World Intellectual Property Organization

In the News

December 2011

Television turns 75

The world’s first regular television (TV) service, offered by the U.K.’s flagship broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), began broadcasting just 75 years ago at 3 p.m. on November 2, 1936, from a hilltop at Alexandra Palace in North London.

The first broadcast lasted two hours and covered the formal launch of the service, a Movietone newsreel, a variety show and a 15-minute documentary entitled “Television comes to London”, set to an excerpt of Dvorak’s New World Symphony and which provided a behind-the-scenes view of the preparations leading up to the launch.

For the first six months, the studio tested two competing technical systems, a mechanical system developed by John Logie Baird which produced images of 240 lines, and an electronic system developed by EMI-Marconi which produced images of 405 lines. In comparison, today’s digital high-definition TVs offer picture resolutions of 1,080 lines. Winning on the toss of a coin, the Baird system was used for the inaugural broadcast, although it was dropped after the trial period in favor of the EMI-Marconi system. The studio’s hilltop location meant that its programs could be reliably picked up by some 20,000 homes within a 25-mile range.

Although the dream of television became a reality in the 1930s, inventors from many different countries had been working on it as far back as the 1850s. Today, television is an extremely powerful means of communication and the world’s most popular form of entertainment. As noted by Matt Cooke, Chair of the Alexandra Park and Palace Trust, the first broadcast “paved the way for a new kind of social entertainment, but it also prompted technological advancements in the way we communicate with each other which still impact on us today.”

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Copyright industries driving U.S. economy

Copyright industries added over US$930 billion in value to the U.S. economy in 2010, according to a recent study released by the Washington-based International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA). In addition to their almost 6.4 percent contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), the industries account for some US$134 billion in foreign sales and exports, and employ nearly 5.1 million workers, offering salaries 27 percent above the average. The study, prepared by Stephen Siwek of Economists Incorporated for the IIPA, updates 12 previous studies that track the impact of U.S. industries that create, produce and distribute theatrical films, TV programs, home videos, DVDs, business software, entertainment software, books, journals, music and sound recordings. The IIPA ’s Steven J. Metalitz noted, “the 2011 edition of our study shows once again how significantly the U.S. copyright industries contribute to U.S. jobs, wages, economic growth and international competitiveness,” according to an IIPA press release.

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A low-tech irrigation solution for arid regions

A low-tech sub-surface irrigation system for growing crops in arid regions caught the attention of judges to win this year’s annual James Dyson Award which seeks to “encourage the next generation of design engineers to be creative, challenge and invent.”

Edward Linacre’s “Airdrop Irrigation” technique harvests moisture from the air and delivers water directly to plant roots. Solar panels are used to charge small battery-powered wind turbines that draw heated air underground where it cools, condenses and is collected in an underground trap. Solar energy is used to pump the water directly via underground dripper pipes to plant roots. The system includes an LCD screen that displays tank water levels, pressure strength, solar battery life and overall system health.

Mr. Linacre, a former industrial design student at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, said his system is “a response to the devastating effects of drought.” He explained that it works on the principle that even the driest air contains water molecules that can be extracted by lowering the air’s temperature to the point of condensation. The system is easy to install and maintain. “There are very few low-tech solutions” for harvesting water, he said, and “I wanted farmers to be able to install this themselves.”

With £10,000 in prize money that comes with the award, Mr. Linacre now aims to develop and roll out his ingenious solution. “Winning this award means that I can develop and test the Airdrop system. It has the potential to help farmers around the world and I’m up for the challenge of rolling it out,” he said.

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