An Ode to the Baird

John Logie Baird is a friend of the Deaf. Not that he had anything to do with the deaf but in inventing the system that led to television as we now know it  he set in motion a series of events that have created a situation in the present time where opportunities abound for deaf people like never before.

Baird probably had a shed out the back. He was probably a bloke, just like me, your mate or your husband who can be found out back in the shed playing with bits and pieces of motorbikes and wondering why there is a bolt left over after having just replaced the carby. Baird had an idea and started joining bits and pieces of wires together. No doubt he got this idea from the work of others.  But wherever he got the idea from one day he joined a wire together , tightened a bolt switched on and suddenly found that he could beam, across a room, an image of something onto a screen.

Of course Baird was qualified for the job of creating electrical things. He studied electrical engineering. Apparently during his life he had a number of failed agricultural ventures. He tried setting up business to produce honey and even fertiliser but all these ventures failed. Most likely because he wasn’t really into or qualified for agriculture. He was into electrical stuff. His networks and knowledge were all electrical. Somewhere along the line he realised this and focused on where his energies were most suited. When he stuck with what he knew he achieved amazing things.

Now I am no electrician and wouldn’t dream of working in the field but what Baird created seems, to my limited knowledge, to have led to an array of amazing inventions. Surely Baird’s early invention is directly associated with the computer monitor. Using Baird’s idea of beaming things through electrical whatnot’s to screens the amazing goings on of the computer can be seen on a screen. Did you know, for example, that Baird was also into fibre optics? Very soon the National Broadband Network will use fibre optics to bring super fast broadband to 98% of all Australian homes.

Through fibre optics we will be able to connect with each other through web-cams and see each other, presumably, crystal clear. Already Doctors all over the world use video conferencing to consult. In India, for example, specialist doctors link up with local GPs to hold consults with patients who cant get to their clinics. Apparently the specialist instructs the local GP what to do and look for while looking on through video conferencing.  In Australia, once the NBN is rolled out, this will be possible and all through the computer using web-cams. What is more, from what I am reading, through the NBN specialists will be able to measure things like heart rates and blood pressure on patients who are 1000’s of kms away. All of this because Baird somehow worked out how to send a television signal to a screen. (Yes, I am aware that we can also trace this back as far as Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, but for the sake of the narrative I am sticking with Baird. And anyway Bell discovered the telephone by mistake while trying to invent a machine that would help his deaf mother speak.)

Why is all this relevant to the deaf? Well simply because through Baird’s idea of beaming up a motion picture through electrical impulses to  a screen we now are able to meet a variety of different communication needs of the Deaf. Lets take the example of Ai media and their captions to classrooms idea.  Simply though having an audio connection Ai Media can now provide deaf kids in the classroom with instant captioning and better access to learning. All the kids need is a laptop and from a destination in Sydney captions can be beamed to any classroom, anywhere in Australia.

Now I have no time for the cynics that say Ai media  are flogging themselves to death and becoming wealthy at the expense of the deaf. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If the owners of Ai media can make a buck and deaf kids can get a better education, that’s a good thing in my view. People need to get of their high horses. But still this goes all the way back to the humble John Logie Baird who worked out how to beam images through electrical impulses. Text or pictures, whats the difference? It’s all  beamed from one destination to another.

Last week I saved my work $1500 in interpreting simply because I was able to beam up an interpreter from Melbourne to remote Victoria on my laptop using free Skype software. I wrote about this in the last Rebuttal and since then I have had over ten meetings and only one of them failed and that was because my modem ran out of credit. Why cant we use this concept in the same way as Ai have with captioning and beam interpreters, properly qualified ones, to classrooms so deaf kids can have ready access to discussions? How long before universities catch on and beam interpreters up remotely to  lectures to save travel time and waste of interpreter time on the road? How long before deaf people take their laptops to the doctor and have their consult either captioned or interpreted on the screen? It’s all possible, and all thanks to the Baird.

The times they are a changing. All we have to do is move with them. Hats off to the Baird whose vision started it all. He truly is a friend of the deaf.


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