Television's Opening Night (2016) - BBC - Documentary
DISTORTED TRANSMISSION Can you see me? Can you hear me? On 2nd November 1936, an unlikely troop of technicians and tap dancers, performers and producers, was about to make history. Vision and sound are on. MAN BLOWS WHISTLE The station goes on the air.
This is direct television from the studios of Alexandra Palace. This was the official birth of television in Britain. Look at this. Comedian and dancers. It's basically The X Factor! To have live moving pictures in your front room was the dawn of a new era. But there are no recordings of that first live broadcast. So we're going to restage that very first night as faithfully as we can.
I have the honour of hosting the show. Do you know, I didn't recognise you! And Professor Danielle George is going to look at the technical challenges of broadcasting live from Ally Pally. Just turn that dial. OK. And we'll create lightning in the bottle. You see it there? Oh, my God, look at that. We'll uncover a battle between two rival camera systems. Only one would make it.
So that's the disc. Bit out of balance. Our doctor of spin, Hugh Hunt... Whoa! Whoa-ho! That wasn't meant to happen. ..will attempt to resurrect Ally Pally's most extraordinary invention, a mechanical camera that could only see in the dark. All the drawings are missing. There's no instructions on how to build this thing.
We'll face setbacks and frayed tempers, just like the original trailblazers. Hugh, we need to test this. Well, OK, but... We'll switch this off, then. And we'll meet some of those television pioneers. This is John Logie Baird. This is you, Paul. Yeah.
How old are you now? I'm 104. It's a story of cogs and gears... This is all prewar technology. ..electron beams and dancing girls... That's great. I can still tap-dance.
..and one mad night... Silence, everybody. ..that helped change the world forever. This is the BBC. Welcome to television. CRACKLING In the spring of 1936, the familiar hulk of Alexandra Palace was transformed into a beacon of the future. Under orders of the BBC, over 200 feet of steel was grafted onto the east tower.
Visible for miles, this was a public announcement. This is the BBC television station at Alexandra Palace. The world's first regular domestic television service was on its way.
The fact that you can now see and hear me in your own home of course we take completely for granted, but before 1936, this would have been a radical idea. It's fitting that TV as we know it started in this building. LAUGHTER The Victorians created it as a people's palace where the masses could come for live entertainment. Little could they have imagined a world where the masses could stay at home and the entertainment would go to them. When the technology of television was starting to take shape, you have a whole range of other technologies of communication and entertainment that are already there. The telegraph has been around for decades.
And you've got cinema, which is born at the end of the 19th century, which has pictures, of course, but pictures are canned, not live. And then there's radio, which is full of sound but no pictures, but also live. This is the world that television is emerging into.
And it's not just developing the technology, it's also working out...what do you film, what do you put in the studio? On 2nd November 1936, the pioneers took a leap of faith, and in this very studio, television went live with the first official broadcast from Ally Pally. It must have been tense, not just because it was live television, but this would have been nail-biting for a different reason.
Behind the scenes, you had two rival television technologies battling it out. The BBC launched the new service as an on-air competition, with two different companies taking it in turns to broadcast from studios just a few feet apart. This was the old Marconi-EMI studio, and in here, they were testing out some of the very first electronic television cameras. Using experimental electron-beam technology, Marconi-EMI's Emitron cameras were truly cutting-edge.
But they hadn't been tested outside the laboratory. Would they be ready for live television? Next door, in Studio B, the rival system was mechanical, producing pictures by rapidly rotating discs. This steampunk technology was the brainchild of Scottish inventor John Logie Baird. 11 years earlier, he'd been the first person in the world to produce a television image. The winning technology would be the one judged best for making live programmes. In the lead-up to the first night, a coin was tossed and the Baird team won.
Ooh, let's have a look. 'The mechanical studio would transmit first.' This is where Baird's camera would have been, somewhere over there, where all that sort of '70s and '80s BBC gubbins is now, and then the presenter would have sat somewhere around here. It's not very big, is it? In 1936, this little room was home to the Baird Company's most extraordinary invention. A seven-foot-tall behemoth known as the flying spot. To prevent it catching fire, cold water was pumped through its innards.
Encased in a vacuum chamber was a steel disc three feet in diameter. Inside, it was spinning so fast, the edge of the disc was almost supersonic. This produced an intense spot of light which scanned the presenter's face. No wonder he described it as a terrifying ordeal. There are no flying spot cameras left, so to restage the first night of television, we'll have to rebuild one.
BICYCLE BELL RINGS Enter Dr Hugh Hunt, leading mechanical engineer at Cambridge University. If the theory is correct, it should break here. Hugh's renowned for his...hands-on approach to engineering conundrums. Oh, it did! OK... That's lucky for us, because our anniversary broadcast is just six weeks away. If we're going to build one of these...
then we have to figure out what they built back in 1936. The Far-Seeing. That is television. There's not much to go on.
All the drawings are missing. We haven't got a Haynes Manual. There's no instructions on how to build this thing. All the blueprints were lost when the Baird Company's headquarters at the Crystal Palace was destroyed in a catastrophic fire, less than a month after the first night.
This leaves Hugh with just a couple of photos... What's scary about it is that I don't know what's inside. ..a sketch of a similar mechanical camera from prewar Germany... Ah, the spinning speed, I think, has to go that way.
Oh, no, that's going... Oh, God, these arrows. ..and a brief description of the flying spot in an engineering paper from 1938. A disc scanner running at 6,000rpm.
Whoa! The speed of the edge of that disc was nearly the speed of sound. That's 100 times per second. 100 times a second would make a noise... HE HUMS DEEPLY That's about 100. HE HUMS DEEPLY Cor! Would have been scary! You'd have thought this thing was going to take off! As Hugh begins working out how to make moving pictures by mechanical means... ..Professor Danielle George is exploring some of the other scientific and engineering challenges of getting the first night on air.
For someone whose day job includes designing amplifiers for deep-space communication, where else is there to head first but up? This is genuinely exciting for a radio frequency engineer! Wow. This is over 80 years old and it's still so impressive, isn't it? There's 220 feet of steel up there. You can see so much of the city from here. The reason the BBC chose this site to be their first official studio was because we're sat right on top of this hill, above the line of the trees and the buildings, and so the radio waves wouldn't be blocked or attenuated by the buildings and the trees. The idea was that radio signals would be broadcast in a 25-mile radius around here, but actually, on good weather conditions, this managed to get 40 miles, which, in the 1930s, is not bad at all. GARBLED TRANSMISSIONS The studios at Ally Pally have been out of commission for decades.
So for our 80th anniversary broadcast, we're taking over an old 1930s theatre just down the road. We at the BBC are proud that the government should have decided to entrust us with the conduct of the new service. There are no video recordings of the live broadcast.
At this moment of the starting of television, our first tribute must be to those whose brilliant and devoted research... Although we have unearthed an audio recording. ..Britain leads today. And the original script and running order. Cor, look at this. Monday 2nd November 1936. It sort of takes you right back.
And look at this, you've got actually... stage positions where everyone's going to be sitting, where the camera is, it tells you everything you need to know. Who needs actual recordings when you have this? God, and look, they've got the... This is the original opening announcement by Leslie Mitchell, who I know was... a sort of well-known presenter, he was sometimes called the Adonis of television.
I shall be playing him. NO SOUND Leslie Mitchell was an actor turned BBC radio announcer. He didn't actually apply for the TV job at all and was surprised to learn he was about to become the first face of the new service after reading about it in a newspaper. And this is the more official version of it. Let's have a look.
Opening ceremony. Adele Dixon, singer, and Buck and Bubbles, comedian and dancers. It's basically... It's basically The X Factor! The callboy arrives. The programme is about to begin. This short film showcasing the launch went out after the live broadcast.
It was the first official BBC documentary. Engineers stand by in the control room. And it started a fine tradition of TV blowing its own trumpet.
The controllers are ready on vision...and sound. It was shot and edited on 35mm film, so was much better quality than the original live TV images. The producer is waiting at his microphone to speak his last word to the artist. But it clearly shows us, despite their modest budget of under £150 for performers and sets, the pioneers were aiming high with their opening act.
# A mighty maze of mystic, magic rays # Is all about us in the blue... # Adele Dixon was a very big name to have on the first night and that was a real coup for the BBC. Here was someone who was a star of West End musicals, singing that specially composed song about mystic, magic rays.
# There's joy in store... # Even though she was associated with television, she herself actually was a bit dubious about it, she refused to buy a television set of her own, and always much preferred radio, she thought of it as a more intelligent medium, as many people did. # ..That bring television # To you. #
SONG IS PLAYED ON PIANO We've found the score for that specially composed song buried in the archives. # By the magic rays of light # That bring television # To you. # Yeah, I need...to breathe.
So, with a bit of fine-tuning, we've got our first act. None of the original performers from the first night are still alive. DOG BARKS Oh, hi. Are you Lily's dog? Hi, dog. But just a stone's throw from the old studios, there's someone I want to meet who comes pretty close...
That's great! ..having stepped in front of the cameras just two months after Adele Dixon. Hello! Hi! What a pleasure to meet you. And you, too, darling. Thank you very much for coming to chat. May I give you a kiss? You may. Absolutely. And one... Ooh, two! The French style. Do come in. Thank you very much. Now in her 92nd year, Lily Frier was talent-spotted as a young girl singing and dancing in the theatre.
This is terrific. And this has been sort of coloured in afterwards. Yes, yes. I was 12, I think. You were 12! I'll make you a nice cup of tea. Thank you very much. Excuse me not walking properly, but... Tea good. And you're on your fifth hip, is that right? Fifth, yes.
Fifth, that's pretty good going. Yes. But I can still tap-dance. Can you? Can we have a look at...? Just listen to that. Let's have a look at the tap dance. Teach me one tap-dance move, because I've never tap-danced.
Oh, it's wonderful. How do I...? Give me... Give me one little quick lesson. Shuffle down. One, two, three, one, two, three, four. One... Hang on. One, two... No, toe. Tap, tap. You've got to do this from your ankle, tap, tap, down.
I'm really not very flexible. Lily was just 12 years old when on 6th January 1937, she performed two variety acts in Studio A with Leslie Mitchell presenting. One of those acts was... very much of its time. Look at how old I was. Oh, my goodness, look at this. HE GASPS
My mother made the wig. Oh, gosh! I was going to ask about the wig. Yeah. I mean, this is a long time... Obviously, you couldn't... do something like this now. Ooh, wouldn't dare, no, wouldn't dare now. Do you remember the song that you sung? Do you know what? I don't know if I remember all the words. Come on. You're allowed a few... # When did you leave heaven?
# How did they let you go? # What have you come to tell me? # I'd like to know... # Went... That's gone now, I can't remember the words. It's great. What kind of music do you like? I notice... # If I kissed you, my dear # Would it be a sin? # No, it's gone. SHE SINGS WORDLESSLY
Fewer than 300 television sets had been sold by the time Lily performed, so stores like Selfridges ran demonstrations where people could marvel at the new medium. Did you have any idea what television was? No, not many people had televisions, and then they were tiny ones, they weren't... Yeah. But I loved doing it, I really did. And my dad wanted to see... He went to Selfridges, cos they would... They did the demonstrations there, yeah. Yeah. And they said, "Sorry, you can't come in, it's full up."
He said, "But my daughter's on there." So when he said that, he went in. I mean, that was the beginning of television, and you were the first, so... When I've told people that they were coming today, I said, "It's not because I'm famous, it's because I'm alive."
Because everybody else is dead! They... It is true! What do you think of television now? Do you watch TV now? Oh... It's rubbish. BELL CHIMES In Cambridge, Hugh's building a prototype flying spot camera to try out the spinning disc concept. We're nearly there. He needs somewhere dark to begin experiments, so he's commandeered the home of the University Footlights...
We're going to try and go onto this black wall there... ..and roped in engineering student Charlie, who's a dab hand with stage lighting. The flying spot lived up to its name. An intense light passed through holes in the spinning disc to create a fast-moving beam.
This scanned across the presenter's face thousands of times a second. The light reflected back was then picked up by banks of photoelectric cells. These sent tiny electrical impulses to be pieced back into an image at the receiving end.
Is that more or less in the right spot? Hang on, let me just... Oh, you can move the light more easily than I can... To test the principle, Hugh wants to see if a small metal disc can produce descending lines of light. This disc has got 30 holes on a spiral and you can see that when this spins, you can see the spiral going around and around. And, ideally, if we shine a bright light through the holes, it's going to produce our scanner.
Oh, that's a good shout as well. And now is the disc going to fit? Yes, just. So, now... Have you got that Allen key? Oh! It's reasonably secure. Reasonably is the word I use when I mean not very. OK, that's pretty tight now. OK, so...
this is our first spin up, let's see how it goes. How bent is it? It's not that bent. Good. Is that...? Is that working now? It's working! OK, I'm going...going darker. All right, now, I'm straightaway seeing... that there's a lot of stray light.
Yeah. Is there any way we can cover this space? I'll go have a look. When Hugh starts using photoelectric cells...
Is that going to be big enough? Yeah, that looks good. ..they'll only work if everything apart from the object being scanned is in complete darkness. I don't have a dog, but if my dog had breakfast... So, you've got to still be able to get to the drill. Ah! OK, spinning slowly.
How's that looking? It looks really good. You can clearly see the lines going across him. Great. Speeding up. Because the 30 holes are in a spiral, each revolution sends 30 lines down the face. Woohoo! What are you seeing? It's amazing. It's really good. I can't see! If Logie Baird had a battery operated electric drill...
CHARLIE LAUGHS ..he'd have had a much easier job. Are you all right? Do you want a hand? It's OK. Producing lines of light from a disc is one thing... ..but in order to transmit that image, they need to turn those lines of light into an electric signal. Luckily, that can be done using a phenomenon called the photoelectric effect. This is what makes television possible, as Danielle's going to demonstrate.
OK, so I'm going to show you the photoelectric effect just using this copper coin. So I'm just going to connect it to my circuit here. Just use a peg as a bit of a stand.
And I'm just going to put some water on top of this piece of wire, and that's really just to conduct the electricity. So that when we shine a torch on this, we should be able to see the difference in voltage. It would be nice to try and hear the photoelectric effect as well, so I've just rigged up here a sound system so we can hear a synthesised sound as the voltage changes.
CONTINUOUS TONE So let's give it a try. TONE RISES IN PITCH TONE LOWERS IN PITCH TONE RISES IN PITCH So you can really, really hear it. TONE RISES IN PITCH So what's happening there is that the light from this torch is being converted into electrical energy. TONE LOWERS IN PITCH It's such a great noise.
And that is the photoelectric effect, and it was really important in the birth of television. The photoelectric effect was first discovered by English engineer Willoughby Smith in 1873. He was testing cables for a telegraph system using a substance called selenium as an electrical insulator. To his surprise, when the selenium was exposed to sunlight, it started producing electric current. This was TV's big bang moment.
Now it was only a matter of time before someone created an electric image. That man was John Logie Baird. Improving on a paper design patented by a 19th-century German inventor, Paul Nipkow, he created the first television picture using spinning discs and selenium photocells on 2nd October 1925.
This breakthrough sealed Baird's place in the history books. This camera here, that's an early colour camera. Today, his grandson Iain is keeping the family business alive as curator of a vast collection of TV technology with Baird's 1925 television scanner as its centrepiece. This is the double-8 apparatus from 1925.
These are actually bicycle lenses, and they collect the light very well and put it onto the photoelectric cell. And he'd used quite a few bicycle components, like the bicycle lamp lenses, the chain ring, whatever was available, radio, electric motors were all cobbled together to make the new technology. He was a big fan of HG Wells, who used to make these things seem possible in his books. Yeah.
He was using a system which required the subject to be intensely illuminated. To have someone actually sit there for more than a minute was very uncomfortable, so the idea of borrowing a ventriloquist's dummy as a test subject meant he could adjust things and Stooky Bill wouldn't complain about the heat at all. Let's turn him around. And this is the original one? This is the original one. Well, you can see he's lost some of his hair. He has. This was the amount of light we're talking about here.
As the dummies were prone to singeing under the hot lights, Baird kept spares. In a period of feverish experimentation, he managed to record this ghostly image of another Stooky Bill onto a gramophone disc in 1927. Although his pictures were ground-breaking, it was obvious that if television wanted to compete with cinema or even radio, the technology had a long way to go. Wow! But was Baird the man to refine it? He was certainly driven.
He was always looking for the next big idea that would enable him to become an inventor, an entrepreneur. Before moving into television, he'd tried inventing everything from man-made diamonds to medicated socks. These journals started around 1928. And they were very much based on the experiments of John Logie Baird. This is a fairly early one.
His entrepreneurial spirit and eye for publicity ensured that from the moment he got his first pictures, his name would be synonymous with television. Yeah, he's sort of front cover every month, isn't he? Yep. People were obviously interested in the man as well, because you've got, you know, "John Logie Baird talks to the amateur," and then, "John Logie Baird - the man." You know, it's a two-page spread just about John Logie Baird. I think his spirit of innovation takes us back to the idea of the lone inventor. He did definitely dream of the future and then tried to make it happen.
We're going to go on a little bit of a thieving mission. With our broadcast fast approaching... We know where to come for lenses.
..Hugh's trying to turn Baird's dreams into reality. Just trying to get bits and pieces that...hopefully no-one will miss. Like the 1936 team, he's using photoelectric cells inside a device which will multiply their effect. OK, so I've got to adjust the photomultiplier so it's pointing at me. So hopefully... Though his is a tad smaller. This will pick up the light reflected from the test card and turn it into electric signals that Arthur hopes to record and piece into a moving image.
Maltese cross in place. Take the Maltese cross out. Light. So we've got a wide range of different things there. So, are we ready? Yeah.
Let's see what it looks like. OK. OK. Whoa! That's not bad! That's our first movie. Baird's first public demonstration of a television image was also of a shadowy Maltese cross. But by the time of the launch of Ally Pally, mechanical cameras could produce images as good as this - a rare snapshot taken from the flying spot. It scanned the presenter with a whopping 240 lines of light.
So far, Hugh's managed only 30 lines. To improve picture quality, he needs to add more holes. But that means a bigger disc - a much bigger disc. If you do the maths on it, it turns out that the size of the disc you need goes up as the square of the number of holes. That means, going to 240 lines, you need a 20-metre diameter disc. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
I'm only halfway. The disc is... You're not going to do television with a 20-metre spinning disc. Yet they did it. In 1936, they did 240-line television. The flying spot's disc was big, but it was nowhere near 20 metres. In fact, it was just under one metre in diameter.
So how on earth did it produce 240 lines of light? Well, the Baird team found an ingenious solution. They spread their 240 holes across several different spirals. The one disc had four spirals of 60 holes.
But that meant he needed a second disc... to block out the holes that he wasn't using. Now, the first disc, with the four spirals of 60 holes, had to spin four times faster.
This two disc synchronised system meant the larger one had to spin 100 times a second. Much faster and it would've been producing shock waves. It's a formidable challenge for Hugh's team. If I had a couple of years and it was my full-time job, yeah, I'd do it. But I think it would take that length of time to get it right. It's not a trivial task.
I don't think we can do it. I don't think we can do 240 lines. It's really difficult. Building a mechanical TV camera to meet our live broadcast deadline is looking daunting. Just as it did for the Baird team.
But what about the rival electronic system? Work began on the Emitron cameras just a few years before the first night. But the technology inside was only made possible by decades of experimentation, trying to harness beams of electrons inside a cathode ray tube. So whilst Logie Baird and his team were getting all the limelight about their work on the spinning discs, I want to show you what the opposition was doing with an experiment that is quite fundamental to the birth of the electronic age. What do we have here? I'm making a DIY electron beam. Love it. In a wine bottle. I love it even more. Exactly.
So what we have on our wine bottle here is just a hole drilled in. We then have some aluminium wire. OK. And that forms one side of the circuit. Got it. The other side of the circuit is just on a wire here, and we want to create a spark... Right, OK. ..through that gap, OK?
And then you can see this is going off to the vacuum pump, cos we're going to give it a vacuum so the electrons can move a bit better. OK. Let's put our goggles on. Right, if you could switch it on, please. Ready? Yep. So we're actually going to be pushing quite a lot of voltage, a few thousand volts, through this so we can see the electron... Got it. ..beam. All we now need to do is turn that dial... OK.
..and we'll create lightning in the bottle. Could we just bring the lights down a bit, please? Yep. All right, so... Right. See? Oh, my God, look at that! That's fantastic. That is so good, isn't it? It's really clear. Yeah.
This was so important in television history... Yeah. ..because it's basically the heart of a cathode ray tube... Yeah. ..and this is what we're trying to show here. And, as you know, cathode ray tubes are in televisions, but they're also in the cameras as well. Yeah.
Like Paul Nipkow's spinning discs, the ideas here date back to 19th-century Germany where, in 1897, physicist Karl Ferdinand Braun made the very first cathode ray tube. Look at that. You can see it as I just move it across. Yeah. I'm manipulating that beam of electrons. 'Creating an electron beam was one thing, 'learning how to control it using electrode magnets was another.' It took over three decades to perfect.
Only then could images be scanned electronically to compete with the mechanical cameras. The battle lines between the rival technologies were being drawn. Now the national broadcaster needed to be convinced television was worth its attention. When the BBC opened its new flagship headquarters in 1932, the dominant medium of the age had no need for pictures, thank you very much. Robert. Hi. Welcome to Broadcasting House. Lovely to see you. Thank you very much. I think you've been here before.
A couple of times, and with buildings you know very well, you take it all for granted, and it's such a magnificent place. Well, this building is all about confidence... Yes. ..in the new magic medium of radio. Basically said radio's arrived... Yes. ..and you have entered... you, Dallas, have entered the palace
of the temple of the arts and muses. And, basically, it's saying that broadcasting is here for everybody and it will change people's lives and create a better world. STATIC The BBC radio service only started in 1922. Studios to right and to left. Within eight years, every second home in the country was tuning in. So this is the Radio Theatre, this is the big public space, really, at the heart of Broadcasting House, so this is where audiences would come to hear dance bands, variety, comedy shows.
Now you're going to hear the first performance of the new BBC Dance Orchestra, directed by Henry Hall. # It's just the time for dancing... # 'To you, Birmingham.'
'To you, Manchester.' The spoken word ruled the airwaves. And the famously resolute first director-general of the BBC, Lord Reith, saw no reason for that to change.
Just do moral rectitude. OK. IN SCOTTISH ACCENT: "Aye, that's my work done for the day." I'd like a rise, sir. It's quite odd being in this room, cos you do feel slightly judged with that portrait of Reith looking very sternly "doon" at you. He would not be happy with us doing this in this room now.
I mean, he famously hated television, didn't he? He did, he did, he absolutely abhorred it. I think there are some good reasons. Yeah. I mean, radio was a new medium, so he wanted radio to be effective before he was diverted to this new juvenile medium. I think also he didn't trust television. He came from this very Scottish Presbyterian... Yes. ..upbringing.
He came from a church that decried the visual and the word was important, and radio was positioned as the serious medium... Yeah. ..television was all about populism, and that debate still carries on today. But he was a great populist, we can't take that away from him. He wanted to... In his own... He was a populist in that he wanted television... well, broadcasting to be spread amongst everyone.
He did, but it was his idea of broadcasting. OK, right. Quite patrician. Ah, here we are. Operatic Gems. OPERATIC MUSIC PLAYS I think those principles are still...
I think we've never found a better ethos, and it's memorable, it's crisp and it's defining. It's quite... Inform, educate, entertain, it's as true then as it was is. Yeah, and straight off the bat, as well, they came up with...
He actually borrowed it from someone else. Oh, did he steal it? But then more mature poets do, as they say. Yeah. Reith may have abhorred the idea, but after years of badgering by Baird, in 1932, the BBC used his equipment to try broadcasting experimental programmes. These went out late at night, after the wireless service had shut down, using existing radio frequencies to transmit low definition 30-line images.
They were quite literally sending pictures by wireless. Those who were watching were watching them on home-made sets, and rather like in the very early days of wireless broadcasting, what you've got is enthusiasts and amateurs who are actually, in a way, more interested in the technology and the kits and the fact that they were receiving a signal at all than in the content. By 1934, the government began contemplating an official television service. National pride was now at stake. In America, work on cathode ray technology was racing ahead.
'Sieg heil. Sieg heil.' And in Germany, preparations were under way for a state-run service. Programmes deemed suitable by the Nazis would be beamed into public viewing parlours. There was a national, international vortex whirling up, and the fact that Germany had television, not domestically... No. ..but they had television early, and the Second World War was brewing, there was a sense of disquiet in the nation that the UK had to get on with it. Yeah.
So there was pressure put on Reith to be more professionally interested in this new medium. And did he ever come round to thinking, "Actually, it's pretty good, television"? No. He always hated it? Nope. Do you know what? He never...? When he left... When he left the BBC, he got given, amongst an array of presents, a television set, and he wrote in his diary, "I will never use it!" Determined not to be beaten by the Germans or Americans, the government lent on the BBC to start a regular British television service. One condition was that the pictures should have at least 240 lines, 60 more than the Germans.
But with Lord Reith at the helm, those TV fools were sent to a hill in north London and told to prepare. If the launch had happened a few years earlier, John Logie Baird's company might have expected to win the contract outright. But mechanical television was no longer the only show in town. In the unlikely setting of rural Nottinghamshire, Danielle's on the trail of the electronic opposition. Wow. Some people might think this is junk.
But not to me. Here, amongst an extraordinary collection of TV memorabilia... These cameras. Good grief. ..engineer Paul Marshall can reveal THE technological breakthrough that made electronic television possible.
So here is a 1948 camera tube, which is the heart of the camera, the thing that actually makes the pictures. It's the same technology that was used prewar to produce Iconoscope cameras. Can I hold it? Yes. Be careful. HE CHUCKLES
Thank you. It's... It's a lot lighter than I thought it was going to be. Yes, well, there's a lot of... I was going to say "fresh air", but in actual fact, it's a vacuum. A vacuum, right. It's beautiful. And very rare, presumably, is it? Incredibly rare. I think there's probably less than six, and I've got four of them.
THEY LAUGH Brilliant! The Iconoscope tube was the brainchild of Vladimir Zworykin, a Russian engineer working far from home at the Radio Corporation of America. It was here that he successfully manipulated an electron beam inside a vacuum tube to scan an image off a plate of light-sensitive photocells. This is a prewar Iconoscope.
Here is the electron beam, so this is what I was trying to do with my wine bottle. Much more sophisticated here, of course. But what's really interesting here is you can really see the mosaic plate. Now, that plate has actually got millions of tiny photocells on it, and that's the thing that will capture the image.
And, actually, what it's trying to do is mimic the human eye. So the inventor, Zworykin, that's why he called it "the electric eye". NEWSREEL: The optic nerve of a camera picture tube is the electron beam, controlled by electromagnets. The beam scans the picture which is on the plate in rapid, sweeping motions from side to side, from top to bottom.
When the beam hits the image, it loses varying amounts of electrons and then bounces back to the opposite end of the picture tube where it is amplified millions of times. It would be so nice to actually see one of these working. Well, I think I can help you there. This is our makeshift studio, isn't it? Yes, it is. Excellent. After you. Thank you.
Welcome to my test demonstration facility. Excellent. And meet the Image Iconoscope camera. That's amazing! Look at it. And there is the innards revealed. Oh, wow! There we go. So this is all prewar technology?
This is absolutely prewar technology, apart from the modern electronics which are driving the tube. The key thing is the tube. The revolutionary tube inside American Iconoscope camera was closely emulated by the British Emitron. But as there are no working Emitrons left... Paul's reconstructed Iconoscope is the closest we'll get to seeing the sort of prewar electronic pictures that would have been generated at Ally Pally. OK, so if I just come in...
Yes... You can sort of see me. But these lights are incredibly bright here. Ah, well, that's the feature of the Iconoscope technology, and it's well recorded how hot the studios at Alexandra Palace and other studios around the world got.
Now, I've just got to adjust the beam focus, and there you are. Yeah, that's so clear! A little bit on the image focus. My forehead looks a bit big. Yes, well, that's one of the issues of the electron gun being off at an angle. OK. We've got a control for that. We can give you an even bigger head... Yeah! ..or we can bring you back down to something like you would expect to see yourself in the mirror.
The cameraman was the tip of the iceberg, in that back at the control unit here, which was physically much bigger in those days, you would've had the racks man, who was in charge of all these tilt and bend controls. And so if someone was moving in the live broadcast, this racks man would have to try and keep up with that as well? Absolutely. I love this idea of having one cameraman and having a rack man and someone running around with a soldering iron behind the scenes as well.
Oh, it was complete seat-of-the-pants stuff, because this thing was going wrong frequently. The complex geometry of the early camera tubes was just one of the problems facing the Marconi-EMI engineers in the rush to first night. They'd set themselves the hugely ambitious goal of a 405-line image. On paper, this would put the Emitron ahead of the 240-line flying spot. But the reality was not clear-cut, because the pictures from the mechanical camera were considered by many to be better. With our broadcast now just three weeks away, Hugh's flying spot has a long way to go.
In search of advice, he's visiting a fellow mechanical engineer... Hello. Mr Reveley. ..who has first-hand knowledge of Baird's prewar technology. Very pleased to meet you. Yes, and I'm glad to see you. Now aged 104, Paul Reveley was just 21 when he joined Baird Television. Within a year, he'd become John Logie Baird's right-hand man.
I thought you might be interested to see my employment contract with Baird Television. Look at that. "15th day of February, 1932." This is John Logie Baird. That's him. This is you, Paul. Yeah. And this is Miss...?
Miss Sarbury. She was employed for the day just to be a model. I can remember she was a very good-looking girl.
And you're wearing headphones. I'm listening to the video signal. So, do you think it's good advice to listen to the signal? It's a way of monitoring your signal, if you don't have a cathode ray available. Well, this is quite exciting, because I'm trying to produce a mechanical flying spot camera. Well, yes. If you can... And... If you do that successfully, you will get a very precise picture. What are you going to do, steel disc? Well, I'm going to use an aluminium desk.
Is that a problem? Oh... Will that be strong enough to take the centrifugal forces? Yeah... I'm hoping not to... I don't want to run at 6,000rpm. Oh, no, you won't have to do that. Well, I can run at 1,500rpm. You'll have to run at 1,500. Paul's knowledge of mechanical television remains as sharp as ever.
But in a little-known twist to the Baird story, it turns out neither Paul nor his boss actually installed the 1936 flying spot into Ally Pally. Desperately short of cash, Baird sold his company four years earlier. Soon after, he was ousted in a boardroom coup, and overall control was handed to a Captain West.
So Baird was not involved in Alexandra Palace? No, not at all. He wasn't even invited to the opening ceremony. That's very sad. It was very sad.
The equipment put into Alexandra Palace was under Captain West's overview. Did you ever meet Captain West? Oh, yes, yes. What was he like? He was a much harder kind of personality than JLB. And how would you describe JLB? You wouldn't imagine JLB being a good works manager.
But Captain West was that type of person. Right. With Captain West running the show, Baird continued to work on his cameras from his home in south London, with young Paul his sole assistant. He used to exist in his bedroom. He would perhaps...
Maybe once a day he would come down and say, "Have you anything to show me, Mr Reveley?" How did he react when things went wrong? Well, they didn't go wrong, because we had it all pre-prepared. HUGH LAUGHS Fuelled by Paul's advice, back in Cambridge, Hugh hits the workshop. Right... We can cut a 580 circle in here.
Yeah, just about. Because he can't fit 240 holes onto a single disc... ..he's decided to go for a 60-hole spiral instead. To help compensate for the missing lines, Hugh and his team need to make sure their flying spot studio is completely lightproof. What we've done here is made a box for the presenter to sit in. Then the light coming from the window and the disc that's out there is going to shine on my face and the dot will track across my face like this.
To try and boost the picture's definition, it's time to bring out the big guns. These two photomultipliers we borrowed from the Cavendish Physics Laboratories in Cambridge. They use them for detecting photons from the Large Hadron Collider, looking for the Higgs-Boson. So they've got a good pedigree. We've got to learn how to use them properly. Yeah, there's not much time left.
OK, spinning up the disc. METALLIC SCRAPING A bit scrapey. We'd like to run at 1,500rpm, which is 25 frames per second, but we're not going to get that. There's a lot of windage.
If you put your hand here, you feel the wind. That's where our energy is being lost, and I guess that explains why Logie Baird put his disc in a vacuum. The 1936 vacuum chamber removed any air resistance, allowing the disc to spin four times faster than Hugh's.
See that's wobbling around? Without a vacuum, the air resistance is unbalancing his disc. Unless he can maintain a precise speed, turning the electrical signals into a live image will be almost impossible. All right, we're locking you in. Annamaria? Can you put your hand in front of your left eye? It's not so easy to distinguish, but that is her face and her hand. The speed's changed a bit, though.
Got no bloody time to do anything with this. If Hugh doesn't get his camera up and running soon, our anniversary broadcast will be over before it's started. At the studios, rehearsals are about to begin. Getting there. 80 years ago, they obviously believed less is more. Many of the early variety shows were under ten minutes long.
RAGTIME PIANO MUSIC On opening night, headliner Adele Dixon was followed by American tap-dancing legend John Bubbles and his partner, Buck, making them the first black artists on television anywhere in the world. According to the Radio Times listings, next up were contortionist plate-spinners from China. Sadly, this niche act was dropped shortly before they went live. But happily for our show, 80 years later, we'll include contortionist pot-spinners from Ghana.
Eh, close enough. What strikes me most about the opening show is how light and frothy it all was. So was that by accident or design? The rush to get television invented meant that all the money had been spent on the science, and they hadn't really thought about what to put on it. Yeah. I think Reith and the BBC at the time, when they looked at the future of television, I think they perceived something like the David Attenborough shows. As we know, only a part of television has fulfilled that. What really drives television are the low arts, are variety, are soap operas, are recurring series.
The National Programme from London. Variety had proved such a success on radio, but they had to differentiate it, so they made the first programmes very visual. So if you look, you've got jugglers on. Juggling doesn't work on radio.
You've got plate-spinners - doesn't work on radio. But there was another concern, because they had understood from the experimental service that people got eyestrain. It was very difficult. You had to concentrate.
The picture wobbled somewhat, it wasn't a perfect picture. That's interesting. And so having acts and presentations and performances in bite-sized chunks meant that you could concentrate for those few seconds and then you could relax awhile and get ready for the next act to come on. The producers' ambition for an all-singing, all-dancing live spectacle in a brightly lit studio gave the Baird engineers a problem. Their mechanical camera was designed to see in the dark. The flying spot camera could only work if the person is sat absolutely still in a blackened-out box, head and shoulders straight to the camera. That was its limit.
But they had a singer, an orchestra and dancers all in that first show, so how on earth did they do it? Well, the Baird Company had to get a little bit more inventive. In desperation, they resorted to a tried and tested technology - the movie camera. For live TV, they needed a way of developing the film as soon as it left the camera, so they built a processing lab around it. It was totally crazy, but at the time, it was the only way to be able to do this. Here we have a modern film processor. The film runs through the machine here to the chemical tanks up the steps here.
Each of these tanks the film goes through, goes up and down through the tanks, all the way through, and then comes out into this last tower at the back. Baird, with his system, managed to get this reduced down to fit under his camera. The Baird team miniaturised an entire film lab and installed it inside a soundproof booth in the studio. But back then, film processing took up to an hour, no good for live TV. So to speed up the process, they made some toxic changes to the developing chemicals One of the bars was almost neat cyanide, which is the same thing that they use in gas chambers, you know, for executing people, so it was almost as though the Baird team were sitting on a gas chamber.
After developing, each frame of the still-wet negative film was scanned by a spinning disc camera in a process called telecine. According to presenter Leslie Mitchell, the fastest they managed to turn the film into TV pictures was 54 seconds. Astonishingly quick, but still not quite live. Despite the engineers' ingenuity, the telecine camera system was obviously flawed.
The pictures were not as clear as those of the mechanical flying spot. And the film-processing machinery was notoriously unreliable. If anything failed, Leslie Mitchell, inside his box, would have to be ready to carry the whole show. As first night loomed, the Baird pioneers had a lot riding on the flying spot. 80 years later, we're in the same boat. Whoa-ho. No pressure, Hugh.
Wow. Hi, Hugh. Hi, Hugh. Hi. This is it, is it? Yeah. Great, isn't it? What do you think? Hi, Danielle. Hi. Lovely to see you.
In the back of the van, I've got this booth. Where's it going to go? It's going to go right here. It's very heavy. Our spinning disc will be here? Yes.
We need a bright light, and that's going to have to be over here. Hugh, how lit is it going to be inside? How lit? Yes. Lit?! How lit will Dallas be? Lit?! You're in complete darkness.
Then you're going to have... flashing lights. OK. Brilliant. And after half an hour of this, you are going to be... Have a coronary. Right, OK. So, roof.
Are you confident it's going to work? Along the way, everything has worked at least once. Brilliant. That's all you can ask for, isn't it? We've only got to do it once. Exactly. Four hours and a lot of tinkering later...
..it's time to fire up a BBC flying spot studio for the first time in almost eight decades. Not plugged in. Ha! Getting worried there.
Now, with any luck, we should be getting something in there. Yeah. So we'll put the Maltese cross there. OK, are we ready? The moment of truth. The moment of truth. Exactly.
OK? Yeah! And... THEY EXCLAIM IN ANTICIPATION THEY CHEER My God, it works! That's amazing! But there is one problem. Have you got the image of the photomultiplier stand in the way?! Yeah, but it's a small price to pay. Look, it bloody works! So it may need a little refining, but to obtain a live picture from a spinning piece of metal, well, it still seems pretty astonishing. The pioneers transmitted the first show 25 miles or more. We're going for a more modest broadcast... All right.
..all the way to our greenroom. What I want is something that's going to transmit like Ally Pally was transmitting, so... Yeah, OK. Well, let's try this one. OK. We're using a 65-year-old TV, a spring chicken compared to the first cathode ray sets.
The original domestic sets had to accommodate the two rival picture standards. This is a television set that people would have actually watched the opening night on in 1936, and if you open it up here, the first thing that you see is a mirror, and the reason that you have a mirror is that the cathode ray tube which is inside this is so long, so it's upended, it points up towards the ceiling, and therefore, you have to have a mirror here to actually see what's on the screen. And what dates this particular set very, very precisely to this moment at the end of 1936 is this switch here.
There, you see, it's switched to 405, which is 405 lines, the Marconi-EMI system, and if I flick that, it goes to 240 lines, which is the Baird system. Who was watching television? How many people had television sets and could have tuned in to programme one? We're only talking a few hundred, and only in a very small space in the London area. Yes. And, of course, people that could afford sets were rich. The sets were fantastically expensive. Yeah.
They differed from about £50 to £80 when the average wage was about 140. INAUDIBLE Half the average wage would be like spending £10,000 to £15,000 today. That's a lot of money for a prototype gogglebox. Even the name "television" seemed to be quite controversial, didn't it? Yes. I mean, people thought it's a half-Greek word,
a half-Latin word, you know, it's not going to... It's not perfect, by any means. Yeah. I mean, I think we had to learn the grammar that you use to talk about television. They weren't called viewers, they were called "lookers-in". Oh, no! No, no, we're all right. Hugh's been busy honing his pictures, but he's also getting sound...
SQUEAKING ..and not the sort we need. I can fiddle it around to get rid of the squeak. RATTLING But it's a fine line between squeak and rattle. A rattling camera tomorrow will derail our entire show.
Because this is right here in the studio, it's going to be impossible to actually hear what's going to go on. It's going to be incredibly noisy. Er... These are actually the words that I'm going to say tomorrow, and it's an amalgamation of a couple of things. It's Leslie Mitchell's words, and the chairman of the BBC, and there's a lot of it, and it's not like I can actually have this in the booth itself, cos it'll be pitch-black, and there's no autocue, so I'm just going to have to learn it. It's quite a mouthful. "This is the BBC television service at Alexandra Palace.
"We are met, some in this studio..." 'Apparently, Leslie Mitchell was also handed pages of script 'to learn just hours before the original broadcast. 'I'm all for historical accuracy, but this is heavy going.' LOUD SQUEAKING Well, it's not that one there.
It can't be that one there. Oh, it's worse! Yeah, which one is it? 'Mitchell got so frustrated, he tore up the script, 'daring the producers to sack him. 'I feel his pain.' So, we're going to have to hacksaw this out. It's getting close to the wire now...
We can't get rid of this squeak. ..but with Hugh still battling intermittent noises from his disc... Right, try that. ..we haven't rehearsed a single line of the show. Hugh, we need to test this. We need to get on and... Well, OK... We'll switch this off, then.
I mean, is it just the noise. That's it? It's really quiet. It's perfectly quiet! It's quieter than my TV at home. OK, fire up. And... Right. Hold on. Right, I'm going to... Yay! Let me see. HUGH CHUCKLES
Oh, yeah, excellent! It's a good job I'm not epileptic, with this... OK. You have to speak up. We can't hear you. LOUDER: Can you hear me now? Yes. Yeah, you've got to shout, though. SHOUTING: This is the BBC television service... But tomorrow, how are we going to cue him? Cos we can't be shouting, cos the orchestra's playing as well.
I do like the idea of a stick. I quite like the idea of a stick. Danielle... Have you got that drill? Let's just... Where's the drill with the drillbit? Any old drillbit. We can use our 30-hole disc and just... Pow! Right. ..government... Hey, Dallas. Yes? Charlie's about to drill a hole in your back. Should I move?
Here we go. OK, I'm leaning forward. Right, it's in. OK, now, Dallas? Yeah? Sit down in your normal position. OK.
Ow! OK, yeah. LAUGHTER That is really annoying and distracting. Well... That's going to be your cue tomorrow.
How do you feel about that? Er... Yeah. 'Back in the day, 'Leslie Mitchell was cued by a sharp jab to his ribs from an assistant.' Got it. Have you fallen off your chair? Just about. Then, as now, the flying spot was a cruel mistress. On 2nd November 1936, a motley band of engineers, ex-radio producers and variety acts prepared to make television a reality.
'We are met, some in this studio at the Alexandra Palace, 'and others at viewing points miles away.' This is the BBC television service at Alexandra Palace. We are here, some in this studio, others at viewing points...
Poor Leslie Mitchell was plastered with high-contrast make-up to help the flying spot's primitive photocells read the details on his face. But I look more like I'm about to step into a circus ring than a television studio. Oh, wow! I know! It's ridiculous! I didn't recognise you. I don't recognise myself. Is it the suit? Maybe it's the suit. Well, maybe it's the suit. Yeah. One of the biggest challenges in the Baird studio was coordinating the live flying spot camera in the box with the film telecine camera that took 54 seconds to produce images.
The trick was making the lookers-in at home think the whole thing was seamless. To work out how the pioneers might have done it, we'll attempt a 54-second lag between our two cameras. And in the spirit of the original live broadcast, we'll just have to busk it if anything goes wrong. So has someone got a walkie-talkie I could borrow? I'll unplug you.
Is that all right? Thank you. Our intrepid floor manager, AKA Danielle, will stage manage what could be pure mayhem. What are you receiving now? Coming and going. That's not too bad now. I felt, like, quietly confident before, and now I've sort of gone through the script. Blimey, you know, there's the whole timing side of it, and it's massive, you know. It's really nerve-racking.
SQUEAKING So the noise has come back, and it's very close to the show, so we're now doing a number of experiments to try and work out what's causing it. OK... We can't have this while the orchestra are playing and while there are dancers going to music, and if we don't get it fixed, we kind of ruin everyone else's performance, so we're working quite hard to get rid of it.
80 years ago, as broadcast loomed, the tense studio was under the watchful gaze of the government committee overseeing the launch. A lot was riding on the opening show. Hello! 'Our guest of honour is 91-year-old Lily...' Thank you.
'..the oldest surviving performer from the earliest days 'of Ally Pally.' You get the best seat in the house. Do I? In fact, you get the only seat in the house. Because I'm the eldest, you see. Exactly. We saved the best for you.
OK, right, this is your seat here. Right. Shall I sit down now? Yep, please do. Right, OK. Now, hopefully, if this all works, you will see Dallas appear on there. I think we've managed to fix the squeak by oiling it, of all things. A little drop of oil. Who'd have thought that would work?!
I think we're ready for it, and... fingers crossed nothing goes wrong at the last minute. Everyone, can I have your attention, please? Welcome to 2nd November 1936. CHEERING This is going to be a very difficult and challenging thing, to try and get the timings between what happens in that booth and what happens in here.
Danielle is going to also be floor manager. Yeah, I'm going to try and manage this live performance, so we have to try and put this delay into our broadcast today. LAUGHTER I know, exactly. What is it?
So we need to have a 54-second delay towards the end of your speech. I then cue the orchestra, and then you can start off. As with any live show, the mantra is "keep going".
We're very much into a journey of the unknown. OK, good luck, everybody. OK. The programme is about to begin. Engineers stand by in the control room. The producer is waiting at his microphone to speak his last word to the artist. I'm, "Argh!" Rabbit, headlights. You're going to be fabulous.
This is all good, it's working? Yeah. Lily's plugged in? Lily's in place. Is everybody ready? Excellent, OK. Dallas, you OK? Yeah. Good luck. See you on the other side. OK, PM's live.
And there we go. Rolling at 15 frames per second. 15 frames per second. Oh, there he is.
Dallas. Oh! That's Leslie Mitchell. Silence, everybody! Vision and sound are on. MAN BLOWS WHISTLE The station goes on the air. This is the BBC television service from Alexandra Palace.
We are met, some in this studio, and others some miles away. At this moment, at the beginning of television, we'd like to thank those whose brilliant and devout research have gone on to make television happen. As for the future... CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYS
Did it work? Now, today's programme will no doubt, in the future, be looked back on as being rather primitive, but one that we hope today will be recorded as an important moment in history. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we're very lucky to have today Adele Dixon, who'll be singing a very appropriate song, simply called Television. Following that, we have a performance from Bubbles and Buck, who have been delighting audiences all across America, and lately, here in London.
MUSIC STARTS I feel like clapping! What do you think? No-one watching the show 80 years ago recorded whether the film from the camera kicked in at the right moment... # A mighty maze of mystic, magic rays... # ..but assuming the pioneers timed it as well as Danielle, we think it might have looked a bit like this. # And in sight and sound they trace... # It's a lovely studio, isn't it? In the studio, our performers are now running almost a minute ahead of our broadcast. # The news will flit # As on the silver screen # And just for entertaining you... #
# ..That bring television to you. # With just the one film camera, live scene changes were unavoidable. PIANO MUSIC Some lookers-in, used to the slick editing of the cinema, were unimpressed... INDISTINCT ..but no doubt any theatre and variety fans felt right at home. Break it up, now! Whoo! Because it was bolted to the processing unit, the Baird film camera could not follow the performers... ..so the golden rule was to stay within the frame. Ready? Yep. Yes! Excellent.
INDISTINCT SPEECH Shh-shh. When you go in there, shh. The performers also couldn't overrun their allotted slots in case the film ran out. As our final act begins, Buck and Bubbles finish performing to viewers at home. The engineers were on constant alert for air bubbles inside the film processor, as these would distort the picture...
..but nothing a sharp kick to the side of the tank couldn't sort out. I'm talking about love. Yeah! DRUMS PLAY DRUMS STOP SILENCE As the studio goes silent, the film processor catches up in the almost-live broadcast. It is incredible the Baird team actually managed to make television this way. Hats off to them. You've been watching the opening programme of the London television service by the Baird system.
Would you now please switch your television sets to the Marconi-EMI system, where we will be radiating a signal at a quarter to four. Until then, we leave you with a little light music. CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYS Oh, my goodness me! We did it! Well done, everybody! Well done. It was... That was really quick as well. That was incredible! Well done. What did you think? Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
It took me back years and years. Did it? Oh, yes. Wonderful. It was fantastic. It was really good. It was like going back in time. It was wonderful seeing those tap dancers, because I could imagine Leslie Mitchell and me doing it all those years ago. It really came back to me. It was crazy. It was like, "As soon as you walk on, begin!"
And it was like, "OK!" That was just a complete circus. That was absolutely ridiculous. The whole thing was insane, but utterly brilliant. Well, it's been hard work. We've had... RATTLING We've had a lot of things not working along the way.
It's quite emotionally exhausting, because you spent all that time in the lead-up, just the tension of it, "Is it going to work?" And it's over so quickly. It just worked so well. It must have been extraordinary back then in 1936. How are you feeling? Good. The first night of television.
ALL: Cheers! BOTH: Cheers to the engineers. Of course, we did cheat a bit. Our film of the variety acts had to travel across London to be processed and telecined, taking hours to do what the Baird studio managed in under a minute. Immediately after the first broadcast, the producers and artists traipsed next door into the Marconi-EMI studio... ..to perform exactly the same show to the electronic cameras. This is the BBC's television service at Alexandra Palace. So literally the second thing that was broadcast was a repeat. Yeah!
Nothing changes. Yeah! The government should have entrusted to us the conduct... This idea of two studios, two rival systems, drove the pioneers of Alexandra Palace crazy, to have to do this. And they were pretty clear straight away which system, as far as they were concerned, was the better one. But politically, it was really difficult to extract the Baird system from the equation, because Baird had been around for a long time, had campaigned a long time, and so the idea of a competition was written in to the process. The early Emitron cameras were far from perfect, but they were mobile and fully live.
One producer described going back to the Baird studio as, "Like using Morse code when there was a telephone next door." Baird was a pioneer, but rapidly rotating discs, they don't suit themselves to being in a camera, do they? I think Baird himself must have realised that the time of mechanically rotating things was gone. The competition was meant to last six months, but after only three, the plug was pulled. It was official - the future was electronic.
From his home, John Logie Baird continued to dream... ..working on ideas for colour and 3-D television, but the age of the lone inventor was over. Ladies and gentlemen... ..the Television Orchestra. CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYS In the years after first night, the Ally Pally pioneers and their freewheeling cameras set about taking those magic rays of light beyond the boundaries of north London. A beauty. Soon, the world would indeed be at their door.
# There's joy in store # The world is at your door # It's here for everyone to view # Conjured up in sound and sight # By the magic rays of light # That bring television # To you. #