Before I start my reminiscences I would like to state that I have no need to live in warden controlled accommodation, I can’t remember the second world war because at that time I had not been born and although I couldn’t be described as being in the flush of youth I have not yet began to take cursory glances over my shoulder looking for a guy in a long dark robe carrying a large scythe. In short, I am not prehistoric but 53 years of age with all my own teeth. Having said all that, boy has television technology changed since I was a lad.
My Grandad had a TV set made by the company Bush. It was a rectangular box which stood three foot six inches high and had two controls, volume and brightness. The picture was of course black and white with a screen size of 14 inches. My Grandad’s viewing was some what restricted as the only channel the set received was the BBC. This was not due to the fact that the TV was in anyway faulty, it was merely due to the fact that when he bought the set that was the only channel transmitting and there was no knob on the thing to change channel. My Grandad watched that TV every night for years and years until…well, I’ll get to that later.
My Dad on the other hand was at the cutting edge of this now expanding media. Our set, although still black and white, had a 21 inch screen but was still only capable of receiving BBC. That was until my Dad came home one night with a gizmo made out of a plastic like substance called Bakelite. By attaching wires to the TV from the Bakelite box and merely turning a dial the size of a manhole cover we had instant ITV. Two channels; who said our choices were limited back then? This system worked well for many months until the manhole cover dial snapped off the front of the gizmo. Bakelite wasn’t known for its durable properties and so, for ages afterwards we changed channels with a pair of pliers which were kept strategically placed on top of the set.
BBC2 had been transmitting for some number of years before Dad got a set that was capable of receiving it. Before we finally did manage to wear him down he would just say, "It's a waste of money. And what are you going to possibly do with all those channels anyway"? Anyway, to change channel on this new TV you pressed a button for the corresponding station you wished to view, where upon the previous selected button popped back out. I can’t recall how we discovered that if we pulled out the button tuned to ITV and turned it clockwise we could pick up Gas Board trucks radio transmissions. That was an added bonus because if there was nothing on the telly we could just sit and listen to the gasmen. I suppose we were among the first to experience ‘live’ reality TV!
Dad finally decided that as the Americans had gone to the moon we should get a colour TV. He rented the set from Granada TV Rentals as Dad said that if the technology that ran a spaceship could go wrong (referring to Apollo 13) then he wasn’t going to be landed with a whacking great bill to repair a colour telly. My Dads logic remains to this day impeccable.
And so it was at this point that my Dad offered to pay for a rental TV for my Grandad, who was still watching the one channel. After great persuasion and argument he was convinced to enter the latter part of the twentieth century. He refused flatly however to have a colour set and the reason he gave, I quote, ”When I watch the telly I don’t want to see it in colour. I want it to look real”!
Well, I have a vast choice now and far beyond my wildest dreams back then. But I would give them all up just to have my Grandad back for a week. And I’d have to say preferably in colour.