Oct 232012

I normally restrict myself to commenting only on audio and music matters in Adventures in High Fidelity Audio, but tonight a momentous event occurs that is bringing me some degree of sadness and as such I feel I want to comment on the final switch off of analogue television in the United Kingdom.

Tonight at 11.30 the last part of the United Kingdom – Northern Ireland – switches off its analogue television transmitters – Divis Mountain for Belfast – and only digital television will be available. I have found myself increasingly sad as this day approached in part because of the many pieces of technology, such as my own television and video recorders that will lose part of their function i.e their analogue tuners but also the loss of in my view the wonderful quality of picture that analogue television broadcasting achieved over the years.

Yes you required a good television aerial, optimally set up to achieve this, but at its very best – before the very obvious reduction in quality, perhaps due to the reduction of broadcasting strength – analogue had a clarity, cleanliness, richness of tone, colour and detail that quite often digital, both freeview and satellite lacked. On standard definition digital, blocks of colour are blocky, with dark backgrounds crawling with artifacts  and the features of people lack detail, taking on a constable Odo smooth look (1)

Of course digital can look wonderful – though I personally find much standard digital too loaded with processing artifacts and HD digital way too hyper realistic and therefore unrealistic – but to my eye analogue at its best – such as during the last Winter Olympics – had all the things that digital lacked and that was naturalness. Of course analogue has its issues just as digital does but to me bar the extra interactivity that digital television has – the BBC Red button for example – the primary consideration picture quality has not in my view been quite so well realised in the current digital applications/implementation. Of course the powers that be say things will be better once switch off is fully implemented but I am as yet to be convinced of this but as they say time will tell – tomorrow.

One thing I will miss regardless of whether picture quality improves or not is the loss of Ceefax and teletext in general which gave you news, current affairs and television program schedule information at the touch of a few buttons. To date, I find the digital replacements not fit for purpose but from 11.30 tonight all of that information – at ones finger tips – is gone. So there will be more easy way of checking cinema listings, flights/transport schedules etc. Of course you can get that on the net, but it was the central access point of television teletext that worked so well in getting it quickly and in one place. I for one will miss this service immensely (2)

So later tonight we in Northern Ireland are plunged – some kicking and screaming – fully into the digital television age and much equipment ceases to function fully but at least FM radio is saved for now.

Sadly over the last few weeks since BBC Two was switched off in Northern Ireland – 10th of October – picture quality has been poor on BBC One and for two days Channel Four analogue was running slightly fast with dialogue out of sink so the message was loud and clear we don’t care about analogue any more.

Tonight the BBC and the commercial television channel UTV will co host and simultaneously  broadcast a first in Northern Ireland television history a joint television programme – The Magic Box and at 11.30 Dame Mary Peters will switch the transmitter off and BBC1, UTV, Channel Four and Channel Five will join BBC Two – switched off a few weeks ago – in being nothing more than what used to be inter-station noise but will be for evermore no station noise, our analogue television tuners showing nothing but snow (3). I for one will be shedding a tear as this happens.

To those that developed analogue television from its tentative early beginnings, the switch from 405 lines to 625, the introduction of colour and teletext I will raise a glass and salute you all – thank you for the visual pleasure you have brought me over the last 47 years of my life.

Goodbye Analogue Television, I will not forget you (4)


(1) Star Trek Deep Space Nine’s humanoid shape shifter who’s features were smooth and lacking in sharpness.

(2) History of Ceefax http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceefax

(3) Interstation Noise http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_(video)

(4) History of Analogue TV http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analog_television

Divis Mountain photo Copyright Ross http://www.geograph.ie/profile/12869 used with Creative Commons permission

I am somewhat sad to present some screenshot photos taken during the last minutes of Analogue Television in the UK.

The last information on Ceefax – brought a tear to my eye.

Last Ceefax News page

From The Magic Box presented by Eamon Holmes on both BBC1 Northern Ireland and UTV a UK television first one program broadcast on rival channels live.

The Last images on BBC One Northern Ireland

One by One they close down.

Last image on Channel 4

Before it too went away forever…

and last but not least Channel 5

and that folks is all she wrote :-( :'(

© Text and Photos Copyright 2012 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio, except were cited.

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 Posted by at 11:45 pm

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