It is with some sadness that I note today sees the turning off of the final UK terrestrial analogue TV transmitter in Northern Ireland. Not because I miss Ceefax or because I hanker again for the days of only three, four, or five channels, but because analogue TV was what gave me my start in electronics when I was a teenager.
When my contemporaries were doing more conventional 1980s teen stuff like riding BMX bikes or burning away their money on Pac-Man, I was hunting through skips for discarded TV sets, fixing them, learning how they worked, and using them as sources of components for my other electronic projects. I must have had hundreds of them pass through my hands, mostly the sets from the colour TV boom of the early 1970s. I learned the foibles of the Philips G8, the Decca Bradford and the ITT CVC5, I understood how an analogue PAL decoder worked and I picked up what is now one of the most useless skills around for an engineer, converging a delta-gun colour CRT.
I remember some of my projects, the UHF transmitters fashioned from tuner cavities and the scary spark generator using TV EHT parts. My DX-TV setup, my home-made satellite receiver, and those weird Lockfit transistors. And the FM bugs made in IF cans, or the stereo valve amplifier using dirt-cheap PCL86 TV frame output valves. I made a lot of awful projects, some useless projects, other scary projects and one or two really good projects from discarded TV parts.
As you might expect, I never had to pay for a TV until I was 35 and wanted an LCD panel.
I still have one or two sets left over from that period. A few black and white sets of varying sizes, and a solitary ITT CVC5 colour set, rather battered. I sometimes fire one up with a Humax set-top-box, but there's no practical reason for me to keep them. Too good to throw away though.
I feel privileged to have grown up as an engineer in the 1980s. Not only did I get the explosion of 8-bit microcomputers, I was also lucky enough that the electronic devices of the day were accessible enough to understand. I pity today's teenagers for whom electronic devices are highly integrated and surface-mount, they have such a restricted opportunity for experimentation.
So bye bye analogue telly. I can't say I'll miss you in 2012, but I'm indebted to what you gave me. I doubt I'll see your like again.