TV Cream

Bric-a-Brac: S is for...

Scrolling LED Displays in Newsagents’ Windows

ledIn the sixties they were a chilling vision of things to come, dispassionately pulsing out messages of doom whilst Michael Caine struggled to deactivate the timer on a ‘doomsday’ weapon. In the seventies, they were the absolute height of international global current affairs-related excitement, with news roundups getting much mileage out of ‘Mr Ford and the Japanese president watching the latest estimates being relayed on the outside of the complex’. By the early eighties, they were yesterday’s news, overtaken by digital display technology and reduced to novelty-sized novelty-purposed novelty items, snapped up at a now-affordable price by shopkeepers keen to add that extra bit of Tomorrow’s World-esque pizzaz to their shelves full of Daily Telegraphs and Gloy. The cunning conceit was that as well as proclaiming discounted prices to any passing potential shopper, they could also bring in a bit of extra revenue with regular punters forking out for a surprise personal message to be relayed to loved ones (“HAPPY BIRTHDAY MITZI!”). Unfortunately, freestanding keyboard-based operation made them prone both to ridiculous uncorrected spelling mistakes, and the mischief-making capacity of the more errant paperboys, resulting in the odd mild profanity appearing in red illuminated form. Within a couple of years, widely adjudged to be ‘a bit Metal Mickey’, they had all but disappeared.



  1. Adrian

    August 25, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I think Top Of The Pops used a slightly more hi-tech version of this to caption performances, more often than not the bands name would scroll along the bottom of the screen during their perfomance..

  2. JP

    December 16, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Ah, the joy of seeing one of these screens in a shop, reading “LED DISPLAY PANEL …. ENTER TEXT HERE …. 13 SCROLL AND FLASH PATTERNS!”

  3. johnnyboy

    February 1, 2010 at 12:28 am

    I was in a taxi today, and it had one of those scrolling screens stating : “this taxi does not have 4 – wheel drive, please dis-embark carefully”
    Eh? It’s stopped.

  4. Richard Davies

    August 10, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I remember my local swimming pool had a 3 colour one that would display the current time, pool temprature, & the current swimming session in progress,

  5. Spoon

    March 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    There’s a latter-day one on the approach to Cov market. It’s a big spangly wall studded with colourful round glass pebbles, interspersed with cheery/banal/existential scrolly messages.

  6. Applemask

    June 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    My barber still has one of these.

  7. Will M

    September 20, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Still seen occasionally, though either it scrolls that fast or the font is italic, but the letters are slightly slanted.

    Usually some generic message like “E-cigarettes here” scrolling followed by “Open” flashing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top