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Richard Glover: From VHS to mobile phones, a personal history of films

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23.08.2019

Andrew Davies, acclaimed for his screen adaptations of classic novels, wants to make it illegal to watch drama, particularly period drama, on your mobile phone.

"All this fabulous scenery, and the costumes and interior sets are just so wonderful," he said. "I'd like to make it illegal to watch it on phones."

I found myself nodding in furious agreement – right up until I thought about all my favourite dramas and the appalling conditions under which I first viewed them.

John Hurt as Caligula, left, and Derek Jacobi as Claudius in the BBC series I Claudius.Credit:ABC

The first was I, Claudius, or "I, Clavdivs" as everyone jokingly called it, a reference to the angular typography used by the BBC in the credits. It had creaking sets, washed-out colour and was watched – at least at my place - on a television so tiny it was hardly bigger than a mobile phone.

Our TV set, like many at the time, lacked an external antenna. We instead relied on a pair of "rabbit ears", which would sit atop the device. Before watching a program, the two metal antennae would be scissored in various directions – up, down and across like the legs of a synchronised swimmer – in the hope of achieving a picture that didn't dissolve into a series of zig-zagging lines.

Usually the only solution was to stand beside the set, finger touching the antenna,........

© The Sydney Morning Herald