“This is Eleven… WTTW, public television for Chicago.”
When I was seven years old, my aunt Bitsy (who was 15 or 16) and I spent a weekend with Mom’s aunt Cash. When Cash asked what I wanted to do, I told her I wanted to see the WGN-TV transmitter at the Prudential Building (then the tallest building in Chicago) and the studio for WTTW, then at the Museum of Science and Industry. I guess she was so impressed that I knew where these things were that we went to both places, and I got a chance to see both of them. I guess even then I was into TV.
WTTW was the educational station in Chicago. It was on for maybe four hours a day, and they broadcast college classes and very dull documentaries in that time. PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were still a few years away, so they had to come up with what programming they could.
Once PBS was in place in the early 1970’s, WTTW started to live up to its nickname, “Window To The World.” Great documentaries, music programs, and some interesting programs produced locally. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, it was the place to be on Sunday nights, because they would show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Two Ronnies, Dave Allen At Large, and Doctor Who. Soundstage, which featured musical acts in concert in the studio, was produced at WTTW; its first show featured Muddy Waters. Any time the networks didn’t have anything worth watching, WTTW was always a viable option.
Here is their signoff from Christmas day, no idea what the year was, courtesy The Museum of Classic Chicago Television.
Also from The MCCTv comes this example of hacking, 1980’s style. On Sunday, November 22, 1987, a video pirate broke into WTTW’s broadcast of Doctor Who and played “Max Headroom.”
Public TV continues to thrive, even in these days of hundreds of cable channels and networks. Guess that’s what happens when someone decides to put quality over quantity. Except for Max Headroom…
from The Sound of One Hand Typing