Not only am I the sort of bloke who still buys the Radio Times, I keep back copies too. Not all of them, because that would be obsessive, but I like to retain a handful for nostalgic reasons. The edition with the triffids on the front, EastEnders' first appearance, every double Christmas magazine, Paul McGann's Doctor Who Movie, London 2012, that sort of thing. I stash no more than half a dozen a year, rather than all fifty-one, but that still adds up to a tidy total when you've been accumulating since the 1970s.
And now the BBC has put the whole lot online. Not just the copies I've collected, but every single Radio Times from 1923 to 2009. All the TV and Radio listings are there, for every BBC channel, from Organ Recitals on 2LO London to Jools Holland's Annual Hootenanny on BBC2. The project's called Genome, and has involved scanning 4469 issues of the Radio Times to grab the printed listings for each day. This means there are occasional spelling mistakes and inaccuracies, especially when events dictated that the scheduled programme was never broadcast. But what an absolutely brilliant resource, for historical research or simply digging idly through.
For example you can discover that television returned after World War 2 on 7th June 1946 with a broadcast including Mickey Mouse, Mantovani and Master of Ceremonies Leslie Mitchell. I can check that there really was a children's TV quiz in 1974 called Brainchild, hosted by John Craven, which featured a 'computer' called BERYL, I haven't been imagining it all these years. And we can confirm that Ghostwatch really was broadcast only once, on Hallowe'en 1992, with Teletext subtitles on page 888.
I suspect a lot of people will want to dig back into the archive to dates that were personal to them. I can pinpoint the only BBC TV programme I've ever appeared on, recorded in West Watford in 1973. The following year I can track down the Radio London show on which the presenter read out joint birthday greetings to my Mum and me (ah, bugger, no, they haven't scanned that one). And of course, like all the rest of you, I can see what was on TV the day I was born.
My 1965 birthday's a bit of a jackpot. Children's programmes that day included Andy Pandy, The Woodentops and Animal Magic. Schools programmes featured the art of thatching and trade union history, while in the afternoon Peter O'Sullevan introduced Racing from Cheltenham. Well known black and white faces on screen that day included Ray Alan, Ted Moult, Jonathan Miller and Richard Baker, while over on BBC2 was a programme on child development aimed especially at new fathers. I suspect my Dad was otherwise engaged. Marty Feldman and Barry Took wrote the evening's comedy drama, The Walrus and the Carpenter, while the genre of proto-soap was represented by an episode of Compact. Peaktime viewers were treated to a documentary on canals and a lecture on the future of transport, which might have interested me had I developed the use of language and been allowed to stay up late. And the evening rounded off with the Variety Club Awards ("An edited recording of today's Luncheon at the Savoy Hotel, London"), in which Morecambe and Wise, Rita Tushingham, Eric Sykes, Sir Laurence Olivier and Jimmy Tarbuck got the nod.
Your eyes will surely have glazed over during that paragraph because it has no innate relevance to your life. Or more likely you'll already have surfed off to dig through the 4,423,653 programme records in the Genome archive yourself. Go on, can you beat this?
BBC1 9th March 1965
17.30 ANIMAL MAGIC (a fortnightly series introduced by JOHNNY MORRIS)
17.55 THE NEWS
18.05 TOWN AND AROUND (News and views from London and the South-East, introduced by Richard Baker)
18.30 FIRST IMPRESSIONS (The panel tries to identify well-known personalities in a game of question, answer, and deduction)
18.55 TONIGHT (Introduced by Cliff Michelmore with the Tonight team)
19.30 COMPACT (A serial by HAZEL ADAIR and PETER LING - Blow Hot, Blow Cold)
20.00 THE WALRUS AND THE CARPENTER (starring HUGH GRIFFITH and FELIX AYLMER)
20.25 THE DANNY KAYE SHOW (in which DANNY KAYE and his special guests PETER FALK, MICHELLE LEE, PETE FOUNTAIN entertain to the music of Paul Weston and his Orchestra with the Tony Charmoli Dancers and the Johnny Mann Singers)
21.15 THE NEWS
21.25 VOYAGE INTO ENGLAND (with Macdonald Hastings, CANALS AND INLAND WATERWAYS)
22.15 MONITOR (with Jonathan Miller - Matters of Time)
23.00 VARIETY CLUB OF GREAT BRITAIN (Awards for 1964)
23.25 NEWS SUMMARY and THE WEATHER
23.30 THE SCIENCE OF MAN (Series 4: Heredity and Evolution)
But am I throwing away my paper copies of the Radio Times? Hell no, over my dead body.