Chapter Five: London, Selfridges and Disillusion
In March 1925, Mr Gordon Selfridge Junior got to hear of Baird’s experiments that had resulted in the transmission of simple “shadowgraphs”, and after making some enquiries he called on Baird at Frith Street. He was given a demonstration and saw transmitted from one room to another a crude outline of a paper mask. Tiltman's book explains: "This was made to wink by covering the eyeholes with white paper, and it could be made to open and close its mouth by covering and uncovering the slot corresponding to the mouth opening." Selfridge was impressed enough to arrange for Baird to give personal demonstrations of the new device for three weeks at his Oxford Street store. He agreed to pay the inventor £25.00 a week and supply the necessary electrical current and material. Baird accepted this unexpected windfall without reservation and Selfridge arranged for a circular to be issued advertising the demonstration in April 1925.
Present the First Public
Demonstration of Television
In the Electrical Section (First Floor)
Television is to light what telephony is to sound-
it means the INSTANTANEOUS transmission of
a picture, so the observer at the “receiving”
end can see, to all intents and purposes, what is a
cinematograph view of what is happening at the
For many years experiments have been conducted
with this end in view ; the apparatus that is here
being demonstrated, is the first to be successful, and
is as different to the apparatus that transmits
pictures (that are from time to time printed in the
newspapers) as the telephone is to the telegraph.
The apparatus here demonstrated is, of course,
absolutely “in the rough” –the question of finance
is always an important one for the inventor. But
it does, undoubtedly, transmit an instantaneous
picture. The picture is flickering and defective,
and at present only simple pictures can be sent
successfully; but Edison’s first phonograph an-
nounced that “Mary had a little lamb” in a way
that only hearers who were “in the secret” could
understand-and yet, from that first result has
developed the gramophone of to-day. Unquestion-
ably the present experimental apparatus can be
similarly perfected and refined.
It has never before been shown to the Public.
Mr J. L. Baird, the sole inventor and owner of the
patent rights, will be present daily while the
apparatus is working-in the Electrical Section at
11.30 a.m., 2.30 p.m., and 3.15 p.m. He will
be glad to explain to those interested in details.
We should perhaps explain that we are in no
way financially invested in this remarkable
invention ; the demonstrations are taking place
here only because we know that our friends will
be interested in something that should rank with
the greatest inventions of the century.
SELFRIDGE & CO., LTD.
These demonstrations were packed daily by scientists and general visitors from around the country, but those expecting to see a combination of the cabinetmaker’s art and scientific equipment (as the public had come to expect from wireless receivers) were to be sadly disappointed. Instead, what their eyes beheld was a lens disc consisting of a circle cut from a cardboard box (the lenses being fixed between two layers of cardboard), whilst other parts of the apparatus showed the clear markings of a soapbox. ª The receiver consisted of a cardboard disc with sixteen holes arranged in two spirals. Synchronisation was obtained by using two little synchronous motors, one attached to the shaft of the transmitter and one to the shaft of the receiver, the motors being kept in step by a signal sent out from the transmitter, which was used to control the receiver.
These demonstrations at Selfridge’s showed nothing more than simple outlines and nothing in the shape of a human face, for as far as is officially known Baird had still not created “true television”. In spite of the publicity the inventor and his invention was receiving, his partner, Will Day, grew tired of the lack of progress and told Baird that he would not invest one penny more. By day and night Baird slaved away in Frith Street convinced that he was within grasp of the vital missing link that would allow him to progress to the next stage of development. But without further funding Baird found himself almost on the point of giving up. He was now living in poverty. His health again began to suffer, and in spite of trying to arouse interest in his project from the offices of several newspapers, he found that he was now being dismissed as nothing short of a crank. To save himself from starvation he had to realise a few shillings by selling vital parts of his apparatus. Finally, his work had stopped.
Chapter Six: Television, Fame and New Discoveries
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