VISIONEER: JOHN LOGIE BAIRD AND MECHANICAL TELEVISION
by Trevor Blake
PART THREE: OTHER COUNTRIES, OTHER SYSTEMS
England and the United States were not the only countries
that utilized mechanical television. The race to be the
first country to develop television was truly
international and included Canada, France, Germany, the
Soviet Union and Japan.
The base for mechanical television research in the
Soviet Union was Leningrad. The first Russian television
image was transmitted in 1928, and the first public
broadcast occurred in 1934. The first broadcast began
"Attention, attention, attention radio viewers: watch,
listen to the first television concert." The station was
soon flooded with letters from radio listeners asking
where they were supposed to look to see the concert.
In March 1935, Germany offered the world's first low-
definition (electronic) television service. It used 180
lines of resolution (compared to the 405 offered by the
BBC over a year later) and was seen mainly in public
viewing rooms. The Berlin Olympics were transmitted by
television, and in March 1936 a video telephone system was
established. No public official was recorded as using
television: the medium was used entirely for entertainment
during this period.
While England, the USSR and the USA ceased
transmissions during World War Two, Germany paused only
during the invasion of Poland.
If the BBC had not adopted the EMI system, it is
unlikely England would have had the facilities to
manufacture cathode ray tubes on an industrial level. And
had this not been possible, the manufacturing of radar
screens == and therefore the outcome of the war == might
also have been in question.
Mechanical imaging systems remain a vital technology.
Computer mice use two slotted disks that are rotated by
the track ball. These disks are positioned next to tiny
lights: as the disks spin the lights are registered as on
or off by photosensors, and software translates the
blinking lights as x-y cursor position. Software or sound
activated moving mirrors are the key component to laser
light shows as well as some virtual reality headgear.
While not commercially successful, video disks (as
opposed to laser disks) were an entirely functional
medium: a magnetic-tipped needle read encoded pulses in a
large plastic disk. All of these technologies, as well as
television, are directly indebted to John Logie Baird.
BOOKS Manly, Harold: DRAKE'S RADIO ENCYCLOPEDIA (Drank & Co.
Ghirardi, Alfred: RADIO PHYSICS COURSE (Radio & Technical
Zworkin, Y. K. and Morton, G. A.: TELEVISION (John Wiley
Goldstein, Norm: THE HISTORY OF TELEVISON (Portland House
Kisseloff, Jeff: THE BOX (Viking 1995)
Ritchie, Michael: PLEASE STAND BY (Overlook Press 1994)
Winship, Michael: TELEVISION (Random House 1988)
Yanczer, Peter: THE MECHANICS OF TELEVISON (Peter Yanczer
(Peter Yanczer, 835 Bricken Pl., St. Louis MO 63122 USA)
Popular Science, March 1932
Mechanics and Handicraft, Vol. 1 #1, Winter 1933
Television: Journal of the Royal Television Society, April
The Race for Television, BBC
The efficiency of on-line search engines and the shifting
nature of the Internet make long and comprehensive lists
of URLs both unnecessary and inaccurate. A search for
'John Logie Baird' or 'mechanical television' should turn
up several interesting sources. Only two are listed here.
http://www.teleport.com/~house127/lobby/mechtele.html This article, including illustrations.
A lengthy thread from alt.technology.obsolete on
mechanical television, as well as one or two pieces of e-
mail on the subject. Compressed using pkzip.
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