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The origins of television

Baird's television apparatus used in experiments, 1926

Baird's public television demonstrations (1925) : see it at Selfridges

John Logie Baird had long been an inventor and entrepreneur when he set out to build a working television system based on the Nipkow disk system.

He began with a personal advertisement announcing his intention in The Times, then used the money raised to build his apparatus, using any materials to hand, including darning needles, hat boxes, a biscuit tin, sealing wax and a bicycle lantern. His Nipkow disk was cut from an old tea chest.

In 1925 Baird started making experimental transmissions in London. His first public demonstration was on March 25, 1925, at the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street. His images were transmitted only 100 feet or so - but it was a world first, because this was a public demonstration.

His experimental television transmissions were broadcast by the BBC and over the next twenty years Baird pioneered many new television developments including the first transatlantic transmission, Noctovision (to help see in the dark) and Phonovision, an early video recording system. However, none of his techniques can be found in the television of today. 

Poster showing Cathode Ray Tube

Zworykin's TV camera and TV set (1924) : the father of modern television?

The invention of electronic TV was plagued by controversy and legal battles, with several key figures vying for the rewards of promoting television's development and growth.

One of these was Vladimir Kosma Zworykin, sometimes hailed as 'the father of modern television'. He was a Russian-born American inventor whose two inventions lie at the heart of television and video. Zworykin invented the iconoscope in 1923 - a tube for capturing television images. Although later supplanted, the iconoscope laid the foundations for all television camera tubes and set the pace for nearly all development in the 1930s.

Its action was to break down pictures electronically into hundreds of thousands of separate elements. By 1924 Zworykin had also filed a patent application for the display device, a cathode-ray tube that he called his kinescope. The same device still provides the screen for most television receivers and computer monitors today.

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The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

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Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

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