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 The Scent That Captures That "1930s Moment"!

All material copyrighted to © 2014

or to the various credited sources © 2014



By 1931, further experimental programmes were steadily

Emerging from the hissing snowdrifts of gradualist screens,

And, on 22 August 1932, the BBC decided to set up

Its own television studios at the circular art-deco

Broadcasting House at Portland Place and Langham Place

Adorned with striking angular sculpted facings designed

By Arthur Rowton Gill; its steel frame encased in Portland stone,

Constructed in 1928; and once the BBC had bought up

Much of Baird’s equipment, Reith appointed the pioneering

Technical triumvirate of Douglas Birkinshaw, D.R. Campbell

And D.H. Bridgewater to oversee TV’s development –

And from the outset this triad decided that for television

To become commercial, it required a higher definition

Than the limited 30-line system; a period of experimentation

And brinkmanship in the race towards the first public broadcasts

Frantically ensued, the BBC baiting Baird to outcompete

America’s Marconi EMI –a tactic that paid off when

The Scotsman managed to crank up the definition to 100 lines –

Having achieved this, vicariously through Baird’s industry,

The BBC felt in a position to officially recommend a public

Television service, and, by January 1935, they announced

The oncoming revolution in domestic entertainment:

The television set, which debuted at the Radiolympia from

Alexandra Palace, August 1936 (a month after the outbreak

Of the Spanish Civil War), the first receivers and sets retailing

At the princely sum of £100 a piece –and the first official

Transmissions began on 2 November that year (the Spanish

Autumn); initially Baird’s 100-line system was employed,

But some time later, somewhat treacherously, the BBC dropped

The Scotsman’s vintage original and took up Marconi

EMI’s superior 405-line system, of 50 frames per second…




By 1937, the BBC had purchased its first mobile outside-

Broadcasting (OB) unit, and piloted the equipment on

The state occasion of lisping King George VI’s Coronation

(Following the abrupt abdication of his older brother,

Edward VIII, so he could marry American divorcee

And socialite, Wallace Simpson –King for a year, January

To December 1936), an estimated 10,000 viewers

Picking up the reception on their domestic sets; swiftly

Followed by broadcasts of Wimbledon, the pomp and monochrome

Ruritaniana of the Lord Mayor’s Show and Armistice Day

Service at the Cenotaph; live transmissions of dramas, plays

(Shakespeare in particular), comedies and children’s programmes

Followed for the remainder of the decade –until, by late

1939, and the shadow of another War, television

Was prematurely shut down for the indefinite duration

Of hostilities –the lights of 11,000 television sets

Paling to dim glows, and then blackness, promptly for the blackouts,

Air-raid sirens, droning doodlebugs’ buzz-buzz then ominous

Stoppages and six years’ return to the airwaves of stalwart

Walnut wirelesses, gravelly voiceovers and narratives

On the painfully slow progress of war providing the rationed

Aural landscape of oncoming storm, punctuated by Churchillian

Grunts and chuntering –for by then the radio was a familiar

Piece of household furniture –TV, as yet, just the next terrible

Infant, temporarily confiscated, out of reach for the time

Being (pending victory, or defeat), neither seen nor heard,

After having stamped its feet in a hissy fit, one long

Protracted crackly tantrum that had marked its formative years –

But time would have to wait for peace to break and settle before

Those one-way windows glowed back into luminance to lull

The nation into pacifistic lassitudes, and filter

War-wearied reality for its citizens through the eerie

Alchemy of cathode-ray tubes projecting violet-tinted light

Of magic lanterns into static, smoky, disillusioned rooms…

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