inventor: John Logie Baird

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Santa Cruz 'home of the first TV'

By Louis B Homer South Bureau

Santa Cruz Valley is historically known for its cocoa plantations and production.

It is also the home of cricketing superstars Brian Charles Lara and Jeffrey Stollmeyer.

It was home to Jonas Mohammed Bath, Sultan of Yalliallhad, who was partly responsible for the construction of the famed Fort George.

But not well known is that Santa Cruz was also the laboratory for a man who would one day invent the television.

John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer, spent time researching his invention on a cocoa estate in the Santa Cruz Valley, and produced the first-ever television, which earned him the title of "Father of Television".

Baird had arrived in Trinidad in 1919 to begin researching the television. He had chosen the cool valley of Santa Cruz because weather conditions there were helping him to recover from an illness plaguing him for many years.

At Santa Cruz, he worked alone on his secret project.

His neighbours on the estate regarded him as a queer character who was creating ghosts in their quiet neighbourhood. The ghosts they were complaining about were the images transmitted by Baird while working feverishly on the production of television.

When he started his research, no one believed that it was possible to broadcast pictures, but that did not daunt his spirit.

His immediate problem was poverty. He had run out of money to continue his research and was forced to find ways and means of making an income to support himself.

A poverty-stricken Baird then embarked upon a plan to produce fruit jams from fruits that were available in the valley, and with raw sugar from the factories he set himself up as a manufacturer of fruit jams.

In the beginning, production was satisfactory until he encountered problems with insects. They devoured the sugar needed to produce the jam, or ended up inside the container used for boiling the fruits.

Meanwhile, his television project was gaining ground, but he needed some equipment to complete what was to become the first television set in the world.

By the time he was ready to return to England, he had already produced the first television set at Santa Cruz, and was working on colour television.

Thus Santa Cruz Valley became home to the first television produced. By then he was able to send pictures from London to New York using short-wave radio and a system he called "phonovision".

Continuing his research, Baird also pioneered high-definition colour and 3D televisions, and a system for sending messages very rapidly as television messages.

Baird returned to England in 1920 to continue his experiments. Five years later, he held his first public demonstration of television in Selfridge's, London.

The first public television programme was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1936, and by the 1950s televisions were beginning to appear in every home in the United States.

Born in Scotland, Baird was the younger child of Rev John and Jessie Baird. In his early years, he showed signs of ingenuity by setting up a telephone exchange to connect his house to nearby friends.

His first interest in television came in 1903 after reading a German book on the photo-electric properties of selenium.

Baird graduated from the Royal Technical College in Glasgow soon after the outbreak of the First World War.

For a short while, he worked with companies providing services in electrical engineering until he started a small business manufacturing and marketing water-absorbent material, after which he decided to travel to Trinidad.

Although the invention had its beginning in Trinidad, it was not until August 24, 1962 that commercial television was broadcast in this country.

The first set of films was shot by Wilfred A Lee and Co, who operated a studio on Park Street, Port of Spain.

The films produced by Lee were transmitted to the nation by newly formed Trinidad and Tobago Television Company (TTT).

The films were aired in preparation for this country's Independence scheduled for August 31, 1962. Commercial television, however, did not begin in Trinidad until November when TTT was officially inaugurated.

The majority shareholders of TTT were Redifussion and Scottish Television, Columbia Broadcasting Systems and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Chairman of the company was Sir Patrick Hobson. The station's first manager was Ronald Goodman and Ken Gordon was the company's first programme director.

The big telecast for Independence began at 9 p.m. on August 30, and the programme continued until this country's flag was raised at midnight.

On Independence Day, the proceedings in the Red House were telecast to a crowd of some 1,000 viewers who had assembled at Woodford Square to see the colourful ceremony in which Princess Royal brought greetings from Her Majesty the Queen, while Dr Eric Williams and Opposition Leader Dr Rudranath Capildeo made brief addresses.

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