17 October 2007

Analogue Television c. 1936-2007

Analogue Television has begun its long journey to the great decommissioning centre in the sky as Whitehaven in Cumbria became the first town in Britain to switch off its old-fashioned, analogue, cathode-ray "idiot boxes" and replace them with smart, new, digital, widescreen, LCD and plasma idiot boxes instead.

It was was back in the mid-1920s that John Logie Baird(1) pioneered TV in this country, inventing a mechanical means of broadcasting almost-impossible-to-see pictures of a dummy's head (a practice still much in favour with TV stations across the country). Sadly, like so many British inventions, his system - while brilliantly inventive - was utterly useless, meaning that an alternative means of broadcasting had to be invented in America. Thus it wasn't until 1936 that the BBC began broadcasting from Alexandra Palace. Thousands of middle-class(2) Londoners were able to dress up in black tie and gather around their mahogany-hewn television sets to watch up to four hours a day of programming devoted to dancing, loveable cockneys and Bruce Forsyth.

Discontinued during the war for fear that the Nazis would discover the secret of light entertainment and develop a terrifying new weapon, the LE-bomb(3), normal service was resumed following the death of Hitler(4).

Although it remained rationed until 1954, millions of Britons saved up their coupons to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II - beginning the golden age of Analogue Televison. Sofa manufacturers and spam-and-powdered-egg pizza delivery companies rubbed their hands with glee as those millions of Britons sat, night after night, glued to dramas, sitcoms, documentaries and Bruce Forsyth.

Throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s Analogue Television had the nation enthralled(5), but by the noughties it was facing competition from a new rival. Digital Television was young and slim and able to woo the nation with the promise of hundreds of new television channels (admittedly generally showing exactly the same programmes) and the government with the prospect of flogging off the old analogue broadcasting spectrum to the highest bidder. Analogue TV began to look about as fresh and original as Bruce Forsyth and thus a plan was mooted to pull the plugs across the whole country by 2012 - enabling us all to press the red button and select not just the Olympic Mens' 100m Final, but also the race to complete the Olympic Stadium itself and the ceremonial resignation of Lord Coe.

The people of Whitehaven, Cumbria were chosen to pioneer the great switchover (even though many argued for a complete and utter switch off) and so, in the early hours of this morning, the slow euthanasia of Analogue TV began as Analogue BBC2 had a pillow held over its face(6) and the people of Whitehaven watched the white dot disappear from their screens for the last time.

Analogue Television will be buried at St John Reith of the Spinning Grave's Kirk. The service will be conducted by Justin Lee Collins and Tess Daly and, after a cross-platform, interactive, phone-in competition the congregation will sing Bruce Springsteen's 57 Channels (And Nothin' On) whether that was the true result of the phone-in competition or not.

Analogue BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Five are survived by Digital BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Five... and Men & Motors, Nuts TV, The Horror Channel and Bruce Forsyth.

(1) and his assistant Boo Boo.
(2) only the middle-classes had space in their homes for the newfangled television sets which were the size of a small room - normally belonging to the servants, who, from then on, had to sleep in the garden but were allowed to watch television through the window, provided they wore black tie.
(3) which is why Bruce Forsyth spent 1935 to 1945 under armed guard deep in a Welsh mine.
(4) which was broadcast live on UKTV History after viewers voted to evict the Fűhrer and Reichschancellor from Der Grosse Bruder Bunker.
(5) some say hypnotised - especially those in the advertising industry.
(6) something that anyone who has watched The Egghead Challenge has been dreaming about for some time.


mutleythedog said...

I had no idea that Brucie was so old!! Blimey he is looking good. I swear he was moving on That "Come dancing" thing which I ... ahem .. accidentally .. saw a bit of the other weekend.

Sir Philip Johnston-Higham said...

At the risk of betraying my Luddite propensities, I say "Good riddance."