Monday, June 27, 2005

Coloured TV

Almost my earliest memories are of the start of TV in Australia. I don't actually claim to remember the start because I don't. That was a little too long ago even for me (September 1956, just in time for the Melbourne Olympic Games). Nonetheless, I remember things that must have happened in the first half of 1957.

We weren't anywhere near the first in our street to get a TV set. Even in a short street of maybe 20 houses we would have been one of the last. That honour went to one of our neighbours who did the neighbourly thing and invited half the street over of a Sunday evening, setting up their lounge room like a mini theatre with every chair they could lay their hands on. Sometimes we'd take our own kitchen chairs over just to be sure of seating. We kids, of course, would gather in a group on the floor seated in front of the adults.

It was a given that, if invited, one took a plate and I remember my grandmother baking all sorts of cakes and, of course, disappearing into the kitchen to help with the brewing of tea and coffee. Others would bring sandwiches or pies. I used to look forward to TV night as much for the goodies as for the TV itself.

This was black and white TV - Australia didn't go to colour TV until March 1 1975, one of the last countries in the world with any kind of TV system at all to make the changeover.

Sometime in 1958 some marketing genius conceived the idea of selling a colour converter. No, not some sophisticated electronic upgrade. Merely a plastic screen that came in two sizes, 17 inch and 21 inch, to be bolted on the front of your black and white telly. It had three coloured stripes, brown at the bottom, green in the middle and blue at the top. If the scene being shown was framed just right you might get lucky and have ground at the bottom, foliage in the middle and sky at the top. A close up of a face would get some funky effects however.

I never actually saw one of those things; they were priced in the ten pound range (significant money in those days) but I remember seeing them advertised in back copies of Radio, Television and Hobbies, Australia's premier electronics magazine of the time. They changed their name to Electronics Australia in 1964 and, I now discover, are defunct[^].

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