Television History - The First 75 Years
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Television came into being based on the inventions and discoveries of many men and scientists.  The 'first' generation of television sets were not entirely electronic.  The display (TV screen) had a small motor with a spinning disc and a neon lamp, which worked together to give a blurry reddish-orange picture about half the size of a business card!  The period before 1935 is called the "Mechanical Television Era".  This type of television is not compatible with today's fully-electronic television system.

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    American Television Sets

1928 General Electric Scanning Disk TV   (24K bytes)

1928 GE "Octagon"
1929 Western Television  USA   (32K bytes)

1929 Western Television

1932 Jenkins JD30 TV Receiver Frt.JPG (41818 bytes)
1932 Jenkins Radio-TV Receiver - Model JD30

All Pre-1935 American TV Sets

    British Television Sets

1928 Baird "Model C"  (24K bytes)
1928 Baird Model "C"
1930 Baird "Televisor"  (25K bytes)
1930 Baird "Televisor"

  All Baird

1926 Baird Transmitter (32K bytes)
1926 Baird "Falkirk" Television TransmitterMore photos!

All Pre-1935 British TV Sets

    French Television Sets

1929 "Semivisor" by Réné Barthélémy, while working for Compagnie pour la Fabrication des Compteurs et Matériel d'Usines à Gaz of Montrouge. (Image is ©
Musée des arts et métiers, Paris)

    Russian Television Sets

1934 Model B2 Russian TV (72K bytes)
1934 Model B2 Russian TV
1934 Pioneer-TM3 Russian (40K bytes)
1934 Pioneer-TM3 Russian TV

(See below and also refer to Index for additional sets and information)

January 23, 1926

On January 23, 1926, John Logie Baird (of Scotland) gave the world's first public demonstration of a mechanical television apparatus to approximately 40 members of the Royal Institution at his laboratory on Frith Street. These were images of living human faces, not outlines or silhouettes, with complete tonal gradations of light and shade. 

Photographs of the Transmitter

1927-Apr-9th INDY STAR  (267K bytes)

April 7, 1927

Bell Telephone Labs and AT&T give a USA public mechanical television demonstration over both wire and radio circuits.  The demonstration was directed by Dr. Herbert Ives and Dr. Frank Gray.  Pictures and sound were sent by wire from Washington D.C., to New York City.  A wireless demonstration also occurred 22 miles away, from Whippany, New Jersey, to New York City.

The main part of the demonstration was a speech by Herbert Hoover, then secretary of commerce, which originated in Washington D.C.    The 50-line pictures, transmitted at 18 frames per second, were received on a 2" x 3" screen.  It was claimed that there was no difference in quality between the pictures sent by  either wire or radio. 

To the left is a newspaper report of this event, as told by "The Indianapolis Star", two days after the demonstration, on April 9th, 1927. 
(267K bytes)

Read more about this event on the AT&T website "The First US Demonstration of TV"

April 8, 1927 "The Troy Record"  (128K bytes) (128K)    April 8, 1927 "The Troy Record"  (240K bytes) (240K)    April 8, 1927 "The Troy Record" (180K bytes) (180K) 
The Troy Record - Front page New York newspaper article about the demonstration - A more detailed report.

Bell Labs  (100K bytes) (100K)    Bell Labs #2  (108K bytes) (108K)    Bell Labs #3  (92K bytes) (92K)  Bell Labs Photos

January 13, 1928

1928 Jan 13 LA Herald-TV Headline.JPG (41038 bytes) (41K)

GE's Alexanderson and RCA's Sarnoff Present the GE Mechanical System to the Press.
GE System is Hailed (incorrectly) as the "World's First Television"

April 1928 - Popular Mechanics - Page 529 (124K bytes) (124K)    April 1928 - Popular Mechanics - Pg. 530 (185K bytes) (185K)    April 1928 - Popular Mechanics - Page 531 (185K bytes) (185K)
Popular Mechanics article about the 1928 Alexanderson mechanical television demonstration.
"Television for the Home"

Footnote: On September 7th, 1927 Philo Farnsworth successfully transmitted a straight-line via his fully electronic television system. (Courtesy Paul Schatzkin)

1928 American Scanning Disc Television -- General Electric

1928 General Electric Scanning Disk TV   (24K bytes) (24K)   1928 GE Octagon 3 inch TV.JPG (61558 bytes) (61K)
1928 GE "Octagon" Mechanical Television - 4" Screen.  Reportedly, only 4 of these were built.

1930 Baird "Televisor" - UK 

1930 Baird "Televisor"  (25K bytes) (25K) - Courtesy Early Technology Collection (TVIK), Scotland

First "
mass-produced" scanning disc television - Click here to read more

First commercial scanning disc television in the world - 1928 Baird  (earlier models)

1931 Photograph of WGBS Television Studio in New York City - Using Jenkins System


            1932 American Scanning Disc Television -- Jenkins

1932 Jenkins JD30 TV Receiver Frt.JPG (41818 bytes) (42K)   1932 Jenkins JD30 TV Receiver Rear.JPG (28319 bytes) (28K)   1932 Jenkins JD30 TV Receiver SN.JPG (28823 bytes) (29K)  1932 Jenkins Ad.jpg (202194 bytes) (202K High Res)
1932 Jenkins Radio and Television Receiver, Model JD-30, serial number 252, with advertising.  This unit provided only the sound and the electrical signal to drive a separate R-400 display unit (see the lower RH corner of the ad).  The R-400 display unit housed a motor-driven  pinhole scanning disk and neon lamp.   Jenkins TV receiver in use at home.

Here is an another example of a 1932 American mechanical television set. Similar to the Jenkins' unit above, you had to buy two pieces of hardware, the radio & TV receiver for sound (lower item in ad), and the display unit (upper item in ad).

1932 American Scanning Disc Television -- Hollis Baird

1932 Hollis-BAIRD TV ad z.jpg (82762 bytes)Click to enlarge		

1932 Hollis Baird (American) "Mechanical" TV (not to be confused with John Logie Baird of Scotland)



1930 W1XAV Booklet Cover.JPG (33278 bytes)The Romance and Reality of Television (132 page) booklet was offered for 50 cents in the ad above.

Check out scans of the interior pages of the earlier 1930 (65 page) version, which sold for 15 cents.  Includes assembly instructions and operating instructions for their "mechanical" scanning disc television kit. (33K)

1931 Shortwave & Television  (56K bytes) (56K)    1931 Shortwave & Television  (68K bytes) (68K)    1931 Hollis Semple Baird  (52K bytes) (52K)
Shown immediately above is the 1931 version of "The Romance of Shortwaves and Television", which has a rare photograph of Mr. Hollis Semple Baird.  These images are courtesy of Prof. Michael Morgan, whose grandfather (shown in the center photo) was Mr. A. M. "Vic" Morgan -- President and General Manager of Shortwave and Television.  Professor Michael Morgan is currently on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts.


Click here to read the fascinating story of:  HOW TELEVISION CAME TO BOSTON

Click here to see examples of modern hand-built mechanical television sets

Click here to see other examples of mechanical television sets - Luc Sirois collection

Click here to see examples of appliances that changed the home forever


Early Japanese Television

Early Russian Television


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