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November's Featured Article

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The first episode of Countdown was broadcast at 4:45pm on Tuesday 2 November 1982, and was the first ever programme shown on the brand new Channel 4. It was hosted by Richard Whiteley (pictured) alongside "hostesses" Cathy Hytner and Beverley Isherwood, who placed letter and number tiles on the board respectively. Isherwood also created three-digit targets for the numbers rounds using a random-number generator, introduced as CECIL – "Countdown's Electronic Calculator in Leeds". This name is still used today, despite production of Countdown moving to Manchester in 2009. Carol Vorderman was the programme's "vital statistician", responsible for checking contestants' calculations and solving numbers rounds where necessary. During Series 1 and Series 2, this role was alternated with Dr Linda Barrett. In what would come to be known as Dictionary Corner, farmer and television personality Ted Moult sat alongside the programme's first ever lexicographer, referred to only as Mary. Although Carol Vorderman is usually said to be the first woman to appear on Channel 4, Mary was in fact introduced to viewers earlier in the episode than Vorderman.

The first ever champion was solicitor and Scrabble player Michael Goldman, who beat accountant Jeff Andrews by 50 points to 27. The structure of the game was essentially the same 9 round format used until Series 45, broadcast in 2001. However, there were some notable differences from more recent episodes – beyond the multiple co-hosts whose roles Carol Vorderman would fulfil single-handedly from 1989 until 2008. Only the contestant whose word was longest stated it during letters rounds; their opponent just declared the length of their word. Also, the scrambled nine-letter word in the final round wasn't called a conundrum, and was manually revealed by Hytner pulling a lever in-vision. Furthermore, whereas Countdown conundrums today are usually rearranged into a short phrase (such as TINYROLES from the Series 66 final), the final round in earlier series saw the letters of a nine-letter word shuffled into a random and often nonsensical order. (more...)

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