system. One of the grey areas has been the type of photocell used for converting light fluctuations to electrical signals. During 2019, a step forward has been taken by two part-time researchers in Scotland: Brandon Inglis (a teacher) and Professor Gary Couples (with Heriot Watt University).

They have found that a key component in Baird’s television system was a photocell known as “the Thalofide Cell”. This had been developed a few years earlier by Theodore Case in the USA. Its main application was in connection with talking pictures that were being actively developed at the time. In July 1924 Baird bought one for £50 and after many months of further research he succeeded in producing a television picture of a human subject in October 1925 – this was followed soon afterward by the public demonstration.

Appropriately, Mr. Inglis and Prof. Couples decided to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed American technical journal. Their 8000-word article, entitled “John Logie Baird and the Secret in the Box” appeared in the August 2020 issue (pages 1371-1382) of the Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. (IEEE). As of September 2020, it can be seen at the following link: https://proceedingsoftheieee.ieee.org/view-recent-issues/august-2020/

FULTON, Julie. Mister T.V.: The Story of John Logie Baird. illus. by Patrick Corrigan. 32p. Maverick Arts. Sept. 2020. ISBN 9781848866461.

Review by Malcolm Baird (son) and Iain Baird (grandson), 6 September 2020

Television history is a complex subject. Primarily it stems from science and technology, closely allied with innovative thinking, social sciences, business acumen and "politics". It was developed mainly as a broadcast medium, carrying news and culture and sport to millions of viewers. But as it approaches its 100th birthday, television is becoming an important person-to-person channel of communication this new development is being driven by the COVID crisis. It is hard enough for a mature adult to get a handle on television history, but how on Earth can it be put across to young children?

Julie Fulton has met the challenge with a human story drawn from J.L. Baird's own memoirs (1941) which are to be republished soon. Patrick Corrigan’s colour illustrations are more eye-catching than the (mostly) grainy black-and-white photos in the archives. We like Ms. Fulton’s use of time-lines which give the young readers a sense of history, moving along in parallel to the growth of television. “Mister TV” also recognizes that many people in different countries have contributed to television, both in the early days (Nipkow, Rosing, et al.) and in the later stages (Farnsworth, Zworykin, et al.).

John Logie Baird Anniversaries in 2021

95th – 26 January 1926. First-ever public demonstration of television to forty distinguished scientists of the Royal Institution at 22 Frith Street, Soho, London.

90th - 2 June 1931. The first televised sporting event, the Epsom Derby—also the first remote outside television broadcast. 85th—26 August 1936. 'High definition' television programmes intended for the public were broadcast by the BBC to the Radiolympia Exhibition.

85th - 2 November 1936. The official start of the 'world's first high-definition television service' from the BBC's new television studios at Alexandra Palace. Initially, both the 240-line Baird television systems and the 405-line EMI-Marconi system were used.

80th - December 1941. JLB demonstrated high definition stereoscopic television to the press. See: What did John Logie Baird really do in World War II? 75th—14 June 1946. Death of JLB at Bexhill, at age 57.

John Logie Baird exhibition at the MZTV Museum, Toronto

An exhibition at Toronto's MZTV Museum honours the work of John Logie Baird. On 25th of May, 2019, the exhibition was officially opened to the public, with MZTV founder Moses Znaimer, Malcolm Baird, and Iain Baird in attendance, who each gave a short speech. Iain is a co-curator of the exhibition, and a former curator at MZTV (1995–1998).

Diana Richardson (née Baird), 1932–2016

Tribute written by Elizabeth Richardson for the Museum of Communication, Burntisland, on 10 July 2016 and published in their newsletter, November 2016.

Diana took an immense interest in the Museum's portrayal of television history, in particular her father's work.

Diana Richardson was a wonderful wife and mum. She was also John Logie Baird's daughter. Born in Hampstead in 1932, Diana moved to Sydenham where she spent the pre-war years living happily with her father, mother (Margaret Cecilia Baird - an accomplished concert pianist) and her brother Malcolm who was born in 1935. Sadly he was celebrating his birthday on the day Diana died, 2 July 2016.

During the war the family moved to Bude in Cornwall where my mum and Malcolm attended the evacuated Sandown School, which is now a hotel, but was then a boarding school, overlooking my mum's beloved Crooklets Beach. Mum's favourite place of all was the breakwater but she also loved Duckpool (Coombe Valley) where the family would go when her Mum could get petrol for the car. My Mum loved walking along the beach with her father - as she often said - because they could walk at their own pace. His magnifying glass is probably her most treasured possession.

After the war the family moved to Bexhill-on-Sea. This was a sad time because JLB was in poor health and suffered at least one stroke during that time. He died in his sleep on 14 June 1946 and my mum has waited 70 years to be reunited with him. Diana and Malcolm moved to Helensburgh in 1947 where they lived in the family home, "The Lodge", with Aunt Annie and her housekeeper Margaret Scott. After leaving school, Mum went to Glasgow University to study English and it was there that she met my Dad, Norman, both going on to Jordanhill to train as teachers after getting their degrees. Mum and Dad were perfect for each other and have given me, my brothers David and John and my children William and Katie all a fantastic start in life. John's son, Alex, holds a particularly special place in my mum's heart and he wrote a beautiful poem about her which was read at her funeral. It summed up all that she had meant to him in a few lines that captured her perfectly.

My Mum put her energies and priority into our family but she was immensely proud of her father's achievements. She was understated but remarkable in so many ways, for example translating Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile" into Esperanto over a 5 year period, writing excellent one act plays and, in the last couple of months, completing a beautiful tapestry.

Mum didn't ever seek the limelight and gave interviews only to help her father's achievements be recognised. She took these things in her stride and played down their importance: when I lived in Edinburgh my family connections only emerged after a decade there because a Belgian TV company film crew walked down the street to my house with boom and camera to meet my Mum! The irony is that my parents never even had a TV until I was 7 and only then because my Dad's parents had bought a new one and offered their's to us. In the age of colour TV, BBC 2 and STV, we could only get BBC 1!

The Museum of Communication meant a lot to my Mum and my parents have enjoyed every visit to your meetings and AGMs. The work you are doing there to highlight all aspects of early forms of communication and the ground breaking achievements of individuals, like my grandfather, is crucial. It is valued greatly by families like us who are fortunate enough to have had inventors or pioneers amongst our number.

My Mum died suddenly last Saturday having spoken to my Dad some 90 minutes earlier from Monklands Hospital where she had been admitted overnight. She left us without a fanfare, just as she had lived and is now with God, her beloved father John Logie Baird and, we hope, a huge assortment of the various cats she's had over the years!

An engineer sae bricht

Many books and articles have been written about John Logie Baird, but few poems have appeared. This contribution is by Andrew Roxburgh McGhie, Associate Director of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter at the University of Pennsylvania.

There was an engineer sae bricht

Work’d ilka mornin’, noon and nicht

Until, at last, he got it richt

His lifelang mission

Aye, ‘twas sic a bonnie sicht

Yon television

He was a lallan lad wha dared

E’en tho’ few bawbees could be spared

He fashed and went that extra yaird

Tae gar it rin

Salute we nou John Logie Baird

Oor brawest yin

For he went at it, heid tae heid

‘Gainst RCA an’ a’ that breed

Nae gowk was he. Our trusty steed

Left them ahint

Life changed fore’er thro’ his guid deed

As weel we kennt

Nae muckle better could it be

He gie’d it colour and 3-D

Wi’ infra-red thro’ nicht he’d see

But the worl’ him spurns

Let’s honour him as oor third B

Alang wi’ Bruce and Burns

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The gallery

on this website:

Articles and lectures by JLB

Historical articles about JLB and his work

People who worked with JLB

Articles about JLB and his work

Other television history

Television and radar