The Birth of TV

100 Voices that made the BBC

From John Logie Baird and his mechanical television experiments to the coming of age of television with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, this collection brings together the voices of the "fools on the hill" who battled against indifference and technical difficulty to bring television to you. 

  • Invention: Early Experiments 1920-1929How John Logie Baird's mechanical television showed the way, but ultimately to a dead end.
  • Invention: The BBC steps in 1929-1935After Baird's early experiments, the BBC reluctantly picked up his problematic mechanical television and aimed to make practical television a reality...with an ambitious deadline.
  • Invention: A new service 1935-36How the experimental broadcasts to the Radiolympia exhibition helped shape the first television service
  • Opening NightVision and sound were on, the station was ready to go on the air. But were the magic rays of light ready?
  • Baird and Moseley A portrait of TV pioneer John Logie Baird and his biggest backer Sydney Moseley, the radio critic.
  • Abandoning the Baird System It took four years for the BBC to abandon the mechanical Baird TV system, why it happened and why it was crucial.
  • Programme ParadeWhat would early 'lookers in' have seen when the switched on their television sets?
  • Who was Cecil Madden?Cecil Madden joined the television service in 1936, and brought to his new job a fascinating range of experience – both inside broadcasting and out.
  • Outside BroadcastsThe BBC's early experiments with outside broadcasting
  • Resurrection 1946After a seven year hiatus, the BBC Television Service returned in June 1946. Would anyone be out there to watch it?
  • Ally PallyWhy BBC Television made the 'People's Palace' at Alexandra Palace its first home.
  • 1948 Olympics"A planning and operational problem which had never before been encountered in the history of any broadcasting organization in the world."
  • Two CoronationsHow the pioneering television broadcast of the 1937 Coronation procession led the way for the biggest outside broadcast yet attempted - the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.
  • Watching at homeWhat did people make of television in the 1940s, and how did they think it would impact their lives?
  • Sets and signalsWho watched early television and how?
  • TestcardsAppearing first as a 'Tuning Signal' in 1934, over the subsequent eight decades successive generations of Test Card have become subtlety incorporated into the cultural experience of television watching.
  • TV and the worldHow the BBC led the way in cross continental broadcasting, ultimately leading to the ultimate global linkup - Eurovision.
  • Picture GalleriesFrom dance mime and comedy, to news features and interviews, the output of the early years of BBC Television was as varied in the early years, as it is today, if not quite with the same level of sophistication.
  • Share your memoriesWhat do you remember about the early day of BBC Television? Did buying your first television set change your life? What are your earliest television memories? Let us know something about your early TV viewing habits.
  • Background to the projectAbout the BBC Oral History and the '100 Voices that made the BBC' project

About the material on 100 Voices that Made the BBC – The Birth of TV

The Birth of TV is a collaboration with Dr Alban Webb and Professor David Hendy of the Sussex Humanities Lab, University of Sussex; Dr Jamie Medhurst of the Centre for Media History, Aberystwyth University; Professor Helen Wood and Dr Jilly Boyce Kay of the Department of Media and Communication, University of Leicester; and Dr Elinor Groom of the National Media Museum, Bradford.

The website contains excerpts and programmes from BBC services at various moments in time. The material should be viewed in this context and with the understanding that it reflects the attitudes and standards of its time - not those of today.

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