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The What & Why of Mechanical TV

What is Mechanical TV and why do I care?

As you may have seen from my other page – once of my interests is in building what is known as Mechanical Television systems.

Mechanical TV was the precursor of modern TV systems and had its heyday 70-80 years ago. It used a mechanical mechanism to scan the picture lines – rather than the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) or flat screen panels now in use.

Mechanical TV systems usually use some sort of spinning disk or drum – the more advanced generally incorporating lenses and/or mirrors as well.

My interest started over 20 years ago as I read of the exploits of John Logie Baird. Baird is widely regarded in the UK as the inventor of television and whilst he wasn’t the only experimenter tackling this problem – Baird was the first to demonstrate an actual working television system. He was also the first to provide a fully working public television system.

For a brief overview of Baird and other early TV pioneers –  the following  page may be of interest:

however the best page devoted to Baird himself (and also contains links to much other related info) is:

What really fascinated me about Baird’s work was that he had built his first working machines out of junk and readily available materials.

The illustration from the Ladybird book “How it works - Television” shows him at work in a Hastings boarding house in the early 1920s.

Ladybird book picture of John Logie Baird at work

It looked to me to be a great project to try and was on my list of possible – but not yet projects ever since.

It was only in 2005 that my thoughts turned to mechanical TV again. Whilst browsing for information on PIC chips (for my PSX controller project) I found the following link:

It suddenly occurred to me that spinning arrays of LEDs could be used to scan out a mechanical TV picture – so I starting searching for other experimenters I the same field:

First stop was the NBTVA website. The “Narrow-Bandwidth Television Association” is a wold wide group of amateurs interested in this sort of technology. Their website was a great help in getting started and even more information and parts are available to those who become members.

Another site well worth visiting is here:

I also found many sites created by other NBTVA members. I probably learnt at least one useful thing from everyone I visited - but the 3 most helpful were:


All text and images Copyright © 2000-2012 Roland Givan, unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved. Game artwork copyright their respective publishers.

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