Opinion: Why TV was still such a thrill 50 years ago


I always think summer has arrived when the Wimbledon tennis tournament is shown on the Beeb.

In 1966, my parents finally relented and bought a television, prior to this if we wanted to watch anything it was at someone’s house or place of work. We did a strange thing, which was to get up from the chair and turn a knob that said ON/OFF which sadly seems to have disappeared from equipment nowadays.

Retro - TV in the 1970s

Retro - TV in the 1970s

There was no remote control to channel hop, there was one channel, BBC, and of course it was in black and white.

I once spent a week cat sitting at my daughter’s house and was presented with at least four remote control gizmos, I was several days in when I finally worked out how to switch it on but then spent the rest of the week looking at the menu board with no inkling how to bring a programme up.

Anyway, in 1966 we soon became hooked on our piece of modern technology.

I loved all the classic serials on a Sunday afternoon.

Even my mother, who wasn’t the least bit interested in that wooden box in the corner of the room (another item to dust), put down her knitting when Dr Finlay’s Casebook was on. Due to his erratic working hours as a butler, Dad would come and go all day but was always home for tea at 5 o’clock. It became apparent he was seriously hooked on a particular programme.

We had never heard of television dinners, Mother always insisted we sat at the table for our meals.

With the television always on, as soon as Dad heard the Dr Who theme tune he would push his chair back, select whatever food took his fancy from the tea table, pile it onto his plate and disappear into the sitting room.

My mother used to be extremely irritated by this behaviour but he was never to be dissuaded from doing it.

Quite why he liked Dr Who so much I don’t know, I never asked him and he never said.

Watching our first television set was not for the faint-hearted in the summer.

Black and white televisions received 405 lines VHF and suffered with continental interference, caused by the ionosphere and the 11 year sunspot cycle.

Radio Hams used to love all this interference because they could bounce radio waves off it and transmit further afield. For the television watcher it was a nightmare, with wavy and zigzag lines rolling across and up and down the screen, a constant buzzing sound, the picture jumping about, people and objects were in triplicate, following any programme was a feat of endurance.

Then, on a July day in 1966 there was a certain football match.

Like the other 32.3 million viewers I was glued to the television, but I wonder how many of those watched 66 players kicking in excess of three balls about to become world champions?