The road to technological progress is littered with unsuccessful prototypes and their inventors. In British television there is perhaps no better example than John Logie Baird, universally recognised as the successful inventor of the technology, but not of the successful business model. Another, lesser known, casualty is the Vision Electronic Recording Apparatus (VERA), developed within the BBC Design Unit between 1952 and 1958. VERA had the potential to change the production and working practices of British television, in ways yet to be imagined or apparent, but just as it reached completion it was superceded by an American import.This article, based entirely on secondary sources, seeks to illuminate and narrativise some of the threads in the hidden, or certainly largely unexplored, history of video in British television, to identify a pathway for further development of this research, notably at the BBC Written Archive at Caversham.The start date of 1955 recognises the ending of the BBC’s television monopoly and the changes and shifts that the BBC had to adjust to as broadcasting became a duopolistic and unionised industry. The end date reflects a point where the quality of ‘non-broadcast’ video technology reached the standard that had previously been set as the broadcast minimum by the broadcasting unions.

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Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
VIEW Journal

Henderson, Jo. (2013). Whatever Happened to Vera?. VIEW Journal, 2(4), 45–50. doi:10.18146/2213-0969.2013.jethc043