Here is a little reminder of what televisions looked like around the mid-1960s. For those who like me are old enough to remember those wood boxed televisions I hope this is a nostalgic treat, and helps to recall the few hours a week that we used to spend watching TV back then. For younger readers I hope you enjoy discovering how much technology has moved on in the last 40 or so years. TV shows of all kinds are now available on all sorts of devices, from flat thin LED TVs to portable devices like smartphones and laptops – life hasn’t always been that exciting or overwhelming!
EKCO T434. 19″. Introduced c.1963/4. Photo found at 405 TV – Gallery 1
The photo of an EKCO 19 inch Black & White TV is of a very similar TV to one I watched around 1967. I seem to recall my Dad bringing a TV home one evening, probably by getting a lift with a friend from work. He set it up on top of a old cupboard or sideboard in the living room. It wasn’t the instant switch on and watch I was expecting. There was the small matter of tuning the TV to a station and catching the signal first.
In 1967 there were only 3 TV channels in the UK – BBC1, BBC2 and ITV – all only broadcast in black & white, with a gradual introduction of colour transmissions, region by region, from 1969 with a whole new network of transmitters being built into the early 70s. Many TV sets, like the one pictured, had a dial that turned to find the channel. Pre-set channel buttons were available on some models, but I mostly recall dial tuning on TVs that I saw. Finding a station, even if the picture was snowy and faint was an achievement that could take many minutes, sometimes longer if the TV aerial wasn’t positioned correctly to begin with.
Like many homes of that era there was no TV aerial installed on the building, so an indoor antenna had to be used. That was a very hit and miss game, with a lot of time spent holding the antenna and moving it up and down and around in every possible direction, like some sort of strange incantation of the TV picture in ritual dance, attempting to catch the signal. The picture below shows a few examples of antenna similar to ones my Dad used.
A few ‘rabbits ear’ TV antenna from the USA in the 1950s, that were still commonplace in the 60s and very similar to those available in the UK. Photo from the Vintage Television Antenna page of GodarUSA.
Once the signal of a station had been found, and the antenna contorted and positioned in just the right place, we would settle down to enjoy a favourite show, like Pinky & Perky or Tarzan. However, the show was often interrupted by the need to correct the signal, either with the TV dial or by repositioning the antenna. Interference from atmospheric disturbance and other electrical devices was common. Even moving around in the room, like dancing and singing along with a song tended to disturb the signal and spoil the show. Changing channels was likely to mean starting the whole performance over again!
TV sets in the 1960s also had another painfully frustrating problem – valves! The picture could suddenly be lost, with just the sound of the show continuing to come from the set, when the valve ‘blew’. With the sort of set we had, a blown valve was a fairly common event, possibly due to another fault with the electrics in the back of the box, or poor quality replacement valves. For an idea of what the inside of the TV looked like with the back off see the photo below. All TV’s had a sticker on the cardboard back cover, warning that removing the screws and opening the back risked the danger of electrocution! That wasn’t an empty threat just to deter DIY repairs, there really was a danger of a severe or even fatal electric shock – not that such warnings stopped my Dad, although he was wary of electrics and kept us kids well away from the TV when it was opened up.
An example of the inside the back of a TV from the 1960s. For the technology buffs this is an MURPHY V849U 19″, but most TVs from that era looked fairly similar to this. Photo from 405 TV – Gallery 4.
An example of a typical replacement valve common for the efficient working of various parts of the circuits in the back of all TVs in the 1950 and 60s. Photo from The National Valve Museum – Valves and their habits.
Although I can remember watching TV several times a week back in the mid-1960s, I can also recall disappointments of blown valves when favourite shows were due on. We didn’t always have a TV until as late as 1980, as we simply couldn’t afford to buy a new one and second-hand TVs were not all that reliable. We had a few fairly long lasting TVs in the 1970s, but there were also gaps of many months in my regular TV viewing too. Now, with an overwhelming array of channels and ways to watch it, I find myself enjoying reading blogs and watching home made videos on YouTube, instead of viewing regular TV. I do make an exception for Doctor Who, a show from 1963, that has been enjoying a popular revival in the last few years – I still enjoy watching it, as it is broadcast, on a standard TV. See the video in the previous post for a sample of what Doctor Who is about!