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.
American Television Sets
British Television Sets
1928 Baird Model "C"
1930 Baird "Televisor"
1926 Baird "Falkirk" Television Transmitter.
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,
Russian Television Sets
1934 Model B2 Russian TV
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
Photographs of the Transmitter
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.
Read more about this event on the
"The First US Demonstration of TV"
The Troy Record - Front page New York newspaper article about the
demonstration - A more detailed report.
(92K) Bell Labs Photos
January 13, 1928
Alexanderson and RCA's Sarnoff Present the GE
Mechanical System to the Press.
GE System is Hailed
(incorrectly) as the "World's First Television"
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
1928 American Scanning Disc Television --
1928 GE "Octagon" Mechanical Television - 4"
Screen. Reportedly, only 4 of these were built.
1930 Baird "Televisor" - UK
(25K) - Courtesy Early Technology Collection (TVIK), Scotland
First "mass-produced" scanning disc television - Click
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
(202K High Res)
1932 Jenkins Radio and Television Receiver, Model JD-30, serial
number 252, with advertising. This unit provided
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
1932 American Scanning Disc Television --
Click to enlarge
1932 Hollis Baird (American) "Mechanical" TV (not to be confused
with John Logie Baird of Scotland)
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)
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.
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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