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The Drink Tank #67 is the inventors issue, so I put together a quick little article on the invention of television recording from 1928!!! Phonvision - a look back at the future...
By Ken Patterson

For those of you who know me, it comes as no shock that I have an interest in television - as it is literally my life (9-5: schedule some television; 7-11: watch some television.) And while the modern invention of the DVR (aka TiVo) is definitely the media equivalent of sliced bread with really good jam on it, I have to take you back about four-score to the good old days for really ground breaking television...

John Logie Baird was the first to demonstrate television publicly in January of 1926. Most people think of Philo Farnsworth as the inventor of television, but his first successful demonstration of his television process was in September of 1927. Admittedly Baird's television was mechanical, and barely resembles what we think of television - it was all of 30-lines in resolution, and they were vertically scanned at that! But Baird didn't stop with just transmitting images over radio frequencies; he also devised a way of capturing them...

You're probably saying: "But Ken, video tape wasn't around until the early Fifties!" and you'd be correct. But what Baird did was essentially the low bandwidth version of the Laser Disc - the Phonovision. Baird first used this technology in 1927, and while he never demonstrated playback of his discs publicly, Cairns and Morrison Ltd of London produced the Silvatone recorder. The Silvatone was available for purchase as early as 1930 at the princely sum of ??4 12/- (read "four pounds, twelve shillings - approximately $5 at the time.)

But, you might ask, are there any recordings of early television still in existence today? Well, luckily for us, there are. There are at least 5 different discs from Baird's own studios, a commercially availably test disc, a single disc from 1933 and a series of discs that were recorded between 1932 and 1935. Low-bandwidth television enthusiasts, using modern equipment, have transferred the recordings and selections can be viewed at While the images are considerably crude by today's 1080 live HDTV standards (heck, they're crude even by Britain's old 405 line system!) but to be able to view a television broadcast from nearly eighty years ago is simply amazing.

Besides his accomplishments with the first television broadcasts, and the first video recorder, Baird also had working color television in 1928, big screen television in 1930, and had even briefly worked out stereoscopic color television before his death in 1946. Baird was certainly a victim of a rapidly changing technology, but was also certainly a man ahead of his time in his achievements for this new medium that he helped to introduce.

For other articles in this, and other issues of the Drink Tank, click here