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A selection of comments and suggestions received using the Feedback form or direct via email


Mike Brown answered my question about the presence and absence of lines above NTL:CH4 on the C4 Test Card
I don't know if you've had the answer to this one already but...
In the early days of C4 many of their test transmissions were generated locally by the IBA, but C4 themselves also had one of the IBA test card generators. It was possible to tell where a test transmission originated as the locally generated ones had no (or only partial) teletext (memory is lacking or only partial on this matter!) but at one point the IBA added the 'tramlines' to C4's test card generator, thereby making it obvious where a given transmission originated. IIRC at first all C4 tests were originated locally until about 1600. Not sure why unless it saved them transmission link costs.

Tony Walton recalls his involvement with Ceefax:
Not a screamingly interesting story, perhaps (perhaps you had to be there!) but I remember when I worked for Olivetti. At the time we were running the computing facilities for the Lombard RAC Rally, with database software provided by Sculptor. One service we provided consisted of a live feed from the results computer, down a VERY long length of serial cable which ran about two floors down in an hotel in Harrogate, and into the back of a BBC Micro. This converted the output from a database into Ceefax pages, and sent it down a modem to "wherever" in London, where the signal was encoded onto the live Ceefax transmission.

We were very proud of our "look, no hands" live feed of the leaderboard onto Ceefax (P365, I seem to remember) and managed to get the BBC people to agree to putting a credit on the bottom line of the screen. It read "Results courtesy of Olivetti and Sculptor" and the Ceefax operators were only allowed to show it for two 2-hour segments per day (although
the nice Ceefax people didn't like the BBC editorial people too much and used to leave it on for hours at a time!)

To keep an eye on it we had a TV showing P365 - one day I was slightly surprised to see the credit line reading "cockups courtesy of Tony Walton" - on the live Ceefax page on the TV. After I calmed down they explained that they'd actually put the TV to P385 (which wasn't in use) and broadcast it for a few frames.

They bought me a pint to make up for it, though :-) Thanks very much for the TV pages.

Peter (who seems to go by the name of Mrs Riley) made the following observation:
I've just been peeking around your Teletext site, and have to say it's one of the greatest things I've seen on the internet thus far. :-)))) I was just saying to my mate that I can't think of any other situation where this sort of thing (ie a sort of Teletext Gallery/Museum) could really exist. So Hurrah for the internet.

James Cridland, Production Manager at Media UK sent me some Yorkshire TV pages and added
What fascinating pages!

I've added them to the Media UK Internet Directory, and created a new index page expecially for teletext providers and links. I'd appreciate it if you checked your entry.

Philip Striplin enjoyed the pages, but was embarrassed to admit it!
Much to my chagrin and anorak-wearing embarrassment, I found these pages fascinating.
You ask a few questions on the page, so just in case no-one has answered them yet:

The very earliest pages: I remember seeing these on show at the Science Museum in London in the early 70's. My recollection is that they were colour - but *what* colour, I have no idea. Perhaps the Museum could help out?

 

My question regarding numbering of TV transmitters evoked a big response. My thanks to Ian Fitter, Shaun Fielding, William Ham Bevan, Ray Woodward and Jeremy Rogers who all sent in very good explanations. Ray Woodward wrote:
Like the new additions to the test card gallery :-)
Re your query on the ITA/IBA transmitter numbering system '101, 101,03' etc - well, originally the BBC numbered its band I sites thus :

1 Crystal Palace
2 Sutton Coldfield
3 Winter Hill
4 Holme Moss
etc etc

Enter the ITA which in turn numbered its band III sites thus :
1 Croydon
2 Lichfield
3 Winter Hill
4 Emley Moor etc etc

With the advent of relays at VHF the numbering sequence was extended thus :

4,2 Sheffield (second relay of Emley Moor - 4)

Now with the advent of UHF, the BBC and the ITA/IBA amalgamated their sites and numbering (prefixing all UHF sites with '10')

Thus :

101 Crystal Palace [UHF]
102 Sutton Coldfield [UHF]
103 Winter Hill [UHF]
104 Emley Moor [UHF]
104,02 Sheffield (second relay of Emley Moor - 104 [UHF])

Of course nowadays, with the vast number of UHF sites in operation across the UK the numbering scheme has fallen into disuse :-(
Jeremy Rogers added :
The sub-numbers don't always follow the order of construction for some reason. One exception to this rule is Torosay in Scotland, which is a main station today but has the number 105,10 as it originally was a relay of Black Hill.

Richard J. Logue was able to give some background information to the RTE "Power Situation Critical" caption that I included in the Test Card Gallery :
Thanks again for your efforts creating the test card page, it brings back some long forgotten TV memories!!

As to the RTE power caption, I might be able to help on this one, having grown up in Ireland. I don't recognise the caption itself as it probably dates from the early to mid 1960's by the typeface.
I have a possible explanation:

The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) faced massive power shortages in the mid 1960s due to a huge population expansion and economic boom, and not enough power stations could cope with the load on the national grid. At that time the then single channel RTE service was transmitted from 5 VHF 625 line sites whose service areas roughly corresponded with the
regional electricity zones. Perhaps the card was broadcast direct from a transmitter site when the power supply was getting to the point where essential services such as hospitals and industry would not have enough power to continue.

New power stations coming on stream in the late 1960's would have alleviated this problem.

Ed Ellers sent me a long email regarding the technical fault captions. He provides a fascinating insight to how they have developed in North America:
That's a *really* odd series of messages! Needless to say this is very different from either past or present practice here in the U.S. In days gone by, almost every TV station or network facility here would keep a slide ready in the film chain that read something like "Technical Difficulties - Please Stand By," and if something went sour the engineer(s) on duty would pop that slide up. If the problem continued for more than a few seconds a generic announcement would be made (live or on audio tape) to reassure viewers. Most of these slides simply had text, but CBS had one starting in the late 1960s that had a cartoon of an engineer tearing a camera apart while the camera operator stood by with a disgusted look on his face. (I know a number of people who wouldjust about kill for a copy of that one.)

These days, broadcasters are so fearful of damage to their reputations from these problems that the old slide has gone by the wayside; local stations and cable channels usually put up a still (often from a hard disk still store, or even burned into EPROM) with their identification, while the major broadcast networks usually use a still with the network logo and the title of the program. (Not that this happens much any more; NBC, for example, was recently reported to have a total of 103 minutes per month of outages in 1993 -- counting glitches as short as one second -- and only nine minutes per month today!)

Supposedly there was a rule at Soviet TV that if any problems occurred with a feed from abroad (say a sporting event) that a message would be posted saying that the problem was "outside the borders of the USSR," or something to that effect.


Ed also had this to say about American Test Cards, or "Test Patterns" as they are known:
As with so many things (tubes or valves, medium wave or AM) the American term is different from the British because its origins are different. British test cards used to be mounted on actual cards, while American test patterns often weren't.

Probably the most famous American B&W test pattern is the so-called "Indian Head" monoscope pattern, this pattern -- which is also famous for its use in the opening titles of "The Outer Limits" -- was originated by RCA in 1939; it was designed to be generated using a special tube called a monoscope, a CRT which had a metal plate target on which the pattern was printed. The black lines of the pattern would interrupt current flow as the pattern was scanned to provide the desired video output. These tubes could only handle black and white -- no shades of gray -- so those had to be simulated either with a halftone dot pattern or with patterns of fine lines. (This is why the gray patches often aren't reproduced well in print.) Many stations used monoscope generators when they were doing entirely black-and-white production, and larger stations often ordered specially made tubes with their call letters and location inserted below the small circle. Even so, some broadcasters -- particularly major networks -- did use test pattern cards or slides.

When color became popular here in the 1960s a lot of stations dropped the monoscope, feeling that it looked "old-fashioned," and went to a simple color bar pattern because a full test pattern in color would have been too much trouble to handle in those days before still stores. A few stations did make up color test pattern slides, but not many. In many cases the station identification was/is superimposed over color bars in one of several ways, but some stations didn't even go to that much trouble.

Some stations did use the monoscopes until well into the 1970s (one in Indianapolis alternated every few seconds between the monoscope and color bars). Today a lot of stations don't use a test pattern at all, even if they keep their transmitter on all night (which many do not); instead they use the still I mentioned of the station identification. I know of one, in Paducah, Kentucky, which has used a character generator linked to weather instruments to show time, temperature and other weather information all night; many cable systems used to do this on a dedicated channel, but this is rare on broadcast stations. Sad to say none of the more sophisticated color test patterns (such as Test Card F) has caught on over here, though two facilities I know of in North America (Fox in New York and the CBC in Montreal) use the Philips PM5544 series generators. Incidentally, Philips has a newer series called the PM5644; these generate the same circle test pattern made famous by the PM5544, but there is now a 16:9 version that a few European broadcasters (such as BRT and RAI) are using. As for the "Indian Head" pattern, the Japanese have copied it and made it better; ShibaSoku (and possibly others) make solid-state generators that produce a modified pattern with more wedges for higher resolutions, actual gray scale wedges (instead of false grays), markers to indicate the degree of overscan, and in some versions a gray background (outside the circles) instead of full white. This pattern can be recognized by a dragon's head in place of that of the Native American, and the words "525 LINES" or "625 LINES" as appropriate.


Finally Ed had this to say about "Test Card" music :
We don't have the same tradition of specially recorded test pattern music, because the FCC all but forbade it for decades. Way back in 1939, when NBC started its TV service in New York on an experimental basis, it ran a test pattern all day and used audio from NBC's two New York radio stations (then WEAF and WJZ). Since they were running far more of that than of real TV programming the Federal Communications Commission decided that this had to be nipped in the bud, so right from the beginning of regular TV in this country they had a ban on separate operation of the visual and aural transmitters. Not only did this prevent practices like running a newscast in sound only behind a slide (as the BBC once did), but the rule also forbade the playing of music with a test pattern (or ID slide) for more than fifteen minutes a day! As a result most stations ran their test pattern for the alloted fifteen minutes, either playing a side of an LP record or using one prepared tape with background music.

Many thanks to Ed Ellers for taking the time to share an American view of the subject.

 

Richard Russell picked up on my claim that the X on the Test Card F noughts and crosses board was the centre of the image.
Oh no, not this old one again ! The X does *not* mark the centre of the card (as is quite obvious on careful inspection). My measurements give it coordinates of 373,297 on the Rec.601 720 x 576 image, i.e. a little to the right of and below the true centre (360,288). The X is *near* the centre to aid static convergence adjustments, but the idea that it is *at* the centre is a myth.

George Windsor writes:
Nice to witness interest in this, I thought I was one of the few when I took keen interest in the cards and the music when I seviced TV's in the what I call 'Halcyon days'of colour business,the early seventies. I still have a 1968 GEC 2018 dual standard 19" colour set with its original tube (canadian Mullard) that works! and for some reason still gives a what I and many friends call that 'magical colour' picture, especially on old technicolour films. I also have a 1950 Philips console TV. I couldn't access the test card music site for CD information and would very much like to hear them again. I used to get 5 or more sets on ITV in the afternoon, all belting out the classics at high volume, it was great!

Can anyone help Sean Cooke?
Can anyone help me with info regarding the BBC programme,'This is ceefax'.? It was broadcast in 1975 with Angela Rippon as host and I would really like to see it or speak with someone who saw it... Any help would be greatly appreciated!!! Also is the Test card featured in the video of the 'Japan' video for their song 'visions of China' authentic? It features a picture of Chairman mao in the central circle. Does anyone have a copy of it? I am a very sad anorak... ...

Steven Oliver remembers...
The page on the test cards used for Technical Problems evoked memories of one of the biggest cock-ups of all time. During an otherwise faultless D-Day 50th anniversary celebrations coverage in 1994, the BBC slipped up when, for some inexplicable reason, their technicians took the wrong relay equipment on board the QE2 for the "We'll Meet Again" concert featuring Vera Lynn. Needless to say, the concert didn't get transmitted live! As a standby, the Beeb first played music and when that failed on came a nature programe about racoons!!!!! What next - the news saying "Sorry we can't bring you that report as the technicians took along the wrong satellitte"?

Martin Donnelly recalls during a bout of insomnia...
A number of years ago, I was watching TV quite late at night not being able to get to sleep. Flicking between the channels I noticed that there was nothing on BBC1 or 2. Even though I knew that there was nothing on these channels I kept on flicking to them.

At one point during the night when I flicked to BBC1, I saw some golf footage, wondering what this was, I turned the volume up, if I remember correctly, all that was audible was the Tuning tone. This wasnt all though. After 10 seconds or so the golf cut over to an edition of The Antiques Road show, one that had actually been on that week as I remembered the person describing the doll that was on display. Again still the tone. And again after about 10 seconds it flipped to something else. This time though it was a static image of, if I remember correctly, a cube, a sphear and a cone, all done in shades of Cyan. After a couple more seconds this flipped back to the Golf and this sequence continued well into the night.

I told a friend about this the next day and to my relief, he had seen it too, so I hadn't been dreaming..

Dirk Tust looks at the German perspective :
I would like to add my DM 0.02 about test cards (called "Testbild", i. e. "test picture") and music in Germany.

In Germany, a tradition of special test card music does/did not exist. The fact that the German regional broadcasters -- which run the national network "ARD - Das Erste" and the regional third channels also broadcast radio programs didn't let raise up the question "What to play instead of audio test signals 60 minutes before opening or during midday break". They just took over one of the radio signals.

The second national TV station ZDF (not equipped with radio) preferred the technical beauty of the 1 Kilohertz sine and it's family of various audio tests. However, about 15 minutes before the start, they sometimes used to play some music which was normally in stock for intermissions, but that doesn't really count.

The age of electronic colour test cards started in the 1970s with the one and only "FuBK-Testbild" (FuBK: Funkbetriebskommission, "broadcast operation commission"), which came, however, in some slightly different flavours (shape of ghost signal bar, circle / no circle, et al.). It slowly started to displace the b/w transmitter identification slides which showed up it's name and channel number next to the escutcheon of the district. For a short time, there was even a 16:9 enhanced version in PALplus on air, before ARD closed the night gap.

A small image of the FuBK test card (with heavy subsampling errors) is available at the "International Testbild Museum"
http://www.ping.at/users/staytuned/mainmenu.html which was intended by an Austrian artist group to protest against the planned switch-off of the test card at the Austrian TV ORF.

And I would like to add:

Many thanks to everyone who has sent me feedback, I would love to hear your stories or memories of Test Cards, Captions and Teletext, so why not drop me a line now?