Today marks the closing of a nearly 76-year chapter in the history of television – the final three transmitters and their relays are being switched over to digital television tonight in Northern Ireland. The first production ‘high definition’ (that is 405 lines) black-and-white television service was introduced by the BBC on 2 November 1936, and although the number of lines has changed and a chrominance signal added to provide colour television, a lot of the technology used in analogue television is very similar today as it was then. Along with it goes several other related technologies which only existed on analogue TV, the first of which is NICAM 728 Digital Stereo (which stands for Near-Instantaneous Companded Audio Multiplex, and 728kbit/s was the bitrate) which introduced stereo sound on UK television for the first time in the 1986. The second is PDC (Programme Delivery Control) which was a way of instructing video recorders when to start or stop for a given programme, and was broadcast as teletext packets, so when CEEFAX gets switched off tonight, so does PDC. (Freeview does have digital equivalents of both of these of course).
It’s nice to see that BBC1 Northern Ireland and Ulster Television (UTV) are jointly producing a commemorative programme tonight to mark the occasion, something which none of the other English nations and regions did to my knowledge. It’s being shown on BBC1 Northern Ireland tonight at 2235, finishing at 2330, at which point the analogue signal will be switched off, taking with it over 75 years of history and good old CEEFAX.
So, as Phillip Schofield used to say a lot in the Broom Cupboard when BBC1 NI wished to opt out of the end of Children’s BBC – “Goodbye Northern Ireland” – for analogue television tonight in NI, it really is goodbye.
Don’t forget to switch off your television set.