Test Pattern

Today Heather and I went to see a show called, A Taffeta Christmas. It was a musical review of 1950’s music and staged as a 1959 TV show on the DuMont Television Network, of course someone missed on their research as DuMont was dissolved in 1956) – still it was a fun trip down memory lane of all those songs we grew up on.

The show started by showing the Indian head TV test pattern on the screens next to the stage.

If you’re old enough you know the pattern and for me it brought back some strong memories.

B/W TV Test Pattern

In the 70’s I trained to be a TV repair technician.  TV’s represented some of the most complex electronics available at the time. Careful adjustment was required to bring a clear, sharp, color correct picture.  Adjusting a set took time and a bit of talent – vertical, horizontal, contrast, brightness, focus, alignment, color phase, convergence …  The list seemed endless.  You could spend hours properly adjusting a set.

The procedure was simple in theory – display the test pattern and twist the potentiometers, lugs, capacitors, and magnets until it looked right.  This involved turning on the set, getting behind it so you could reach the adjustments, placing a mirror so you could see the screen and then putting your hand and tools into a maze of wires that carried voltages up to 25,000 volts. Every TV repairman had a story to tell about the time they received a shock or blew up a component because they touched the wrong part.

Today TVs, video screens are LCD and all digital.  There are no more adjustments – just settings in a microprocessor’s memory.  The voltages are low, the need for screwdrivers and mirrors long gone.

So much has changed.

Some things are simpler while many others are more complex.

The world I grew up in, and the career I trained for are gone.  Replaced by realities that I sometimes barely understand.  These changes seem to accelerate and it’s easy to fall into fear for the future.  Fear is a powerful motivator.

There are days that I wish I could just go back to that old TV shop

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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23 Responses to Test Pattern

  1. Nostalgic and sad. Looking back is hard. Yesterday I made the mistake of looking through a photo album from 20 years ago. I was so young. Look at me now. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. G. J. Jolly says:

    I didn’t know the pattern with the Indian head was still around in the seventies.
    I was oblivious to who the networks were so I didn’t know a thing about DuMont Television Network. Of course, that could be due to the fact that I wasn’t in elementary school until ’59.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The 70s was a transition period for TV. B/W sets were still made and TV producers had to make sure that their shows would look good in both color and B/W. By the late 70’s color had won and color bars took over the test patterns. Also, it turns to be much easier and cheaper to generate color bars than the Indian head.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    Just yesterday we were talking about how our place has changed so much. The old life is gone forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Christi says:

    One thing I miss about those old television sets is how limited our options were. Like when Wizard of Oz would be on once a year and it was an event, so everyone would “tune in.” Those kinds of things I miss.
    But not the 25,000 volts. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Things did seem a lot simpler then. I don’t know whether it’s because now I know a lot more; or whether everything is now so complex that I actually know less. But at least I’m not likely to receive a 25,000-volt zap!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mitchteemley says:

    Don’t we all, Andrew!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Debra says:

    I have no shortage of memories of test patterns and tweaking the rabbit ears antennas and life before remote control. Somewhere in the early 1970s my grandparents gave us their huge console color tv and we thought we’d hit the jackpot. I’d also roll time back if we could!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I usually think life was simpler Back Then but in this case–describing sticking your hand amidst live wires–I don’t think so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Simple” is relative. Not only did we handle higher voltages than today, but most of the chemicals we used day today are now considered hazardous cancerous waste. I’m amazed I lived through it all.


  9. Annika Perry says:

    Andrew, and there I was thinking the U.K. test pattern in the 1980s of a girl, blackboard and a puppet was just to fill the time whilst I waited for children’s tv to start! It is strange how many jobs have totally disappeared … and how we new ones we can’t even imagine will come into existence!

    Liked by 1 person

    • These started out as just something to test the TV systems, but over time they got used as filler. One of the important changes in the UK test pattern was the playing of music to test the audio circuits – here in the US it was just a single tone.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. floridaborne says:

    Yes, I remember the test patterns, too, and watching the first Bonanza that was in “living color.” You had 2 chances during the year to see a series — when there were reruns — and if you missed it the first time, you had to wait 6 months to see it a second time.

    Some things were better back then — the quality of content. Other things are better today — like on demand viewing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I remember the test card here in South Africa, Andrew. TV only came here in 1972 and we were always behind with technology so we had these into the 80’s.

    Liked by 1 person

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