Television development was a distant memory for most people during
the dark days of
World War II. Germany's forces launched its second siege
of the 20th century against Europe in Fall of 1939. By January of
1945, even the Brits were beginning to feel confident that the seemingly
endless days of World War II were about to come to an end.
Hitler's forces had been beaten back from its massive sprawl across
Europe and into northern Africa. Eisenhower's
six months earlier had broken the back - and much of the will -of
German forces. The
Battle of Leyte Gulf shortly thereafter severely damaged Japanese
naval forces. Slowly but surely improvements were made in TV camera,
broadcast, and local viewing technology in spite of the severe restrictions
placed on component and manpower availability, both in the UK and
in the U.S .
Baird was England's most famous television pioneer, having developed
the first practical broadcast system. His accomplishments were reported
in this January 1945 edition of Radio News. Mr. Baird died
the next year at age 57.
Television in Great Britain
By Leon Laden London. England
Mr. Baird's first demonstration of television in color
and stereoscopic relief.
Colored stereoscopic television, as a result of John Logie Baird's
latest invention, the Telechrome, may become an outstanding feature
of the postwar British television industry.
Lattice television mast at the Alexandra Palace with
for vision (top) and sound (bottom) aerial arrays, with
a signal carrier range of over 50 miles.
A blueprint of postwar television, a sort of television Magna
Charta, is now being worked out by Britain's leading radio engineers,
scientists, and manufacturers serving on the Government Television
Advisory Committee,1 appointed over a year ago, to consider
postwar development of television and advise the Postmaster-General
on future requirements.
This Committee already has taken evidence from representatives
of the BBC scientists, engineers, manufacturers, cinema and studio
proprietors, and other bodies concerned with the future of the industry.
It can also be divulged, authoritatively, that the Committee's findings
and recommendations are expected to be made public within a very
Till then, however, the road along which the British television
industry will travel in the postwar period of its development or
the signposts by which it will be guided remain, necessarily, unconfirmed.
This contingency equally applies to the type of domestic receiver
which will make its appearance on the home and export markets and
to the type of television station that will transmit the outgoing
The BBC's Post War Plans
No official yardstick, therefore, exists for the measurement
of the BBC's future television development and no statement on their
peacetime policy has been authorized, thus far, by either Mr. W.
J. Haley, the new Director-General or Sir Noel Ashbridge, Deputy
Director-General in charge of Engineering.
Nevertheless, it is regarded as a certainty that the television
service, closed down on the 1st of September, 1939, will be on the
air again soon after the termination of hostilities, though in what
form it is extremely difficult to predict, especially since the
BBC's Charter2 is due for renewal at the end of 1946,
and much water has flowed under the bridge since the Charter was
granted over 21 years ago.
In spite of this, however, it is reliably reported that far-reaching
plans for the strengthening of the BBC's service are completed which
call for the erection of a super "Radio City" in the center of the
British capital, incorporating the entire broadcasting system and
controlling every phase of its complex and ever-growing work.
This new broadcasting nerve-center - for which building sites
became available when the tenement flats adjoining Broadcasting
House were destroyed by enemy action - will contain repertory theaters
with a seating capacity for many thousands, big concert and opera
halls, and provision for television studios, control rooms, and
Imaginative television programs providing a wide and varied pattern
selection of entertainment, information, and education to the people
of this country, will be produced in the "Radio City" and put on
the air (as before the war) by the Alexandra Palace transmitting
station, linked with it by special coaxial cables.
A similar cable-route network will connect, in turn, Alexandra
Palace with regional relay transmitting stations in such centers
of population as Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, and
Aberdeen, a chain of highly directive automatic relay stations catering
for the more sparsely populated areas.
It is estimated that this nationwide network, stretching from
Land's End to John o' Groats, and extending the range of television
broadcasting to Britain's population of some 45 million, will be
completed within less than five years after the war's end.
This outline is regarded to constitute the long-term policy of
the BBC and also comprise provision for color-television transmissions.
For the intervening span of time, the BBC plans to put into operation
a less costly and ambitious scheme consisting of high definition
television, unchanged in essentials from the pre- 1939 service;
the higher standards will be introduced by a 'staggering' process
as the super Radio City grows, the gargantuan network strengthens
its complex web of tentacles across the land, and the infant service
John Logie Baird shown with his color-television equipment,
employing the newly-designed Telechrome tube.
Black and White Versus Color
Amazing as the development of television may have been in the
fifteen years of its existence as a public service, it generally
is agreed, nevertheless, that many unchartered possibilities still
will have to be explored before colored television can seriously
challenge black and white.
Mr. John Logie Baird has done more than anyone else to put color
television on the map and was the first to hit upon the brilliant
idea of combining the antiquated Victorian stereoscope with the
familiar conception of the existence of three primary colors (red,
green, blue) in the visible light spectrum.
The information this 56-year-old television pioneer imparted
to the author was well worth the trip to the small country town
where he has been living since his London home was hit by a flying
"I am most optimistic about the possibilities of color television,"
Mr. Baird said, and then he proceeded to paint a vivid picture of
the revolutionary changes television, and particularly color and
stereo television, was about to effect in our daily lives.
Perhaps the most interesting and significant features of it are
associated with the vast range of fresh opportunities which would
be provided for the entertainment, information, and education of
the people while in their own homes.
But the highest place among the notable accomplishments of Britain's
best-known television authority belongs to his latest invention,
This excellent piece of new equipment was demonstrated last month
to a small gathering of members of the press. It has focused the
attention of those interested in television developments once more
on colored stereoscopy, which possesses greater possibilities than
black and white and promises to become the outstanding feature of
the postwar British television industry.
In describing the Telechrome the inventor revealed that for the
first time he had perfected a cathode-ray tube capable of reproducing
on the screen a coherent picture of 600-lines in natural colors
and stereoscopic depth without the aid of intermediate filters.
"By utilizing a new form of scanning," Mr. Baird stated, "every
line in the picture is reproduced instantaneously and in the color
it actually occurs. The revolving discs and lenses which prevented
the colored image from appearing directly upon the fluorescent screen
of the tube and made colored stereo television less efficient and
silent than black and white, have been eliminated."
The Telechrome already has been used with very good results,
and stereo television without the previously necessary colored glasses,
now a visible practicability, opens up an entirely new prospect
In Mr. Baird's opinion, however, there is not much likelihood that
this broadcasting medium would become available to the British public
immediately after the war is brought to an end in Europe or the
Fig. 1. Telechrome tube construction: (A) for two-color
effect; and (B) for three color.
Another invention, on which he had been at work since the beginning
of 1941, was also mentioned by Mr. Baird.
"It is a special type of facsimile apparatus for automatic operation
in connection with the sending of telegrams, enabling enormous speeds
to be obtained in the handling and dispatching of cables," was the
way its inventor described the apparatus, adding that it was based
on "a novel method of transmitting messages by television and recording
them photographically on a moving band."
The details of construction and operation of this new electronic
device were not revealed, however, owing to the wartime embargo
on technical inventions which may benefit the enemy.
Mr. Baird concluded this most interesting and informative conversation
by presenting the copy of a book entitled (eloquently) "Television-Today
and Tomorrow" to which he had contributed the foreword, and drew
my attention to an account of one of his earliest demonstrations
of television in London, written in September, 1926, by a special
correspondent of Radio News (described in the book as "America's
foremost radio journal").
The account read as follows: "Mr. Baird has definitely and indisputably
given a demonstration of real television. It is the first time in
history that this has been done in any part of the world."
"This early testimony to practical television was the first to
appear in print in the United States, I think," were the last words
of the man who has now added another chapter to the history of television.
Postwar Plans of Manufacturers and Engineers
In talking to manufacturers of television equipment, one gathers
that not color and stereoscopy but economy (in materials) and simplicity
(in design) will be the keynotes of the postwar British television
"Premarketing tests show that an extensive market exists for
an efficient and fairly cheap television receiver," a member of
the British Radio Manufacturers' Association - the most powerful
body in the radio industry - explained, adding that he did not expect
color television sets to be put into mass production before their
process of manufacture could be made as cheap and efficient as that
of the black and white ones.
It is emphasized further by the manufacturers that they have spent
large sums on improving pre-1939 models and laying plans for the
manufacture of these by mass production methods at a reasonable
price as soon as essential materials are released and the official
'go ahead' is given. These moneys they maintain, would have to be
written off as a dead loss to the industry if overnight novel methods
of transmission were to be introduced, instead of gradually over
a number of years. This applies in their opinion, equally to the
introduction of FM as well as to color and stereoscopy.
Wartime view of camouflaged broadcasting house, London,
showing several antenna arrays and belt of concrete encircling
ground floor as protection against bomb blasts.
The British radio engineers share the manufacturers' view that
this country's peacetime television industry will be dominated more
by economic than technical factors, but suggest that in addition
to black and white broadcasting for domestic use, provision should
be made for an alternative service of color television programs
Regarding sound transmission, the engineers think it would be
expedient to retain prewar amplitude modulation for the London service
in addition (or supplementary) to frequency or pulse modulation,
if and when either of these are introduced.
These views are expressed in a report submitted by the British Institution
of Radio Engineers to Lord Hankey, chairman of the Government's
Television Advisory Committee.
Among their other proposals of interest are recommendations for
the formation of a Radio Research Institute to study postwar possibilities
in the ultra-high-frequency spectrum, the adoption of cooperative
research methods in the television industry, and the standardization
of domestic television receiver circuits. The report also endorses
the BBC's monopoly of television and the Government's control over
It stresses, too, that "serious consideration should be given
to better utilization of the 4-mcs. bandwidth by making use of vestigial
sideband transmission and also to increasing the number of lines
to that which is optimum for the increased modulation bandwidth."
Tentative figures proposed are 525-lines (gross, interlaced) and
3.25-mcs. modulation frequency.
In general, the B.I.R.E. advocates "a television service broadly
of a prewar character, having characteristics in common with 1939
standards," and "a conservative policy regarding the assignment
of new frequencies."
In concluding, the Institution reminds the chairman of the Television
Committee that television is "the radio product that probably will
be of the utmost importance commercially, as judged by the immediate
volume of business."
Postwar Applications Equipment
In spite of predictions that television may doom the motion picture
theater, the British film industry expects television's advent to
boost cinema-going. At least that is the opinion of Mr. Oliver Bell,
the director of the British Film Institute and Vice-Chairman of
the British Councils' Films Committee.
"People get far more kick out of being in a large company at
the movies than looking at television in a small group round the
fireside. Besides, you cannot pick and choose as much with a television
program transmitted from a broadcasting station as you can at a
movie theater which runs a continuous performance. Rather, it will
add attraction to the cinema in somewhat similar fashion as the
Wurlitzer," this cinema expert stated.
The British film industry is confident about the future. Elaborate
plans have been prepared for the alignment of the postwar cinema
with television by at least one leading British company of cinema-equipment
makers and will be implemented as soon as conditions are favorable.
An official of the company concerned said that they were prepared
to risk their money to effect the cinema and television tie-up and
that they already had largely solved the multitude of technical
problems connected with the installation and operation of equipment
It appears, therefore, that the British cinema of tomorrow will
be a "Telema," linked by coaxial cables with the transmitting station
or central studio and equipped with apparatus picking-up on prearranged
wavelengths "live" television films and "hot" news items. These
will be actual occurrences televised on-the-spot and projected onto
huge viewers for the entertainment and information of the audience.
Another of the uses to which television equipment is to be put
is crime detection, the extensive employment of miniature television
pick-up and projection apparatus having been recommended by the
British Home Office Committee on Postwar Development of the Police
to Mr. Herbert Morrison, the British Home Secretary.
This report calls for the training of selected constables in
the operation and maintenance of television equipment and the building
of special projection theaters where police officials can study
televised films of scenes of crimes and life-size replicas of known
In view of these recommendations, as well as of the progress in
television devices, the time may not be far off, one London "Bobby"
intimated when he hoped to be reclining in a comfortable swing-chair
in the viewing room of the police station and keeping a televised
"eye" on the welfare of the law-abiding citizen in the capital of
the British Empire.
Fifty-six year old John Logie Baird, holding his latest
invention, the Telechrome. This tube has a 10-inch diameter
disc screen of thin mica, coated blue-green on one side
and orange-red on the other.
Television, it is taken for granted over here, also holds much
promise in store for the expansion of Britain's postwar production
capacity, although the industrial branch of television engineering
in this country, like in the United States, is at present still
in its infancy and the application of television devices to speed
up industrial processes is regarded as a laboratory day-dream.
Some idea of the shape of things to come, however, can be gauged
by the fact that variations of Zworykin's original Iconoscope are
already being used for quality control and routine inspection in
several branches of the chemical industry.
It is anticipated, that these and most of the other "hush-hush"
applications which were the outcome of wartime research, will be
revealed at the time of the changeover from war to peace production.
Still another phase of television, which may be expected to benefit
by the lifting of wartime restrictions is the work of the British
The British television "ham" had just about managed to elbow
his way into the short-wave fraternity and was still struggling
for official recognition when the outbreak of hostilities sounded
According to Mr. Geoffrey Parr, the secretary of the British
Television Society, this country's 400 television experimenters
affiliated to his society are hopeful about future developments.
Nevertheless, what the lot of the television "ham" will be after
the return to normal conditions in the wavelength spectrum or which,
if any, bands of frequencies will be allocated to him, remains a
source of speculation as long as the Television Advisory Committee's
report continues to be held in abeyance.
In assessing current opinion about this country's television
future in the transitional and postwar periods, one gathers the
impression, with some justification, that among the developments
which may be expected is the replacement of the present-day radio
set by the pre-1939 television receiver, fundamentally unchanged,
in the British home within a year or two after the last restrictions
have gone; in what quality or at what cost, however, there is no
means of knowing at this stage.
Furthermore, it appears to be fairly certain, too, that after
the elapse of another few years, say somewhere around 1950, this
black and white television receiver will be ousted, in turn, by
a receiver giving three-dimensional pictures in real color.
1 The equivalent of the U.S. Radio Technical
2 The BBC is a public corporation operating
under Royal Charter and responsible to the British Parliament.
Posted October 23, 2014