chock a block



This article is about a children's television programme. Chock-A-Block is also a phrase used in English language to emphasise an excessive amount of something in one place.

Chock-A-Block was a BBC children's television programme, first shown in 1981 and repeated through to 1989 and shown as part of the children's programme cycle See-Saw (the "new" name for the cycle originally known as Watch with Mother). "Chock-A-Block" was an extremely large yellow computer, modelled to resemble a mainframe of the time; it filled the entire studio and provided the entire backdrop for the show. The presenter of the show supposedly played the part of a technician maintaining the computer; there were two presenters, Fred Harris ("Chock-A-Bloke") and Carol Leader ("Chock-A-Girl"), but only one appeared in each episode. At the start of the show, they would drive around the studio towards the machine in a small yellow electric car (with the catchphrase "Chock-A-Bloke (or Girl), checking in!").

The presenter would then use the machine to find out about a particular topic. The name "chock-a-block" was supposedly derived from the machine's ability to read data from "blocks" - which were just that, physical blocks painted different colours. A typical show would include dialogue from the presenter, a brief clip played on Chock-a-block's video screen, and the presenter recording a song on Chock-a-block's audio recorder (which resembled the reel-to-reel tape drives used on actual mainframes, but with a design below to cause the reels to resemble the eyes of a smiling face).


# Title Presenter Airdate Catalogue#

Relation to computing history

All of the graphics supposedly produced by Chock-A-Block in the TV series were in fact constructed by hand using puppets or construction paper. At the show's time of release in 1981, no computer could produce equivalent graphics, although a home microcomputer capable of producing colour graphics did already exist at that time (the Commodore VIC-20), and had better graphics than many of the mainframes that Chock-A-Block's design was based on. (This was not due to it being more powerful, but simply that most mainframes were not used for purposes that would require sophisticated graphics.) When Chock-a-Block ceased being repeated in 1989, the Commodore Amiga - a computer that could produce highly sophisticated graphics, comparable to some of Chock-a-Block's construction paper displays (although not the puppet shows) - had already been available for four years, although the home micro version of the Amiga (the Amiga 500) had only been available for two.

The presenter Fred Harris went on to present the serious computing programme Micro Live and to become a personality strongly associated with computers in the public eye.


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