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In Living Colour: A Short History Of British Television

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BRITAIN was the first country in Europe to provide regular colour television broadcasts.

Early experiments in the 1950s led to the announcement in March 1966 that a fledgling service was planned. (A live colour feed was provided for the World Cup final, but, as with numerous other broadcasts, no one appears to have considered it worthy of keeping.)

The first colour broadcast was tennis from Wimbledon in 1967 on BBC2, the channel chosen for all the initial programmes.

Colour sets were in short supply and cost about £250 – about half the average annual pre-tax income. By 1968 most of BBC2’s output was in colour, and by the following year men had landed on the moon, and BBC1 and ITV (the only other channels in those days) were all ponsified and coloured-up too.

By the early seventies the sets were more affordable, albeit a bit garish and blurry, and 12 million households had colour licences. For those that didn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world. There was always the Colour TV Centre on the Edgware Road, where one could relax with friends and/or fellow gentlemen of the road, and enjoy the latest technology from the comfort of your own overcoat.

Ed Barrett

For more wonderful pictures see here

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.

  • June

    I bought my first colour tv in 1976, it was a Phillips, and it cost £175, which was about two months of my salary, and two months mortgage payments

  • We had to rent one! 😆

  • June

    I worked for Pye Phillips, in their Sales office back then. I got the tv at staff discount, an interest free loan from work, before that we rented too.
    We bought a Sony this year, think its was about £350 in a sale

  • We can also be proud of the fact that the UK had world’s first public tv service in 1936. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. They called it ‘high-definition’ at the time.

    There were only a few thousand viewers when it had to close down for WW2 in 1939 but we were still the first. When the war finished in 1945 and TV started up again, most of the old tellies did not work.

    Of course, the good old USA were first with colour TV but we did the right thing by holding back until the very good ‘PAL’ system (based on the US ‘NTSC’ system) was perfected and it has certainly stood the test of time.