Memory Lane: Back to colourless days

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TECHNOLOGY waits for nobody – least of all the 17 Fylde coast television retailers who, 50 years ago this week, clubbed together for a half-page appeal to readers of The Gazette.

They proclaimed: “This announcement has been inserted jointly by the following dealers, who feel the public must know the facts and not be misled by adverse publicity.”

So what could have been so controversial, back in June 1961, that prompted the businesses – local household names now very much in the past, such as H Wiseman, Reeco, Walmsley’s and Crookall – to counter a flurry of reports in national newspapers?

Colour TV, that’s what! The special announcement referred to “erroneous information” with the public “led to believe that colour TV is just around the corner, when in fact, such is not the case”.

There was reference to a committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Harry Pilkington, reviewing the whole field of broadcast entertainment, with its recommendations to Government probably setting the pattern for the next 20 years.

The retailers suggested a colour set, “still many years away”, could not possibly be put on the market at less than £250.

Putting this into perspective, but ironically proving that “pay per view” is nothing new, elsewhere in the same day’s Gazette, one retailer was advertising a Philips Videomatic coin slot TV, where householders could save money as they watched.

Weekly rental was 8s (40p) and 6d (2.5p) in the slot, which then bought an hour’s entertainment, with renters getting back an agreed amount from the cash box.

Another dealer was offering a 1961 slimline 17in set on HP terms for 7s 6d (37.5p) weekly, with up to £12 trade-in on your old model.

With an eye on public taste, the special announcement claimed: “Remember, most programmes will always be in black and white because of the cost and because colour would add nothing to them from the point of view of entertainment value.”

And worried that families might hold back on replacing their existing tellies until the colour came beaming out of those cathode ray tubes, the advert ended: “Whatever happens you may rest assured that your present set, or the one you may buy or rent in the future, will never become obsolete during its life.”

As they were not even thinking in colour, how on earth would they have reacted to the spectre of the later digital revolution, with its flat screens, HD and 3D broadcasts?