When I was a boy in the 1960s television sets were rather basic and only received two channels BBC and ITV and the signal was received via a large ‘H’ shaped metal aerial, usually bolted on to the chimney. Just turning them on was quite a long process because instead of today’s micro chips, televisions had an antiquated system of valves, wires and resisters and these took some time to ‘warm up’. After a minute or so you would get sound and then after another minute or so (if you were lucky) a grainy black and white picture with flickering horizontal lines would slowly start to appear. Most television sets needed about fifteen minutes to warm up, I seem to remember.
Today, modern slimline sets are useless for putting ornaments on top of, but in the 1960s they were a big piece of wooden furniture just right for picture frames, vases and holiday mementoes so it was always quite accurate to say ‘Isn’t there a lot of rubbish on the TV!’
Television sets were always breaking down as well, half way through a programme there would be a ‘PING’ and the picture would disappear into a bright white spot in the middle of the screen like a bright star falling into a black hole and that was it until the television repair man responded to request to come by and fix it by replacing the broken tube in the back, which was a bit like replacing a broken light bulb. This wasn’t easy either because we didn’t have telephones so someone had to get on their bike and go to the television repair man’s shop to report the fault and make the request.
There was excitement on 20th April 1964 because on that day BBC2 became the third British television channel but unlike the other channels available at that time was broadcast only on the 625 line Ultra High Frequency system, so was not available to viewers with 405 line Very High Frequency sets. This created a market for dual standard receivers which could switch between the two systems and anyone who wanted to receive the new channel was obliged to go to the expense of upgrading their television sets.
This sort of thing still goes on today. Last year I was looking for a new computer and was advised that I would have to buy a PC with an updated operating system as my old Sinclair ZX81 was no longer in production. This sounded all well and good until I was told that I would have to replace most of my software as well because it would be incompatible with the new operating system. What a con!
On the subject of computers the computer language BASIC was also first introduced in 1964, which was a real breakthrough and led to the greater accessibility and later the introduction of home computers.
oh Andrew, where did you get “my” picture from?? lol – joke! I really have an old photograph of me wearing a similar dress and looking utterly miserable and with a dreadful short haircut – like your lady at the top – (which suited not at all), my mother was fed-up seeing my tears when washing my pretty long hair every other day – so off it came. But she always regretted it for the rest of her life. And your stories about the TV’s – absolutely spot on. I particularely liked “isnt there a lot of rubbish on the TV?. Thank you.
The top picture is my Nan, probably about 1950 – she is probably afraid that the camera is going to steal her soul or something! The bottom picture is my sister in about 1960!
Sorry Andrew, one more thing. I see you are reading one of our favourite books – and we loooove the film. Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, direction Sam Wood. Brilliant. We see this film more than once in a year at home.
Good film but a long time since I saw it!
Loved this post…so many memories.
You seriously upgraded from a ZX81 only this year?! I used to love those, but mine died in 1986!
Oh I loved that Sinclair – I used to spend hours typing in code only to find the programme didn’t work!
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I remember those days with fondness. I’m glad you finally upgraded your computer.
Long Days looking at the test card!
I used to love going into the television shops when colour sets became available. Test cards we’re on every set so we were able to check the colour differences between each make of Television. Do you remember Radio Rentals?
I do Sue, I think my parents rented their colour set from Granada – “Great Service you get, renting your colour set from Granada!” I think it was to the music of Carmen? They also had a mascot of a Red Indian for the kids which was included with each rental.
I remember those first colour TV sets. Most of them were too heavy to have upstairs. Not that you could have carried them up there.
Prompting reminiscences – this one might amuse: https://derrickjknight.com/2012/05/27/203/
Thanks for the link. I never saw a TV screen that small!
You could afford an H-shaped, roof-mounted, metal antenna?!
Luxury! . . . all we had were “rabbit ears”, two thin metal rods, and a wire loop attached to an unstable half-sphere. It was the job of the person with “the touch” to find the perfect angle and orientation to lure the fickle signal into the home.
This prompted intrepid and self-appointed pseudo engineers to rig various additional metal contraptions, including structures made from aluminum foil (you call the stuff aluminium or something like that), to increase the potency of the antenna. The placement was also a variable. Most unfortunate? The “human antenna”, a person who — merely by their touching of the antenna — could bring in a strong signal and a clear picture.
During favorite shows, they might be called upon to stand to the side of the set, holding the base of the antenna aloft with one hand, and having a firm grasp on one of the metal rods with the other.
Ah, the good ole days!
I remember my grandparents had a set top aerial which was hopelessly unreliable. It was my grandmother’s job to walk around the room until granddad was satisfied with the picture quality.
. . . the power of grandmothers . . .