Fernseh AG

by Iain Logie Baird

'Fernseh AG' was founded on 21st June 1929 in Berlin. The name is a combination of Fernsehen ‘television’ and Aktiengesellschaft (AG) ‘joint-stock company’.

The company's original board of directors included: Emanuel Goldberg (for Zeiss Ikon AG, of Dresden), Oliver George Hutchinson (for Baird Television Ltd., of London), David Ludwig Loewe (for Loewe Radio GmbH, of Berlin), and Erich Carl Rassbach (for Robert Bosch AG, of Stuttgart), and Eberhard Falkenstein who did the legal work. John Logie Baird and his business partners were frustrated by the BBC's lack of interest and support for television and were attracted by the relatively positive and supportive interest shown in Germany, where television research was under the direction of the Government Post Office (Deutsche Reichspost).

Advertisement for a Fernseh '30' mechanical television receiver, circa 1930

Germany was one of the first countries in the world to begin regular 'high definition' television broadcasting, a service beginning on 22 March 1935 (albeit using a 180 line system compared to the 240/405 line systems of Baird Television Ltd. and EMI-Marconi systems used by the BBC the following year). The 180 line picture was provided with a Nipkow disc transmitter and cathode ray receivers.

The Intermediate Film process was developed by Fernseh. An outside broadcast van was equipped with this system and used starting in 1935. It was also used for the Berlin Olympics. Films were kept and thus could provide future broadcasts and become part of the historical record.

However, as the Nazis increased their control over the country, television was declared a government secret as some parts of the equipment were considered a military secret. The Post Office kept all the developments in the laboratories of Fernseh and the other German television firms under strict surveillance.

A Fernseh television projector on display at the Berlin Radio Show

Fernseh television projectors were used to screen the daily transmissions. By 1936, the latest projectors received and displayed images in a 375 line interlaced format, producing a picture of approximately 48" x 42". This projector (above) was demonstrated at the Berlin Radio Show (Funkausstellung) in August 1936.

In Germany as in other countries, the year 1937 witnessed television development moving almost completely toward all-electronic systems. At the receiving end, particularly, this change was almost universal. The standard used was increased to 441 lines.

During the war, Fernseh demonstrated a 1,029 line system to be used as a system for transmitting maps for military purposes. This system had the disadvantage of requiring 15 MHz of bandwidth.