Beginning Television

I usually got home from school around 4:15. It was too early for me to watch television: programming didn’t start until 5:00. I’d always get something to eat and turn on the TV. All stations ran a test pattern for about 30 minutes before starting their evening schedule. The pattern that I remember had an Indian head at the top of a series of circles. The idea was to let you adjust the horizontal and the vertical widths so as to make the circles as round as possible. There was a steady hum in the background to help you adjust the sound. It was almost impossible to get the horizontal and vertical adjustments correct. Usually the images of people had heads that were too large or too wide. Sometimes the whole screen would flip to one side and waves of black and gray vertical lines appeared. This could be corrected by adjusting the horizontal hold knob. If the screen started flipping vertically, it could usually be corrected with the vertical hold knob.

Precisely at 5:00 the test screen would go blank and a live announcer would appear and welcome everyone to the station. This was usually followed by either live local news or a short film. Although most programs were live it was not unusual for an old western to be shown. There were commercials scattered during the programming just as there are today, but not nearly as many. There were no network programs. Live sports programs, especially wrestling, were popular.

During the early 50’s there were only 4 channels. Channel 2 was WSB. Channel 5 was WAGA. Channel 8 was the University of Georgia, broadcast from Stone Mountain. Channel 11 was WLWA (later WXIA). Sometimes we could get a weak signal from Macon on Channel 13.

At 11 o’clock each night there was a 15 minute local news program followed by the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. The screen would then go blank and the station would go off the air until the next evening.

It was necessary for each set to have an antenna just as it is today if cable or satellite is not used. Now almost everyone has cable or satellite input, so why should televisions be capable of receiving antenna signals? Maybe TV’s could be made much cheaper if they could only receive cable or satellite signals.