British TV has come a long way since its invention. Almost 100 years of television viewing later, whether you have cable, satellite, subscription and streaming services or a subscription free solution for your optimum viewing experience, the following should help you appreciate the developments over the decades.
- We have much to thank inventor John Logie Baird for. On 26th January 1926, the acclaimed inventor made the first public demonstration of his television set. His few invited guests were from the Royal Institution. (TV critics hadn’t yet been invented.) In summer 1927 he recorded images for the first time using gramophone records. He called this Phonovision. The following year he demonstrated infrared TV to his fellow scientists, this was Noctovision. Logie Baird first transmitted pictures across the Atlantic on the 8th February 1928 and then demonstrated the colour television he’d been working on five months later.
- 1929 saw the first TV broadcast via the BBC’s London transmitter. Having only one meant that sound and images were relayed alternately every two minutes. In March 1930 the first simultaneous sound and images broadcast was made thanks to a new transmitter in 30 line transmissions. Baird’s first outside broadcast was of the 1931 Derby horse race, a caravan and a mirror drum camera delivered the event.
On 22nd August 1932 the BBC took over production for the 30 line TV broadcasts and on 2nd November 1936, they started to broadcast regular “high definition” 240 lines television programmes. (Today’s array of programmes and definitions would have astounded them.) The Baird System was abandoned on 6th February 1937. Logie Baird invented the 600 lines colour television and demonstrated it in 1941.
- There were approximately 20000 TV sets in Britain when on 1st September 1939, two days before World War II was declared, all television was shut down indefinitely. The first BBC TV broadcast in several years occurred on the 7th June 1946. Over the following years, they installed their regional transmitters around the UK.
- The biggest outside broadcast to date was the Queen’s 1953 coronation. The idea to televise the event had not been met favourably by the organisers led by the Duke of Norfolk but the public demanded to see it. A new record for the largest outside broadcast in British history was set by the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. It had a global audience of over 750 million in 74 countries.
- On the 22nd September, 1955 commercial television was launched. There was now a choice for viewers! BB2 launched a day late on 21st April 1964 and it transmitted in colour from July 1967. BBC1 and the newly named ITV moved to colour in November 1969. Channel 4 opened on 2nd November 1982. Channel 5 was the last terrestrial channel, this started transmitting on 31st March 1997.
- Sky satellite TV began on 6th February 1989, this was followed by BSB, British Satellite Broadcasting, on 29th April 1990. The two merged on 2nd November 1990. BSkyB was created. It made its first digital broadcast with new satellites on 1st October 1998.
- Freeview, the first subscription free digital terrestrial TV (DTT) service arrived on 22nd October 2002. Freesat, Youview and others followed. Today, Freeview’s range of set-top boxes and inbuilt TV services offer access to 95% of the UK’s most watched programmes with radio stations and on demand services also available. For free, and still without subscription in an age where more products than ever are subscription based.
- The 27th May 2006 saw the first HD transmission from the BBC. BBC HD was a subscription service. From 2007 analogue services were slowly phased out. The first 4k Ultra HD channel, BBC Sports HD launched on 1st August 2015.
- Google’s Android TV launched in 2015. Android TV is similar to rivals Amazon Fire and Roku but it features Google tools Assistant, Play Store and Chromecast. Plus, you can have a TV with inbuilt Android and Freeview Play for the ultimate viewing with no contract, no subscription and no bills. November 2020 brought the launch by Humax of the only 4K Ultra HD TV recorder powered by Android TV on the market, The Humax AURA UHD Freeview Play 4K Recorder.
- Today, we have more choices than ever with big names including Disney, HBO, Netflix and BBC iPlayer dominating in the UK.
What could be next? 5G TV is only available on mobile devices but it’s in development so maybe in 2021?
Where there’s an idea and a platform, innovations continue.