May 16th, 2011 | spirit tracks
It’s 1925. A ghosted image appears on John Logie Baird’s small, flickering test screen. A spectral, actually quite disturbing face grinning out through the swirling ether of the electronic beyond. Stooky Bill.
First he broadcast the white-faced puppet Stooky Bill — a "stookie," in Glaswegian, is a plaster cast — and then grabbed a kid called Bill Taynton and put him in front of the machine. I like to think that Taynton got a look at Stooky Bill and felt a shot of the Fear, because the light and heat of the machine had blasted it into a cracked yellow ember of its former self. Perhaps the master of the machine, John Logie Baird himself, thought of the day when the Trinidadians of the Santa Cruz Valley thought him a white Obeahman and attempted a terrified assault on his house of strange lights. Perhaps he thought of the night he blacked out Glasgow while trying to make a diamond with electricity.
John Logie Baird put Taynton in front of the machine, the spin of his altered Nipkow Disc growling in the small hot room, and worked his mechanical magic, making him the first man broadcast on television.
When Baird tried to tell the editor at the Daily Express newspaper what he’d done, the hack got the Fear and hissed to his staff: "He says he’s got a machine for seeing by wireless. Watch him – he may have a razor on him."