• Television begins to take off, with 10,000
    C.R.T.s being produced during the year.
  • A number of C.R.T.-based projection televisions
    shown at the Radiolympia
  • The announcer Leslie Mitchell resigns from the BBC.

Despite the miniscule number of television viewers, the BBC decided to spend around 8% of the BBC's license revenue - or nearly £300,000 - on the television service.

No longer supported by the BBC, Baird Television Ltd moves to Worsley Bridge Road, Sydenham.

In a speech made in early 1938, at the occasion of the R.M.A. television dinner, Sir Frank E. Smith of the Television Advisory Comittee outlined many possible reasons for the apparent slow take-up of television by the public. Although no one reason was the sole cause, he claimed that by far the greatest reason was the inability of the public "... to purchase at current prices.." and that "... they do not realise that the present system of transmission will remain unchanged for at least three years". Indeed, the system went on to last almost 50 years !

At the start of the year, the well known announcer Leslie Mitchell, the first male television presenter, resigned from the BBC so as take up a new post narating newsreels. He had been an announcer at the BBC since 1934.

What's On

This year sees the Epsom Grand Stand Association lifting their ban on the televising the Derby horse race, an event that was seen as a national institution. This added yet another event to add to the list of outside broadcasts that were now a frequent occurance. Example outings for the mobile outside broadcast unit included:-

  19th March : The first televised rugby match, covering the match between England and Scotland as part of the Calcutta Cup. The commentry was provided by Captain H.B.T.Wakelam, the same commentry being transmitted on national radio.
  30th April : The first televised Football Association match, the F.A. Cup Final
  14th May : Whitney Cup Polo match from Hurlingham.
  15th May : Life-saving exhibition, on judo principles, from Hurlingham pool.
  22nd-24th May : The Chelsea Flower Show
  9th June : Trooping the Colours, from Whitehall
  24th-25th June : Lord's Test Match (Cricket).
  28th June - : Finals week at Wimbledon (Tennis)
  2nd July
  4th July : India v. the World, at Hurlingham (presumably cricket?).
  6th August : World's Swimming Championships, from Wembley.
  22nd August : Whole of the final Test Match.

And there I was thinking that that today's level of sport coverage was excessive !

At long last, regular Sunday transmissions begin on the 3rd April, operating for just one hour between 9:05 p.m. and 10:05 p.m. At about the same time, an additional hour's television was broadcast on weekdays between 12:30pM and 1:30pM, intended to help the trade demonstrate televisions to potential customers - and to make sure it was only for the use by the trade the and not the pesky viewers the transmissions consisteded of the same film transmitted every day (just like today's Digital TV ;-)


The British Industries Fair (February?)

Baird model T14

The company Combined Optical Industries Limited demonstrated the results of several years of their research into manufacturering lenses out of plastic. Whilst not immediately applicable to television, the technology was to be key in producing affordable projection televisions towards the end of the 1940's.

Meantime, Baird chose the exhibition to introduce their latest television receiver, the model T14, a very much a top-of-the-range receiver with a 15-inch screen and built-in radiogramme..

Ideal Home Exhibition (14th-21st April)

At least 30 televisions from a total of six manufacturers were demonstrated at the exhibition., including E.M.I. who also provided a closed circuit "transmitter" to provide programming outside of the B.B.C.'s normal tranmission times.

The B.B.C. also provided one of their mobile vans, transmitting from the show twice a day.


The then Deputy General of the B.B.C, Mr. G. C. Graves, very much set the tone of the exhibition in a radio speech made as the show was about to open:-

Television is of immediate importance to you. For, make no mistake about it, Television is established in this country. Our service will be two years old this autumn. In this short time remarkable strides have been made in the technique of transmission, in the programmes, and in receivers.

See your radio dealer and arrange to have a receiver put in your house for a trial period. This is really the only way properly to appreciate what Television means. You could already have seen ' Trooping the Colour ' ; the Derby ; the Cup Final ; the Cenotaph Service on Armistice Day ; Rugger and Soccer Internationals ; Wimbledon Tennis Championships, and two of the Test Matches.

I've never yet had to alter the controls of my set. That will give you some idea of the ease of operation of a modern receiver, which is now standardised and in no sense an experimental affair."

The Postmaster-General said last February :—"The public may purchase television sets without any fear that they will become obsolete, or require substantial alteration, for a very considerable time to come."

We are creating a great national industry. Television offers you the enjoyment of a unique service of interest and entertainment, while you are helping to build up this new industry. The wireless trade are doing their share with courage and energy by providing thoroughly reliable sets at very reasonable prices. We want you to wake up to the fact that the so-called fairy storey of television has come true.

30-gns Murphy A56V

As the main radio and television event of the year it comes as no suprise that manufacturers would concentrate on this event. Indeed, nineteen manufacturers exhibited almost sixty different receivers. Kolster Brandes generated an internal report on the televisions being displayed and demonstrated at the show (link to summary). For less than 30gns, sets were table models with the majority having small 5" and 6" screens. However 30gns would buy you the cheapest consle set available, the Murphy A56V, which was almost 10 gns less than its nearest competitor.

Cossor, however, really needed to get their act together. 45gns got you a table model with no radio albeit with a slightly larger screen than the sub-30gns competition. Yet for just another 3gns you could buy Cossor's huge 15" console model 1210 complete with all-wave radio which itself was 22gns less than their smaller screen 2-year-old model 137T !

Meanwhile, G.E.C. presented their model BT8161 which they had introduced the previous year. Its 16" C.R.T. was the largest C.R.T. used in any British pre-war television, it's picture size beaten only by the considerable more expensive projection televisions.

Philips TEL61 Ekco-Scophony
Baird T19
Three of the projection sets at the show.

The one or two projection televisions shown at the previous year's Radiolympia were a bit of a disaster as they were both withdrawn before the end of the show due to their unreliability (Philips) or poor image quality (Marconiphone).

However projection sets returned again, the press being particularly impressed by the Baird T19. Priced at 150 guinies (£157 10s 0d), the T19 used a special 5-inch C.R.T. to project a 24-by-19 inch picture.

Philips also returned with a projection set, the model Tel61. It used a 4-inch Mullard C.R.T., the same as the ill-fated model they had shown at the previous year's Radiolympia, to project a 18" x 14½"inch image and cost 120 guinees (£126).

Projection sets were also shown by Pye, with a C.R.T. based design, and Ekco-Scophony with their mechanically based model ES104. The fourth manufacturer was almost certainly Marconiphone with their model 708 although this has yet to be confirmed.

Temporary transmitter and monitor [14K]
In order to enable televisions to be demonstrated at Radiolympia
outside of the rather limited normal broadcast hours,
the B.B.C. installed a temporary transmitter.


Colour Television

Baird, pictured with colour TV camera [11K]
Th cinema screen. Note the
vertical picture format.
John Logie Baird (center) posing with the (apparently!)
"portable" colour camera installed at Crystal Palace.

The first U.K. public demonstration of large-screen colour television took place on the 4th February. Presented as part of variety show to an audience of 3,000 at Londonís Dominion theatre by Baird, using a two-colour process giving a 120-line interlaced picture. the picture was projected onto a screen measuring some 9-by-12ft (2.7-by-2.7M), with the programme itself being transmitted from the Baird studio at Crystal Palace in South London, eight miles away.

Link to further details.

Television for the Midlands ?

By early 1938, a cable had been laid between London and Birmingham that was capable of being used for television signals. Whilst this could conceivable have enabled the television service to have been extended to the Midlands, it was stated that this would not happen until more experience had been gained in the London area. In teh end, Brirmingham had to wait until the end of 1949.


Electrical interference, particularly from the ignition systems of motor vehicles, was a continual problem for television reception, particularly at larger distances from the transmitter.

The interference would appear as bright white spots, made even more objectionable by the fact the extreme "white" level alos caused the spots to defocus. Result, big white blobs. To counteract this, Cossor introduced an add-on unit for their receivers. Costing 25 shillings, the circuit detected interference spikes and inverted them, turning them into black spots. Not only were dark spots less noticable, this also avoided the defocussing of the spot, greatly reducing the impact of interference.

Despite being, on the face of it, a really good idea few if any manufactures follwed suit, at least not until the late 1940's or 1950's.

News From Abroad


In January, Philo T. Farnsworth and Bernhard C. Gardner are granted a patent in Washington regarding a rather scary sounding projection screen. It was based on a finely woven artificial satin impregnated with a soultion containing thoriuman and, incredibly, uranium !

Monster 31" RCA C.R.T. [11K]   C.R.T. and associated vacuum pump [10K]
The public face of the
monster RCA 31-inch CRT
  Behind the scenes : the 3-stage
vacuum pump and E.H.T supply.

Early in the year (possibly around March), RCA demonstrated what was then the world's largest directly viewed C.R.T. The 31" (79cm) diameter CRT produced a picture 24x18 inches (60x46cm) - at the time only achieved by projection sets such as the Baird T19 or in specialised cinema projectors. It also measured some 4½ft (1.4M) in length, no doubt due in part to the fact that the CRT utilised electrostatic deflection. The C.R.T. utilised a spun metal cone, a method that would resurface in the late 1940's, but unlike the post war versions the necessary glass-to-metal seal was not achievable and hence a special gasket was fitted between the 2-inch (5cm) thick glass faceplate and the cone itself. The seal was far from perfect so the C.R.T. required it's own 3-stage evacuation pump which had to pump for 48 hours before the C.R.T. could be operated. But once pumped, the C.R.T would be operated with an E.H.T. of 10KV and produced much brighter picture than that obtained with contemporay projection sets.

In April, television starts in Los Angeles.

As the year drew to a close, the N.B.C. organised a "television tour". Included was a studio plus a room illustrating several receivers and associated tranmitter equipment, with a seperate room containing some of the earlier experimental mechanical televisions.

Demonstration receiver [13K] Miss Television posing [17K]
One of the receivers on display. "Miss Television"
looks on with interest (yeah, I bet!)
"Miss Television", posing in front of a camera
- note the amount of lighting required!

Perhaps as a result of this publicity, The Garod Radio Corporation announced the introduction ofa low price television kit, to be distributed via the Wholesale Radio Service Co. The 16-valve set utilised a small 5-inch electrostatically deflected C.R.T.

Garod TV cabinet [8K] Chassis of teh Garod kit [21K]
The Garod television kit. It is not clear whether the cabinet was included.


At the start of the year, France had no fewer than four different television systems.

  System Lines Frame Rate Modulation Synchronisation
(1) The Compagnie Française Thomson Housten 455 50, interlaced Positive  
(2) Société Radio-Industrie 455 50, interlaced Positive Slightly different sync to (1)
(3) Compagnie Française de Television 450 50, interlaced Negative A real odd-ball system, possibly the only interlaced system to have an even number of picture lines.
(4) Societe d'Applications Telephonique 375 50, interlaced Positive Similar to (1) and (2) but shorter sync pulses.

The transmitter at the Eiffel Tower, which had been operating since September the previous year, became the world's most powerful television station when it's output power was increased from 15kW to 30kW.

Eiffel Tower control desk and transmitter [14K]   Men at work on the tower [9K]
The control desk in front of Eiffel Tower's transmitters.   Some jolly brave chaps installing
a feeder on the tower


50cm Lorenze CRT [5K]
50cm Lorenze C.R.T.

Amongst the televisions on show at the the Berlin Radio Show in August was a joint Lorenze-Fernseh model featuring a large 50cm (~20 inch) C.R.T., giving a picture area of 37.5 x 32 cm (14¾ x 12½ inch). Whilst it having a wider deflection angle than typical British C.R.T.s, the sheer size of it still meant that it ended up being mounted vertically in a mirror lid set.

Lorenze Projection C.R.T.s [6K]
Lorenze Projection C.R.T.'s

Larger pictures were the domain of projection televisions and many such sets were on display at the show.Telefunken demonstrated a set projecting a 2.5x2.2m image and utilising a mirror lense instead of the then normal practice of using normal lenses, whilst Fernseh went one step further up the screen sizes with a 3.6x3m image.

Lorenze demonstrated an improved version of their home projection reciever that had been shown the previous year, now producing a larger 60 x 50 cm (23½ x 19½ inch).

Meanwhile, Telefunken exhibited a "mass-produced" television, based on a design previewed the previous year and intended to be used as part of a cummunal aerial system with a common pre-amplifier. The same firm also demonstrated a vision-only model, the TF1, which used just eight valves, plus a mirror lid model FEV1 with a 35cm (14-inch) C.R.T.

Not to be left out, Tekade demonstrated a console receiver utilising a 40cm (15½-inch) C.R.T.

(Left) Fernseh projection model

(Above) Telefunken TF1 vision-only receiver.

(Right) Telefunken FEV1


In 1937, the company Safar was the only firm in Italy with a television system of its own and were awarded a contract to erect Italy's first television transmitter, to be build in Rome. I've not found any further information, other than if things went to plan the transmitter should have become operational during February 1938.


Japan make their first television outside broadcast on the 11th February, showing national celebrations taking place in Tokyo.

Japanese outside broadcast units [18K]
Japanese outside broadcast units.
<1937 Gallery of Sets from 1938 1939>

Related Links : 1/ For illustrations of advertisments for the televisions shown at Radiolympia refer to this webpage on Steve Ostler's informative Radiocraft website.
  2/ The Early Television Foundation. A museum and many other resources connected with pre-war television for both America and Europe.

Page copyright ©
J. Evans 2007
Last updated
6th November 2007