Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

4th October 2023

‘Stooky Bill’ : 02 October 2025

In days gone by, a Scottish person with a broken appendage might well have said their arm or leg was held in a ‘stooky’ (or ‘stookie’) which meant a plaster-cast. It’s thought the word comes from ‘stucco’ (plaster) although the term also has a derogatory meaning for a ‘stupid person’, so perhaps it’s no surprise that one specific dummy was named Stooky Bill.

This particular dummy was a crudely made ventriloquist-model and was chosen because of its highly-contrasted painted facial features. These were necessary because on the second of October 1925, the first ever (grayscale) image was transmitted by television at an incredible five images per second. At the time, the lights were so hot that poor old Stooky Bill was singed and cracked although the inventor, John Logie Baird wasn’t too upset because he’d experienced many, many other setbacks along the way.

Whilst he was famous for pioneering the ‘telly’ he did have various other television-related successes including primitive video-recording (‘phonovision’ 1928), the first transatlantic television transmission (1928), the first 3D Television (1940) and the first colour-TV (1944). Not that he was limited to television because his achievements also included radio direction finding, fibre-optics, infrared night viewing and even a primitive cousin to radar as early as 1926 (according to his son).

However, like all pioneers, he had his fair share of flops too, including rust-resistant razors made of glass (they shattered often) and diamonds made from graphite (too much current required – he shorted-out Glasgow’s power supply). Suffering from poor circulation to his feet, he also worked on thermal socks and pneumatic shoes, although the balloons inside the soles kept bursting so he abandoned his idea. As an aside, his failures in pneumatic footwear didn’t stop Dr Martens boots becoming wildly successful later on, with their air-cushioned soles.

Innovation is the lifeblood of many successful IT companies and it can be developed internally (such as in Baird Television Limited) or acquired externally – just think of all the successful acquisitions companies like Google have made and added to their repertoire (including YouTube as this is a video-themed post).

Whilst watching broadcast-television is now in decline (in the UK it’s declined by around a quarter in the last three years alone) we can nevertheless be thankful that in 2023, we’re not watching unintelligible dummies with overly-painted faces who need to be manipulated by their operators behind the scenes. Or are we?