For most of my young life my father had been “carefull” with his money, carefull not to have to spend it where spending wasn’t necessary and so me and my brother grew used to patched up school trousers and jeans, in fact I cannot remember ever wearing a pair of jeans that were not ripped across both knees, its fashionable now to wear ripped jeans, when we were kids it was just normal, in fact you were a bit of a wuss if your jeans weren’t ripped across the knees.
We were the last family that I know of to still have a black and white television when everyone had finally upgraded to colour, we were the last family that I know of to purchase a record player, all the furniture in our house had been purchased before I was born except for the setee and we only had one of those during my first fifteen years – and it was secondhand when we got it.
Thats not to say that we were poor, we weren’t poor, my dad had a management job and he also had loads of what he loosely described as “fiddles” going on, cash jobs and stuff that he flogged in pubs and clubs, so it wasn’t poverty that made us lag so far behind the rest of the civilised world, it was just that he was “carefull” with his money.
And so we were somewhat surprised when one day he walked in the house with a large colour television, he’d signed the rental forms at DER and they’d given him one out of the showroom, simple as that, we now had colour TV and sat mesmerised at the sight of Barry Chambers off Look North in full glaring colour, probably too much colour as the lack of colour TV over the years meant that you were tempted to compromise during the first few months of ownership of a colour set by turning up the colour knob too far, folk would walk into our house and say “you’ve not had that TV long have you ?”, they knew because Barry Chambers had a similar complexion to an oompa-loompa on our TV.
Our dad made sure that we knew how much he was paying for the colour TV though, even though we were still at school he threatened to deduct some money from our pocket money to pay for the rental and the huge increase in the TV licence, instead we were forced into washing his car once a week to pay our share, saving him five bob at the car wash.
A couple of years later and my brother and I were working youths, earning income for the household at our apprentice jobs, it would have been sometime around the summer of 1978 that the most amazing thing happened in our house – he came home one saturday afternoon with a huge video recorder under his arm and the DER rental papers in the other. He’d been to pay the monthly rental on the TV that morning and they’d talked him into renting the wonder of the age – a Ferguson Videostar video recorder.
It was massive and weighed several hundred pounds but with a lot of luck and several re-reads of the manual we managed to get it to work with the free 30 minute video tape that DER packaged with it. As if by magic we watched Frank Bough on Grandstand introduce horse racing from some godforsaken pace and then by swift manipulation of some huge levers on the front of the Videostar we managed to rewind the tape and watch Frank Bough introduce horse racing from some godforsaken place again, we even started to formulate a plan whereby we would record the horse racing, rewind it and get a bet on at the bookies before we played it back again – but then we realised that it was only in our house that time had been delayed slightly, out there in the rest of the world time continued as normal.
By now it was late afternoon and we were desperate for more and longer video tape to record that evenings light entertainment fiesta that was saturday night viewing in the 1970’s. Video tape was an unknown commodity in the world at that time and the only place that sold video cassettes was Comet Electrical and they only sold two hour tapes, and they were rationed. We dashed down to Horsforth to the small Comet shop there and proudly told the young spotty kid behind the counter that we wanted a two hour video tape.
He brought out a C120 audio tape, we patiently explained that we wanted video tape, he asked what “video” was, we explained that it enabled you to record both sound and vision straight off your television set and then replay it later, “no” he exclaimed, “yes” we confirmed, “we don’t do them” he told us, “yes you do” we confirmed “you’re the only place that do”.
He disappeared out the back and then returned with an older man who had a look of astonishment on his face, “you have a video recorder ?” he gasped “whats it like”
He’d heard of the unbelievable new technology and seen the small stock of video tapes that his head office had sent him but as yet the new wonder of the age was still witchcraft to him, we explained all about it and his mouth grew wider and wider as he listened, it was like explaining electricity to an amazon indian.
He disappeared out the back again and reappeared with one Thorn 2 hour video tape, holding it as though it were a fragile egg, then in a hushed voice explained that the cost was £17.
£17 is a lot of money for one tape cassette today, but in 1978 is was more than my weeks wage, my brother and I pooled our wallets together and managed to raise the required sum, just.
We left the shop and its gaping sales assistants like a pair of astronauts departing for the moon, everyone in there was in awe of us and our up to now unheard of invention, a machine that could record TV pictures so that you could watch them later – how outrageously decadent.