A Wealth of Ideas

After a year without TV I think now its most toxic effect – other than its repetitive nature, and relentless marketing – is in creating the expectation in us that new ideas should arrive fully formed and polished, with great fanfare, from somewhere outside of us, already applauded by others.

The idea was brilliant: Part of the first working “Televisor” built on Frith Street in Soho. Baird was irritated by one of his investors, a portly gentlement who wuold swagger in and out of Baird’s offices demanding updates.
Baird, always one to believe in his own ideas, had his new laboratory in Frith St created with a very narrow doorway, and was much amused to watch this businessman try to squeeze through it, popping button after button off his jacket until he gave up, leaving Baird in peace.

The only thing we can claim as our own is that little original idea which flashes briefly across our mind, but seems so feeble and so liable to failure next to the TV’s completed projects, that we dismiss them, with an uneasy sense of disappointment, and later take with shame our own idea from another. “I thought of that too!”  “Why didn’t I do that!”  “That’s exactly what I said, only last week!”

But what are these ideas, if not a gift of genuine value to us from nature?  Real wealth is created in doing something unique, and a real life is one which is original to us.  How can we call ourselves a thinking species, when we expect all the thinking to be done by someone else?

As well as being an inventor, Logie Baird was also a businessman, and he knew that his burgeoning creation would benefit greatly from publicity.

With this in mind, the keen Scotsman made his way to the Daily Express office on Fleet Street where he tracked down an assistant editor, and posed the immortal question:

“Are you interested in a machine for television… seeing by wireless?… An apparatus that will let you see the people who are being broadcast by the BBC…”

The assistant editor feigned interest but explained he had a meeting to get to. To compensate, he sent a colleague; “a large brawny individual” as John later recalled, to take note of the story.

The first ever photo of a broadcasted image. Taken c. 1926, the person being filmed was Oliver Hutchinson; Logie Baird’s business partner

This second newsman “listed sympathetically and with great interest” and then, with a handshake, told the inventor that he’d make sure the story got “a first class show” on tomorrow’s edition.

The next day- and perhaps unsurprisingly- the newspaper carried no sign of the story and Logie Baird quickly realised that the staff at the Express had been giving him the brush off. 

It wasn’t until years later, when he happened to meet the ‘brawny individual’ again, that John got the full story. Apparently, the first fellow he’d met- the assistant editor- had run into the press room to fetch the brawny chap with the words;

“For God’s sake, Jackson, go down to the reception room and get rid of a lunatic who is there. He says he’s got a machine for seeing by wireless! Watch him carefully, he may have a razor hidden”!


(The above link includes a painstaking recreation of one of the first Television shows ever presented in 1930: The Man with the Flower in His Mouth)

The idea was to change the world – but when commercial interests took it over, TV became a device which numbed originality in all but the most energetic and determined

About iain carstairs

I have a great interest in both scientific advances and the beauty of religion, and created www.scienceandreligion.com about 15 years ago with the aim of finding common ground between the scientist and the believer, and to encourage debate between the two sides.
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