July 7, 1965 on UK TV: Tomorrow’s World

Tomorrow’s World was a long-running BBC television series on new developments in science and technology. First transmitted on 7 July 1965 on BBC1, it ran for 38 years until it was cancelled at the beginning of 2003. The Tomorrow’s World title has been revived in 2017 as an umbrella brand for BBC science programming.

In its early days the show was hosted by veteran broadcaster and former Spitfire pilot Raymond Baxter. For some years it had an instrumental theme tune [Deezer] composed and performed by John Dankworth. During the 1970s the programme attracted 10 million viewers per week.

The programme was usually broadcast live, and as a result saw the occasional failure of its technology demonstrations to work as expected. For example, during a demonstration of a new kind of car jack that required much less effort to operate, the jack disintegrated when trying to lift a car. Pressing on in the face of such adversity became a rite of passage, both for new presenters on the show and for the young assistant producers whose job it was to find the stories and make sure this kind of setback did not happen. Sometimes, however, the liveness gave an added dimension of immediacy to the technology, such as inventors personally demonstrating flame-proof clothing and bullet-proof vests while the presenters looked on. Sometimes it was the presenter who acted as test dummy.

Tomorrow’s World also frequently ran exhibitions, called “Tomorrow’s World Live”, often based in Earls Court, London. These offered the general public the chance to see at first hand a variety of brand new, pioneering inventions, as well as a selection from that year’s show. The presenters, by this time Peter Snow and Philippa Forrester, also ran an hour-long interactive presentation within.

Presenters in the 20th century included James Burke, Michael RoddJudith Hann (the longest-serving presenter, 20 years), William Woollard, Kieran Prendiville, Maggie Philbin, Anna Ford, Howard Stableford, Monty Don, Carol VordermanPhilippa Forrester, and Peter Snow. The idiosyncratic and ever-cheerful Bob Symes showcased smaller inventions in dramatised vignettes with themes such as Bob Goes Golfing. These often presented challenges for film directors with which he worked when a close-up was required as Bob’s own invention-related exploits in the workshop had resulted in him losing parts of several fingers: it was hard to find a finger that didn’t look too gruesome to show on screen.

In many cases the show offered the British public its first chance to see key technologies that subsequently became commonplace, notably: breathalyser, home computer, artificial grass, pocket calculator, digital watch, Teletext (Ceefax), mobile phone, compact disc and player, and barcode reader. [Wikipedia]

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