It’s a regular Thursday evening and some things are timeless; the TV transmitter at Crystal Palace is pumping out the mindless fare that is prime time television to London. It’s been doing this for as long as I can remember. Of course, the number of channels have changed a bit; television used to be just three channels … BBC1, BB2 and ITV … when I was growing up. A quick glance at the TV set in the living room shows that the channels now start at 100 and end at 999, though there’s some gaps in that range (and there’s still nothing on that I want to watch).
But something else has changed. Switching the other TV set we have on, the one that isn’t plumbed into Virgin Media’s cable based digital TV service, shows …
… nothing. Because sometime yesterday the Crystal Palace transmitter finally switched off their analogue TV signal for London. It’s digital all the way from now on, whether it’s via cable, via satellite or via the digital terrestrial service that Crystal Palace is still broadcasting.
Something else changed as well. With the analogue switch off, a precursor to today’s broadband and the web as our prime source of information died. Pressing the text button on the TV remote no longer gives us the teletext services, the BBC’s Ceefax and ITV’s Oracle, that were tucked away in a hidden part of the analogue signal since the early 1970’s. A piece of British information technology history is no more.
Thankfully our other TV set is capable of receiving the digital terrestrial service and a quick retune later, sound and vision is restored.
We may be a solely digital household now and Ceefax and Oracle are consigned to being just another page on Wikipedia but at least we can now watch prime time on both TV sets, over the air and over cable …
… which at the time I’m writing this means watching Tracy Emin discussing the London 2012 Olympics on The One Show. I guess they call this progress, but I’d willingly swap Tracy for Ceefax any day.