Peter AxonThis is where it all began as far as BBC VT is concerned. The VERA project, begun in 1952 under Peter Axon (right), was being developed at the same time as the Ampex quad machine. A recorder was demonstrated within the BBC in 1956 and made its first transmission on Monday, April 14th 1958 on Panorama.
VERA - an acronym for Vision Electronic Recording Apparatus - used half inch magnetic tape on 20½ inch reels, with a tape speed of 200 inches a second. This allowed a maximum of fifteen minutes recording time. Ian Rutter has pointed out a page in the BBC TV1958 booklet that actually names the parts of VERA, and there is a link to that in the menu at the bottom, where you can also download a copy of the original Technical Instruction in Adobe pdf format (opens in a new window).
VERA To modern eyes VERA was big! This picture (and the version with the surroundings 'whited out') has been seen for many years. But it is only recently we have discovered the identity of “The man in the white coat”.
In October 2003, John Barrett, Manager Technical Publications at BBC R&D at Kingswood Warren contacted us: “The 'man in the white coat' on your front page is David Jones who was a photographer working for BBC Research Department at Kingswood Warren. The photograph was probably taken by his boss Roy Simms in the then RD outpost at Nightingale Lane in February 1958. David was my section head when I joined RD and is now retired and living in Surrey. Larger than life DCJ deserves to be remembered as more than just 'the man in the white coat'.
We have trimmed the original Panorama material to show the most relevant parts - click below for the opening of the programme and the first replay from VERA. The original material was a VHS from a Film Recording originally made in 1958.
We have also received another VHS which features a BBC News interview with Peter Axon (thanks BJ), and also a 'demonstration' of how to lace a VERA. This last item makes one realise how good cassettes are!!!