“There’s this new thing called a television, have you heard of it?” His father enquired as he drove him to his new home from the airport. “Never heard of it”, Peter replied.
Peter had spent the first 11 years of his life in Queensland, where his afternoons were filled with comics and listening to radio shows about superheroes. He was intrigued.
“There’s this show called superman,” Peter’s father continued. Now he was more intrigued than ever. “How would they bring my superman comic to life?” He wondered. Thus began Peter’s first experience with the television. He was not disappointed.
It was 1959 and Peter’s father was a successful businessman so he was able to purchase a television for himself. After his first experience with the television, Peter was hooked. He’d spend every afternoon watching a variety of Australian and American programmes with his younger sister. When his father got home the watching only continued. At this point in time, television ran until midnight. On weekends Peter would stay up till midnight soaking in as many programmes as he possibly could.
Peter’s family quickly developed a daily routine: turn on the tv, wait 30 seconds for it to warm up and actually turn on, then came the static screen. The kids then had to take turns holding up a coat hanger (which worked as aerial) and walk around while their father yelled, “more to the left! more to the right!” Once there was a signal of any kind they either had to hold the “aerial” throughout the entire programme or would balance it on specially arranged furniture. Despite this seemingly flawless arrangement, they never managed to get a clear signal. Another issue was the image on the screen becoming warped to the point that the person on the screen’s head was placed at the bottom of said screen and the rest of their body was placed at the top. When the images of the screen were correctly proportioned and the “aerial” in action the quality was still shocking. Peter recalls the screen permanently looked as though snow was falling. “But you didn’t care.” Peter said, “You were just fascinated by the television.”
Queensland did not receive the television until 1962, so the only way Peter had previously been able to see ‘moving pictures’ was once at a week at the cinema. Having a television in Sydney changed Peter’s whole way of living. His family embraced the television wholly. They watched programmes ranging from the news with James Dibble, to Superman to the weekly Sunday movies that nobody missed. Peter is still able to recall the opening theme to many of the programmes.
Peter was in his late teens by the time the colour television started showing in stores. He remembers people in his community staring into the storefront with awe, just as he had done when he was first introduced to the television as a young boy.
In reflection of this post….
The part of Peter’s recount of his television discovery I was able to relate to was the screen element. I found it funny that he is often telling me I spend too much time in front of a screen, yet through his account is sounds as though he spent just as much time as me in front of a screen!! Be it television or the internet, we both stare at screens entranced by what we see…
I felt I was also able to connect to the struggle of gaining reception. Throughout my teen years where I was obsessed with the online chatroom MSN, having a constant internet connection was a hassle. Our dial-up internet would often dropout or someone would need the phone, also leading to a disconnect. When Peter spoke about fussing around to gain a signal, I instantly thought of those years and felt connected to that struggle. Peter had said he didn’t care how bad the signal was, he just wanted to watch the television, this was also the same experience for me with dial-up internet. I did not care that it was slow, I just wanted to be involved!