Recollections of BBC engineering from 1922 to 1997
The British Broadcasting Corporation
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Research Department

Home Up


This list below (extracted from On Air) shows some of the work carried out between 1947 and 1987

Further milestones are listed here on the BBC Research web site.



Work on scale model cylindrical slot antennas for Wrotham and Sutton Coldfield.


Early measurements on the magnetic properties of recording tape.


Kingswood Warren acquired.  First Staff move from Bagley Court and Nightingale Square.


Copenhagen Plan to discuss LF/MF frequency allocation in Europe.


Wavelength changes in the MF band to be adopted, necessitating many changes of transmitting antennas.


Building of Kingswood Warren B-Block commenced.


Work commences on producing a smaller, lighter, higher sensitivity commentators microphone, the L2, to replace the L1 (produced by research in 1937).  This new design developed commercially by STC and Coles.


Television:  Simple colour channel set up.


Television:  Comparison demonstrations of 405-line and 625-line pictures to CCIR Study Group 11.


Open Day: Demonstrations of experimental colour television, and high quality sound from magnetic tape being two of the main exhibits.


Research Department builds and demonstrates the first television standards converter, using a special camera tube and a long persistence CRT picture monitor.


Stockholm Conference to discuss VHF TV and Radio frequency allocations in Europe.


A twin Channel version of the first standards converter used to convert French 819-line pictures to the 405-line UK standard; enabling British viewers to see pictures simultaneously with the French over temporary Paris to London link.


Suppressed-frame telerecording equipment designed; used to record pictures of the Queen’s Coronation.


PGS/1 ribbon-microphone designed and used for recording the Coronation Service.  This microphone was selected for commercial production and subsequently marketed by STC as the 4038.


16mm colour film and slide scanner designed and built.


Wrotham Transmitter opened.  First regular VHF/FM service of Home, Light and Third programmes.


Demonstrations of 405-line NTSC colour television to CCIR Study Group 11 and many other important bodies.


First experimental 625-line television transmissions at UHF in Band V from Crystal Palace.


VERA (Vision Electronic Recording Apparatus).  Demonstration of Research Department’s video tape recorder on ‘Panorama’ on 14th April.  The first video tape recorder ever used by the BBC.  Unfortunately, its life was very short, being overtaken by the creation of the Ampex VR100A from the USA.


First investigations into stereophonic broadcasts (Crosby system).  Experimental broadcasts begin using television sound transmitters for the right hand channel and the third programme transmitters for the left hand channel.


Investigations into television picture storage begin.


The first prototype multi-standard converter used to convert to the American standard pictures of Princess Margaret’s wedding.


LS5/1 studio monitoring loudspeaker put into service.


A-Block extension completed – Acoustics Section moves in from Nightingale Square.


Stockholm Conference on VHF/UHF planning.  Detailed proposals for frequency allocations in Bands I, II, III. IV and V submitted by Research Department to the Conference via the Post Office.


Pilkington Committee on Broadcasting issues its report on the future of television broadcasting in the UK.


First transatlantic colour television link by satellite from Goonhilly Down to Andover, Maine, using Research Department slide scanner, l6th June.


UHF monochrome and colour television field trials from Crystal Palace to determine, among other things, the problems involved in transmitting more than one programme from the same site using the 625-line standard.


Experimental transmissions of the Zenith-GE stereophonic system on a single VHF channel from the Wrotham transmitter.


First proposals for electronic field-store standards converter made and patents filed.


Line-store standards converter (625 to 405-lines) installed at Television Centre.


First studies into digital techniques for television.


Sound-in-Syncs, a method of transmitting audio signals in the television signal line synchronising pulse period, first assessed.


Experimental PAL colour transmissions from Crystal Palace.


Colour pictures of the General Election relayed from Television Centre to the USA via the Early Bird satellite.


BBC 2 transmits first regular colour television service in Europe beginning 2nd December.


Investigations into optical spatial filtering techniques in motion picture film printing.


Royal Television Society Geoffrey Parr Award to C.B.B. Wood and his team for inventing TARIF -an electronic colour correction system for colour film.


Field-store standards converter made its operational debut, converting 525 / 60 NTSC pictures from Mexico City Olympic Games via satellite to 625 / 50 PAL at Television Centre.


Linear matrices, which improve colour analysis, fitted to operational colour television cameras in studio TC7 at Television Centre.


Queen’s Award for Field Store Standards Converter (with Designs Department).


Digital line-store standards converter work commences.


First attempts at automatic colour balancing of television cameras.


Investigations into colour optical telerecording begin.


Research Department gives world’s first public demonstration of digital recording of stereo audio signals.


Early experiments on digital video recording.


Teletext experiments begin; BBC announces proposed new service called CEEFAX.


Quadraphonic recordings made at the 50th Anniversary Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.


Sub-Nyquist sampling technique for composite PAL television signals invented.


Queen’s Award for Sound-in-Syncs (with Designs Department).


Regional Administrative Broadcasting Conference (First Session) in Geneva, to re-plan the LF & MF bands throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia.  Research Department provides considerable input via CCIR and EBU working parties.  World coastline and country boundary databank compiled.


Agreement of Unified Data Standard for teletext in the UK.


Quadraphony demonstrated at IEE.


Research Department demonstrates world’s first digital television recorder at the International Broadcasting Convention, Brighton.


Successful transmission of digital television signals over 120 Mbit/s PO link between Guildford and Portsmouth.


LF & MF national frequency plans resulting from the Regional Administrative Broadcasting Conference 1974/5 implemented.


‘Teletrak’ special effects equipment used for World Cup football.


Research Department demonstrates first broadcast quality 34 Mbit/s PAL digital television pictures at the International Broadcasting Convention, Brighton.


First digital stereophonic sound broadcast experiments from Pontop Pike (in Band I).


Demonstrations of VHF radio data reception (later to be known as RDS) given on ‘Tomorrow’s World’.


Director of Engineering’s Presidential Address to the IEE and at the International Broadcasting Convention, Brighton.


World Administrative Radio Conference ‘WARC 79’, Geneva, held to review international agreements on radio frequency spectrum allocation until the end of the century.


First 60 Mbit/s digital television sound transmissions made via Orbital Test Satellite.


Research Department’s graphics computer ‘ERIC’ demonstrated and licensed for manufacture by Logica as ‘Flair’.


Digital television picture stills store, to enable ‘grabbed’ pictures to be recorded, under development in co-operation with Rank Cintel who dubbed it ‘Slide File’.


Mixed polarisation introduced into main London VHF FM transmitter (Wrotham) as part of the re-engineering scheme to improve stereo reception on portables and in cars.


Optical fibre link equipment built to study serial digital communications.


Research Department, Designs Department and Communications Department co-operate in establishing an experimental digital optical fibre link (at 280 Mbit/s) between Television Centre and Lime Grove.  Semiconductor laser transmitting equipment built at Research Department in 1981 was used for the tests.


Queen’s Award for teletext (with IBA).


The world’s first YUV component-coded signals transmitted over a 140 Mbit/s link (London to Birmingham) first used to send PAL coded signals in 1983.


Amplitude Modulation Companding (AMC) tests from the Mangotsfield Radio Bristol transmitter.  AMC is a method of reducing the mains power requirement of transmitters and thus making them more economical to run­


Video watermarking, a method of electronically labelling television pictures, devised.


First ‘all digital’ transmission of stereo sound from Crystal Palace using the Research Department proposals of last year for a digital subcarrier.  This system later becomes known as NICAM 728.


Research Department’s film dirt detection and concealment equipment installed at Television Centre.


405-line television transmissions, first launched in 1936, come to an end.


LF Radio Teleswitching service commences in April.  This enables the Electricity Supply Industry to remotely control radio teleswitches in homes, offices and factories in order to optimise power distribution at peak demand times.


HDTV picture store and high line-rate picture monitor demonstrated at the International Broadcasting Convention, Brighton.


Queen’s Award for LF Radio Teleswitching (with the Electricity Supply Industry).


World Administrative Radio Conference 'WARC 87', Geneva.  Research Department provides support to the World Service in analysing International Frequency Registration Board plans for high frequency broadcasting.


‘Art File’, the Rank Cintel version of Research Department’s add-on graphics system for Slide File, introduced into service.


The Department’s digital audio editor demonstrated.