Thomas Elliott was a man of many interests. A local engineer and licensed HAM radio operator, in 1934 Elliott and a group of amateur radio operators conducted a series of experimental television transmissions. The group performed demonstrations for politicians and journalists and successfully aired Queensland’s first broadcast, 25 years before television sets were available for purchase.
Elliott conducted tests of new technologies at 4CM – an experimental radio station owned by Brisbane radiologist Dr Valentine McDowall – and claimed to have provided the first live radio broadcast, from His Majesty’s Theatre located in Queen Street. In the 1920s, 4CM moved to the Old Observatory, the Old Windmill on Wickham Terrace, and from there Elliott and McDowall began testing low-definition television broadcasting.
On 28 March 1935, an article in The Courier-Mail reported that ‘for the last four months he [Elliott] has been able to transmit images through the ether fit for public exhibition, and that if sufficient encouragement were given by the authorities Australia could have high definition television now.’
By September 1935, Elliott had managed to transmit an image of actress Janet Gaynor from the Old Observatory tower to a receiving set in the suburbs, and in October he broadcast several pages of The Courier-Mail, including headlines, advertisements and the crossword puzzle. Elliott and his fellow amateur researchers continued experimenting with moving images, attempting to broadcast animated films and distributing instructions to nearly three dozen participants outlining how to build their own television receiver. However, the experiments were slowed due to the outbreak of the Second World War.
Television was officially introduced to Queensland in 1959 and by September that year 10,000 television licenses had been sold in Brisbane. While the early experiments conducted by Thomas Elliott and his team did not bring widespread television broadcasting to Queensland as early as they might have hoped, their innovation attracted substantial attention and is remembered as one of the greatest feats of ingenuity and invention in Queensland’s technological history.
Did video kill the radio star?
Brisbane’s first radio station, 4QG, opened in 1925 with Toowoomba following a few weeks later. Radio boomed in the 1930s and by the 1940s Brisbane had another four stations, including 4BH. Many regional stations popped up in Mackay, Rockhampton, Townsville, Maryborough, Ayr, Oakey, Ipswich, Bundaberg, Charleville, Cairns, Longreach, Roma, Kingaroy, Atherton and Dalby.
Brisbane’s first radio station 4QG opened in 1925 with Toowoomba following a few weeks after. Radio boomed in the 1930s and by the 1940s Brisbane had another four stations, including 4BH. Many regional stations popped up in Mackay, Rockhampton, Townsville, Maryborough, Ayr, Oakey, Ipswich, Bundaberg, Charleville, Cairns, Longreach, Roma, Kingaroy, Atherton and Dalby. Currently there’s over 140 stations operating in Queensland, it doesn’t seem like radio is going away anytime soon.