The Advent of Colour Television!
It’s fair to say that the tiny black and white boxes of 60 years ago bear almost no resemblance to the 100+ inch curved screen giants that are available on the mass market today.
But no matter how far we’ve come with advancements in LED, LCD, UHD, 4k, and whatever other technology is out there, arguably the single biggest achievement – the one thing that most transformed the viewing experience – was the leap from black and white to colour.
The first colour transmission in the UK was BBC2’s broadcast of Wimbledon on July 1st 1967. Not many people were able to view it of course, because it only appeared in colour to those who had already upgraded to a colour television set. This was a considerable outlay at the time, and resulted in your licence fee doubling from £5 to £10. As such, the transition to colour across the nation was a gradual one.
BBC2 began by broadcasting four hours a week of colour programmes, making Britain the first country in Europe to offer regular programmes in colour. At the time when the programmes were first announced, it was promised that the programmed hours in colour would increase to 10 or 12 the following year.
The number of colour programmes steadily increased, and by the middle of 1968 most of BBC2’s programming was available in colour. There were still fewer than 100,000 households who actually owned a colour television at this point, though. The next year BBC1 and ITV began to regularly broadcast in colour and by the end of 1969 over 200,000 colour TV sets were in use.
It wasn’t until 1976, when full nationwide colour broadcasting was achieved, that the number of colour televisions in UK households began to outnumber black and white.
Nowadays, of course, we take it for granted that we can view programmes in high-definition colour. But imagine having to watch a game of snooker in black and white. How on earth would you follow the progress of the game without constant commentary to explain which ball was where?
And if one friend complemented another on her gorgeous red dress, you would just have to take her word for it that it was indeed that colour.
Being able to view programmes in colour brought a new level of realism to the television, helping engage people to a greater degree whether they were learning from documentaries or getting engrossed in the dirty details of a soap opera.
It also made life much more complicated for the producers of programmes, giving them more elements to balance with lighting and filters to produce the desired outcome (and if the story called for a red dress, there was no more getting away with using a blue one).
But then all of the producer’s hard work would be for nothing if you didn’t have your television set adjusted properly. Over-saturated colours and orange faces were all too common in the early days of colour TV whereas nowadays we wouldn’t dream of touching the colour control menu – the TV sets itself up for you!
So tonight when you sit down in front of your favourite program, before you start dreaming of that bigger and better TV, take a moment to appreciate just how far we’ve already come.
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