Of all the people who had a hand in the invention of television, John Baird is by far the most interesting.
He was also the first to pass the litmus test of what constituted successful television – the transmission and reception of a recognizable human face.
This occurred in 1925.
In 1923, Baird came to Hastings, England from his native Scotland. He was in poor health, had little money and was soon rebuffed by a young woman who caught his eye. Seeing that he had little to offer her or any other woman, Baird wrote in his journals, “I must invent something!”
Baird’s first attempt at bettering himself was to market a hemorroid cream developed by a friend. After trying the white ointment: “I was unable to sit down for some days”.
Having then decided to become an inventor himself, he came up with a rust-proof razor blade made of glass. It was soon shelved after he “cut himself rather badly.”
His next idea was inflatable soles for soldier’s boots. After testing the prototype in a pair of extra large boots, he wrote that he “walked a hundred yards in a series of drunken and uncontrollable lurches” and that the demonstration, ridiculed by “street urchins” ended with one of his “tyres bursting”.
Next was an attempt to make diamonds from cement, high pressure and electricity. Surprisingly, that didn’t work (darn!).
Mild success came with a laundry soap and an undersock treated with borax to wick away moisture and keep the feet dry.
Months passed, and then – the woman he admired:
He found she had already married another man – but that she still had some feelings for him.
Buoyed by this news, Baird met with the new husband and hammered out a deal with him (and her) whereby they would share the woman’s “affections” alternately every few months.
Baird went on with his inventions, the most famous being the mechanical television. He was also the first TV-DXer, broadcasting the first television signal across the Atlantic in 1928.