Help the BRI With a Story!

September 15, 2010

Howdy, BRI fans, we’re busy working on our next book, Uncle John’s Tunes Into TV, and I’ve got a request: I’m working on an article about the history of closed captioning—the subtitle-like text that allow’s you to read, rather than listen to, a show’s dialogue. It’s a surprisingly fascinating subject. Just imagine, for example, that millions of deaf or hard-of-hearing people were not able to fully enjoy that most ubiquitous of modern life experiences—watching the television—until the 1970s, and that it didn’t become truly widely available until the 1980s.

I’m really digging into the story, and trying to get the details that you won’t find just anywhere. (There is a mountain of WRONG information on the subject on the internet, as with most subjects.) A few tidbits: The technology for sending captions along with television transmissions was first produced…to send the time to television viewers. (As in, something like “It’s 11:59 p.m” would show up on your TV screen.) And the first show to be aired with captions in history (in a private test): The Mod Squad, in December 1971. The first publicly televised captioned show: The French Chef, with Julia Child, on Boston’s legendary public television station WGBH, in August 1972.

I’m wondering if anyone out there has their own particular insight into this story. Do you know someone who worked at a TV station during the era? Or someone who helped develop new technology at some point in CC’s development? Or do you just have a funny or interesting thought on the subject? We’d love to hear what you’ve got. Please leave what you can in the comments here or over at Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks a million,

The BRI team