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Early Efforts In TV Captioning (1970 – 1979)

(1970) National Bureau of Standards research possible applications of the time signal in the vertical blanking interval (VBI) of the television signal. Malcolm (Mac) Norwood becomes the Chief of Media Services for the Captioned Films Branch, Bureau of Education for the Handicapped, at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, forerunner of today’s U.S. Department of Education.

(1971) The first National Conference on Television for the Hearing Impaired is held in Memphis, Tennessee. The Caption Center is established at WGBH, a PBS affiliate in Boston.

(1972) The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) determines that captioning is feasible, allowing PBS to begin developing Line 21 technology. Meanwhile, The French Chef, with Julia Child airs on PBS with open captions as ABC demonstrates Mod Squad with closed captions at Gallaudet College. KRON-TV installs a TTY for call-ins by deaf viewers responding to news in sign language in the San Francisco area.

(1973) President Richard Nixon’s second inaugural speech is open-captioned. The Caption Center begins airing ABC World News Tonight with open-captioning four hours after broadcast, replacing commercial slots with deaf community news.

(1974) A BBC documentary about deaf children, Quietly in Switzerland, is the first captioned/subtitled program in England using the Ceefax Teletext system.

(1975) The Caption Center captions ZOOM, the first children’s series to be captioned. PBS petitions the FCC to reserve part of the TV signal for closed captioning.

(1976) The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) saves Line 21 of the television VBI for closed captioning. France develops its own Teletext system, Antiope.

(1977) Development begins on Line 21 captioning decoders.

(1978) Gallaudet College conducts research into formats for closed captioning while production begins for captioning editing consoles.

(1979) New Zealand airs the 15-minute News Review, the first captioned television news program with both captions and sign language. EEG builds the first closed captioning encoders. The National Captioning Institute (NCI) is formed with seed money from the US Department of Education. Silent Network produces and broadcasts sign language and captioned programming targeting deaf and hard of hearing viewers in Los Angeles.