Dad’s Army and Steptoe and Son: Memories of tuning in to the TV

On this day, back in 1952, the Government introduced TV detector vans due to the fact that so many people were watching unlicensed tellies.

A Post Office Television Detector van in  October 1958.
A Post Office Television Detector van in October 1958.

The licence, as you know, was introduced to keep the BBC free of commercial advertising, but it wasn’t a particularly popular way of providing the corporation with funds – hence the mobile patrols.

Mind you, when the detector vans first took to the roads, many families here on South Tyneside and elsewhere would have been hard pushed to afford to buy a TV set.

For those lucky enough to have a “goggle box”, chances are, it was either rented or paid for on the “never never”.

As the years went by though, so more and more people replaced the much-loved radio set with a telly, opening up a whole new world of entertainment.


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Those early tellies, often made of moulded Bakelite were, of course, nothing like today’s super slim, highly sophisticated wall-mountable TV sets,

Imagine trying to convince today’s viewers that they would have to wait for the set to “warm up” before they could catch their favourite programme!

Or how about getting up from the comfort of their armchair to change channels – all three of them when BBC 2 arrived on the scene.

How many of you remember the Rediffusion controller, often found on the window sill?


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Some would argue that the programmes back then were better than what we have today, perhaps you are one of them?

There were some classic shows, especially comedy series such as Steptoe and Son, Dad’s Army and Whatever Became of the Likely Lads, but there were also a lot of stinkers.

And who would want to go back to the days of “snowy” black and white screens, which came to an abrupt end once the test card and the national anthem had been and gone?

What are your thoughts about this?