October 2, 1925
JOHN LOGIE BAIRD was the scientist who cracked the dream other boffins had worked on for decades.
Other Scottish inventions have undoubtedly made their mark on the world.
But in terms of touching the lives of millions of everyday people in their daily lives worldwide, surely television is right up there as one of the greatest inventions of all time.
Not bad for the shy lad from Helensburgh, who described his school life as a “disaster”, was not accepted for military service and was plagued by ill health for much of his life.
Baird had a flair for invention. Before television, he’d managed to set up a telephone exchange to connect his house with those of friends nearby. People were so suspicious of what he was up to that the British Air Ministry opened a file on the unassuming inventor and, while living in Trinidad, a mob of locals stoned his house.
He managed to transmit a flickering image of a Maltese cross a few feet in 1924.
You can only imagine his joy the moment he made it happen.
The equipment he used was made from various items of household junk, including a darning needle and an old biscuit tin, along with string and sealing wax.
Claims have been made that if he hadn’t publicly demonstrated television in 1926, another scientist soon would have.
He did, they didn’t and Baird deserves his place in history.
That he managed all this while conducting a long-standing affair with a married woman is some achievement.
By 1928, Baird had managed to transmit television broadcasts from London to Glasgow.
The fresh-faced BBC didn’t want to know him and repeatedly refused him a transmitting licence. If he was able to see today’s television, surely Baird would be at best bemused by the likes of Celebrity Big Brother.
His son Malcolm has revealed that when international TV was established, Baird thought it would be a force for world peace.
That it wasn’t would surely have vexed him.
Television has been at the centre of millions of lives for decades.
It’s helped ordinary people to see footage of great moments in history and make them real – the first man walking on the moon and John F Kennedy being assassinated to name but two.
Television’s genius lies in its sheer variety.
Of course those historical events are invaluable – but telly itself has created plenty of “must-see TV” itself, from Deirdre Barlow’s affair with Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street through to the winner of this year’s Strictly.
It’s entertained, appalled, got us talking and bored us down the years. It’s hard to imagine life without it.
And that’s what makes John Logie Baird’s invention so amazing.