Tuesday, 15 May 2012

I blame 'Tomorrow's World'

More years ago than I care to remember, as a callow youth I used to be wedged in front of the TV on a Thursday. The channel was BBC and Thursday night was a great night; 'Top of the Pops' was on and that was always good value. There were some naff acts, some disco acts - which I publicly really hated but now remember fondly and some class acts. Queen took up residency at No.1 with 'Bohemian Rhapsody' but whilst, like a lot of boys, I would give my right hand to play guitar like Brian May, my definition of class was quite broad - I thought Sparks were fantastic.
When Sparks played on Top of the Pops, I would lie in front of the tv and gurn in the hope of getting some sort of reaction from Ron Mael, strange bearing in mind that it was probably pre-recorded. But that was us; teenage boys wanted their entertainment with a Hitler moustache. Freddie Starr was happy to oblige, Spike Milligan's wartime memoirs were a gateway drug into big person literature and Ron Mael seemed like a perfect piece to the jigsaw.
Photo by Linda Danna Robbins

But Top of the Pops was only part of Thursday evening, there was also 'Tomorrow's World' . This was like a 'Gadget Show' for a more sensible time - some of the items would eventually have a place in the real world, most ideas were never to be seen again. Sensible men like Raymond Baxter and William Woollard would look earnestly into the camera and describe current issues frustrating British Industry. My Dad and I would rattle out our solution to the dilemma before the new invention was revealed. I rarely got it right although my expanding shelf bracket was a rare direct hit as a solution to shelfs that had been cut too short (never saw these for sale).

Then in the 80s TW showcased a new music medium Philips were pushing, the Compact Disc. I do remember this show but I never imagined how much these little discs and their derivatives would dominate technology for the next 30 years.
What is strange is a lot of people recall the CD show and everyone remembers the CD receiving some fairly rough treatment. I was sure jam was spread on the CD, others insist it was peanut butter. I'm almost certain at one point Maggie Philbin bounced over the top of it on a space hopper wearing hobnail boots.
What everyone agrees is that the CD was successfully played afterwards. The damage was done.
For the next 30 years half the world's population held CDs like a precious, delicate flower. The rest held a CD like it was a pizza that doubled as a cup coaster and a back scratcher.
Strangely I have never come across a CD as resilient as the CD from TW, sometimes just looking at a modern CD makes it unplayable. Writable CDs and DVDs are even more temperamental.

I get a videos in all shapes and sizes to copy over to DVD, from VHS to Micro SD cards and everything in between (remember Betamax, VHS-C, Video8, microDV tapes?), I also copy small 3 inch DVDs from those DVD camcorders that were popular about 5 years ago. When I get a disc I always expect it to be covered in fingerprints and scratches and I'm only occasionally pleasantly surprised.

So my heartfelt plea is this - forget what you saw on Tomorrow's World, if you want to be able to watch your films well into the future, treat them like a treasured vinyl 7" single - only more so. Keep burnt discs out of direct sunlight, otherwise they will continue to burn. And backup treasured digital files to DVDs, hard-drives and even up into 'The Cloud'. Spread the risk.

I will be watching.

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