Saturday, April 13, 2013

Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #5

So, what have you been up to this past week?

Well, whatever you did... it is likely to have been more than the Roku developers managed to (collectively) get released via the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store during that same time !!

This lack of 'channels' got me thinking back to a simpler time when we weren't exactly spoilt for choice when it came to watching stuff on television. Yes... it's hard to believe, in this day and age, but there really was a time (during the late 1940's and early 1950's) when it was either the BBC Television Service or nothing. Furthermore, that 'television service' was just the one channel back then and quite often the 'nothing' could still apply whilst actually tuned to the service !!

Luckily the concept of 'channel choice' became a reality when, further to the Television Act of 1954, Granada was awarded one of the UK's first commercial television broadcasting licenses. Shortly after that (during 1955) ITV began broadcasting in London. At last UK viewers could change channels !!

On 20th April 1964, things got better still when BBC2 was launched and the UK's third television station soon proved that "three is the magic number" (or, should that really be two?!!) when, on 1st July 1967, it became Europe's first television channel to broadcast regularly in colour. Sad, but true... before then, we saw the world mainly in black & white. Looking back it's kind of apt that we should get to watch in colour during the psychedelic period. Groovy, Baby !! Yep... we never had it so good.

Mind you, even with a choice of three channels there were still a lot of television hours filled with trade test transmissions. I mean, you could pretty much forget about daytime television and, before anyone pipes up... I know, I know, the same could probably still be said today - but, you know what I'm saying. You only had to walk past a television shop, during the day, to see there was nothing on. Maybe, all those hours of test card transmissions were for just that reason... to enable the retailers to get the sharpest images on those lovely new television screens !!

If you're of a certain age, you will (no doubt) remember many occasions on which you would race to get home and switch on the ol' gogglebox only to find that there was a girl and a clown ruling the airwaves. No, not Maggie Thatcher & Ronald Reagan... that was a bit later ("Spitting Image", anyone?) but instead, the iconic test card image of an eight year old Carole Hersee (daughter of, erstwhile, BBC engineer George Hersee) playing noughts & crosses with a toy clown (aka 'Bubbles the Clown'), surrounded by various greyscales and colour test signal patterns. You know the one !!

Believe it or not, despite having the option to switch channels, there weren't even any remote controls to facilitate such an operation. Basically, if you wanted to change channels, you had to get up from the sofa (or, settee, as many called it) and go push a button on the TV (itself) in order to do so. Yep... there were a lot less couch potatoes in those days because someone was always having to jump up and switch over to another channel. That said, these days there are probably too many remotes... don't you agree ?!!

Anyway... come 2nd November 1982, when Channel 4 was added to the mix, we were grateful of the remote because we then had four, yes FOUR (count 'em) channels to choose from. The first programme that went out (anyone?) on Channel 4, at 4.45pm that day, was none other than "Countdown" (so, you saw it too?) with Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman. Ironically, these days, even with a remote to change channels you won't be able to avoid that one !!

For bonus points (but no prizes, sorry) does anyone recall the first advertisement on channel four? If you said it was for Vauxhall cars, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Need proof? The details were lifted from this article published via the Official Channel 4 Website. I, myself, have no recollection of that ad because (like today) I avoid them at all costs. Shall I put the kettle on?

It was another fifteen years before we upped the stakes (and the channel numbers) again, with a fifth television service. That came via the aptly named Channel 5 which was launched on 30th March 1997. It was also notable for being the last of the analogue services before, as we all know, digital television came along and the choice of channels REALLY INCREASED for the first time.

However, since this post is intended to make the LACK OF CHANNELS added to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store during the past seven days ABUNDANTLY CLEAR and NOT the HUGE choice of channels that already exist there (currently over 400 and counting...), I do not intend to expand upon my UK television history lesson beyond this point.

Instead, I thought I'd leave you with a 60-minute video of the infamous BBC Test Card 'F' which you can (if you so choose) play repeatedly for the next week until I publish my next 'Weekly RoundUp'. This will also give younger readers an insight as to what it was like to watch daytime television in the days before gadgets like the Roku player came into being and the choice of viewing EXPLODED !!

Believe it or not, this BBC Test Card was broadcast for over 70, 000 hours between 1967, when it was first introduced, and 1999 after 24-hour broadcasting had begun (in 1997, on BBC One) and Pages From Ceefax took over (in 1998, on BBC Two) followed by some random last-gasp appearances during engineering works until it was withdrawn completely. As a result child star, Carole Hersee, and her toy doll, Bubbles the Clown, can now boast of having more screen time than anyone else in British TV history !!

Anyway, for your viewing (and listening) pleasure, here is the complete video for BBC1 Test Card 'F' featuring the entire 'Positron' audio accompaniment, used extensively between 1985 and 1987:-

Before I sign-off on this post, I must say a BIG "thank you" to 'MagicGeezer' for uploading this classic in the first place. If the above video floats your boat, you will find many more uploaded for your entertainment courtesy of MagicGeezer's YouTube Channel and, if you are feeling really nostalgic, you  can even watch via your Roku player as I did. Just BE WARNED: watching a test card transmission these days, you are more likely to find yourself waking up at 3am to your Roku screensaver than eagerly anticipating the start of the day's TV treats. Then again, maybe 3am is the perfect time to watch this video gem ?!! As with all things Roku... IT'S ABOUT HAVING THE CHOICE and hopefully, by this time next week, THE CHOICE WILL BE EVEN BIGGER. Just a little hint to the Roku developers out there, ahem !!

Meanwhile if you enjoyed this week's little interlude, courtesy of BBC Test Card 'F', you might want to check out the website of The Test Card Circle, who are a group of enthusiasts committed to preserving test card music & recordings. They hold an annual meeting in Leominster, where they swap tapes (and, yes, cd's... who knows, maybe even mp3's?) of the obscure scraps they have pieced together over the years. Apparently, this strange cult is becoming more popular thanks to the rising interest in Ceefax music from the 80's and 90's. Can't say I'm a fan of that particular niche genre but... each to their own !!

So, I guess that covers it for this time. I'm amazed I found so much to write about, when there was a grand total of ZERO CHANNELS, yes that was... zip, nada, rien, nothing, diddly squat, etc, etc. released since my previous 'Weekly RoundUp'. Hopefully, you'll still be back in seven days time for the next one when (fingers crossed) there will be more on offer than a test card video. If you can't wait that long, you can always keep up with the UK Roku action (as it happens) throughout the coming week, by following the Official Twitter Feed for this blog: @ukrokuchannels where up-to-the-minute information for all things Roku-related (here in the UK) is posted on a daily basis (well, almost).

Until the next time, then...

That's all folks !!

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