TV Geekery From The Past

Stock Market Observer WCIU

Among the negatives I recently had digitized at ScanCafe, I discovered the results of a former hobby of mine: photographing TV screens.

When I first discovered 35mm photography (using my dad’s Kodak Retina IIa fold-out camera) I got interested in all the things you could do by messing around with the shutter speed and aperture. While visiting a camera store I found a publication from Kodak called “Photographing Television Images” and I decided to give it a try, as it brought together my newfound hobby of photography with my already-embedded Radio/TV hobby.

The photo above is one of my very first attempts at shooting a TV screen: this is an image taken in 1976 of WCIU-TV’s “Stock Market Observer” program. This show was a precursor to services like CNBC, and created a whole generation of financial market-watching geeks. This was shot on Ektachrome slide film. (To see more of what the show looked like, click this link to a clip on the Fuzzy Memories site.)


This is WCIU’s test pattern, taken earlier the same day. The station’s transmitter was on the top of the Board of Trade Building, and their signal was weaker than most of the other Chicago TV stations at the time. These were the days when stations would go off the air during the night, and WCIU would come on around 8:00 am each day.


WCIU Stock Market Observer

Here are two more shots of the Stock Market Observer, this time from 1990. The improved TV signal, graphics, and interesting Dow Jones Industrial Average are all noteworthy. The lady in the photo is Linda Marshall, the previous generation’s Maria Bartiromo.

These were also shot on Ektachrome, this time with a Pentax K1000. I went through a phase where I was processing my own transparency film, and these were part of that collection.


Back to January, 1976: NBC just introduced their new logo (which turned out to be already in use by a public TV network in Nebraska), and they were splashing it everywhere. This photo was taken using Kodak Verichrome print film in the Retina IIa, and as you can see the colors on the negative didn’t hold up well over the years. That “N” is supposed to be red and blue, and the “5” should be white. (I chose to present these the way they were scanned rather then correcting them with PhotoShop.)



In the summer of 1976, WCFC came on the air as an all-Christian-programming station. This was the first new TV station in Chicago in many years, and now there was a stop as you spun your UHF dial from WFLD (channel 32) to WSNS (channel 44). This is one of their first test patterns and program cards for their locally-produced nightly show Chicago. This was shot on Tri-X film with the Retina IIa.



In 1983, another new station came on the air: the City Colleges of Chicago started WYCC on channel 20, and I caught these early test patterns. The camera was a Pentax K1000 and the film was 400-speed Kodacolor.


One of the neat things about growing up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago was that we could swing the antenna on the roof to the north and if conditions were right, we could pick up Milwaukee TV stations. This is another 1976 photo, showing a title card for WTMJ’s local morning news segment during the Today show.

It’s interesting to see these after so many years.