Friday, April 4, 2014

Previously On...

I presume you're familiar with the name Philo T. Farnsworth, credited as the inventor of television. And he is the first person to put all the components together in a neat little box. However, Farnsworth was not the first to get off a broadcast. He got it off on September 7, 1927, in his laboratory in San Francisco. We shall call that the 'mark to beat'.

Meet John Logie Baird of the United Kingdom. Baird was the first to get off a broadcast of images changing fast enough to give the illusion of motion. The threshold for that is defined as 12 images per second. He had five in his first attempt on October 2, 1925, which isn't enough to qualify. What did qualify was his demonstration in his London laboratory in front of a reporter from The Times and members of the Royal Institution on January 27, 1926, when he made it to 12.5 images per second.

I'll let Baird describe it to you.

What was the first image? Someone related to Baird, of course: his business partner, Oliver Hutchinson.


That is not what you'd call the best image of Oliver. But it's what Baird's creation was able to convey. A modern TV, as you may know, gets its image from a little dot making its way across the screen, left to right, top to bottom (assuming progressive scan; there's also interlaced scan, which means the dot does the odd-numbered rows first and then the even-numbered rows). If you hear '1080p', that means there's one dot covering 1,080 rows worth of little tiny pixels, in order, in one lap of the screen. In progressive scan, the dot does 60 laps per second; in interlaced scan, it does 30 laps due to going top-to-bottom twice per frame. Here's 1080p slowed down.

Baird's design had only 30 lines, and instead of rows, they were columns, with the dot going from bottom to top. And it wasn't a dot so much as a series of... how should I put it... high-speed Viewmasters? I want to say?

If you'd like to see what that looks like, here's a broadcast using a Baird television from 1930, a play called 'The Man With The Flower in His Mouth'.

Remember, back then, this was revolutionary. Though I don't think it'll play well on Hulu these days.

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