We live in a world in which we’ve all become accustomed to the sight of closed circuit television cameras. They’re regularly perched on street corners and traffic lights, shop fronts, public places, offices or residential properties. So entrenched into our landscape have they become, so integral to our general security needs that these days we walk by them without batting an eyelid, barely noticing their presence.
This, of course, has not always been the case. But, the question is: when did we begin to introduce these cameras into general society? When, and indeed, where were they first used as a trusted security measure?
To chart the history of the Closed Circuit Television camera we need to head back to the Second World War and early-40s Germany.
In 1942 the German military were preparing the launch of their infamous and really quite deadly new weapon, the V2 rocket. In so doing, the command realised that they needed a way of safely monitoring the launch. Designed by the engineer Walter Bruch the devise was, in comparison to what would follow, a somewhat crude camera-in-a-box contraption that could feed live images to a monitor a safe distance away from the launch; although the innovation was unequipped to make any recordings of the footage.
Towards the end of the war, and on the opposing side to the Germans, the Americans began utilising similar devices for similar reasons; namely the monitoring of test launches on their Atomic programme.
The First Commercial Use
The first time that CCTV was brought into a commercial arena of any kind was with the launch, in 1949 of American company Vericon, although next to nothing is known about this little venture apart from the fact that they marketed a device on the premise that it required NO Governmental permit.
Uses for the system, particularly for any security issues, were limited in those days because of the major limitations on the ability to record any of the footage that was being filmed.
Making an appearance on British Streets
Despite these limitations, CCTV did start making an appearance in the UK for security reasons as far back as the early-1960s.
Indeed, the Metropolitan Police introduced two cameras at Trafalgar Square on a temporary basis to monitor crowds during the visit to London of the Thai Royal Family in 1960.
A year later and permanent cameras were installed to monitor security by London Transport on their rail network. Indeed, it was upon transport that the focus of the UKs first forays into CCTV usage remained throughout much of the 60s although some cameras did start to appear on shops, streets and restaurants in major cities such as London and Liverpool, towards the end of the decade as the technology improved.
Developments in Video Recording
The ability to more easily record the footage from the cameras made a significant impact on CCTV use moving into the 1970s. Running cameras to film scenes or locations and to then be able to play it back for analysis later made CCTV an important tool in both the security of properties as well as public places and crowd control at large gatherings.
Indeed, CCTV was used with ever more frequency in the control of football crowds, particularly during the height of the hooliganism era in the late-70s and early-80s.
Increases into the Digital Age
As the world has grown more and more digitised, so the versatility of CCTV cameras have grown. Through the 1990s the commercial growth of Closed Circuit systems grew exponentially across the world, with more and more businesses seeing the manifold advantages to protecting their premises through the preventative impact that CCTV undoubtedly possessed.
Into the 21st Century and in a post-9/11 world, CCTV has taken its place in both the protection and security of private enterprises, businesses and homes as well as on a wider public scale through local authorities, the police and security services.