Preserving the Television Archive

Preserving the Television Archive

An interview with Adrian Williams, BBC Preservation Manager

Adrian Williams, the BBC's Preservation Manager, explains how the BBC keeps its archive safe for future generations to enjoy.


Why was videotape invented?

The pace of videotape development really started to pick up in the '50s, when the American military wanted a media to spy on the Russians, primarily. And they wanted something they could put on boats and ships that was portable, and they could fly over a theatre of war and capture the enemy's radio signals. And videotape fulfilled this. Obviously technology like this is very usable for a number of people, and broadcasters saw it as something that they could evolve into a usable production tool. When videotape was introduced into the BBC back in the '60s it was very expensive. The machine to replay it on was the price of a very expensive Rolls Royce, and the tape itself cost the price of a Mini. And here we have a representation of tapes through the ages.

It started in the '60s with the two-inch tape, which is quite a monster. I can barely pick that one up. Then we move down the formats to one-inch videotape that lasted through until the '90s. We then go through a selection of tape cassette formats, bringing us up to the present day, with some of the smaller family of tapes. And we're now to a point where it's pence rather than pounds.

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