Back when I started in television it was easy to spot the sound technician. They were usually short and squat with one shoulder lower than the other thanks to the strap attached to the heavy gear they had to lug around, which was effectively an old reel-to-reel tape desk complete with wood veneer.

In the 1980s, a British video reporter had to move around in a pack with at least three others: camera, sound and lighting technician a.k.a. “sparks”. The technology of the day demanded that this large crew troop into interviewees’ homes for a broadcastable recording. Peter Jay, the chairman of the breakfast franchise TVam where I worked, thought he knew better and didn’t hire any electricians. He forgot that the channel launched in February when it is pitch dark most of the time and as a result found himself over a barrel in emergency negotiations with the electrician’s union (EEPTU).

Transmitting live required another, even bigger team. Before satellites and the internet, a “golden rod” required direct line of sight to transmitter masts, which explains why I accompanied the crew queasily onto the roofs of various landmark skyscrapers.