BBCeng.info  
Recollections of BBC engineering from 1922 to 1997
The British Broadcasting Corporation
web site is:
www.bbc.co.uk

Marconi-E.M.I Television System

Return to TI page

TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE MARCONI-E.M.I. SYSTEM OF TELEVISION

This is an important document as it describes the system used for the world’s first regular high definition public television service in 1936.

It is not an overview. The document describes the system in great technical detail. It is therefore a significant record of broadcast technology history.

As the title shows, the system was developed by Marconi and E.M.I. but the document was produced by D. C Birkinshaw who was the BBC Engineer-in-Charge at the London Television Station, Alexandra Palace from 1936 to 1939. There are twelve sections describing various aspects and they are dated from 1937 to 1939. They cover the entire broadcast chain from camera to aerial, with the exception of the transmitter's RF amplifier (but the modulator is included).

A provisional scan of the first section is now on bbceng.info (see below). A higher quality scan of the entire document will appear on the website in due course.

I believe that it is reasonable to publish this document on bbceng.info (see publication policy), but if you know of any concerns or objections please let me know. The intellectual property in the document came from Marconi and E.M.I. These companies no longer exist, but their major contribution to television engineering is duly acknowledged. As the work was done about 80 years ago it is unlikely that anyone involved is still alive, but their descendants should be very proud of the tremendous achievements.

I would also like to pay tribute to the author Douglas Birkinshaw. I don't know how much assistance he had, but the result is a highly commendable piece of work. Of course he went on to produce, with S.W Amos, the important series of text books: Television Engineering - Principles and Practice. This link goes to a page which includes a video of him in his later years.

Here is a sample from the document:

Marconi-EMI-TV-1.pdf

I am aware of eight copies which are presently being looked after by:-

1) Me (rescued from BBC Transmission Headquarters in Warwick, when it closed down). Number 215.

2) Nick Cutmore (rescued from Wrotham transmitting station by Peter Sparks and sent to Nick via me).

3) Richard Prytaherch (rescued from Alexandra Palace by his father).

4) Phil Marrison (rescued from Sutton Coldfield).

5) John Sykes (rescued from Kingswood Warren)

6) Phil Martland: two copies numbers 15 and 147 (rescued from Pontop Pike)

7) Paul (Adrian Webber). Number 212?

The Science Museum in London probably also has a copy.

When the entire document has been scanned, I will make it available on this web site.  Discussions will then take place to ensure that the physical copies continue to be cared for. Any advice on this matter would be welcome.

Return to TI page