• February : the Baird system dropped in favour
    of the Marconi-EMI 405-line system
  • May : The first outside broadcast on high definition TV,
    the coronation of King George VI
  • July : Marconi dies, aged 73


Click for larger view [163K]By the end of January, in the UK 400 television sets were now in use. Prices of receivers had already started to fall, by up to a third. Examples include a HMV from 95gns (99.75) to 60gns (63) and a Baird from 85gns (89.25) to 55gns (57.75). This was no doubt helped when, on the 5th February, The Television Advisory Comittee announced by the fact that with the Baird system no longer in operation, sets no longer needed to be dual standard.

The take-up rate of television was very slow, with only around 350 receivers in total sold between April and June. It was not just the cost of receivers that was putting the public off. With other countries also developing television services and using various different standards, there was public concern about possibly buying a set only to find it obsolete within a couple of years.

Television take-up certainly wasn't helped when, from the 24th of July until the middle of August the BBC announced they would only be transmitting demonstration films and still images, intended for use by the radio industry. They did however relay a special broadcast on on the 26th and 27th July covering Wimbledon and later the Davis Cup.

By the end of the year just a little over 2,000 televisions had been sold in the U.K., the being sold to owners of licensed premisis who found that they attracted additional custom.

Guglielmo Marconi, who had played such a major part in the early development of radio, died of heart failure on the 20th July, aged 73. The magazine Television and Shortwave World, by way of an obituary, published a brief history of Marconi's achievements.

By the end of the year, a coaxial cable running from London to Birmingham was completed and operational. Primarily intended for telephone use, it was also capable of carrying a television signal although in the end it was not used for the purpose. Talk of television spreading to the provinces had been raised even before the start of regular transmissions, but with the television system in the London still developing then if nothing else the funds for such an expansion really did not exist.

What's On

With the television service still in its first year it was clear that the B.B.C. had yet to develop programmes that would make full use of the medium. Indeed, from the 9th of April a number of television programmes were produced in which the sound was suitable for simultaneous transmission as part of normal radio broadcasts, hardly the best way to make the best use of teh new medium.

But since the television service was still new, the year would see many television "firsts", starting with However, this would still be a year of many firsts which began with the first televised public event. This was transmitted on the 4th of February and covered a tournament run by the Alexandra Amatuer Boxing Club being held within Alexandra Palace.

The Corronation

Map of part of teh televised protion of teh procession [21K]
The Royal carriage passing one of the
three television cameras [lower-right].

The next "first" was that of the live televising of the Corronation of King George VI on the 12th of May. Not only was this the first ever televised corronation but it was also the first official outside broadcast, although it used special cables laid to connect the three fixed cameras from points in Picadilly and Westminster back to Alexandra Palace.

It was intended that the cable system would subsequently be expanded to cover the West End and thus be used in televising events from theatres, etc.

It was estimated at the time that as many as 50,000 viewers tuned in to the corronation¹. It is unclear how this estimate was obtained, since at the time there was only of the order of 1000 televisions - an average of 50 viewers per set. However it is certain that there would have been quite a high number of viewers since most of the televisions sold thus far were installed in licenced premisis and not private homes.

The G.E.C., in collaboration with 200 of its dealers within the Alexandra Palace service area, set up public viewing rooms, with each viewer paying a small charge in aid of Hospitals and other charities. One dealer also organised a special demonstration for crippled children who would otherwise be unable to see the procession.

On the day of the Corronation itself, the weather was typically British - dull and overcast. Whilst this did not bode well for television cameras, which were fairly insensitive, a columnist in the magazine "Television and Showrtwave World" who had been watchin on a GEC television some 15 miles form Alexandra Palace commented that the pictures had "...a certain amount of dullness due to the bad light..." but went on to note that "... the cinema news-reel men operating near the television cameras had to give up due to lack of light".

Outside Broadcasts

The next "first" occured at the end of July when the annual Wimbledon tennis event became the first true use of an outside broadcast van which radiated live television back to Alexandra Palace without the cable connection that had been used for the corronation. Well, actually there were three outside broadcast lorries. The first contained a 1KW ultra-shortwave transmitter whilst the second contained the control room. The third lorry was for use where a mains supply was not available and contained a petrol-driven power generator. The transmitter had in fact been available for use during the corronation but was kept as a backup in case of any problems, which in the end did not occur.

Example of whats on. Click for larger view [42K] Eric Wild and his Tea Timers [17K]
Television programmes for the first week
in September. Nearly a year into the service
yet still no sunday transmissions !
Link to larger view [42K]
Eric Wild and his Tea Timers,
the first television dance band.

From the 6th of September, a one hour transmission was made between 11 a.m. and mid-day. This was not really intended for the home viewer, rather it was provided for the benefit of retailers demonstrating televisions to potential customers.

Shows and Exhibitions

Television Exhibition at the Science Museum

The first all-television exhibition was opened by Lord Selsdon, Chairman of the Television Advisory Committe, on the 10th of June, with the exhibition opening to the public the folowing day. The exhibition was to run for over three months, finally closing on the 20th September.

Plan of the
Science Museum
Television Exhibition
The array of television demonstration cubicles.

Eight cubicals allowed manufactures to demonstrate their sets and Murphy chose this event to unviel their first commercial television, the model A42V. A ninth, larger, studio allowed Scophony to demonstrate their large screen sets. The regular broadcasts from Alexandra Palaces were suplemented by cinema films transmitted from a local transmitter installed in the exhibition.

Scophony went to the lengths of providing their own transmissions from outside of the exhibition. There is no mention of why this was necessary. It may have been that they were still using 240-line transmissions. However when they were able to receive 405-line transmissions they complained about the stability of the timebase generators at Alexandra Palace. The timebases of standard recievers were directly triggered from the transmitted synchronisation signals and were hence hardly affected by any slight jitter in the transmitted timing signals. However the Scophony system, being mechanically based and hence having mechanical inertia, could not adjust to any jitter in the timing signals and hence any jitter would appear as misaligned displayed picture lines. In effect, the Scophony system was a mechanical version of "flywheel synchronisation" that would later appear in an electronic form in the 1950's.The B.B.C. subsequently constructed re-designed the pulse generating equipment but this would not be in time for the Radiolympia later in the year.

Link to Official Announcment regarding Scophony and the B.B.C. [33K].

The exhibition included various items of historical interest. One such item was a working 30-line television using some of the apparatus that had previously been used by the B.B.C. when the started a regular low-definition service on the 22nd August 1932. Also included was a model of Campbell Swinton's original suggestion for a cathode-ray tube based television system, a system he had proposed in 1908 (refer links at bottom of this page).

As well as historical items, many new developments were also on show, particularly by the Baird company:-

Baird electronic camera [9K]   Experimental Baird projection unit [11K]
Baird electron camera. Lens and focus
arrangements on the left, plus a Farnsworth
image disector on the right.
  Experimental Baird projection receiver giving
an image of 18 X 14 inches.


The year's Radiolympia exhibition ran from the 25th August through 4th of September.

Layout of the television section of Radiolympia [15K] Like the exhibition at the Science Museum, special television booths were set up. However, for Radiolympia, people wishing to view a particular television in one of the fourteen booths (one for each exhibiting television manufacturer) applied at a box office for a ticket. The ticket included a specific time at which the set could be viewed in seated comfort. A wide range of televisions were displayed, but whilst the public were in general impressed they remained of the opinion that television was still very much a luxury item.

Television demonstrations occured between 11.30 a.m. until 12.30 p.m., 4 p.m. until 5 p.m. and also 9 p.m. until 10 p.m.

One of the more interesting televisions at the show, and a bit of a suprise, was a Philips set that utilised a projection system to create a large picture from a small 4-inch C.R.T. However it's unreliability was such that it was withdrawn before the end of the show. This was the first such commercial design although it was reported several other manufacturers, such as Baird, had been working on a similar system. H.M.V. also demostrated a projection set but, lik the Philips, it was withdrawn before the end of the event.



Probably the largest cpmmercial C.R.T. set [7K]
The G.E.C. BT8161 with 16-inch C.R.T.
In July, G.E.C. offered to retrofit their sets originally sold with a 9" C.R.T. to a larger 12" C.RT., free of charge.

At the Radiolympia, G.E.C. offered a set with the largest C.R.T. commercially available, the model BT8161. The electstatically deflected C.R.T. must have been absolutely huge and it should come as no suprise that it was fitted to a mirror-lid set. The G.E.C. were probably the only manufacturer to stick to using electrostatic deflection for their entire pre-war output.


Televisor trade mark [3K]In mid-1937 Baird announced that they were to relinquish their right to sole use of this word.The name "Televisor" was in general use to describe any television recievers (much the same as vacuum cleaners are often refered to Hoover's). It was, however a registered trademark of Baird, J. L. Baird himself using the name way back in 1925. Baird reasoned that attempting to enforce their rights would only result in "unfriendly" action, particularly in the United States, and thus came to the decision to relinquish their rights to sole use of the term.


The projection screen [11K] Interior of Philips projection set [12K]
The fold-away projection screen
Interior view of the
Philips projection set.

Philips chose Radiolympia to unveil an unusual television model (their first commercial television?). It was the first commercial reciever to project the image from a small C.R.T. onto a large screen, in this instance producing a picture 20"x16". The set utilised twenty-three valves for the television plus a further five for the included radio and cost 165 guineas (£173 5s 0d). Unfortunately the lifetime of the four-inch C.R.T., which had to operate at 25,000 volts, proved to be extremely short and within a few months Philips were offering to buy back the few sets that they had sold. Indeed the demonstration set at Radiolympia was withdrawn before the show ended.

Picture of Philips projection C.R.T. [7K]
The Philips projection C.R.T. Although the screen was four
inches in diameter, only an area 2 X 1.6 inches was actually utilised.

Link to review of the Philips projection television.


Marconiphone projection set [9K]
Marconiphone 708

EMI also demonstrated a projection model, the Marconiphone 708, at the exhibition but it was withdrawn before the end of the second day of the show. However, unlike the Philips projection set, this may have been due to poor image quality; to quote Gramaphone Magazine for October 1937, "Two examples of reception on enlarged screens were shown, and very interesting they were. But there was little doubt that what they gained in size they lost in clarity, and they were definitely more tiring to look at than the smaller pictures of the standard receivers. ".
However, only six months later, the same magazine noted that "...an appreciable improvement seems to have been made, particularly with regard to definition" .


After just a year, there was a definate trend in C.R.T. design away from the electostatically deflected type to magnetically deflected types. Within another two years, the electrostaic C.R.T. was to have almost completely dissapeared from new television models.

Although the transmissions from Alexandra Palace were double-sideband, many manufacturer's sets were tuned to just one of the sidebands. The reduction in required bandwidth enabled sets to have a higher gain.

News From Abroad


In January, RCA (in conjunction with the National Broadcasting Company) began experimental transmissions from the Empire State Building using the 441-line system now adopted by the Federal Communications Commission.

February 11 Philco Radio and Television Corporation stages the first demonstration of a television system (441-line 30 fps, 60 fields interlaced 2:1) at the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia, after three months of development of the new line format. ?Apparently, a simple test chart was devised which consisted of a dollar bill attached to a piece of card and placed such that the dollar bill just filled the screen. It was found that in order to be able to read the serial number of the bill a definition of 441 lines was required .


Telefunken demonstrated a projection television intended for use in a typical home.


France begins regular television transmissions from a temporary transmitter installed on the Eiffel Tower, using a 445-line system.

The German manufacturer Telefunken demonstrated their 375-line interlaced system at the Paris Exhibition. The demonstration used a closed-circuit system, displaying images taken from the exhibition's pavillion terrace. Other German technology on show was their 180-line "visio-telephone" system that had been installed between Berlin and Leipzip the previous year.


In the first half of the year it was reported that a group of Australian theatrical interests acquired the licence rights of a German television system with the intention of inagurating a service.


Around the middle of the year, the Soviet Government place an order with Scophony for a complete transmitting and receiving equipment to be erected in Moscow. Two receivers were to be supplied, one giving a picture 24x22ins and a second giving a picture 5ft by 4ft, to be used in public viewing.

Russian scientists release detail of a novel electronic television picture pick-up.

<1936 Gallery of Sets from 1937 1938>

Notes 1/ There are various estimates of the number of viewers of the Corronation, some as high as 50,000. Television and Shortwave World Magazine for June 1937 puts the estimate at 35,000.

Related Links 1/ The Early Television Foundation. A museum and many other resources connected with pre-war television for both America and Europe.
  2/ The David Sarnoff Library - The roots of television, 1880-1923.
  3/ http://www.bairdtelevision.com/swinton.html Alan Archibald Camplell-Swinton - The first man to envision a completely electronic television system.

Page copyright ©
J.Evans 2007
Last updated
17th August 2007