In the days of yore, the television stations would broadcast programs for only a few hours a day - the rest of the time the "test card" reigned supreme...
These days we're bombarded with hundreds of television channels. I would say that we are spoilt for choice if it wasn’t for the fact that so much of what is presented is such utter dross (but that's a discussion for another time).
By comparison, when I was a young lad around six years of age in Sheffield, England, we had only two television channels. The first was run by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). This would eventually be called BBC 1 when they introduced BBC 2 in April 1964. The second channel was run by our local Independent Television (ITV) company.
In those days of yore, the television stations would broadcast programs for only a few hours a day. The rest of the time the "test card" reigned supreme as the most watched daytime program.
Real television came on around 4:00 p.m. with a selection of kid’s programs. Due to the fact that both my parents worked, I spend my weekdays at the home of my Auntie Barbara, Uncle Nick, and Cousin Gillian (they lived "just around the corner" from our house).
Sometime before the kids programs started, my cousin Gillian and I would plead to be let into the front room to watch the television. When we turned the TV on, we would be presented with the test card presented in black-and-white and shades of gray (it was not until years later that I realized the test card would appear in color if you happened to have a color TV ... because we didn't).
BBC test card circa 1963
As I recall, the test card was accompanied by a high-pitched whistle. Gillian and I would sit cross-legged on the floor watching the test card and listening to the whistle in great anticipation.
A few minutes before the turn of the hour, the whistle would be replaced by some music. And then, exactly on the hour, the kids programs would start and we would bask in the glow of our good fortune until 6:00 p.m. when the news program would come on signaling the start of adult (boring) television.
If you could add them all together, I wonder how many hundreds of thousands (or millions) of hours the kids across England spent watching that test card...Click Here
to see other articles in this "How it was..."
series...Editor's Note: It would be great if – in addition to commenting on my articles – you took the time to write down short stories of your own. I can help in the copy editing department, so you don’t need to worry about being “word perfect”. All you have to do is to email your offering to me at max@CliveMaxfield.com with
“How it was” in the subject line.I can post your article as “anonymous” if you wish. On the other hand, what would be really cool would be if you wanted to add a few words about yourself – and maybe even provide a couple of
“Then and Now” pictures – for example:On the left we see me as a young sprog – I was still a student at this time, poised on the brink of leaping into my first position at International Computers Limited (ICL). On the right we see me as I am today – a much older and sadder man, beaten down by the pressures of work and bowed by the awesome responsibilities I bear (grin).
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