It’s All Happening

After trying for several months to find a way to resurrect the DVD drive in my HDD/DVD recorder, without success, the pageant on this Sunday has given me the excuse to buy a new one.
I bought my first hard disk recorder in about 2004 (I never wanted a VHS machine!), but it only had a single analogue tuner. I could record programs to DVD, but only from the analogue channels (ABW2, TVW7, STW9 and NEW10, remember them? They die next month by the way, off the air, transmitters switched off! I predict screams from people living in the country regions. No more fringe area reception via tall antennae.)
In about 2007 I replaced that analogue machine with my present one that has a single digital tuner. I can record digital channels, but only the Standard Definition ones (so no recording, or watching through the recorder, of ABC News 24, Nine’s GEM, TenHD etc).
Then a few months ago, the unit’s DVD drive started refusing to believe there was no disc inserted, so I can’t get programs off the hard drive or even play DVDs. I’ve tried to live with that for as long as I can, but the Thames Jubilee Pageant coming up on Sunday night has kicked me into action, so I’ve just bought a new Panasonic recorder with twin Hi-Def tuners, able to record two HD programs simultaneously. (See next item)
It means I’ll also be able to get things off the disk drive to DVD. Annoyingly, the web page of the shop I bought it from clearly says the unit can also play back BluRay discs. No it can’t. “Oh, no mate, that’s an error, sorry. There’s no BluRay playback.”  Gee thanks. I’ll be checking their web site tomorrow and if the error isn’t fixed, I’ll make a complaint.
Anyway, the Pageant on Sunday night is on ABC 24 which means it should be in 720p High Definition with stereo sound, so I’ll be able to record it. Since it goes until 3am and I will be toasting the queen, there’s a good chance I’ll fall asleep!
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You’ll appreciate why I sound a bit incredulous when I show you this:
That’s what a videotape recorder used to look like when I first started work in 1966. I am very familiar with this machine because I used to operate it. You can see the tape on the gold reels – all 5,400 feet of 2 inch wide tape which could hold one hour (a bit more, 70 mins actually, you hoped) of black and white TV. If you were lucky. There were so many things that could and did go wrong!
L-R: Me, Ross McDonald, Ken McKay, Gordon McColl on Friday 25 May.
It looks a bit funny because we were having to dismantle it, and it’s big and heavy. 
Why do we have to dismantle it?
Because it’s in the Wireless Hill Museum in Melville and someone in the council has decided that the museum is not popular enough (despite it being locked all the time, viewing by arrangement), so it all has to go.
What you can’t see in my photos is an enormous radio transmitter, twice the size of the VTR, that also has to be dismantled and moved out. But where can we take them? We don’t know! We (the people who are vitally interested in this history) have no money, no way to move this stuff (it needs cranes and trucks) and nowhere to store it except in sea containers somewhere.
As you can see, we’re not exactly young, fit and able guys, but it seems we’re all there is.
You can read much, much more about this at http://watvhistory.com/ and the very top article, only posted yesterday, explains more about it. (You’ll also find many, many of my photos covering 30 years of TV technology on the web site as well, eg http://watvhistory.com/2009/09/peter-croft-reports-on-the-end-of-the-videotape-era/).
Unfortunately, it looks as if all this historic equipment, not to mention all the program material in all its different forms, may well be lost. Why? Because almost no-one cares. There’s no money, no storage premises, no display premises and even when we had these ideal premises, we’ve been kicked out.
So next time you record hi-def digital colour video onto an SD card, this is how it all started. But who cares?