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Exactly 75 years ago today, the BBC began one of the world’s first “cloud services”; the first broadcast television. On 2 November 1936, the BBC began television broadcasting from North London, starting with just two hours of programming a day.

Baird Television Ltd. made Britain’s first television broadcast, on 30 September 1929 using Baird’s electromechanical scanning disk. This system used a vertically-scanned image of 30 lines — just enough resolution for a close-up of one person, and with a bandwidth low enough to use existing radio transmitters.

Baird’s electromechanical system reached a peak of 240-lines of resolution in 1936. On 2 November 1936 the BBC began transmitting the world’s first public regular high-definition television (HDTV) service from the Victorian Alexandra Palace in north London. It therefore claims to be the birthplace of television broadcasting as we know it today.

restored sequence by D F McLean   1998In 1925, after years of development, a Scottish inventor, John Baird made practical demonstrations in London. A 1933 disk may be the earliest known recording of a television show. The BBC made the first “HDTV” broadcast in 1936 (using 405-lines).

Simultaneous transmission of sound and picture was achieved on 30 March 1930, by using the BBC’s new twin transmitter at Brookmans Park. By late 1930, 30 minutes of morning programs were broadcast Monday to Friday, and 30 minutes at midnight on Tuesdays and Fridays, after BBC radio went off the air. Baird broadcasts via the BBC continued until June 1932.

In the 20s-30s, Philo T. Farnsworth (wiki) “captured light in a jar” and is widely considered the inventor of modern electronic television. Vladimir Zworykin (wiki) developed it in the early 30’s. By late 1939, sixteen companies were making or planning to make television sets in the US, but the new sets were often incompatible using a variety of scan lines.

Farnsworth came up with the basic technological concepts of electronic television at the age of 14, while preparing a potato field with a disc harrow, and transmitted the first television image in 1927 at the age of 21. He was subsequently embroiled in a long and acrimonious patent dispute with RCA, which he eventually won, after one of his old schoolteachers came forward with a diagram of a basic television system that Farnsworth had drawn for him as a teenager.

In another historical note, Walt Mossberg began writing Personal Technology columns 20 years ago. The first line of his first column was: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault.”

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