Who could have thought that in one day, closed captioning would “power” Google’s search engine as the source for searching through videos? Google recently introduced Google Video as a means to search through tv programming and used closed captioning (CC) for indexing. What? Google uses closed captioning!? This may appear insignificant to you who don’t have to set on CC to understand the shows, but ever since TV was created, deaf people were all but stuck to watch tv as if people were puppets behind the glass and they had to rely on their imagination to assume what was going on in the shows. Finally in 1971, the closed captioning was finally born behind the glass in line 21 of the vertical blinking interval (VBI) and required a special decoder since hearing people didn’t want to be bothered with the “annoying” black/white lines invading precious space on their televisions. In parternship between ABC and NBC, they gave a preview to deaf audience by captioning “The Mob Squad.” Since it was only a preview, it cost them money to provide such a service, and the Federal Government (Dept. of Education and FCC) realized they had to get involved; otherwise, this project would be dead. So, they gave a push to this project and this “experiment” was finally done. Who knew how many petitions and letters had to be done to get the CC into the tvs?
It wasn’t till 8 years later before the first closed captioning was finally broadcast across the U.S. and that was on The ABC Sunday Night Movie, The Wonderful World of Disney (NBC), and Masterpiece Theatre (PBS). Remember the decoders I just mentioned above? Till 1992, only about 400,000 decoders were sold and the gigantic TV networks saw no reason to keep captioning their shows. Without the government’s intervention, CC would have simply gone extinct and we deaf people would be back to watching Tom & Jerry than Law & Order ‘cuz it’d give a better comprehension. So, in 1996, the Congress passed the law to require CC be available on all televisions. (By then, the CC decoder had shrunk to the size of a chip and it didn’t cost the manufactuers much to install the decoder chip inside the tvs.) Even to this day, not everything is captioned but we have come far since only 15 hours a week were captioned in 1980 and several close encounters with the death of CC due to money talks.
There you have it, a short bit of history on the closed captioning and you can see why somebody like me is very delighted to see something like Google is indexing CC as the source for TV information. All of a sudden, it’s not so insignificant anymore and it’s accessible to the millions of people around the world who watch TV, not to deaf people only. Now, TV networks see a reason to keep captioning their shows ‘cuz they know that people will be searching through Google Video, and the more captioning there is, the more likely those people will be led back to the network that provides the captioning. That is a good thing for TV networks. Finally, after 25 years since the first captioning, we may see 100% captioning on all shows and you can say thanks to Google.