In April 1925, a small, rather unkempt young man sat on a stand in London departmental store, tinkering with an outlandish piece of apparatus which comprised a tea chest, an empty biscuit box and several hat boxes, darning needles, bicycle lamp lenses, valves, discarded electric motors, piano wire, glue, string and sealing wax.
He was John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, who had been engaged by the store owner Gordon Selfridge to spend three weeks conducting his experiments in public. Shoppers who paused to watch this novel attraction of the archetype inventor at work were invited to peer though a frame at a distinct image of the letter H flickering on a tiny screen. They did not know it, but those shoppers were the world’s first television viewers. Baird’s technical developments and the parallel research that was going on in America are part of history. Amateurs in both America and Britain were already making their own crude receivers when in July 1928, the Daven Corporation of Newark, New Jersey, advertised the first commercially produced television set for sale. Station WGY had already begun transmitting an experimental service of three half-hour programmes a week in May to watchers in Schenectady, New York. On September 11, 1928, the first television play was presented. The following year Baird began an experimental service in Longon, for which Televises, as they were called, were available at 25 guineas. The screen was only the size of a cigarette card, but could be enlarged to postcard size with a magnifier.