The Demonstration Of This Invention 90 Years Ago Helped You See The World From Your Sofa

Your chest filled with pride as you saw the marching contingents walk with a distinctive gait on the Rajpath marking India’s 67th Republic Day. Those colourful tableaux showed the beauty of the country and reaffirmed in your heart the unity in diversity concept.


Indian Tanks

T-90 tanks roll down the Rajpath during the Republic Day parade. AP Photo/Manish Swarup

You could have been sitting on your sofa in Kochi or Kolkata or Guwahati or Gandhinagar, and yet you saw everything in real time happening thousands of kilometres away in New Delhi.

This would not have been possible if it were not for a Scotsman.

In fact, if it were not for John Logie Baird, the Scottish inventor of television, a lot of things the world would see subsequently would have skipped everyone’s eyes.


J.L. Baird at work. The Telegraph

J.L. Baird at work. The Telegraph

Now we are not saying that there would not have been a television; the invention of TV was inevitable and work on developing a machine that can transmit visuals as the radio transmits audio had already been incepted in the late 19th century. But what J.L. Baird did was create what the world would call the first television in a village called Santa Cruz on the island of Trinidad.


Malcom Baird, grandson of J.L. Baird, with the first mass produced TV set.

Malcom Baird, grandson of J.L. Baird, with the first mass produced TV set.

On January 26, 1926 Baird demonstrated what he called the ‘televisor’ in a lab in Soho in front of members from the Royal Institution and a journalist from the Times.

Though Baird had once demonstrated the televisor in 1925, the system was not perfect enough to display a live human’s face, which is why the 1926 demonstration is regarded the first public display of TV.


Television Invention

J.L. Baird with ‘Stookie Bill’, the ventriloquist’s dummy he used in his 1925 demonstration.
The Telegraph

The televisor showed to the amazed audience the image of Daisy Elizabeth Gandy, Baird’s business partner, sitting in another room. By today’s standards, it was the worst visual display but at the time it was an experience inexplicable for everyone.

This is how the Times reporter described the invention and the experience:

“The image as transmitted was faint and often blurred, but substantiated a claim that through the ‘televisor,’ as Mr Baird has named his apparatus, it is possible to transmit and reproduce instantly the details of movement, and such things as the play of expression on the face.”

The pictures were small, measuring just 3.5 by 2 inches, but the technological leap it had made brought mass produced TV sets to the market in the next three years.


The Telegraph

The Telegraph

The rest, as they say, is history. Baird became famous as the inventor of TV and Google has now honoured that first public demonstration with a doodle celebrating its 90th anniversary.




Baird’s TV was mechanical and by the 1930s electronic television succeeded his creation, which was, in turn, succeeded by the modern television – digital, smart and, subsequently, 3D.

Nevertheless, that first public display of the TV was a step that has helped the technology reach the stage it stands on today.

So while you take pride watching the fluttering flags, the whizzing jets, and the soldiers marching down Rajpath on an HD-TV, do thank that man who made the machine that lets you see it all from the comfort of your home.

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