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Marconi in Television

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 7 months, 1 week ago




This Wiki was started in 2012 to help document the long history of the Marconi Company in Television.


Access was initially limited to ex-employees of the Marconi Company or one of its sister companies and the information contained within is extensive and has been provided by many volunteer contributors.  In 2017 it was opened up to public scrutiny to increase the opportunity for further input from an additional base thus increasing its credibility.


Constructive comments and input are very much welcomed; such comments can be added at the foot of each page by subscribed readers.  Should you find that you do not have the necessary permission to add comments, please click the link at the top right of the page which reads "To join this workspace, request access".  Alternatively, the workspace owner can be contacted via the "Contact the Owner" link at the foot of the workspace frame.


The wiki principle of multiple-authorship applies to this document and appropriate persons may be given write access to add to the wiki.


Current News

Good news on the heritage front - a new manifestation of a restoration activity - Broadcast Engineering Conservation Group - working mainly on television outside broadcast vehicles.

Update 16 Nov 20 - they have just produced their second Newsletter featuring new Marconi restorations.


This wiki is one of a series recording the history of the Marconi Company from its formation starting from Family


Statement of Intent



It is with great regret that we have to report the death of David Samways, one of the principal editors of the wikis. Remembrances are recorded here.



"Gentlemen, you have now invented the biggest time-waster of all times.  Use it well."


Sir Isaac Shoenberg

Head of the Marconi-EMI TV development team




The Marconi company became heavily involved in television during 1934.  The company worked with EMI Ltd in a venture to develop a high definition television system based using electronic scanning with images displayed on a cathode ray tube.


This system was a rival to the mechanical system being developed by John Logie Baird, who had produced the first 30-line images nine years earlier using a rotating disc.  Baird had undertaken many tests using the system and had even sent images across the Atlantic.  However the EMI-Marconi system was far more flexible and could be developed to provide a much more effective system and it eventually won over the Baird one.



Extract from the 1952 Marconi Catalogue


Since no two broadcasting administrations have the same operating requirements, it is necessary that a range of broadcasting and television equipment be made as versatile and flexible as possible.  From the small station whose initial layout is designed with a view to further expansion, to the large organisation where complex systems are employed, there is, however, a need for units specially designed to customer's requirements.  The Marconi aim, therefore, is twofold: to provide for the more common requirements by an extensive series of products beginning with microphone and camera and including every intermediate link in both sound and vision channels and ending finally with the antenna, and secondly, to engineer particular schemes and manufacture custom-built equipment.  A subsidiary factor, but nevertheless important one, is the provision to meet the various standards accepted in different parts of the world, particularly in regard to television technique.



Extract from the 1984 Marconi Catalogue


Marconi television cameras are in use in studios throughout the world.  Our family of fully automatic colour cameras, allow the customer the choice of studio or portable; multicore or triax; battery or mains; local or remore control; size and type of lens.  The options are extensive.


The one inch helical video tape recorder,-proven 'C' format machine, is another major studio equipment which has been received with acclaim throughout the television industry.


Telecine equipment combines full digital processing with microprocessor control.  Charge Coupled Device sensors, in a 100% solid state equipment, provide exceptional picture quality, shorter set-up times and rapid changes of television standards with long-life and minimum maintenance.


We have provided outside broadcasting units to more than 30 countries for use in climates ranging from sub-arctic to the tropics and in terrains from mountains to deserts.  Our large four camera, or small two camera vehicles, are designed to customers exact requirements.


Containerised television transmitting stations, which are tested before leaving the factory, provide fully operational stations in the shortest possible time. All that is required on site is a concrete hardstanding and the connections to external supplies and an antenna. Some transmitters can be offerred as fully mobile systems, including power geberation, antenna and programme facilities.  Refer here for more information.



Television Demonstration Unit




Other Readings


Broadcasting Division (1969) click here


Television Planning (1952) click here

Television Planning (1958) click here

Television Planning, Training and Operational services (1960) click here

Broadcasting Service to Operators (1968) click here


Custom-built Television equipment (1960) click here

Custom-built Television equipment (1963) click here

Custom-built Television equipment (1964) click here

Custom-built Television equipment (1965) click here

Custom-built Television equipment (1966) click here

Custom-built Television equipment (1968) click here





It was not generally known, due primarily to security reasons, that Marconi was very active in two branches of television:


  1. Closed Circuit TeleVision (CCTV) evolved from its very humble beginnings to highly sophisticated military weapon systems.  It was initially handled by a small CCTV group but after significant growth and strategic importance to the Company this developed into its own Closed Circuit Television Division in 1960.  Later, in 1968, it became part of the Electro-Optical Systems Division (EOSD) - click here and here for details.  EOSD is now part of Marconi Avionics which has its own Wiki here.
  2. Broadcast Television which was always just broadcast television - from Studio to Outside Broadcast (OB); from black-and-white to colour.



Closed-circuit Television


The aim of this group in 1960 was to provide a complete service for the planning, engineering, supply, installation, and maintenance of integrated systems in every field.  An expert consultative service was available to discuss new projects and deal with all aspects of system engineering.






In 1965 the Closed-circuit Television Department was re-named Electro-optical Division (EOSD) and transferred from Waterhouse Lane to Basildon's 'D' building as part of Marconi Avionics.  Information relating to these products after 1965 will therefore be located here.




Television Studio Broadcasting


For an introduction to Marconi in television studio broadcasting click here.


Please select the area you would like to explore.  





The Birth of Television - Chapter 10 from "Marconi's New Street Works 1912 - 2012" by Tim Wander


An article from Chelmsford Museums service:

Lights, camera…….Marconi!

By Dr Mark Curteis, Assistant Museum Manager: Curatorial and Learning, Chelmsford Museum

CHELMSFORD’s place in the history of radio is assured thanks to the pioneering work of Marconi. However, Marconi did not only lead the way in radio communication, the company also pioneered technology in the world of television. This week we’ll tune in and take a closer look at this sometimes overlooked part of the companies work.

In 1946 the Marconi company was bought by English Electric, which wanted to expand its broadcasting division. With the expertise of both companies working together, the Marconi branded three-inch image orthicon camera was developed, with the first version being commercially produced in 1948. This was quickly followed by the Mark II in 1950 and the Mark III in 1953. These cameras were widely used in the UK and Europe, but it was not until the Mark IV was released in 1958, that the American market opened up to its four-and-a-half-inch image orthicon. The broadcaster CBS became big user of the camera and by the time the colour Mark VII hit the market in 1967, the Marconi camera was being used for such iconic American shows such as the Ed Sullivan Show. The American audience who tuned-in to see The Beatles perform on Ed’s show watched the Fab Four through the Marconi lenses, which is amazing. Marconi’s cameras also captured many other important musicians on Ed’s show, including Bob Dylan.

The four and half inch Image orthicon earned an Emmy for Marconi, English Electric Valve and RCA (used to be American Marconi Company)

In America the Marconi cameras were also used to broadcast Sesame Street, The Judy Garland Show, the Olympics and even the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Mark IV cameras were used for training pilots on American aircraft carriers

Back in Blighty, the Marconi Mark II was the camera that broadcast the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II from Westminster Abbey. This major event brought about a massive surge in TV sets being owned in the UK, and once again a population were viewing important world events through the eye of Marconi’s creations.

The Camera on Sports personality of the year trophies are Marconi Mark IIs

The Mark III was the mainstay of BBC Grandstand and the start of ITV

Chelmsford Museum is proud to have a large collection of Marconi TV cameras at our Sandford Mill site, and the collection includes the Mark (Mk) II, Mk III, Mk IV, Mk V, Mk VII and Mk IX cameras. The Mark II camera in the collection is thought to be one of the cameras used to broadcast the 1953 coronation.

The Sandford Mill collection also contains a world 1st a fully digital B3410 Telecine.

It is still mind blowing that all of these major world events were captured and broadcast on Marconi’s cameras that were manufactured in Chelmsford, a result of the innovative technology research that took place in the (then) town.

To discover more about the history of Chelmsford, visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums.










The chronology is divided into the following sections for simplicty:



Others may be added later.



The History of Television


Part 1 The race for television      


Part 2 We bring you live pictures 


Part 3 News Power 


Part 4 The power of pictures       


Part 5 The Story Machine 


Part 6 The rise and fall of the documentary      


Also the from the BBC


An interersting "nostalgia" site








Dr. L.C. Jesty click hereHe wrote a number of papers one of which marked the 50th anniversary of the RTS in 1977 and is available here.







Comments (8)

Ian Gillis said

at 8:02 pm on Jul 27, 2017

Test comment to check notifications

Alan Hartley-Smith said

at 1:58 am on Jul 28, 2017

Test comment as agreed

Ian Gillis said

at 2:01 am on Jul 28, 2017

Comment notification received

Martyn Clarke said

at 11:29 pm on Jan 1, 2018

We need a link adding for David Samways Remembrances

Ian Gillis said

at 12:14 am on Jan 2, 2018


Martyn Clarke said

at 7:00 am on Jul 31, 2020

Alan you appear to have advanced a day it says you edited it on 31st July 2020 or have you moved to another part of the world//!!

Alan Hartley-Smith said

at 5:58 pm on Jul 31, 2020

Not me and it wasn't after midnight and I don't think near the time-zone change line so one of life's little mysteries.

Alan Hartley-Smith said

at 6:00 pm on Jul 31, 2020

It's done it again - my clock says Fri 31 Jul 08:58!!!!!

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