Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sky TV memories early 1990s

One of my memories of Sky TV from 1991 when we first had it was that you had 48 analogue channels and could watch a number of German TV stations. They seemed to have Alf and Married with Children on all the time (dubbed in German). RTL, RTL2, Tele5, etc.
Going on YouTube and watching Married with Children 22 years on, I find it hilarious! I don’t know why it’s not on UK TV repeated somewhere. And considering how conservative the US is, I just watched an episode where the son of the family gets caught masturbating in the library. The whole episode is based around this! No UK sitcom would even do this.

A few years later, they ran adverts for the channel expander gizmo, a little box you plugged in to get more channels. It effectively doubled the 48 you had. By the way, all the channels were in no order, so there were a great number with just static, then a UK one, then 2 German ones, then another UK one, then a scrambled one where you could only hear the audio – nothing like digital TV today.

One of my favourite things to watch early-on was when Lifestyle channel (with a butterfly logo, fronted by David Hamilton) ran “Sell-a-vision” paid presentations in the evening. They were American, and one was for Auri 2000, a car polish product, another was for a Jack Lalane juicer, a vertical steam iron, and one for a thing that poked thread through jumpers that did patterns. They were all fronted by the same enthusiastic wacky-jumper wearing guy who I recently read has passed away but owned the entire company selling the products – he wasn’t just the presenter. It seemed quite exotic at the time when we only had 4 terrestrial channels to see this evening dedicated to selling one product.

Another thing I used to enjoy watching was the Astra promotional video from the company that ran satellite TV in Europe that Sky was on. It ran in a loop all day on a channel, presumably as a test. The content of the video was updated sometimes when they added more satellites to orbit. Fairly poor quality versions can be seen on YouTube in English and German (each channel in those days had several sub-carrier audio frequencies that meant you could hear foreign language translations of compatible programmes). I used to like the music they used on the video, and still remember it today. This video too seemed very exotic and European to watch, talking about Switzerland and thinking that anyone all over Europe could be watching this exact same video at the same time.

However, I despair at British TV today. It seems the more channels there are, the more the quality of programming is diluted. Just look at the money that was spent on Two Ronnies or Stanley Baxter Christmas specials back in the day. You just don’t see anything like that now. Hundreds of channels, all peddling patronising programming for dullard sweary youths.

I watch Kojak on ITV4 which is absolutely brilliantly written and acted. I’m a huge fan – not even born when it was first on.

I’ve watched all the Columbos, all the Diagnosis Murders, Dog the Bounty Hunters (currently on Dog & Beth On the Hunt), Bondi Rescue, and watching the original Hawaii Five-0. Watching any new episodes of Cops that are on, too.

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Pulling plug on laptop causes problems

In my vain attempt to save money on electricity useage, I started unplugging plugs from the 12 mains sockets in my bedroom. Alas, one of them was my laptop power supply, and I don’t keep the battery in the laptop in case it wears out or overheats or anything, so CLICK – off it went. Since restarting, it’s never been the same. I’m not sure if literally ‘pulling the plug’ has caused a hardware issue with memory or something, but it started to just ‘hang’ with the mouse pointer not moving usually when I was doing some memory intensive task.

Since I re-formatted it an re-installed Windows 7, it’s never been able to install Windows 7 Service Pack 1. It tries to, downloads it and everything, but ultimately just says it can’t. It’s a Toshiba Satellite Pro.

I used to spend evenings on the PC in my upstairs office, but since getting a laptop, it just lies on the bed next to me. I couldn’t live without it now. Watching and listening and reading so many entertaining things to get to sleep on a night. Then waking up with an idea to search for in the morning. It’s great. I have it rigged up to my 32″ LG TV on the wall at the end of my bed (very noisy – buzzing sound – I’d never buy another LG TV) and a Bose Video Room-mate speaker system (retro one from the 90s, which is superb).

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M&S Valet by Conran

I’ve just ordered a Marks & Spencer (Conran) valet for my bedside. I’m currently using a camera tripod to hang clothes on. They were about £400 I seem to remember, but were made of walnut wood. Now made of oak, they are on sale for about £270. I was hesitant to buy one previously because the photos on the M&S website seemed to show the unit having lovely soft edges in some photos, but looking very unfinished and hard-cornered in others.

We’ll soon see.

Received it today. 2 men came and built it for me, which seemed a bit OTT as it just needed the marble bowl and table bit screwing on. Anyway, the ‘instructions’ say the wood is AMERICAN WALNUT. I do wish they’d make their minds up what the wood actually is. I think it might be blonde oak in actual fact. It looks very nice (although for the price there’s not a massive amount to it – I’ve just ordered a hall console from Oak Furniture Land for £200 and it must use 50 times more wood than this thing). I think I’d prefer more horizontal bars to put clothes on rather than a table and a bowl, as I have bedside tables to put things like my phone on, I don’t wear cufflinks, but always seem to have a huge number of pairs of trousers or jumpers in a heap that could benefit from being draped over this valet.

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60Mb Broadband Upgrade

I called Virgin Media because they had an offer where you paid £120 up front for a year’s telephone line rental. I have 2 lines, so paid £240. Then the other day when I got a bill I noticed that they’d been charging me £14.99 a month for one of the lines, despite me having paid up-front for it! I don’t get angry at the call centre person, because it’s not their fault, but they refunded me the £120 saying you can only have the offer on one line. Grrr.

At the same time I enquired about upgrading broadband. My 3rd (different) cable modem had died in the last 5 years and been replaced by one of their ‘super hubs’. I was on 20Mb, but the engineer put me on 30Mb free of charge after fixing the problem (something to do with an engineer erroneously putting an attenuator on the signal in the box). Anyway, the Indian call centre person said I could have 60Mb broadband for just 95p extra a month for the first 6 months, then £3.45 a month after that. I said yes, and she came back and said I could have it for free and they’d knock something like £2 off my monthly bill anyway. (my monthly bill is never less than £75, may I add!). So that was good.
I think I’ve slightly noticed the difference with YouTube videos in 1080 HD. says it’s only 47Mb, but I’ve often thought the speed limit is how fast the website server you are requesting data from can keep up with your connection.

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