Faded Screens
Faded Screens
Stars of the small screen(s), technicalities and more.

A selection of memories from film and television programmes and early computing...

Photo: 'Do Not Adjust Your Set'- David Jason and Denise Coffey.
| EXIT | Faded Screens | Early Computing | Cult TV Links | Film & TV Technicalities | The OU |

Stars of the small screen(s), technicalities and more...

Early Computing
Early Computing
Faded Screens studies the early computers which were accessed and used by schools and businesses before the advent of the Personal Computer.

Photo courtesy of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL).

Cult TV & Film Links
Cult TV & Film Links  
Memorable Magical TV Programmes & Films...

Photo: Ollie Beak and Fred Barker from 'The Five O'clock Club'.
Film & TV Technicalities

In the 1960s, the majority of TV programmes were broadcast live, not recorded on tape, and were often interrupted by technical problems. It was not unknown for programmes to break down during mid transmission. Television receivers of the sixties were also prone to failure with faulty valves, picture tubes, etc. To reassure viewers that a break in transmission was entirely due to the studio, a common caption displayed during these periods was: "Do not adjust your set - normal service will be resumed as soon as possible." In this section we look at just some of the quirks of film and TV productions...

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Broadcast on channel 9 (ITV) between 1967 - 1969, this zany children's comedy stared Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, David Jason and Denise Coffey.

The title was inspired by the TV fault card of the same era. Remember the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band?

In the photo (top of page) 'Captain Fantastic' (David Jason) catches up with the evil Mrs. Black (Denise Coffey).

Black & White

In the 1960s Black and White TV was broadcast with 405 lines on channels 1 (BBC) and 9 (ITV). BBC2 on 625 lines began in April 1964. A full colour TV service was introduced in UK during 1969.

The Test Card
Virtually unseen today, a BBC test card.
The Test Card
In the early days of colour TV, there was no such thing as automatic tuning and alignment; this had to be done by the installer or service engineer. Many sets were still valve driven (no integrated circuits) and prone to faults, which after repair would require careful alignment. As TV programmes weren't broadcast 24/7, the test card was a cheap way of providing an accurate image which could be used to aid the service engineer.

Image: BBC 'Widescreen' test card.
The Standards

Colour televisions in the UK use a standard known as PAL - Phase Alternation by Line with 625 lines. Of the 625 lines, a few are retained for engineering signals and the Teletext service, which was originally named 'Ceefax' for BBC channels and 'Oracle' for ITV.

Teletext Subtitles

In more recent times you may have noticed that the 888 subtitles (for recorded programmes, not live ones) don't always match the spoken words. A reply from the BBC Subtitling put this in perspective...

"It would appear that the subtitle file which was loaded for that episode was in fact the version for the late night repeat. I would imagine that the late night version had some violence or scenes of a nature not thought suitable before the watershed and therefore would have been maybe a couple of minutes longer."

And they went on to explain the detailed work of the team...

"For pre-recorded programmes our subtitlers work with the VHS tape which will have a clock or timecode in the corner of the screen. This way our subtitlers can see at which exact point the dialogue starts and finishes and are therefore able to match the subtitles to the action and dialogue on screen. This is also very useful when programme makers re-edit their programmes as they are able to tell us at what exact point the change has been made so that we do not have to start from scratch."

So it's not as easy as you might imagine!

In Synch

Synchronisation is a major problem in both managed networks (the Telephone System) and the music, film and TV industries. If the background music or soundtrack doesn't match the screen action, then the impact of the programme is wasted... 


I remember 'Clapperboard' with Chris Kelly which ran between 1972 and 1982 on what today is ITV1. This was essentially a children's version of  'Film 1970' showing clips from the latest films and mini documentaries about their production.

Memorable sequences were from The Towering Inferno (one of the best disaster movies of the 70s) and Flambards, a period drama with some haunting music.

In one edition of Clapperboard, the composer, Dave Fanshawe had to marry the film footage (of Flambard's) with the soundtrack which had been created. He ran the film frame by frame to ensure that as the aeroplane landed in France, the song ended as the wheels touched down.

What was the ballad? Song of Christina. Click here to play a short MP3 clip (0.59M). Music by David Fanshawe. Lyrics by Alan Plater. Sung by Nick Curtis.

The Open University (OU)

Kipper ties, well-spoken presenters, and mind blowing maths formed the early courses of the OU.
The OU
The 1970s saw the rise of the 'university for all' in the form of 'distance learning' with the help of BBC TV and those early (and late) programmes, which are remembered for the fashion as much as the complex content.

Image: OU TV logo circa 1971.
In the days of only three television channels, (BBC 1 & 2 and ITV) viewers switching on early Saturday and Sunday mornings saw programmes intended for the serious student, rather than a sleepy non-intellectual.

There were some gems, such as 'The making of the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me', but sadly such ground breaking programmes have faded into TV history and are unlikely to be screened again.






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