• Germany televise the 1936 Olympics.
  • Worlds first regular "high"-definition television broadcasts begins from Alexandra Palace on the 2nd November.
  • Crystal Palace, home of the Baird Company, is destroyed by fire.

Play Music
Camera, Ally Pally, and transmitter aerial [10K]
Marconi-E.M.I. camera in front of
the Alexandra Palace transmitter.

Wednesday August 12th saw the first vision transmissions by B.B.C. Television from Alexandra Palace. This was followed by further test transmissions during the following two days. The picture consisted of a simple chequerboard.

Regular test transmissions commenced on Otober 1st, both for the benefit of the B.B.C. and also for the benefit of the trade trying to sell televisions in the run-up to the start of the television service. However, additional experimental transmissions were also made between August 26th and September 5th specifically for the Radiolympia Exhibition in London. Bairdís 240-line mechanical and E.M.I.ís 405-line electronic systems were used on alternate days for two one-hour periods.

Cossor TV beig delivered to Brent Bridge Hotel
A Cossor TV being delivered to
Brent Bridge Hotel, Hendon.
In late September / early October, the Brent Bridge Hotel in Hendon claimed to be the first hotel in the world to install television. The television was supplied by Cossor, who went on to claim that this was the first television to be actually sold for the new television service. When transmisisons finaly started the following month, it is probable that most television sets were installed in clubs and hotels with only a handfull installed in peoples homes.

And finally, at 3pM on Monday November 2nd , the official opening of first regular high-definition television service takes place from the B.B.C's. studios at Alexandra Palace, London. The service alternated on a weekly basis between Baird's 240-line intermediate film system and Marconi-E.M.I.'s 405-line all-electronic system. Two blocks of programmes were broadcast every day except Sunday, between 15:00-16:00 and 21:00-22:00.

But on the 30th of November, a massive fire destroyed most of London's Crystal Palace where the Baird Company was located. It destroyed Baird Television Company's transmitter equipment as well as their development and administrative departments, though amazingly their television receiver production, test and servicing departments remained almost unscathed.

At one time Crystal Palace had been in the running for the location of the B.B.C. transmitter instead of Alexandra Palace. If Crystal Palace had been chosen the the development of the British television service would have taken a very different course.

Fire at Crystal Palace [14K]   Aftereffects of the fire [12K]   Click for larger view [89K]
The night of the fire.   The following day and the
remains of Crystal Palace
  Baird advert highlighting that TV
set production was unaffected.
Link to larger view [89K]

On Sunday 6th December, barely a week after the fire, Baird went on to demonstrate big screen television at the Dominion theatre in Tottenham Court Road. The mechanical system was a permanent installation and projected a picture of roughly fifty square feet, or roughly 8ft by 6¼ft.

The new service suffered it's first major breakdown on the 14th December when heavy gales damaged the transmitter. Heroically, B.B.C. engineers climbed the aerial tower during the full force of the gale to inspect the damage and also managed to effect a repair to the sound transmitter so that the B.B.C. could make an announcment.

What's On

Public transmissions actually begin in August so as to allow televisions to be demonstrated at that year's Radiolympia.

Henry Hall in late 1934 [17K]Further tranmissions were made during October, a month prior to the start of regular programmes. They were still classed as test transmissions, intended for ironing out any remaining technical issues as well as providing transmissions for use by the television trade and as such were tranmitted in an ad-hoc manor. The programmes included:-

  October 7th A full-length broadcast by Henry Hall, a then very well known dance band leader whose perfomances had included appearances at Radiolympia on several occasions..
  October 10th Broadcast of one or more of the hourse races at Alexandra Park.


Part of typical programme scehdule. Click on image for complete week [38K]
Example TV Schedule.
Laundry demonstration ??? And you
thought todays Channel 4 was tripe !
Link to complete week's schedule [38K]

It seems that the B.B.C. were unsure of how to best exploit the new media of television. After a few months I guess the initial novelty value of television was over and people were expecting more ... I ask you, a Laundry demonstration ? Repeated again in the evening ??? Seems I'm not alone in thinking this - towards the end of the year the Radio Manufacturer's Association (R.M.A.) approached the B.B.C. with a request that the quality of programmes should be improved. The R.M.A. went on to claim that this was causing a decline in sales, though with hindsight such a decline was more likely to have been due to a combination of the high price of receivers and the public impression that if they did buy a set then they could see it becoming obsolete in just a few years (there were numerous experimental systems being developed in both Europe and America, many of which were of higher definition).


Radiolympia opened on the 26th August and television played a big part. Each day, at 12:00 and 16:30, the BBC transmitted for one and a half hours, including a 30 minute show that was repeated twice every day. The BBC used the Baird system on the first day, alternating with the EMI system on subsequent days.

GEC BT3702 [6K] Ediswan demonstration model [6k] Unknown Philips model [5K] Unknown Ferranti model, possibly the type 1 [5K] HMV model 901 [9K]
GEC BT3702 Ediswan Philips Ferranti HMV 901

Most of the major radio manufacturers had at least one television on display at the show. At least seven manufacturers exhibited television at the Radio Show - Baird, Cossor, E.M.I. (H.M.V./Marconiphone), Ferranti, G.E.C., Philips and Scophony. In addition Ediswan displayed at least one television but this was never intended for production ; Ediswan's interest was in promoting their 10" and 12" electrostatically-deflected C.R.T.s and as such the television they demonstrated was designed for the best possible picture quality without regards to manufacturing cost.


Most of the C.R.T.s used utilised electrostatic deflection, which in practice required that such C.R.T.s hd a fairly narrow deflection angle. This meant even the small diameter C.R.T.'s that were available were very long and so had to be mounted vertically, being viewed via a mirror at the top of the set.

Particular care was need in fitting the C.R.T. By far the greatest risk was the tube imploding, whereby the glass of the CRT - which was under a considerable presusre of the order of a ton per square inch - collapsed, sending shards of glass at high velocity in all directions. By comparison, the risk of dislodging the flourescent screen material of a vertically mounted C.R.T. which might subsequently fall upon and contaminate the cathode seems positively minor.

News From Abroad

United States


On the 18th June Philco began nightly 345-line field test transmissions from their transmitter (W3XE) in Philadelphia, with vision transmitted on 51mc/s and sound on 54.25mc/s. A small number of experimental recievers were installed in the homes of a number of the company's engineers who then reported back results of of each test.

When the tests ended in November, Philco invited the Press to Rydal to witness Philco's first public television demonstration. Philco also announced that both the transmitting and receiving equipment would be dismantled and rebuilt to use the 441-line system as had been recommended by the Television Comittee.

Experimental receiver, including interior view [29K]
Experimental Receiver

The experimental television used in the demonstartion is illustrated above. Armed with 36 valves and giving a 10 inch by 7½ inch picture the set could be tuned over the 42mc/s - 86Mc/s range and since actual broadcast frequencies had yet to be finalised the sound and vision receivers were seperately tunable.

Philco must have worked fast as they began experimental 441-line transmissions the following month.

Meanwhile in New York

On June 29th (to be confirmed) experimental television transmissions of a 343-line system begin from the Empire State Building in New York.


[To be confirmed] On January 15th the German television service re-opened on a daily basis, including live transmissions for the first time.


At the German radio exhibition, which opened on the 18th July, Telefunken demonstrated a large screen projection television based on a cathode ray tube and was a major techincal achievement. The special cathode ray tube operated at 20kv, producing a 6-by-8 cm (just over 2-by-3 inches) image, This image was then optically projected onto an 80-by-100 cms (31½-by-39 inch) ground glass screen.

Olympic Games

German TV camera at the Olympics [18K]The 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin, running from the 1st August until the 16th August. The whole event was televised, the broadcasts being watched by as many as 150,000 members of the public via one of as many as 28 public viewing rooms situated throughout Berlin. Apparatus required for televising the event was housed in a specially created concrete chamber sunk below the surface of the Stadium.

There may have been two television standards used. The first standard was the better known 180-line, 25f.p.s. non-interlaced standard whilst a second standard of 375-line interlaced may also have been used.

[Note : the quoted number of television viewing rooms is taken from Television and Shortwave World magazine. Other sources give figures between 20 and 28 viewing rooms]

< 1935 Gallery of Sets from 1936 1937>

Related Links 1/ http://www.feldgrau.com/. A thorough, non-television, account of the lead up to, and the background of, the Berlin Olympic games.
  2/ http://www.screenonline.org.uk/. A series of articals on the beginning of television, including the Radiolympia show.
  3/ The Early Television Foundation. A museum plus many other resources connected with pre-war television for both America and Europe.

Page copyright ©
J. Evans 2007
Last updated
15th February 2016