TV without colour

screenIt was interesting to read an article referring to number of monochrome, or black and white, television licences being issued now.

Mar 2000: 212,000
Mar 2001: 155,000
Mar 2002: 117,000
Mar 2003: 93,000
Mar 2004: 74,000
Mar 2005: 58,000
Mar 2006: 49,000
Mar 2007: 40,500
Jan 2008: 34,700

I was intrigued by the number of viewers who were still watching on period receivers, with some even using 405 converters. I would have lost a bet (if I did that sort of thing) about that. None of the black and white sets we had survived, and that goes all the from the oldest valve jobs to the latest solid-state jobs that graced the corner of the room. One was even dual-standard, and had all the kit for both 405 and 625 line reception in the one box.

projectorThe one I miss the most, which was broken up for the parts, was a huge Philips projection TV, which came in two parts, the projector itself, the size of a washing machine, and a separate screen/speaker. These went at each end of the room, and the result was a 4 foot x 3 foot TV picture- from a set manufactured in the 1960s. Sadly it died – all valves, and extremely high voltage to get the required brightness from the display tube, only about 2 inches in diameter. This even had a form of remote control, in the form of a wooden box that could be lifted off the rear of the projector and carried all the controls for sound and picture. I’m guessing this actually has some huge voltages inside it, as the cable (no wireless stuff in those days) was at least 1 inch in diameter, and very heavily insulated. We still have the collapsible screen, which is a fully professional item, with a self-supporting, almost invisible, spring cantilever system hidden behind it to hold it open (none of the daft, flimsy retractable stuff you get today), and a highly reflective surface coated with glass beads. Still in use today when we want to look at photographic slides full size.

Of the black and white license:

  • Costs £47 (compare to £139 for colour)
  • Detector vans cannot distinguish colour/monochrome sets
  • Black and white licence holders may be visited at home

As an electronic engineer, I’m finding the second item a bit hard to swallow, and suspect the the statement should more accurately read that the detector vans do not have equipment capable of distinguishing between the two as it has all been designed with colour sets only in mind.

There are still black and white sets to be bought, and they are on sale at local indoor markets and cheap electrical ‘box shifters’. Invariably they’re small, low quality items though, but can be operated from 12 V, which can be useful.

While the steady march of, and development of, colour television over the years has resulted in considerable improvements to the colour displayed (the early ones were generally terrible, and we didn’t part with the cost of a colour set for many years, preferring to buy a larger mono set with the cash), and not seen off all of the old black and white boxes, the figures show that their days are numbered, and that by the end of the digital switchover, there’s a fair chance that someone may deem the monochrome licence uneconomic to administer, and it will disappear as well.


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