TV, harbinger of kommunisme, arrived in South Africa in 1976. This in spite of the Nationalist Party’s Posts and Telecommunications Minister Albert Hertzog’s determination not to telecommunicate.
Hertzog had vowed that television would come to South Africa over his dead body, denouncing it as ‘a miniature bioscope over which parents would have no control’. He also argued that “imported fillums showing race mixing and advertising would make non-white Africans (or ‘plurals’) dissatisfied with their lot.” The new medium was the “devil’s own box, for disseminating communism and immorality.” The influential Dutch Reformed Church (the National Party at prayer) saw the new medium as ‘degenerate and immoral’. No doubt they had to send a few dominees oorsee to check and make sure it was as bad as vey fought. Dominees can be like that. Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was also full of wisdom, comparing television to atomic bombs and poison gas – “they are modern things, but that does not mean they are desirable. The goverrinmint has to watch for any dangers to the people, both spiritual and physical.”
Very prescient of them all: I mean do we have free speech and human rights now? See! They TOLD you so! Not to even mention the scourge of ree-hality TV.
But TV came to South Africa irregardless, only not to Clarens. Citizens of Clarens had to listen enviously to Bethlehem se mense when they spoke of staring at the test pattern or watching The World At War.
Then came The Dingleys and The Villagers, as well as comedy series Biltong and Potroast’s SA vs British comedians shootout, and variety program The Knicky Knacky Knoo Show. Also The Sweeney in Afrikaans (called Blitspatrollie). Things were now getting Crucial in Clarens! The frustrasie mounted.
Then: A breakthrough! Someone discovered there was TV reception on the top of Mount Horeb which looms above the dorp! Mount Horeb, where Moses got the Ten Commandments, was about to beam down much breaking of the seventh and tenth commandments – the ones about adultery and coveting your neighbour’s wife’s ass. Yes, Mount Horeb is near Clarens, as is Bethlehem and the River Jordan. They wrote a book about it.
What was needed was a ‘repeater’. A what? A repeater. You get an aerial to catch the signal, then a repeater, then another aerial aimed down at the dorp and voila (or ‘daar’s hy’): you have TV.
Steve Reed, son of hizzonner, the incumbent Lord Mayor of Clarens at that historic time, writes of the “many trips up Mount Horeb: “At one stage we enlisted the TV expert from the Bethlehem TV shop – Haas Das. Two-way radios were used to speak to the manne down in the dorp, hunched over the test TV set:
“Hoe lyk die picture nou? Over”
“Nee man dis net sneeu – Over”
“En nou? Over”
“Dis nog steeds net sneeu. Over”
So that was done and TV arrived in Clarens to groot vreugde and great joy. The mense didn’t know it, but they had embarked on learning to speak Engels.
And then it died. Wat de hel gaan aan? The battery’s flat. What battery? Ja, it has a battery to drive the repeater. O bliksem, so a roster had to be drawn up for all the townsfolk to take turns driving up Mount Horeb to change the battery and bring the flat one down to charge it. Daily. Every day. (Moses se Moses, he only went up Mount Horeb once).
Then there was peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. Except if men forgot their roster slot. Then there was hell to pay. Later a wind charger was installed so they didn’t have to change batteries every day.
kommunisme – communism
fillums – motion pictures
devil’s own box – duiwel se eie doos
dominees oorsee – I’m guessing they sent preachers overseas to patriotically watch porn
vey fought – they thought
goverrinmint – guvmint (Pik Botha discovered the ‘R’ in guvmint, his only achievement as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was actually better at local affairs, taking gewillige meisies to farms for frolics around the braai)
gewillige meisies – willing lasses
Bethelehem se mense – Bethlehem’s people
frustrasie – frustration, impotence, FOMO
dorp – village
daar’s hy – there it is, Suzelle, voila
manne – the boys
“Hoe lyk die picture nou? Over” – What’s the picture look like? Over
“Nee man dis net sneeu – Over” – No man, its just snow – Over
“En nou? Over” – And now? Over
Ens ens... – etc etc
groot vreugde – great joy
Wat de hel gaan aan? – WTF; What gives? Whatsa happening?
O bliksem – Oh shit
se Moses – like . . . “that was nothing!”
I wanted to know more about how they did this, so I asked
|The South African Radio League
The National Association for Amateur Radio in South Africa
Proudly serving Amateur Radio since 1925
and got a reply from Jaap:
Yes this is no secret, in fact we at the SABC/ Sentech, encouraged the use of TV repeaters for the smaller communities, and at one stage there were more privately owned “self- help” TV stations than those we ran for the SABC.
The right way to do this was to purchase a transposer, a combined TV receiver and transmitter that will receive a TV signal on one channel, then re-broadcast the signal on another channel. This could be UHF-UHF or VHF-VHF or VHF-UHF. Then you need a receive antenna and transmit antenna. Install on a high structure, such as a grain silo or mountain top. This transposers was in the order of 1-10 Watts output. This then would receive the distant TV signal from the TX station through a front-end amplifier on one channel before feeding into the transposer, and transmitting it on another channel.
The cheap and dirty, crude way was to get hold of a VCR with AV out, a TV tuner with a AV output, or even a modified TV set. The AV output would then be taken to a TV modulator, which you can buy off the shelf, and then tune it to a suitable channel, and then put the RF into a amplifier that could be home-built or even a commercial distribution (set-back amplifier ) connect it to the antenna and away you go. Equipment could be bought from your local TV spares/ equipment dealer, Ellies Electronics, Space TV, or even your local co-op store. Drawback was that only one channel, normally TV3 (SABC3) could be re-broadcasted like this, any other additional channels would have to have identical set-ups.
According to the law, such self-help stations had to be licensed by the SABC, but many of them did not bother to do so. Obviously the home-brewed equipment was very prone to causing interference as the amplifiers they used was not channelized, with no filtering whatsoever.
In all instances the equipment had to be placed so that the clearest possible signal could be received and the maintenance of such repeaters was obviously the responsibility of that community.