John Logie Baird

The Early Years of Television and the BBC by Jamie Medhurst book review: How the BBC embraced TV

The Early Years of Television and the BBC by Jamie Medhurst is published by Edinburgh University Press, priced £85.00. ISBN: 9780748637867

This important book has been more than 10 years in the making and, by a fortunate chance, it has been published in the BBC’s centenary year, just a few years ahead of the centenary of television itself. 

As Professor Medhurst points out, the history of television is an enormous subject. Its early days can be summarised by man of letters Samuel Johnson’s quotation about a dog walking on its hind legs: “It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.”  

RTS Yorkshire commemorates creation of the RTS

On 7 September 1927, John Logie Baird demonstrated his “noctovision” to a room full of enthusiasts at Leeds University. Baird referred to the technology as “seeing by electricity”.

At the close of the meeting, the formation of the society was proposed. Then known as the British Association, many of the founder members were from Leeds and Yorkshire.

90 years of the RTS: From acorns to great oaks

WGW Mitchell (left), who proposed what became the Television Society, served as its honorary secretary 1929-44, with John Logie Baird, preparing for a demonstration

‘Recalling the early days of television and the Society, and then looking at things today, may be rather like looking at an acorn and then the oak tree and wondering how it all happened.” WC (Bill) Fox’s words from 40 years ago, on the occasion of the Society’s 50th anniversary, illustrate what television felt like to him in 1977. The Press Association journalist was present at the start of the Society – and even at the birth of television itself, as an enthusiastic supporter of John Logie Baird.

80 years of BBC television

The service initially used two different, incompatible systems which were alternated weekly. These were the 405-lines interlaced scan from Marconi-EMI, and the 240-lines progressive scan from Baird Television Ltd. 

Initially the press favoured the Logie Baird system because there was a delay of 60 seconds before the image would appear on screens. At a press demo of the technology this meant that the journalists could dash around the camera and see themselves still on the screen. However, the Logie Baird system was deemed inferior and was dropped after only three months.

Pioneering engineer recalls first days of TV

At 104, Paul Reveley is the Society’s longest-standing Fellow and its oldest member.

Paul was one of the great pioneering engineers of British television in the 1930s.  

His membership of the Society was approved in December 1937, just over a year after the start of the BBC Television Service from Alexandra Palace. It was also six months before the first production Spitfire was delivered and a week before the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney’s first animated colour film.