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Closed Captioning Begins (1980 – 1990)

(1980) NCI begins closed captioning on ABC’s Sunday Night Movie, NBC’s The Wonderful World of Disney and PBS’ Masterpiece Theater totaling 16 hours a week. Sears begins selling TeleCaption set-top decoders and television sets. IBM captions the first television commercial. Force 10 from Navarone is the first home video to be captioned.

(1981) The Caption Center develops a portable off-line system for quicker turnaround on site. Sesame Street is the first closed-captioned children’s television program. Closed-captioning arrives in Canada. The first open-captioned theatrical movie release, Amy opens in ten cities.

(1982) NCI begins real-time captioning with Academy Awards (Oscars) by Martin H. Block. ABC World News Tonight begins regular real-time closed-captioning on October 11. Sugar Bowl first live sporting event to be captioned. The Caption Center develops Caption Kits to promote educational benefits of captioning in the classroom. Australia Captioning Centre (ACC) debuts with The Barchester Chronicles. Canadian Captioning Development Agency is formed. Tripod Captioned Films was established as a distributor of open-captioned film prints donated by movie studios. December is declared the National Closed Captioned TV Month.

(1983) Line 21 real-time captioning begins in Canada as the World Conference on Captioning meet in Ottawa. The first opera production in the world presented with SURTITLES® was the Canadian Opera Company’s staging of Elektra. NHK broadcasts its first captioned program in Japan.

(1984) The Olympic Games are captioned live. The Caption Center produces deaf community news on Extra-Vision – CBS’ Teletext system. After years of protests, CBS begins Line 21 closed captioning of Dallas, a popular prime-time soap. PBS airs The Voyage of the Mimi, the first dual language captioned program in English and Spanish, using the Caption 2 setting. CFD introduces their open captioned videocassettes and becomes Captioned Films and Videos (CFV). Silent Network goes national on cable television with sign language and captioned programming in addition to broadcast television in Los Angeles.

(1985) American Data Captioning (now VITAC) opens as first for-profit captioning service provider. First local news captioned in Kansas with electronic news Teleprompter system. Kellogg Co. becomes first corporate sponsor to fund captioning of TV series, Family Ties. Realtime captioning arrives in Europe with a rugby tournament and Wimbledon tennis.

(1986) In a first for America, The Caption Center in Boston captions real-time local news programs two hours daily. First tests of Descriptive Video Service (DVS) begin in Boston on Mystery! Realtime captioning arrives in the United Kingdom with a BBC children’s program, Blue Peter. Computer Prompting & Captioning sells software that outputs captions simultaneously with pre-scripted Teleprompter data from the television studio. The Italian public TV station experiments with captioning on television with a Hitchcock film, Rear Window. Australia begins captioning its newscasts. Xscribe Corporation introduces its real-time captioning system. Alfred Weinrib, a captioning columnist for The Silent News pays an impromptu visit to Hollywood from New York City, and meets with studio executives – leading to widespread captioning of home video movies.

(1987) When NBC stopped captioning its popular soap opera, Search for Tomorrow, fearing similar action by other broadcasters, Mr. Weinrib led efforts to convince the Peacock Network to restore captioning on the daytime serial. Jim House and John Long, WJLA vice president and father of a deaf son, implement local real-time news captioning on ABC affiliate in Washington, DC. The Subtitled Video Project was established in Australia and more than 800 videos were captioned in 10 years.

(1988) Caption Center establishes Consumer Affairs Department to educate deaf and hard of hearing viewers how to advocate for more captioning. PBS conducts national DVS test on American Playhouse. SAIC develops first Braille and large print TeleCaption System.

(1989) Major network prime time programs now 100% captioned. Music videos are now available with captioning. Image Logic ships first offline captioning system. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides start-up funds for DVS program. Ernie Hairston becomes the new Chief of Media Services for the US Department of Education upon retirement of Mac Norwood following 30 years of service.

(1990) Cheetah Systems releases CAPtivator Online Real-time Captioning System. America’s Disability Channel is launched nationwide in addition to Silent Network – relocated to San Antonio, TX under new ownership. Title III of the recently enacted Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to movie theaters. US Department of Justice ADA regulations include “open and closed captioning.” However, guidance for the regulations says, “Movie theaters are not required to present open-captioned films.” Jamie Berke, Andrea Shettle and Stuart Gopen begin CaptionAction, a grassroots petition drive to convince Hollywood studios to caption home videos. President George H.W. Bush signs the ADA, which requires captioning on video public service announcements produced with federal funds, and the Television Decoder Circuitry Act which is to become effective in 1993. BBC commits to captioning 50% of their programming to comply with the Broadcasting Act of 1990. Realtime news captioning begins in Europe and soon all viewers quickly learn about the Gulf War and Margaret Thatcher’s resignation.