Does Anyone Else Remember The Days Before Televisions Became Common In Homes

Grandad1943

Distinguished Member
On a Forum that is devoted to the latest in visual and audio technology, I am wondering if anyone (besides me) on this forum can remember the times before televisions became common in average income homes.

I was ten around ten years old when my parents in 1953 found they could just about afford the high cost of renting our first television for the house. For some reason, I always remember the Make of that TV which was a "Raymond" which came with a ten-inch screen, two knobs on the front of which one controlled on/off and volume while the other controlled the screen brightness.

That first television also came with only one channel (BBC) which did not broadcast during the day throughout weekdays but did start up a 4:45 pm in the afternoon with Children's Hour. At 5:45 the BBC would then Broadcast the news bulletin before shutting down from 6:00 pm until 7:30 pm.

The BBC always stated that the above close down was to allow parents to put children to bed without them having distractions. As stated television transmission would then recommence at 7:30 pm but would shut down again at 10:30 pm on weekday evenings and 10:00 pm on a Sunday.

Despite all the above restrictions, as a kid, I can well remember the thrill of looking through the slats at the rear of the television to see all the electric valves shining hot in their glass cases, what a marvel that thing was.

The only exception to the above transmission hours would be on a Saturday when sport would be broadcast in the afternoon which was normally horse racing.

So, can anyone else remember the days of their first television being installed in their house and the times before they had that first TV and would care to share their experiences in this thread, If so I would love to read their memories of that period
 

mjn

Distinguished Member
Nope…..as i was born in the 70s. However, i do remember there only being 3 channels.
 

A1944

Well-known Member
Yes, I certainly remember those times. The first TV broadcast I saw (not at home) was the funeral of King George VI in 1952, when I was 8. I also well remember seeing the opening night of ITA on 22 Sept 1955 in the window of a TV/Radio shop near our home.
 

DemonAV

Distinguished Member
No as I was born in the mid 60s but I do remember our tvs were from radio rentals, were all black and white (until the late 70s) and we only had 3 channels. Guess what. Telly was better as well.
 

aVdub

Banned
No I do not, but I wish it was like that now tbh, but with Netflix, Amazon to name a few and 100in screens.
 

Tight Git

Distinguished Member
Just about, being born in 1945.

Our first tv was a 9" Ferguson (TRF Ch1 only) and my first memory was of Oxford sinking in the Boat Race in1949!

Of course, Muffin the Mule was my favourite programme at that age, along with Andy Pandy.

A bit later (1953) I clearly remember all the neighbours coming in for the Coronation, which I must say I found rather boring.

Just imagine a couple of dozen people looking at a 9 inch screen in the corner of the room compared with the 24 inch computer monitor just in front of me as I type this!
 

cosmicma

Member
not old enough to remember the first tv's but i do remember the tv being modified from 405 to 625 lines so it could get BBC 2 ( if my memory serves )
i remember our next door but one neighbours were the first to get a colour tv in our street and going round to watch star trek on it that would have been either 1969 / 70 can't remember the exact date
oh i wasn't allowed to watch doctor who because my parents said it would give me nightmares :(
 

Grandad1943

Distinguished Member
Yes, I certainly remember those times. The first TV broadcast I saw (not at home) was the funeral of King George VI in 1952, when I was 8. I also well remember seeing the opening night of ITA on 22 Sept 1955 in the window of a TV/Radio shop near our home.

yes, same experience here. The first time I saw a television working was through the front window of a house up the road from where I lived. That family had one installed for the queen's coronation in 1952.

one of their young daughters came down the road and told us on its first day at the house of it being delivered and "it was working". So, as a gang of nine and ten year old snotty-nosed council estate kids, we all went streaming off up the road to see one of these wonders of the modern age actually in action.

However, disappointment followed when her mother would not let us all in the house. She did though allow us to see the television working through the said front window. Being a Saturday lunchtime Watch with mother was on broadcasting "Andy Pandy". what a wonder that program was to us all even though we could not hear the sound.

Real technology had come to a Bristol council estate gang of kids and touched us all.
 

Grandad1943

Distinguished Member
not old enough to remember the first tv's but i do remember the tv being modified from 405 to 625 lines so it could get BBC 2 ( if my memory serves )
i remember our next door but one neighbours were the first to get a colour tv in our street and going round to watch star trek on it that would have been either 1969 / 70 can't remember the exact date
oh i wasn't allowed to watch doctor who because my parents said it would give me nightmares :(

If I remember correctly the Quatermass Experiment was the first real "nightmare program" broadcast at around 7:30 pm on a Saturday night in the late 1950s or early 60s. Being broadcast in black and white made it all the more frightening I feel, but everybody would sit glued to it before disappearing off down the local pub, as they all did in those days.

it brought many complaints to the BBC in regard to content and time of broadcast, but the Beeb obviously wanted to put the program out prior to everybody departing to the pubs.
 

nvingo

Distinguished Member
My grandfather was a toolmaker by trade and worked for a TV manufacturer.
My father worked in the offices at the same site.
At home we had a 405-line VHF set - BBC1 or Anglia only.
Grandfather did have a colour TV though I can't remember when/whether he had a BW in my lifetime.
However, when my dad changed jobs (another TV factory in a different town) and we moved home, it was too much trouble or not viable to take the VHF aerial and TV with us to erect on the new home; maybe dad had done his homework and knew VHF wouldn't even be receivable there.
So although TV sets were already common and we had been accustomed to one, we actually had six months without one, until dad bought a 14 inch portable BW from the company staff shop, and a 'ping-pong' type games console for when no interesting programmes were on the three channels available then (though with judicious orientation of the indoor aerial we could up that to five - ITV were genuinely regional).
I inherited that one when a colour Teletext remote control set was bought for the main living room, and could use it for the brand new home computer in my room.
We've made up for it since - currently eight Freeview LCD sets in frequent use (living room, dining room, kitchen, conservatory and four bedrooms).
 

Ian Thompson

Well-known Member
My Father had a TV from around 1951. A tiny black and white TV. With doors that would open to see the very small TV screen. I can remember that TV as a 5 year old in 1958 and it took such a long time for the picture to appear on the screen. I renember both me and my brother would call that warming up! Why we called it that i don't know. Also there where lots of small adjustments at the side of the TV. As often you would need to use those to adjust your TV. One thing that everyone who had a TV had the problem when the one BBC TV channels picture would start to go up and down and one of the adjustments was called the vertical hold and i think that was the adjustment you regularly had to use to control that every day problem. Although you could buy TV’s in the 1950’s and 1960’s, nearly everyone rented there TV’s, as TV’s had valves that needed replacing regularly and it was easier for those that had TV’s to pay a monthly rental than owning a TV with the valves needing replacing regularly. I cant remember if when buying a TV you got a guarantee as TV regularly needed engineers called out even in the first year of renting or buying a TV outright. Maybe someone who had a TV like my Father in the 1950’s and 1960’s can confirm whether there was such a thing as a guarantee if you bought your TV outright.
 
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Grandad1943

Distinguished Member
My Father had a TV from around 1951. A tiny black and white TV. With doors that would open to see the very small TV screen. I can remember that TV as a 5 year old in 1958 and it took such a long time for the picture to appear on the screen. I renember both me and my brother would call that warming up! Why we called it that i don't know. Also there where lots of small adjustments at the side of the TV. As often you would need to use those to adjust your TV. One thing that everyone who had a TV had the problem when the one BBC TV channel would start would start to go up and down and one of the adjustments was called the vertical hold and i think that was the adjustment you regularly had to use to control that every day problem. Although you could buy TV’s in the 1950’s and 1960’s, nearly everyone rented there TV’s, as TV’s had valves that needed replacing regularly and it was easier for those that had TV’s to pay a monthly rental than owning a TV with the valves needing replacing regularly. I cant remember if when buying a TV you got a guarantee as TV regularly needed engineers called out even in the first year of renting or buying a TV outright. Maybe someone who had a TV like my Father in the 1950’s and 1960’s can confirm whether there was such a thing as a guarantee if you bought your TV outright.

Ian Thompson, you certainly bring back memories to me in regard to the reliability of those early televisions. As you say the electrical valves were the weak point of those sets and constantly required replacement throughout what was their comparatively short lifetimes.

As you state there were knobs on the back or sides of the sets that could be adjusted to compensate for the gradual decline in any of the performance of the valve.

There was as I recall:-
A vertical hold knob that could be turned either way to stop the picture scrolling top to bottom or bottom to top depending on the valves wear.

There was a left horizontal hold knob that could be turned to bring the picture back square when it "screwed up to the left" when that valve started to drop its performance.

There was a right horizontal hold knob that did the same job as the above except in the opposite direction.

There was then the centre hold button which could be turned in either direction to bring the picture back to the middle of the screen when, as often did, drift off either to left or right.

at least one of the above knobs would require adjustment at least once a week and more often as the valves grew older until the knobs no longer could manage the compensation and the "repairman" then had to be called to replace the faulty valves, which was very frequently.

However, the real challenge came when the picture became very blurred or would suddenly not display at all. The repairman would come, fiddle about in the back of the set for a few minutes, suck air through his teeth and declare "your tube has gone soft" OR "your tube is gone altogether" ... Disaster

As the "tube" was the costliest component in the set its failure always marked the end of the lifetime of the television in those early days. A new set would be required which meant a new more expensive rental agreement or the outright purchase of a new television.

But oh, how many happy nights were spent twiddling those knobs.
 
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Richardxx

Distinguished Member
One great thing about being old, is that if you can remember 8 inch B&W 405 line screens & one channel you don't half appreciate even a 48 inch OLED.
 

D'@ve

Well-known Member
One great thing about being old, is that if you can remember 8 inch B&W 405 line screens & one channel you don't half appreciate even a 48 inch OLED.

You certainly do, even my 27 inch computer monitors! But they are UHD whereas my Aunty's first TV was one of those 9 inch ones in a cabinet and "VLD" or Very Low Definition! We spent a lot of time visiting my Aunty in the early 1950s! :)

But when ITV started up, 1955 or 56, we got our own black and white TV, a MASSIVE 17 incher, a Philips IIRC. Coin operated too, many were the days when we had to scramble around for some shillings or florins to get it working again in the middle of some exciting series in the late 50s or 60-ish. Quatermass yes! A for Andromeda too!!!!

But my earliest childhood TV memories are Rag Tag and Bobtail, Flowerpot Men and Andy Pandy lol.
 

iqoniq

Well-known Member
I'm not really old enough to remember there being no TVs, but I do remember it going off in the afternoon. I actually used to think that the people who worked at the TV station went home for a siesta. I was in Spain a lot as a kid and I was used to afternoon siestas, and 3 year old me thought it was perfectly reasonable that some people in the UK would do it.
 

MrFraggle

Distinguished Member
Cannot remember when it arrived in the kids home I was bought up in in the 50/60's but I do remember it came in a lovely cabinet with doors to hide the screen when not in use.

Later I remember the National Anthem being played every night when the BBC closed down for the day.
 

dmpzsn

Distinguished Member
If I remember correctly the Quatermass Experiment was the first real "nightmare program" broadcast at around 7:30 pm on a Saturday night in the late 1950s or early 60s. Being broadcast in black and white made it all the more frightening I feel, but everybody would sit glued to it before disappearing off down the local pub, as they all did in those days.

it brought many complaints to the BBC in regard to content and time of broadcast, but the Beeb obviously wanted to put the program out prior to everybody departing to the pubs.
Just checked it was July to August 1953.

In junior school the dorm nurse would bring out her radio and we'd listen to that before lights out, but in the senior school we had a tv in our house common room that we could watch.

Not sure when my family first had a tv but it was a two channel set as others have said, horrors of horrors you had to get up to change the channel or to make adjustments to the tv. Each channel had its own tv magazine.

When I got married I didn't have a tv until my mother emigrated and I inherited her old black and white tv. I graduated to a colour tv in the later 70's when we rented a set as did most other people back then. Things have really moved on, not always for the better with the multiple tv channels.
 

MrFraggle

Distinguished Member
Things have really moved on, not always for the better with the multiple tv channels.
With you here.
So man channels, so much cr**, repeated over and over yet they still promote their catch up services.
 

dmpzsn

Distinguished Member
With you here.
So man channels, so much cr**, repeated over and over yet they still promote their catch up services.
That's true. Missed it today, repeated tomorrow and other multiple times on the various channels.

There's some very good stuff around but you've got to search for it.

Far from the tv that @Grandad1943 wrote about. Even though it was in black and white they produced some good programs back then.
 
D

Deleted member 686356

Guest
An interesting thread. Thanks for starting it OP.

I'm in my 30s so obviously I don't remember that period, but my gran once mentioned that they were the first on their street to have a TV (they were one of the few who bought one rather than rented one). All the neighbours came around to watch the Queen's coronation. If I remember rightly she didn't get to watch it as she was busy making everyone sandwiches.
 

nvingo

Distinguished Member
yet they still promote their catch up services
They'd rather their content was stored only on their servers, than recorded on our local devices, that way they can monitor and eventually monetise each viewing.
 

Grandad1943

Distinguished Member
An interesting thread. Thanks for starting it OP.

I'm in my 30s so obviously I don't remember that period, but my gran once mentioned that they were the first on their street to have a TV (they were one of the few who bought one rather than rented one). All the neighbours came around to watch the Queen's coronation. If I remember rightly she didn't get to watch it as she was busy making everyone sandwiches.

As the OP of this thread, it is for me to thank those who have placed posts on it for bringing back such great memories of the era, the televisions, and the programs that were on those 8 and 10-inch black and white TVs.

I was just ten years old at the time of the queen's coronation. It was to see that event live that many families forked out the extortionate price required to even rent a television at that time. However, we could not afford that cost until a year later when the prices dropped somewhat and at last became within our household reach.

However, the coming of television to the average income home marked the start of a period of real optimism in Britain as I recall. That sudden mass television market coincided with the final end of post-war food rationing and an opening up of something which promised much better times to come.

So perhaps Britain has much to thank in the arrival of those tiny screen, black and white, very unreliable televisions and the part they contributed in the new future for us all at that time.
 

thekilljoy

Well-known Member
Got ours for the coronation.

My Mother was a tennis fanantic and loved wimbledon so in mid summer you would find the curtains drawn all day so she could watch it during the day without the glare of daylight on what now would be regarded as a very dull image.
 

strangely tim

Suspended
I'm 66 and can't remember home without a TV, dad was a radio ham, loved electronics he'd have got a TV very early on, I can just remember one TV that was modified to receive the new ITV when it launched. I can remember neighbours popping round to watch TV a bit before they had their own.

Old Vs New TV? New every time. Yes we have repeats but you don't have to watch them and given the sheer amount of channels there is always something somewhere you can watch if your a big TV viewer and there are some top notch production doing the rounds.

This is what your missing
Schedule - BBC Programme Index Take a look and see what was actually on.
 

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