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Hawes Mechanical Television Archive by James T. Hawes, AA9DT
Baird Did Not Invent Television, Part 1

History or
            sleight of hand? Did Baird pull a rabbit (or rabbit ears) from a hat? His publicists 
            ask you to believe.

What They Don't Want You to Know

Who invented television? A call for the inventor brings forth an army. So-called inventors cover the globe. The fact is that television is a compound invention. It evolved over decades. No one man could or did invent the whole contraption. Instead, many contributed to the art. The list includes Nipkow, Braun, Rosing, Jenkins, Baird, Sanabria, Mihali, Takayangi, Belin... And probably thousands more. All of these inventors deserve our admiration. They won't get it. Instead, most people like to associate an invention with one man. If he's an unforgettable character, so much the better. Enter John Logie Baird.

In the virtual world, John Logie Baird seems to garner the most claims to the "TV inventor" title. Obviously, Baird's publicity machine is robust. But public relations is hardly history. Or is it? RCA's David Sarnoff certainly rode the PR float into a lot of history books. A look back tells us that, PR or not, Sarnoff earned his credentials. Of course, Sarnoff wasn't an inventor, at least in the usual sense. Instead, he was a powerful and influential entrepreneur. His insight, passion and support brought television into homes across the world. That is, Sarnoff enabled inventors to develop and perfect products, including television. We'll leave Sarnoff's contribution at that. It's a subject for another Web page.

A new angle. For now, let's ponder Mr. Baird's contribution. And let's do that from a new angle. Begin with the urban legend that appears on many Web pages: That Baird was first to invent television, roughly in the mid-1920s. Or, better still: "Prior art be damned! Baird invented TV, lock, stock and scanning disc! Television didn't evolve. Instead, why, it was a complete hat trick. In 1924, the telly didn't exist. But by 1929, BBC was on the air with regular telecasts."

(Read the actual quote from another site.)

Sorry, but that's a statement of pride, not fact. In the light of history, the pride might even be justifiable. Yet the statement is ridiculous. It's about the same as insisting that Louis Sullivan invented architecture. Or that Dietrich Buxtehude invented music. Sure, we detect an element of truth. But we end up with the pride of P. T. Barnum. Exaggeration, that is.

Scanning disc Main scanning motor Synchronizer Neon glow lamp Picture magnifier Mechanical TV (Mechanisches 
     Fernsehen): Which parts did J.L. Baird invent?

Mechanical TV Scanner

by mousing over drawing.

Here's a snappy riddle: We propose that neither John Baird nor his contemporaries invented television. We also propose that Baird contributed much to television. Then what part of television did Baird invent? Check the scanner drawing to the left. This drawing depicts a mechanical television receiver. According to Baird flim-flam, he invented such a device: All of it. Okay. Let's put that idea to the test. How much of this television receiver can Baird really lay claim to? Vote by rolling over the drawing with your mouse pointer. Pick a part, any part. Next, test your favorite part against the quiz questions below. We've even thrown in a few spares. Clicking a button reveals the part's true inventor.

The outrage! Think we're denigrating Baird? No. But we are critical of Mr. Baird's publicity machine. As proof of our respect for Baird, consider this: You can substitute any of the other famous names above for Baird's name. Our intent is merely to set the record straight. Television is evolution. You can see it evolving today. Every great engineer stands on the shoulders of great engineers before him. Stop the clock at any point, and you'll find one person who seems to be the Creator. Ah, but move back or forward a few years, and sure enough, another contributor appears.

Did Baird Invent...
If Not, Then Who Did?
The Scanning Disc?
The Neon Glow Tube?
The AC, Scanning Motor?
The Amplifier?
Television Transmission?
TV RF Receiver?
The word, "television"?
The remote control?
Electromechanical system that converts variable current to black and white?
Scanning drum?
Regular image transmissions?
Gray scale picture transmission?
Receiver and transmitter synchronization?
Field-sequential color TV, with color wheel?
Simultaneous, three-color TV system?
Fiber optics?
Halftone pictures from speed-compensated selenium cell?
Light chopper to improve selenium cell response?
Flying spot scanner?

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Copyright © 2005 by James T. Hawes. All rights reserved.

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