By Dorothy Thompson.
The box flickered; a ghost like figure came out of the black and came to life and with six short words; Bruce Gyngell’s changed our lives for ever. His famous words were, ‘Good evening… and welcome to television’, It was this short sentence that launched the new medium in Australia on 16 September 1956.
The opening line was actually not filmed on the night due to technical difficulties; the surviving footage presented here was recreated, reportedly the following year, for TCN9 Sydney’s first anniversary special.
The first public demonstration of a rudimentary television happened in 1926 when inventor John Logie Baird showed off his invention. By 1927 Philo Farnsworth was making strides with the first all-electronic TV system. But the technology was slow and due partly to World War II the medium was still in its infancy in the 1950s.
But by the ’60s TV was more accessible, although it was still mostly black and white and still considered a luxury item.
I remember as a small girl in the ’60s going to town with my parents, walking down the main street and stopping to watch the television through the shop window of an electronics store. The screen showed black and white pictures that would flicker from time to time. The picture quality varied from TV to TV.
The sharpness of the images today is a vast improvement on the fuzzy, less defined screens of 50 years ago.
My parents bought our first television in 1972. It was a black and white six-inch Deep Image set in a large solid wooden French-polished cabinet. The whole thing was about 1m tall by .5m deep.
The day it was delivered was one of unrivalled excitement, as all of us kids watched the delivery man carrying this large, new, amazing piece of furniture into our house. While the delivery men were arranging our new piece of electronic wonderment in the corner of our lounge room, opposite the fireplace, our mum and dad were standing with us with proud smiling faces.
They explained to us that later that evening we would be able to see a film of people and places from far away on the other side of the world. We were going to watch a movie in our own home, without having to go into town to a theatre.
That evening we all got comfortable on cushions and chairs in our pyjamas as our parents prepared snacks which they put on a coffee table.
There was no queue or entry ticket or a line up for the refreshment counter. Our dad just pressed the “on” button and voila, there was a movie theatre in our lounge room. It was a truly amazing thing at the time.