By Cara McGoogan, video by Vin Shahrestani
9:05AM GMT 27 Jan 2016
Ninety years ago today a moving head on a screen made history. It was the first public demonstration of live television, and the occasion is being marked with a Google Doodle. The face in question belonged to Daisy Elizabeth Gandy, the business partner of John Logie Baird, the Scottish scientist who is regarded as the inventor of the mechanical television. The mechanical television, also known as “the televisor” worked a bit like a radio, but had a rotating mechanism attached that could generate a video to accompany the sound. It preceded the modern television, which creates images using electronic scanning. In 1924 Baird managed to transmit a flickering image across a distance of 10 feet and the following year, he had a breakthrough when he achieved TV pictures with light and shade. Within two years this flicker was the face of a woman who was in a different room. Where did this take place? The historic 1926 public display took place on January 26, in a laboratory in Soho in front of members from the Royal Institution and a journalist from the Times. The blue plaque commemorating the event can be seen above Bar Italia at number 22 Frith Street in Soho Although the pictures were small, measuring just 3.5 by 2 inches, the process was revolutionary. “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,” wrote the reporter from the Times after the demonstration. As innovative as the demonstration had been, the journalist wasn’t convinced that it would take off.
“For God’s sake, go down to reception and get rid of a lunatic who’s down there. He says he’s got a machine for seeing by wireless!”
Daily Express news editor, 1925