Did you enjoy the four day Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Her Majesty’s 60 year reign? Highlights for me included a 64 year old Grace Jones hula-hooping for four minutes and Cheryl Cole underlining the fact that singing really isn’t her forte.
If you weren’t down in London witnessing the festivities yourself, you were probably on the sofa watching the proceedings on a huge LCD/Plasma TV.
Think how you may have watched Elizabeth II coming to the throne as a young Princess in 1952 (pictured above). You would have probably been huddled round the neighbours small fuzzy black and white TV, watching it on BBC1, the only channel being broadcast at the time. The only positive of watching proceedings on such a small set back then, would have been the absence of John Barrowman!
And since coming to the throne in 1952, the Queen will have witnessed myriad technological advancements at such a pace that she will have see many bits of now obsolete technology come and go.
Having spent the extended Jubilee weekend emptying my loft out, ready for it to be re-lagged, I came across decades of obsolete technology. So I thought I would share my 10 favourite bits of obsolete technology that the Queen will have seen come and go during her reign:
Obsolete Technology: 1. VHS tapes
In the loft were boxes upon boxes of VHS tapes. Each one labeled with something like 1 to 200+ and accompanied by a small notebook with each tape catalogued with the title, date and length of each recording, each with an LP or SP in brackets (long or short play).
I had a quick nostalgic flick through the accompanying notebook. In the notebook were series such as Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Whose Line is it Anyway, Blackadder, Alan Partridge and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. A couple of thousand hours of recordings that I was never likely to watch, so why did I bother?
Next to the boxes of VHS tapes was the redundant bit of obsolete technology, the video recorder, that has been lying dormant since 2002. Like most people I swapped to a DVR (digital video recorder) as soon as I could and the video recorder was confined to the loft (just in case).
VHS went head to head with, and defeated, the Sony backed technologically superior Betamax in the Seventies. But by the mid-2000s, films were no longer released on the format and videos have now become a obsolete technology, but like me I’m sure Her Majesty won’t miss them.
Obsolete Technology: 2. Cassette Tapes, CDs, Walkmans, Mini-Discs…
Next in my loft, I stumbled across boxes of CD singles, cassette tapes, vinyl and various types of Walkman formats for CDs, cassettes and mini-disc.
Like the iPod today, the Walkman was the generic term for a portable cassette player, and I would spend hours putting together the right mix of music and thinking of a pithy title for the many labels that adorned my chrome cassettes from Woolworths.
I never really felt comfortable with the move to a portable CD player from the more compact cassette Walkman in the early Nineties. A CD Walkman was obviously a lot bulkier and carrying around CDs was much more difficult than there cassette counterparts. But I persisted, probably because if I carried on playing cassettes I feared being ostracized from my friends.
And in one of my worst purchasing decisions of all time, I decided that the answer to all my problems was to invest in Sony Mini Disc player. I was now uber-cool and so en trend that it was painful.
Like me, Sony refused to listen to advice that the MP3 revolution was just around the corner. Instead they decided to back their own proprietary digitally-protected format and launch the now great piece of obsolete technology that is the Mini-Disc. I persisted with the machine for less than 6 months before going back two steps and returning to my cassettes.
These days I now listen to all my tunes through a HTC windows phone, meaning the need for an extra bit of kit is thankfully unnecessary.
CDs themselves continue to decline in numbers as are the shops that sell them. I worked in record shops as a student in the Nineties and I would often give disparaging looks to customers purchasing a Robson & Jerome CD monstrosity. I even made a young teenage girl cry when I cruelly mocked her purchase of a Kavana CD.
Nowadays most of the large record shop chains I used to work and shop in are gone as consumer demand declines.
Odd then that vinyl has seen a resurgence with music lovers now demanding better sound quality than the low bit rate that MP3s offer and the independent record store is having a resurgence. I may even bring my crate of Yello vinyl down from the loft, although I would have to buy a record player, so I might give it a miss.
Obsolete Technology: 3. Teletext and traditional Analogue TV
As pictured and mentioned in my introduction, when the Queen started her reign in 1952 the ceremony was broadcast in black and white and was shown on BBC1, the only UK TV channel. Since then the choice of TV channels has grown to hundreds, although arguably the quality of the output has suffered because of this saturation.
Traditional analogue services are now almost completely obsolete, with only the North East of England and Northern Ireland yet to turn off their analogue signal.
Up in the loft I found an analogue TV with a build-in video recorder; therefore about as useful as a kettle made out of chocolate. And unlike modern flat screen TVs, the TVs of the past weighed more than the earth itself.
Sixty years on after watching Princess Elizabeth formally proclaim herself Queen and defender of the faith on a tiny fuzzy mono screen, we were able to watch her 60 year celebration coverage on 50in LCD HD screens and pause a hula-hooping Grace Jones to make a cup of tea.
When analogue was finally switched off in October, so too was Ceefax, the BBC’s teletext information service. Ceefax was a version of Teletext, a British invention that first arrived in the early Seventies and was subsequently rolled out across the world.
And until the Internet arrived, it was the place to go for instant news, sport, weather or simply for a recipe for a nice Lasagne. I will miss annoying the girlfriend by putting teletext pages on the screen as she tries to watch her favourite soap.
I hope you enjoyed the first of my three part blog looking at obsolete technology the Queen has outlasted and the tour round my loft.
Thanks for reading. Click below to read more, and I will reveal the 2nd part of obsolete technology including something that Doogie Howser inspired me to buy and how my dad hoodwinked me into thinking that something worth a few pennies was worth a thousand English pounds.