Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

John Logie Baird: The visionary behind on Demand TV

August 14, 2015

To continue with our best of British & Irish Inventions blog series (part 1 here) we take a look at the man responsible for making it possible to watch The Great British Bake Off on the train to work. Yep. We all owe him that much.

The invention of television was an amalgamation of brilliant minds from around the world who contributed to its inception. But a man named, Logie Baird, made major advances in 1924. Having been interested in communication technology from a young age the Scotsman, using a hatbox, a pair of scissors, darning needles, bicycle light lenses, a tea chest, sealing wax and glue was able to transmit a flickering image. Incredible. I still get stuck on which HDMI cable to use.

By 1926 he successfully created the world’s first working television set, giving the first demonstration to a team of 50 scientists. It was a dream come true for a young man who was penniless, living in an attic trying to create something that was held together by a piece of scrap wood. A classic plucky Brit done good, all with a bit of wood….

From a single moving grayscale image to the High Definition we have today, TV will have far exceeded what Logie Baird and the other early pioneers such as Philo Farnsworth and Charles Francis Jenkins could have ever imagined.

Not only does TV have the power to keep us connected to the world, it plays an instrumental role in how we behave.

A study commissioned by found we spend almost a decade of our lives in front of the TV in the UK. That’s almost an eighth of our lives, going by the average life expectancy of 82. Thinking about it like that makes my eyes hurt.

On-demand TV today gives us the freedom to watch programmes and movies the way we want to.

I don’t have to rush to grab the bus at the end of work so I can get my Breaking Bad fix. I can just watch it on the bus.

Since the launch of the BBC’s iPlayer in 2007, we’ve embraced the concept of the Internet being the source of TV content – accessed from any device at any time.  Since then web-TV and streaming technology have converged, chalking up a massive $14bn in revenue for the US entertainment industry.

Digital streaming services such as Netflix, Now TV and Amazon have entered the game and are now racing ahead over broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel 4, RTE and ITV. More than 3 million British households signed up to Netflix last year, which indicates a huge rise in the use of these services from two years ago.

In less than a century we have seen John Logie Baird’s first conception of a TV change into something else entirely, and this pace of change is set to carry on.  Television is going to inhabit our homes, in a way that is entirely unobtrusive. It will truly blend into our environment. In fact, Cisco has created Fresco, a proof-of-concept software, that lays behind wall-sized interactive displays. Television content is mixed with social media, news and sports results, family diary reminders, weather, traffic and much more to create an ambient and ever-changing display of the multimedia that underpins our lives today.

Personally I’m convinced the future looks a lot like the Jetsons. Those guys really had it nailed, and the future of TV looks a lot like that to me…

Imagine watching a programme with no channels, a remote control or even a TV set.  Imagine watching TV from the window whilst you’re washing the dishes or perhaps in the bathroom as you brush your teeth. There’s a breakthrough coming and in the not too distant future we won’t recognise television as we do today.


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