Transatlantic Television Baird Success (sort of) – John Heys G3BDQ

baird-television-g3bdq-3Having left Hastings in 1924 Baird moved to premises in Frith Street, London. He gave a demonstration at Selfridges Department Store in April 1925, gaining much public awareness of his system and received much incidental help from Press interviews and reports.

Instead of his ‘closed circuit ‘ demonstrations Baird wished to prove that he could actually send his TV signals via the wireless. He was far from expert in radio engineering so engaged in November a highly successful radio amateur named Ben Clapp, G2KZ. Clapp held a special high power transmitting license which contributed to his many transatlantic contacts through the annual Transatlantic Tests. His GPO permit allowed a transmitter power input of 1 Kilowatt from his home in Coulsdon, Surrey.

baird-television-g3bdq-1 baird-television-g3bdq-2Baird had realised that Marconi became really famous (and wealthy) following his transatlantic success when a rather dubious three dots of Morse were received over ‘the Pond’. Aiming to emulate Marconi, but in the field of Television, Baird planned an early attempt to send signals that could be resolved as Television pictures over in the United States.

Most of Baird’s receiving apparatus was moved to his new laboratory at Green Gables, Harrow on the Hill in August 1926 and pictures were transmitted there from Motograph House in Upper St. Martin’s Lane, WC1, premises that had been occupied from February 1926.  Eventually he decided that a realistic attempt to span the Atlantic was possible and in July 1927. Clapp constructed a 30 line ‘Televisior’ that he was to take over to New York. Clapp arrived in that city with six crates of equipment and he set up a receiving station in the cellar of his friend Robert Hart, W2CVJ.

Hart provided the radio receiver and for some time maintained a radio ‘two way’ with Baird’s associates in England on a wavelength of 37 metres. These radio tests were conducted at around midnight for several days and at the British end a special 2 KW transmitter that had been built earlier by Clapp was used from his home QTH in Warwick Road, Coulsdon. Eventually the tests were conducted on a wavelength of 45 metres which was within the old forty metre band allocation. This Coulsdon transmitter was operated by Mr. Len Luger from the Marconi wireless station at Croydon Aerodrome. In all a series of 58 such tests took place before any attempt was made to transmit TV signals. Great secrecy was observed and over the air all messages were sent in a simple prearranged code using letter substitution. Baird’s name was sent as ‘ IJKDR ‘

Eventually it was decided that the signals were strong enough for an effective TV transmission. The first attempt was a failure but on February 8 – 9th 1928 at 01.35 GMT they had some measure of success and transmissions continued until 04.38 CMI close down. The flickering orange pink pictures on the tiny 2 X 3 inch ground glass televisor screen were far from perfect, and the first person to be televised was Baird himself. His facial features were poorly displayed but Baird was recognised by his unique hair and mannerisms. He ‘hogged’ the small screen for half an hour. Also televised that eventful morning was Mr. Bill Fox a Press Association journalist, and Mrs. Mia Howe the wife of the Associated Press London Representative.

On the way home aboard the SS Berengaria the Televisor was set up,  and in the evening of March 6th pictures of the ventriloquist’s dummy ‘Stooky Bill’ and Miss Dora Selvey the fiance of the ship’s chief wireless operator were televised. Miss Selvey was recognised by her husband to be by her profile and hairdo.

The success of the Transatlantic Television Tests eventually led to the regular 30 line BBC television transmissions and a great publicity boost to John Logie Baird and his activities.

John Heys G3BDQ from Vital Spark January 2011.

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