2 Mar 2007

boot sale treasure

I found treasure at the local boot sale in the form of four copies of a magazine called 'Practical Television'. They were from the early 50's, 1950-1954. Sadly the cover was busted on the first one but the contents were intact.

The first edition was published in April 1950 and in the editorial at the front in concluded with:

"Although paper for periodicals became de-rationed as from March 1st, production problems still make it difficult to ensure supplies."

There is an article on page 21 entitled, Building the "Viewmaster": An Amateur Describes his Experiences in Building this Popular Home-constructor Set.

In most of us is the desire to create, to see something grow under our hands, and be able to say, possibly with ill-concealed yet justifiable pride, "I built that".
Those of us who grew up with the century were fortunate in being on the "ground floor". It was radio in the early stages. We quickly mastered the simple principles and construction of the crystal set, and quite naturally graduated to the one, two and multi-valve straight sets. But as radio became more of an exact science, and the building of successful receivers required technical ability and expensive calibrating instruments, many erstwhile enthusiasts found the going too difficult and reluctantly downed tools.

I was one of them.

As a spectator I watched the march of the industry, growing more than ever concious of my limitations with the event of television.

The old enthusiasm gripped me. I couldn't afford a television receiver; could I build one? One glance at the chassis almost frightened me and quickly dispelled the forlorn hope I entertained of becoming an early "viewer".
And so to Radiolympia 1949.
I must confess that when I saw the "Viewmaster" Envelope on the T.C.C. Stand, I imagined it to be directed to the more advanced amateur. Only by chance did I catch a glimpse of the full-sized wiring diagrams. Here was something I did understand. Moreover, the sound and vision reproduction on the demonstration receiver was of a very high standard..

A close and more leisurely examination later of the contents of the envelope so impressed me with the extreme simplicity of construction that I decided to build the "Viewmaster".

Some friends to whom I shared the charts and conveyed my intentions were sceptical. "It looks too simple, " they said. "There must be some snags somewhere."

These remarks gave me an idea. "Why not make notes as I build the receiver?" I thought. "There may be little points on which my experience will help others. If there are snags, I shal find them. If there are no snags, then many hesitant ones will be encouraged to commence building the 'Viewmaster' and ultimately enjoy the thrill of proudly saying, 'Yes, I built it.'"

And so he begins a series of articles on the building of the "Viewmaster". It's not actually a kit, it's a set of instructions comprising 8 full sized drawings and a 32 page booklet, sponsored by 8 British component manufacturers. Adverts for components "specified for the Viewmaster" litter the magazine.

"Telenews" the news section at the back of the magazine, estimate that at the time of writing:

There are approximately 285,500 television receivers in use at the present time and as the B.B.C. estimates that at least four people look at each receiver the total number of viewers is reasonably accurately estimated to be 1,142,000.

We are assured that production was catching up with demand.

In this context, things like the Homebrew Computer Club in 1970s in Silicon Valley fit right into this kind of technological continuum (though they probably had better teeth in the HCC...)

I have a couple of scans from the magazines on my flickr pages for your enjoyment, they really are quite... something. More when I get the chance.

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