Technology Fluke Leads To Only Pre-War Television Footage In Existence!

old television photo
Photo by Alan Klim

(PCM) A very strange occurrence took place in the year of 1938, when two RCA engineers in New York City managed to pick up a “televisor” signal from the BBC due to freak weather incident (one in which the conditions had to be just right) and this footage is said to be the only pre-war footage of television in existence.

The signal that was picked up on contains a four minute compilation that features flickering black and white images of Jasmine Bligh, one of the original BBC commentators, and a quick shot of Elizabeth Cowell, who was also a BBC announcer. There is also an excerpt from an unknown period costume drama and the BBC’s station identity signal transmitted at the beginning and end of the day’s output.

The footage was put together by both someone in Great Britain and another person in America. The signal was recorded by the man in Britain who placed a video (or cine) camera in front of the television screen as the images were projected. The compilation was pieced together at a time in history when there was no technology invented to record any type of live broadcasts.

Video tapes were no put into popular culture until the 1950’s, at least that is when their technology was further perfected and the act of “telerecording” which requires the attachment of a video camera to a television screen was not adopted until after WWII.

A man by the name of Andrew Emmerson was able to track down a copy of this “televisior signal” and according to, “Mr. Emmerson, 50, a freelance researcher and writer on the television industry, said: “Rumours of a recording existing in America have circulated for years, but no one had ever got to the bottom of them. It was known that about this time there had been tremendous sun spot activity, which had a dramatic effect on the ionosphere. Broadcasts from the BBC Television Station at Alexandra Palace travelled less than 30 miles, but because of the sun spots they were being bounced off the ionosphere and picked up 3,000 miles away on the East Coast of America.”

“There were reports that RCA, which was working on its own television system, had conducted an experiment to film the broadcasts. About five years ago I decided to check it out, but with no success. RCA could not trace anything, nor could anyone else. Then last year a friend at the American Vintage Wireless Collectors’ Society agreed to mention it in their magazine.”

You can check out a copy of the footage below:

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