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|Genre||Factual, Science & Technology|
|Created by||Glyn Jones|
|Directed by||Stuart McDonald|
|Presented by||Numerous (see Presenters)|
|Theme music composer||John Dankworth|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||1,399|
|Original release||7 July 1965– 16 July 2003|
|Related shows||The Tomorrow's World Roadshow|
Tomorrow's World was a long-running BBC television series on new developments in science and technology. First transmitted on 7 July 1965 on BBC1, it ran for 38 years until it was cancelled at the beginning of 2003. The Tomorrow's World title has been revived in 2017 as an umbrella brand for BBC science programming.
Tomorrow's World was created by Glyn Jones, who conceived the show's name when the Radio Times rang him up wanting to know how to bill the programme in their next edition. In its early days the show was edited by Max Morgan-Witts and hosted by veteran broadcaster and former Spitfire pilot Raymond Baxter. For some years it had an instrumental theme tune composed and performed by John Dankworth. During the 1970s the programme attracted 10 million viewers per week.
The programme was usually broadcast live, and as a result saw the occasional failure of its technology demonstrations to work as expected. For example, during a demonstration of a new kind of car jack that required much less effort to operate, the jack disintegrated when trying to lift a car. Pressing on in the face of such adversity became a rite of passage, both for new presenters on the show and for the young assistant producers whose job it was to find the stories and make sure this kind of setback did not happen.
Sometimes, however, the liveness gave an added dimension of immediacy to the technology, such as inventors personally demonstrating flame-proof clothing and bullet-proof vests while the presenters looked on. Sometimes it was the presenter who acted as test dummy.
Tomorrow's World also frequently ran exhibitions, called "Tomorrow's World Live", often based in Earls Court, London. These offered the general public the chance to see at first hand a variety of brand new, pioneering inventions, as well as a selection from that year's show. The presenters, by this time Peter Snow and Philippa Forrester, also ran an hour-long interactive presentation within.
The show was also occasionally parodied, for example by Not The Nine O'Clock News, which featured demonstrations of such inventions as a telephone ring notification device for the deaf – powered by a microprocessor looking like a "Shreddie", and later by the second series of Look Around You.
Raymond Baxter was noted for pointing out features of the inventions with military precision using his faithful Parker pen ("as you will see: here, here and here"). He left the show in 1977 after a difference of opinion with new young editor Michael Blakstad, who referred to him in a press interview as "the last of the dinosaurs".
Other presenters included:
- James Burke (1965–1971)
- Michael Rodd (1972–1982)
- Anthony Smith
- Lyall Watson
- Judith Hann (1974–1994—the longest-serving presenter)
- William Woollard (1974–1978)
- Kieran Prendiville (1979–1983)
- Maggie Philbin (1983–1994)
- Anna Walker
- Su Ingle (1980–1984)
- Peter Macann (1983–1991)
- Anna Ford (1976–1978)
- Howard Stableford (1985–1997)
- Kate Bellingham (1990–1994)
- John Diamond (1991)
- Carmen Pryce (1991–1994)
- Monty Don (1994–1995)
- Shahnaz Pakravan (1994–1997)
- Rebecca Stephens (1994–1996)
- Carol Vorderman (1994–1995)
- Vivienne Parry (1994–1996)
- Richard Mabey (1995)
- Craig Doyle (1996–1999)
- Philippa Forrester (1996–2000)
- Jez Nelson (1996–2000)
- Peter Snow (1997–2000)
- Anya Sitaram (1998–2000)
- Nick Baker (1999–2000)
- Lindsey Fallow (1999–2000)
- David Bull (2002–2003)
- Adam Hart-Davis (2002–2003)
- Katie Knapman (2002)
- Kate Humble (2003)
- Roger Black (2003)
The idiosyncratic and ever-cheerful Bob Symes showcased smaller inventions in dramatised vignettes with themes such as Bob Goes Golfing. These often presented challenges for film directors with which he worked when a close-up was required as Bob's own invention-related exploits in the workshop had resulted in him losing parts of several fingers: it was hard to find a finger that didn't look too gruesome to show on screen. Other regular features included Whatever Happened To ..., picking up on the oft-levelled criticism of the show that a significant number of inventions seemingly were never heard of again.
Technologies introduced on programme
In many cases the show offered the British public its first chance to see key technologies that subsequently became commonplace, notably:
- Breathalyser (1967)
- Home computer (1967)
- Light pens and touchscreens (1967)
- Artificial grass (1968)
- ATM and Chip and Pin (1969)
- Pocket calculator (1971)
- Digital watch (1972)
- Teletext (Ceefax) (1974)
- Mobile phone (1979)
- Personal stereo (1980)
- Compact disc and player (1981)
- Camcorder (1981)
- Barcode reader (1983)
- Wind-up radio (1993)
- Starlite insulation (1993)
- Robotic vacuum cleaner, pioneered on Electrolux Trilobite prototype (1996)
Perhaps the best-remembered item in the programme's history was the introduction of the compact disc in 1981, when presenter Kieran Prendiville demonstrated the disc's supposed indestructibility by scratching the surface of a Bee Gees CD with a stone. The show also gave the first British TV exposure to the group Kraftwerk, who performed their then-forthcoming single "Autobahn" as part of an item about the use of technology in musicmaking. Another programme concerning new technology for television and stage lighting featured The Tremeloes and the Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd.
Featured inventions that did not change our lives included a fold-up car that fitted into a suitcase, numerous gadgets such as a miracle chopping board for the kitchen, and collapsible knives and forks. Members of the public frequently sent in their ideas.
Final years of programme
By the late 1990s, the live studio demonstrations were dropped in favour of purely pre-recorded items. The final series, presented by Adam Hart-Davis, Kate Humble and Roger Black, attempted to revert to the original live format of the show, even using a remix of one of the theme tunes used during its more successful years, but ratings continued to fall, and with only three million viewers in the last series the BBC decided to axe the show. At the time they said that they would produce a number of science special editions under the Tomorrow's World "brand" from time to time. The "Tomorrow's World Roadshow" appeared in 2004 with Gareth Jones (co-host of CITV's How 2) and Katie Knapman taking the helm as the last presenters of a show bearing the Tomorrow's World name, before a partial return to television in 2007.
Virtually all the 1970s and early 1980s episodes only survive in their complete form because a viewer recorded many episodes on an early video recorder (a Philips N1500) and made his tapes available for copying during the early 1990s.
For the 1000th episode, a commemorative CD was produced by Nimbus Records. This contained four audio tracks of the various theme tunes from the 60s, 70s, 80s and the 90s. 1000 copies were made and were given away in a competition. The CD was notable as being the first holographic audio compact disc ever made.
The Prince of Wales Award for Industrial Innovation and Production
At the end of each series, the Prince of Wales gave an award or awards for superlative inventions.
This was presumably backed and related by his charity The Prince of Wales Award for Industrial Innovation and Production Trust Fund. In public documents, the aims and objectives are defined as: "The Promotion of industry and commerce for the benefit of the public by encouraging and assisting the development of new and innovative products and processes and in particular (but without limiting the generality of the foregoing) by the organisation of competitions for small prizes (to be held at such time or times as the trustees shall determine) to be known as the Prince of Wales award for industrial innovation and production and principal objectives of such competition being to identify promising new products or processes and to encourage the production of marketing thereof."
Since the end of Tomorrow's World, the Award has had a decidedly lower profile. The Trust Fund is listed as having no assets.
Revival of the brand
At the start of 2007 the BBC announced that the Tomorrow's World brand would be used on science and technology news reports across the BBC's TV, radio and internet services, including a blog. The Tomorrow's World name returned to television screens on 8 January 2007 as part of the BBC's news coverage on BBC Breakfast, hosted by Maggie Philbin and as a blog on the BBC News website. In August 2007, it was reported that Michael Mosley, director of development at the BBC's science wing, had pitched the concept of resurrecting the format to BBC commissioners.
In May 2017, the BBC announced it was launching a year of science and technology under the Tomorrow's World banner. Its purpose is to "seek to address how science is changing peoples' lives, reshaping the world, and rewriting the future of healthcare".
- "Tomorrow's World: BBC and partners launch year of science and technology". BBC. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
- "Tomorrow's World returns to BBC with startling warning from Stephen Hawking – we must leave Earth". The Telegraph. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
- "Obituaries – Raymond Baxter". The Telegraph. 16 September 2006. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
Blakstad allegedly called the gravel-voiced presenter "the last of the dinosaurs"
- "The predictions Tomorrow's World got right as it returns to our TV screens". BBC. 3 May 2017.
- "Tomorrow's World classics go online". BBC News. 14 September 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- "Archive – Tomorrow's World – Tomorrow's World | First Edition". BBC. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- Waters, Darren. "Why Tomorrow's World?". BBC News Tomorrow's World. BBC News. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
- Return of an old favourite as 'Tomorrow's World' is reborn The Independent 6 August 2007
- BBC archive material with clips and old episodes
- TV Cream on Tomorrow's World
- A view on the demise of Tomorrow's World by Simon Singh
- Tomorrow's World on IMDb