Archive for October, 2015

University of Glasgow acquires the Clapp Collection

Posted on: October 8th, 2015 | Category: News

I would like to congratulate the University of Glasgow in their acquisition of the collection of Clapp memorabilia surrounding Baird’s Transatlantic TV event. The collection comprised a Phonovision disc (SWT515-4) owned by Ben Clapp (Baird’s first technical ‘assistant’), Clapp’s amateur radio logbooks (W2CVJ/G2KZ) for the event and lead-up, and associated paraphernalia. The logbooks were made during operation of the two amateur radio stations that made possible the witnessed event in Feb 1928 of the reception and display of television images in Hartsdale, NY, from a transmission in Coulsdon near London. This had followed a witnessed event of receiving and displaying a television image in Glasgow, originating from London over a normal telephone line.

Both events were Baird’s reaction to being upstaged when AT&T gave a major and complex demonstration of long-distance television in the USA on 7th April 1927. Through staging these events and ensuring they were witnessed and publicised, Baird succeeded in re-establishing a perception of primacy in the field and in re-assuring his financial backers.

The Phonovision disc is one I first restored in 1982-3 (SWT515-4). From studying the content, Ray Herbert (then holder of the Clapp logbooks) and I were able to establish that this disc was used as a test in late 1927 – a few months before the event. Consistent with the faulty recording, no images were seen off the disc during the transatlantic tests (comments were made as such in the logbook). The identification of the earliest-known use of abbreviation ‘TV’ for television was made by Ray.

[For further info on SWT515-4 and Phonovision, either refer to papers in the Bibliography section or read the Phonovision section of this website. The transatlantic TV link with the disc is covered in my book ‘Restoring Baird’s Image’]

When Ray Herbert died, I became the custodian of the Clapp logbooks and looked after them for many years until their owner requested them back for sale by auction. I provided additional material for the sale including Clapp’s diary, at the back of which was the substitution cipher used to decode and encode certain words in the Morse exchanges during the tests.