Whatever Happened to Vera?

Jo Henderson


The road to technological progress is littered with unsuccessful prototypes and their inventors, and in British television there is perhaps no better example than John Logie Baird, universally recognised as the inventor of the technology, but not the successful business model. Another casualty is the Vision Electronic Recording Apparatus (VERA), less well known than Baird’s invention but a technology developed by the BBC Design Unit that has the potential to change the production and working practices of British television, in ways yet to be imagined or apparent.

This article, based on secondary sources (Briggs: 1995, Burns:1977,Hall: 1996, Hartney: 1996 Marshall: 1979 Nash: 1970, and Wyver:1981, 1989), seeks to illuminate and narrativise some of the threads in the hidden, or certainly largely unexplored, history of video technology in British television between 1955 and 1975.

The start date recognises the ending the BBC’s television monopoly and the shift to a duopolistic industry that the BBC has to adjust to. The end date reflects a point where non-broadcast video technology has become more affordable and of such high quality that it threatens to achieve the standard previously set as the minimum by the broadcasting unions. The affordability of the technology leads to new forms of content and new contexts of practice developing amongst artists, activists and auteurs, some of whom explicitly choose to question the constructs of television.


British television, video technology, working practices, unionised production facilities

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