Museum Hours:

Saturday 10-6

Sunday 12-5

Mechanical Television

John Logie Baird (1888 - 1946)

John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer and entrepreneur, achieved his first transmissions of simple face shapes in 1924 using mechanical television. On March 25, 1925, Baird held his first public demonstration of television at the London department store Selfridges on Oxford Street in London. In this demonstration, he had not yet obtained adequate half-tones in the moving pictures, and only silhouettes were visible.

In the first week of October, 1925, Baird obtained the first actual television picture in his laboratory. At this time, his test subject was a ventriloquist's dummy, Stooky Bill, which was placed in front of the camera apparatus. Baird  later recollected,

"The image of the dummy's head formed itself on the screen with what appeared to me an almost unbelievable clarity. I had got it! I could scarcely believe my eyes and felt myself shaking with excitement."

After much discussion with his business associates, and further improvements, Baird decided to publicly demonstrate television on Tuesday 26 January, 1926, again at Selfridge's department store. This was the first opportunity for the general public to see television. The Baird company continued to publicize this historic demonstration, and J. L. Baird's other scientific breakthroughs as they feverishly worked to obtain financial backing and construct a line of home receivers. Here is Baird's 1926 camera. Baird began broadcasting television in the fall of 1926 from a station in London.

From the British "Journal of The Television Society", September 1941

Courtesy of Steve Dichter

In February of 1928, Baird transmitted television images across the Atlantic, where they were received in Hartsdale, New York. Also in 1928, Baird demonstrated color television. Baird also recorded video images on phonograph records, though it took modern computer techniques to play them back.

With Baird's transmitting equipment, the British Broadcasting Corporation began regular experimental television broadcasts on September 30, 1929. By the following year, most of Britain's major radio dealers were selling Baird kits and ready-made receivers through retail and by mail order.

In 1929 Baird demonstrated the use of infrared light in television, and proposed a system called Noctovision, which was to be used by the military to locate enemy planes overhead without being detected.

In 1936, Baird and EMI competed to determine what standard would be used for the new high definition televison service. Baird's system was still primarily mechanical, while the EMI system was all-electronic. The EMI system prevailed, and Baird then turned his attention to color television, building a working electronic color system in 1942. Here is a paper by Douglas Brown and Malcolm Baird about John Logie Baird's Last Projects.

Baird died in 1946.

One of Baird's early sets is on display at Logie Bairds Bar in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Here is a link to Baird Television, a site about Baird maintained by his son and grandson and a July 4, 2004 article in the Sunday Post about Baird.