Let’s get technical 

9 April 2006 tbs.pm/3056

Let’s get technical, technical, I wanna get technical, oh, let me hear your body talk, your body talk, let me hear your body talk.

Ah, the immortal lyrics of Jane Fonda, anti-war campaigner and fitness fanatic. But enough of this lycra-clad buffoonery. Brownlegg Media Group’s Head of Engineering and Tea Provision is proud/forced to present: The Lesser-Known Television Transmission Standards

ACAB – All Colours Are Blue

An early attempt at colour television. As the name suggests, the only colour attempted was blue.

This had the advantage that it was very cheap to convert your existing b/w set to ACAB colour – as cheap as a square foot or two of blue sticky-back plastic, in fact – but also the disadvantage that it was a crass waste of time and money, though admittedly not as much of one as its successor ACAB-3D, which was essentially the same but also requried the viewer to wear special red and green filter glasses for the full effect.

The developers of ACAB encountered many difficulties along the way, mostly with irate coppers who misunderstood the abbreviation.

TTPPJ – Tisquet / Tasquet / Petit Panier Jaune

Used in French Ruritania in the 1970s and early 1980s, this does of course translate as “a tisket, a tasket, a little yellow basket”, and was invented by Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, and all.

Aspect ratio 4:3, 625 lines, with colour very similar to SECAM, but the picture was transmitted upside-down. This drew surprisingly few complaints from viewers – although not that surprisingly, once you discover that all the programmes were crap. In fact there were more complaints once they started showing the programmes the right way up.

In consequence, TRF (Télévision Ruritaine Francais) now has a make-over and new identity every three weeks, because that’s obviously how you get the punters back in. Incidentally TTPPJ is a true acronym, not merely an abbreviation. It’s pronounced “ttppj”, which is the noise you make when you first see it.

TINAA – This Is Not An Acronym

Again not remarkably innovative, and more of a response to “ttppj” than anything, Tinaa (sorry, I mean Tee Eye En Ay Ay) represents the only television system ever to be designed entirely by a marketing department.

The TINAA standard (I’m not typing it all out again) specified 14641 lines of picture at 625 frames per second, in full holographic 3D with a high-resolution interactive graphical/text system and quadrophonic surround sound, and had a development budget of two and a half man-hours.

Unsurprisingly, it completely failed to deliver on its promises … and somehow I’m supposed to feel guilty about leaving on time that Friday.

BIGOT – Built-In Gain Of Typecasting

A literally black-and-white system, totally devoid of grey areas, but with a unique “caricature” subcarrier which distorted the picture in favour of prejudices chosen by the programme maker.

These prejudice settings were controlled by about 2400 switches and dials on the side of each camera. Nice work for irritable floor managers. Developed in the UK as recently as 1984, it nevertheless remained a black-and-white system because, in the words of its inventor, colour “starts at Calais and just gets worse”.

However, it did have the capability, from the outset, for stereotypical sound.

EEESS – Experimental Existential Energy-Saving System

An experiment in saving energy by producing a television signal that only existed when you thought it did.

The project never made the transition to public use because the accounts department got too worried about what happened to the cameras when you left the studio.

However, partly in response to this worry, the research team did succeed in producing and transmitting a short programme in which a camerman almost-but-not-quite felled a tree in a deserted forest, then left his camera pointing at it and ran away very quickly. Unfortunately the microphone wasn’t switched on.

PAC – Pencil Alternating with Crayon

Developed especially to appeal to “younger viewers” as they used to say on the BBC, allowing them not merely to watch programmes but to make their own.

Aspect ratio 1.414:1 (Landscape). 25 frames per hour, of up to 1125 lines depending on how long you wanted to spend drawing the pictures. Suffered from motion artefacts when one picture was whisked away to reveal the next one.

Cheap to roll out though – a PAC receiver could be made from the cardboard box from your regular TV by cutting a rectangular hole in the front and drawing some dials on.

BRAT – Blank Raster And Tone

Counterpart to PAC (qv). A system designed to keep children quiet, mainly by scaring them late at night. The belief (due to “Not the Nine O’Clock News”) that this is generated by Rowan Atkinson running his finger round a wine glass behind a big black piece of card is of course just a myth. It’s actually Mel Smith.

LINGUINE – Linguine

Developed not in Italy (because that’d be too obvious) but in the 1950s, this remarkable system transmitted television pictures and sound by extruding pasta very, very quickly through the transmitter, with the signal encoded in the slightly-varying thickness of the emerging strands.

The system employed data compression, in that the LINGUINE signal shrank as it dried out on its way to your receiver, which was a large pan of boiling water, from which the picture emerged after covering and simmering for 10 to 12 minutes.

Unfortunately the system could never achieve the great mechanical speeds required for good high-definition pictures, for which reason it was superseded after a few years by the Macaroni system.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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