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Television: the elusive goal

It's now 50 yearssince the start of television in Australia. Here's how it came about

by Kevin Poulter

Australian television began in the 1920s, when Tom Elliott experimented with electromechanical television similar to Baird’s system. The unlikely location for his futuristic lab was a convict-built windmill at Spring Hill, Brisbane.

Wally Nichols, a 24-year old Sydney photographer, read all he could about Baird’s system and built a 16-line TV in 1928 but was forced to cease experiments due to the cost and time involved.

By 1929, Gilbert Miles made the first Australian television transmission, also using equipment similar to Baird’s. His ‘Radiovision’ experiments were conducted with Donald McDonald, transmitting from 3DB and 3UZ in Melbourne. This company developed early television and facsimile picture transmission.

So television was looking very promising for Australia. The British General Electric Co announced in 1929 they were making 100,000 TV sets ‘soon’, with 5000 destined for Australia. Transmitters were installed in Melbourne’s Menzies Hotel. Two more were planned for Melbourne and one for Sydney. An article announced 3DB expected to have broadcasting apparatus installed ‘in a few days’.

A few months later, Ernst Fisk of AWA announced picture transmissions would commence from radio stations 3LO Melbourne and 2FC Sydney as soon as business arrangements were completed. Much of this must have been undercapitalised competitive fanfaronade, as only experiments continued.

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