Restoring Baird's Image
Donald F. McLean
Institution of Electrical Engineers
ISBN 0 85296 795 0
Hardback pp 292
Scholarly research and "can't put it down" writing are rare companions. Don McLean has succeeded magnificently in conveying the excitement of unearthing and restoring recordings of Baird's 30 line TV pictures.
It would be picking at the tiniest nits to say that the title is a little misleading. The heart of the book is undoubtedly the discovery and restoration of the recordings of Baird's 30 line images but there is much more than this. A brief but perceptive tour of the history of imaging and television, a review of later video recording systems and important thoughts on the problems of archival permanence are all valuable elements whose presence is not suggested by the title.
The writing style may be informal but McLean's treatment is rigorous. Due care taken to separate fact from opinion and I have little doubt that the historical details are as accurate as diligent research allows. The selected bibliography brings many useful references together in one place. I cannot really gripe about the very small number of typographical errors which do not mislead the reader.
The main conclusion of McLean's work is to revise our views on the Baird 30 line transmissions. It is now clear that they were much more than crude engineering experiments and contained material of real entertainment value. In the world of history "revisionism" is often a dirty word. In this case our attitude towards Baird should have been changed as a result of genuinely new evidence.
I have only one significant criticism. Much of the quality of Baird's images is only apparent on moving images. Blame the lack of a CDROM on the IEE, not the author. Web addresses are ephemeral but you can see the moving images at http://www.dfm.dircon.co.uk/.
The IEE has published this book at a relatively affordable price and it deserves to reach a wider audience than would normally buy IEE publications.
Buy, read and enjoy.
Jeffrey Borinsky MIEE CEng