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Monday, 30 January 2012

John Logie Baird

The son of a Scottish minister, John Logie Baird, was born in Helensburgh, a small coastal town in the west of Scotland on August 13, 1888.

An inventor from a young age as a boy, Baird installed not only a telephone exchange in his father’s manse but also a system of electric lighting, even entangling passing traffic in the wires.

Some of Baird's early inventions were not fully successful. He was forced to resign from his post of a supervising engineer for an electrical supply company in Glasgow when he apparently blacked out half of the city following a failed attempt to manufacture diamonds from coal dust.

Baird also invented an unsuccessful cure for piles which left him in severe pain for a week but made a good deal of money out of his 'Baird patent Undersock', damp-proof socks for cold Scottish feet.

Baird in 1917

Before Baird demonstrated his television, he had set up an unsuccessful jam factory in Trinidad.

Baird made the world's first television transmission above a shop in Hastings on the south coast of England in 1924. He constructed a receiver from an old electric motor, a tea chest, a biscuit tin, an old hat box, piano wire, string, sealing wax, glue, a cycle lamp lens and some darning needles.

On October 2, 1925, Baird successfully transmitted the first television picture with a greyscale image in his laboratory at 22 Frith Street in the Soho district of London. It was the head of two ventriloquist's dummies named "James" and "Stooky Bill" (see below). Baird went downstairs and fetched an office worker, 20-year-old William Edward Taynton, to see what a human face would look like, and Taynton became the first person to be televised in a full tonal range.

Baird gave the first public display of his television on January 26, 1926 in a lab in Frith Street, Soho, London in front of members from the Royal Institution and a journalist from the Times. Although the pictures were small, measuring just 3.5 by 2 inches, the process was revolutionary.

His first pictures were formed of only 30 lines repeated approximately 10 times a second. The results were crude but it was the start of television as a practical technology.

By 1928 Baird had succeeded in demonstrating color television.

Baird made the first transatlantic television broadcast between Britain and the USA when signals transmitted from the Baird station in Coulson, Kent, were picked up by a receiver in Hartsdale, New York.

In 1936, when BBC started their public television service, Baird's system was threatened by one promoted by Marconi-EMI. The following year it was dropped in favour of the Marconi electronic system, which gave a better definition.

Baird gave the world's first demonstration on August 16, 1944 of a fully electronic color television display. His 600-line color system used triple interlacing, using six scans to build each picture. Baird's Telechrome was not only the first single-tube color television display, it could also display stereoscopic (3D) images.

Baird lived at 1 Station Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex from December 1944. He caught a cold over Christmas 1945, and suffered a stroke in February 1946. Baird was ordered bedridden but refused to stay there, and continued to deteriorate until his death on June 14, 1946. He is buried with his mother, father and wife in Helensburgh Cemetery.

Baird's Station Road house was demolished in 2007 and the site is now apartments named Baird Court.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia  RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

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