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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 December 2006, 10:22 GMT
End of an era for Open University
Still from an Open University programme
The OU has been broadcasting for nearly 36 years
The Open University has made its last broadcast, marking the end of an era.

Some 36 years after the first programme, the "televarsity" is moving to media like DVDs and the internet.

But it is less the programmes' educational content and more the 1970s fashions and stilted delivery of presenters that many people will miss.

An OU spokesman said: "Just as there are different ways to dress, there are different ways to deliver education."

Just like a snapshot of any UK street in 1971 it's going to look fashion-wise a lot different
OU spokesman

He added: "As technology has changed, we have slowly phased out broadcasts of this course-related material.

"It's a whole lot easier to send students DVDs or CDs than it is to get them to video programmes and watch them later.

"Now we have virtual learning environments and podcasts as well."

Since its birth in January 1971, tens of thousands of course-related programmes have been shown, mainly at night.

Initially 300 programmes were made with the BBC to cover four foundation courses for the new UK university.

Now, at the OU archives in Milton Keynes, some 92 metres worth of scripts are being kept for posterity.

'No autocue'

Head of the OU broadcast unit Sally Crompton said: "It was all there on offer in those 35 plus years - higher education for the watching for anyone who had a TV.

"Whether course-related material or our current schedule, the OU logo has always meant intelligent programming."

And the OU now contributes to programmes of broader interest such as Coast, Stardate and Lenny's Britain.

Many insomniacs, however, will recall the old course-related programmes with a sense of nostalgia because for many years they were the only thing shown at night.

Still from an Open University programme
The OU will still contribute to programmes of general interest

Professor Michael Drake, who was with the OU at the start, acknowledged the programmes now seemed old-fashioned

He said: "You have to remember they were dealt with under very difficult conditions. We didn't have any autocue for example. We had only one run through."

And since then the programmes have inspired many a spoof, most notably the BBC2 comedy programme Look Around You, in which velour jumpsuit-clad presenters grappled with the latest inventions.

"Just like a snapshot of any UK street in 1971 it's going to look fashion-wise a lot different than if we got the same shot in 2006," an OU spokesman said.

"If we took that shot in 2006 and fast-forwarded 40 years - it would look just as out of place."

Some of the original broadcasts

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