From Sir Patrick Moore to the Universe

With the passing this weekend of Sir Patrick Moore, one of UK television’s greatest stalwarts, I found myself pondering on the changes I’ve seen in telly during my lifetime. And feeling very old.

We first got a telly at home for the moon landing in 1969. I was very young, but understood enough of what was happening to realise how momentous an occasion this was. Not only was someone going to walk on the moon, but my parents had finally installed a telly in the lounge! I can’t remember which one impressed me more at the time.

There were just three channels back then and only one showed adverts. All three closed down at night and many houses didn’t have a telly at all. It was a long time before I heard of anyone getting even a second one! Being a bit of a geek from an early age, I quickly fell under the spell of certain presenters. I loved The Sky at Night, although I wasn’t meant to stay up that late. David Attenborough and Jacques Cousteau fed my early love of the natural world and Tomorrow’s World with its cast of experts, boffins and an ex-spitfire pilot provided my regular Thursday night technology fix.

Over the years, many changes have affected this most widespread of the media; hundreds of scientific programmes, dozens of experts and countless wow moments. Nowadays I tune in to Michio Kaku, Jim Al-Khalili, Jem Stansfield, Brian Cox, Chris Packham, Alain de Botton, Richard Dawkins and many other scientists. There are less technical people, including the wonderful Stephen Fry, Derren Brown and a dozen or more of my favourite authors who all produce thoughtful, intelligent TV.

Despite the ubiquity of cheap reality television and talent shows, there are enough channels that I can usually find programmes that will inform, educate and entertain me. But there will always be room in my heart for those men who fed my early love of this planet and the universe beyond.

Sir Patrick may have gone to join the stars he loved so much, but his spirit lives on. And may it long continue.