Something incredible happened to me this week: I found out I wasn’t the oddball nerd I thought I was in my youth, or at least I was but I found out there were others like me, I wasn’t alone and the nerdy things I used to do were done by many others!
So what nerdy things did I do? Well, here’s one example. In the seventies, before the age of the video recorder I had a small audio cassette recorder and did all sorts of things with it as a teenager. I wrote a number of comedy plays which my poor brother was roped into and we performed these little comedy sketches to the microphone. I did enjoy making the sound effects. One that comes to mind was my brother being sick which involved him making a retching sound then pouring a bucket of water down the toilet! I also used to record some of my favourite radio and TV programmes. I bought a second hand radio cassette recorder which enabled me to record the top twenty every week (dud records edited out of course) but TV presented another challenge. I would record a show using the microphone placed near to the TV speaker. Trial and error found the correct spot; not too close, not too far away and my family were sworn to silence during the recordings, not that that would stop my brother, or even my dad making some small comment towards the end of the show!
So, how did this realisation that I was not alone in my nerdiness – or even a nerd at all- come about?
This realisation came about because of a gift. My brother, I might add, who is not a man known for his giving of gifts, had been given some DVDs that were of no interest to him so he passed them to me. They were BBC DVDs of the long running TV series, Doctor Who. Now I have been a Doctor Who fan for many years. I faintly remember the original Doctor Who, the grumpy bad tempered chap played by William Hartnell. The very first episode of Doctor Who, ‘An Unearthly Child’, is one of the highlights of my DVD collection and interestingly it was broadcast on the 22nd November 1963, the day of the John F Kennedy assassination. Because of the tragedy the BBC re ran the episode the following week which is perhaps why the original has survived. The thing is, back in the 60s when digital recordings and home video were just a gleam in some inventor’s eye, the archives at the BBC were getting a little crammed so what did they decide to do about it? Two things, One; they would wipe the tapes and reuse them for other shows and two, they would simply get rid of them!
Crazy, but of course, the value of these old TV shows was not understood then and many hours of classic TV was lost in this way. Not just Doctor Who but Not Only But Also, the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore shows, Doomwatch, Hancock and many others, all lost.
Anyway, one of the DVDs my brother gave me was ‘the Invasion’ from 1968 with the second Doctor Who, Patrick Troughton. The Invasion was made up of eight half hour shows and two of the eight had been lost or junked. Now many TV shows of the time, recorded on video were copied onto film by a telecine machine so the tape could be reused and the show broadcast again or sent to other parts of the world for broadcasting on foreign networks such as South Africa, Canada and so on. Many of these telecine recordings survive. Some have even known to have been rescued from tips or skips by BBC employees and even members of the public. Recently a lost episode of Doctor Who was found in Nigeria!
Anyway, here’s the punch line to this whole blog: When the BBC guys decided to reconstruct the missing episodes guess where they got the audio from? From audio recordings made by members of the public! Yes, Doctor Who fans who as youngsters recorded their favourite shows on audio cassettes, just as I did by placing a microphone by the TV. So there we have it, conclusive proof that I wasn’t a nerd after all, or at least the nerdy activities of my youth were the same nerdy activities that other youngsters were involved in too!
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