My Desktop Wallpaper #socs

We’re supposed to write about the first picture we see when we sit down to write. And here it is!

Being the TV freak that I am, I use TV test cards (or, as we call them here, test patterns) for my computer wallpaper. This is the one I use on my laptop, the high-definition version of the BBC’s famous Test Card F, unofficially known as Test Card X.

The girl in the middle is Carole Hersee. Carole’s father George was a BBC engineer, and when they were about to start broadcasting in color (or, as they say in Great Britain, colour), they needed a way for viewers to test the colors on their TV’s and adjust the hue and tint, which you used to be able to do. George took pictures of Carole and her sister Gillian for possible use on the test card, and went with Carole because Gillian, as kids are often wont to do, knocked out her front teeth.

The clown playing tic-tac-toe (or noughts and crosses, if you prefer) is Bubbles, which was Carole’s own toy and which she still has. They dressed Bubbles in green cloth because they needed some green in the picture. The X in the middle of the board is in the exact center of the screen. When I bring my laptop up, the mouse pointer is right on the X when the wallpaper appears.

Unofficially, she’s set the record for most hours on TV at roughly 70,000. When she was a teenager, she got fan mail and lots of requests for interviews, but being a typical introvert, she got tired of all the publicity. When she finished school, she became a seamstress and costume designer, most notably sewing the costumes for 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons.

Here’s an interview with Carole and Keith Hamer, test card enthusiast…

By the way, my desktop computer uses the ARIB color bars, which is like this minus the 1000Hz tone.


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word about Zenith color televisions. At Zenith, the quality goes in before the name goes on.

22 thoughts on “My Desktop Wallpaper #socs

  1. I remember the days of test patterns and the Zenith Console. My parents had something similar to the console and we were so proud of it!

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    1. Those old Zenith sets were built to last. We had a big one in the family room until it became more expensive to repair it than to buy a new one, which of course was another Zenith. I always liked the consoles that had a TV, a record player, and a liquor cabinet…

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  2. My family never had a color TV until 1967 when I was in high school. We got a 21″ Philco. It seemed so great after so many years with a small black and white screen. More than a few times I stayed up watching TV until the test pattern came on–after the national anthem played.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. A lot of stations would turn off the transmitter at night for maintenance. If you happened to be flipping around at 3 AM, sometimes you’d see some very strange things as they were testing it.

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  3. I remember staying up late (usually for Chiller Theater) until the station would sign off. I remember the test pattern and the white dot when the set was turned off.

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  4. Hi John – what fun to see some British tv! and in colour!! Thanks .. this was fun – cheers Hilary

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  5. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a couple of friends…discussing the old days of TV test patterns, the programs ending somewhere between 10 pm and midnight, and the national anthem to sign off. I won’t mention the black and white TV, though, because that makes me really old! 😉

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    1. YouTube has a bunch of videos of sign-ons and sign-offs, some complete with the sermonette and all the PSA’s. I liked them because it was like they were sending a message: TV’s over, go to bed. In the very early days, stations would shut down a couple of times a day. You’d even see it in the TV listings: 1:00 Test Pattern. Even if they were licensed to broadcast between 6 AM and midnight, they had nothing to show, so they’d shut down.

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  6. Fascinating! In all these years, it never occurred to me what the test patterns were for. I used to HATE having to fiddle with the colour knobs! Thanks for the enlightening post, John!

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    1. Adjusting color has been a thing of the past for so long, it’s hard to remember what a pain it was. Contrast and brightness were enough on the old B&W sets; throw hue and tint on top, and it becomes 4 times harder.

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