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Do you own a black and white TV?

black and white tv

Around 8,000 people in the UK have a licence for a black and white TV. Are you one of them?

We were really surprised to discover that out of the 25.8 million TV licences that were in force in the UK in the 2016-17 financial year, 8,242 of those were for black and white TVs.

And it threw up a big question: how can you only watch TV in black and white?

Analogue TVs

It turns out that you can still use an analogue TV set, despite the fact that the switchover from analogue to digital was completed in October 2012 – although, you need a digital television converter box and a Scart cable.

The box connects to your aerial (which will have to have been upgraded to digital) and your old telly via a Scart lead, and gives you free-to-air digital channels on the Freeview platform.

It makes sense that you’d want to make the most of a perfectly good older analogue TV set. However, any black and white sets still in use must be pretty ancient.

We couldn’t find out exactly when manufacturers stopped making black and white tellies, but our (imperfect) collective memory reckoned the last ones must have been made in the 1980s or possibly the 1990s – if you know more precisely, please tell us!

Black and white TV

I shared this information on Twitter and got some interesting replies.Β One of my Twitter followers, who served as a Trustee of the BBC until April 2015, said:

If you are really keen to switch to black and white, you can still pick up TV sets on sites such as eBay. We had a look and found several, ranging from a 5.5-inch portable (accepting bids from a tenner) to a rather fabulous orange space-age number for Β£220.

So we’re intrigued. Are you one of the 8,000 who only has a black and white TV licence? As it costs only Β£49.50 a year compared to the annual fee of Β£147 for a colour set, we can see why it would be attractive. Do let us know if you’re one of the last hold-outs – and why.

Comments

Amazing! Especially as a HDTV can cost you less than Β£100 nowadays.

Either achromatopsia is a rather more common condition than I believed or it seems likely that some viewers are not being very honest with the TV licensing people.

I own one – a portable Hitachi with a rotary tuning dial – fully analogue (Wave – the dial is linked to a vane vc – predates the varactor diode!). It actually looks similar in many ways to the one pictured at the head of this page. I shoved it in the loft about ten years ago. There was plenty of life left in it when I last checked but we are lacking any broadcast stations so I’d need to hook up a modulator – though I guess to prove it’s still ok I could rejuvenate the electrolytics and power it up.with a VCR.

Not sure why I kept it really – sentiment perhaps. I doubt it holds any scarcity value.

Ah happy days when I used to follow the latest technical advances in TV design, Roger.

Here is the TV in the introduction in colour – which is not bad for a VHF model. It’s amazing what you can find on the web.

?quality=100&w=650&h=360

I think someone has been playing with Photoshop, Kate. We never had any VHF colour TVs in the UK. Colour TV was introduced after UHF broadcasting was introduced. To start with we had ‘dual standard’ UHF/VHF sets followed by UHF-only models.

Many a time I was called in to repair these dual standard sets as a youngster.

For the uninitiated, there was a very long multipole two-way slider switch operated by a cam arrangement. A few carried high current, many held off high voltage. In all cases, there was an instruction to shut the set off before flipping from one to another. But people didn’t!

Fortunately by the time I got called in to fix these, they were happy for me to fix it at 625 only (and I did!).

B&W TVs were my introduction to taking broken things apart.

It turned out they were easy to repair…. locate the blackened valve, take it to a local spares shop for a replacement, fit and hey presto it worked again all for about 10p.

Brand new valves are ‘blackened’ too. This is the ‘getter’ used to mop up oxygen released during manufacture and use of valves and the appearance did not change significantly with use. If the black getter turned white, that indicated air leakage and loss of vacuum.

My father knew nothing about TVs but his educated guesses about which valve to replace were often right. We had a TV repair shop that sold them to the public. The city library had a series of books with circuit diagrams and details of components in TVs and radios, plus a list of common faults with the different models. This was my introduction to the same ‘chassis’ (and later circuit boards) being used in different brands and models of TVs.

I inherited a black and white TV from my great aunt when I was about five years old. I’m not really sure why I was given the TV as I was a bit young to have it and it made children’s TV far less interesting as it lacked any colour – Art Attack, in particular, was a bit disappointing. Needless to say, I barely watched it as I preferred the colour TV in the living room. I think my parents might still have it in the loft…

I also inherited a B&W TV from an elderly relative/neighbour when I was in my early teens. Despite it being B&W and having a knob that you had to twist to get to the then four channels, I was quite proud of it, as, at the time, very few of my friends had TVs in their bedrooms!

We watch “Talking Pictures” from time to time (channel 81) partly because quite a lot of decent films were made in the olden days, and partly because they show scenes of life as it once was. Nostalgia. Many are in B&W and a reminder that while colour undoubtedly adds a great deal, monochrome is surprisingly good as a medium.

I must make a point to watch them, Malcolm. Can anyone else remember Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin films being shown on BBC2 (I think) just before dinner/teatime during the week? It didn’t matter that I had a B&W TV when I was watching them!

Absolutely!

You’ve missed out Keaton πŸ™‚

“Glimpses” between programmes shows short features from the past – recently, Rome in 1947, the Travelling Post Office, a family holiday at the seaside in the ’50s.

Our family first had a TV in 1957, when the TV licence seems to have been Β£4. The viewing area of the screen of the TV was about the same as the laptop I’m typing this comment on, and in our small village we had one programme – BBC. ITV came later. My father paid extra for an Ekco TV that received VHF radio, so that added the Home Service and the Light Programme.

Our first was a Murphy in the early 60s – quite a big one I think, might have been a 21″. A flap on the top acting as a dust cover for the controls doubled as an on-off switch actuator – a curved rod operated a disconnect switch plunger when it was closed.

Controls…. a large volume control knob in the left recess under the flap with the brightness control deeper down), and in the right-hand recess, a multi-way switch which would have allowed tuning of, I think, eight channels. We had ITV and BBC. The contrast control was deeper in that recess.

Every so often it would detune. To retune, there were separate little variable capacitors per channel accessible from the underside. I knew nothing about them as a youngster, fortunately!

And horizontal and vertical hold knobs to twiddle.

These early black & white sets used ‘turret tuners’ which made a very satisfying clunk with each change of the channel. When the tuner was set up correctly there was no need to fiddle with the fine tuning control when changing channel. I found the workings of the TV more interesting than the programmes.

They were round the back on skeleton pots!

Yes this was a turret tuner – loads of wipers for the two separate daughter boards to edge-connect to. And space for a few more daughter boards.

Much later on I had a radio – from Russia of all places – with a similar arrangement – for the various shortwave bands. HM was on the mother board though – that position had a 405/625-esq slide switch to disengage it in favour of the turret. Happy days!

I don’t know what normal people will think about people mentioning turret tuners, varicap diodes and skeleton pots, but Duncan will understand.

After the tube of my parents’ 1957 TV became low emission, I decided to cut down the walnut-veneered cabinet to make a more compact VHF radio for my bedroom. The sound quality from the speaker was better than modern ultra-slim smart TVs produce. I was still a schoolboy at the time.

… and my father made a wonderful Radiogram. The base radio was a Fen Man 2 (push pull EL84 output stage, EABC80-based FM tuner) with a 3-band (LW/MW/VHF) plus “gram” setting on the rotary switch (phono sockets); the record deck was an auto-changer – BSR Monarch with a 9TAH flipover-for-78 cartridge, and the cabinet was the shell after discarding the innards from a full height TV cabinet (Rediffusion I think). The 10″ (or might have been 8″) bass speaker needed a tweeter alongside it – pity he never thought of that, but he loved his bass!

In those days the tube had a further toughened glass front panel – which remained. A piano hinge was inserted at the top about 4 inches back from the (curved) front edge,allowing the front (complete with the toughened glass) to lift from above the speaker grilleby something just in excess of 180Β° to prop on the top (making the open unit about 6′ tall). This gave access to the BSR record deck on a new ply sub-floor above the speaker on its AV springs. He had carved a rectangular hole at the top and drilled four holes fore from it in the 1/4″ walnut veneered otherwise polished top surface, fitting the previously upright radio/string-wired tuner dial facing front, with the dial facing the ceiling instead, with the four control pots/switches through the holes – with just enough on the flatted 1`/4″ shafts to take the original knobs.

The icing on this small cake was a further oval hole to allow the EM80 magic eye to be seen from above – using the original escutcheon from the case off the Fen man!

If he had bothered to put a few Pea bulbs around the glass to light up the record deck this would have been the most wonderful piece of furniture ever. As it is, it used to rock ornaments off the mantel piece such was the bass amplification and resonance!

What a memory this has returned. In terms of electrical repairs, I think over the next 10 or so years I had to replace the capacitor across the mains which went short circuit, one of the coupling capacitors which went leaky and one of the solid carbon dropper resistors (I cheated on that and put a string of 1/2W film resistros in there instead)! I’m glad when I was old enough to do this I’d changed my mind and gone into engineering instead of repair work!

I hope your father lived in a detached house because a pair of EL84s will deliver a fair volume. πŸ™‚ Here is the Fenman 2 radio that inspired the project: https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/pye_fenman_2.html

As a young man, my father made a valve radio and had to take the accumulator to be charged at the weekend, but it was gone before I was born.

Your mention of a magic eye reminds me that I have an old Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder that needs new capacitors and a new magic eye. I can’t remember when we stopped calling them condensers. The retailer was less than helpful when it started crackling soon after purchase, and that was what began my interest in consumer affairs.

It was the arrival of the integrated circuit and the increasing difficulty in diagnosing faults that were responsible for me losing interest in playing with electronics.

I used to repair TVs because it was a challenge. I sometimes switched the connections to the scan coils to demonstrate to the owner that their set was now working but there was still a slight problem – the picture was upside-down.

Apologies to Kate for taking her Convo well off-topic. πŸ™‚

That was it. What a find, thank you. πŸ™‚ I remember now that combination assembly on the left (of four) knobs. The rotary control was a on/off treble cut control – and I never got around to cutting the track at the end of its travel to stop any intended attenuation), and the clear plastic thingy you can just see on the outside operated a concentric a four position rotary switch which added stages of bass boost.

Edited to add – that I’ve now skim-read some of the comments in there about problems – and yes the capacitor that went leaky was a Hunts – blue and white job (my father had a different name for it after I’d identified the fault, which was actually quite easy (pulled the valve out before it and the noise continued, unsoldered one end of it and it went beautifully quiet). I’d not get away with using an unearthed soldering iron these days – not so much safety but ESD damage!

And my apologies too for taking it off topic. I accept full blame. As indeed I used to in Dillo days (but only on those few days that ended with the letter Y)…

There are various other photos of the Pye Fen Man II on websites. Within the last month I have thrown out a box of dead components that I collected for no particularly good reason, mainly during the 1970s, many from b/w TVs. There were a few Hunts capacitors but none of the light blue/white variety, though I remember them well.

I must look through my late mother’s box of photos – there may be a small number of that radiogram. I wish I still had it, but it was cannibalised to relocate the Fen Man innards once again – into a huge baffle board above a downstairs cupboard, complete with its 10″ speaker – but no record deck, and no magic eye this time. The valve had failed and somehow we just went by ear!

Roger, as not many have contributed directly on B&W tvs I think, as with other Convos, you can be excused for what is only a slight deviation from the core topic. A question still remains in my mind – are there really 8242 people who only own and watch a monochrome tv? Why? Is it pursuing a hobby and they have no colour version? And they don’t watch any tv on a phone or computer (can you get monochrome versions of those?).

I don’t suppose it qualifies if you turn the colour off on your normal tv.

At least on the early TVs it was easy to turn off the colour, but since the TV is still capable of receiving a colour signal a colour licence is needed. It’s the same with DVD recorders and the older video recorders.

When I were a lad a few of my friends knew I liked taking TVs apart, collecting valves and fixing TVs by swapping valves. I acquired a few TVs simply because they wanted me to take the focusing ring-magnets out for them to play with. they were usually a pair and quite strong magnets – but tended to chip easily.
As for tuners – and those biscuit wafers and CLUNK CLUNK changing channels – happy daze πŸ™‚

I’ve still got a few of the ferrite ring magnets, Neil. You can still find them in magnetrons used in microwave ovens, but it’s important to discharge the large capacitor before delving into the works. When moving home I found an old box full of valves rescued from old TVs and radios.

Before I bought my B& K 467 tube rejuvinator I made one out of a diagram from Practical Television used to boost B+W portables. I have several valve “Magic Eyes ” they weren’t cheap to buy and the emission loss was greater than other valves so they dimmed down over time . Also found in tape recorders . I have kept all my vast supply of valves and equivalent books and AVO VCM MK 4 . I liked those old B & W portables easy to repair unlike the massive colour TV,s with the RGB large tube base connections and “killer ” Pentode tube in the timebase screened off section – 800 V DC at a high current—yes I touched the anode ( top cap ) once, took 3 days for the pain to go down. luckily it wasn’t across my chest.

Jillian Morris says:
7 April 2018

You don’t have to buy a b+with set, you can turn down the colour on your TV and watch in b+w πŸ‘

Sorry, but that won’t do: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/461749/Man-asks-for-black-and-white-licence-for-his-colour-TV-claiming-he-keeps-the-colour-off

This was a popular suggestion when colour TV was introduced.

Phil says:
7 April 2018

” The box connects to your aerial (which will have to have been upgraded to digital) and your old telly via a Scart lead, and gives you free-to-air digital channels on the Freeview platform. ”

What on earth? Did you get paid for writing that?

To start with there was no need to upgrade TV aerials for digital. It was a popular scam at the time that Which? warned about. Secondly any TV old enough to be monochrome only will have been made before SCART. I have a colour set made in the 1980s which has no SCART socket but I connect the set top box to the SCART socket on a VCR and connect that to the TV’s aerial socket. The SCART output is analogue and the VCR converts it into an RF signal the TV can process. I believe you can still buy dedicated boxes that will do this and a DVD recorder or PVR with an RF output may well do the same job.

Ian says:
9 April 2018

“The box connects to your aerial (which will have to have been upgraded to digital)”

“To start with there was no {widespread} need to upgrade TV aerials for digital.”

Indeed, there is no such thing as a “digital TV aerial”. It’s just a TV aerial – and it is utterly irrelevant whether the signal it picks up is analogue or digital.

In some areas, viewers did have to flip the polarisation from horizontal to vertical or vice-versa. No doubt aerial sales people would have used this as an opportunity to sell a new aerial.

In a very small number of areas, some people may have needed a new aerial because some of their TV services had moved to completely new frequencies quite far removed from the original frequencies. Those who had an aerial covering a limited group of frequencies may have needed to change their aerial for one covering a wider group of frequencies. This was not a common occurrence.

Yes Ian they were usually called “wideband ” aerials it enabled other transmitters that could be picked up by moving the aerial to a different transmitter as I did when I lived in a city . I had two choices for reception , if you had the money you could motorize it like a sat dish. yes “digital ” aerials were a big con.

If you didn’t have money, the cheapest option was a wire coat hanger, a real sod if it got moved.

People complain about the number of mobile phone shops on the high street but there was a time from the late 1950’s through to the early 1990’s when nearly all towns had a selection of TV rental shops and many electrical shops, co-ops, and department stores also rented out TV’s for weekly payments. Names like Radio Rentals, DER, Robinson Rentals, and Granada were found on every high street and many independents were located in smaller parades, and popular electrical retailers like Currys, Howards, and Stone Radio also hired out TV’s [often end-of-line models or hire purchase returns which were cheap to rent].

With rental, you never owned the set but could buy it out of rental after a year or two or you could easily upgrade to a superior model or the latest technology for a small increase in the weekly payment. This was the popular way of having television in the home because it provided a rapid repair service [and prototype colour sets were prone to failure or picture and channel selection problems] as well as enabling an affordable means of payment because the initial outlay for a good colour set was several hundred pounds when weekly wages were barely into double figures.

The TV rental shops offered a range of models from basic table-top sets [that would sit on the sideboard or tea trolley] to full-scale free standing cabinets with tambour doors and a “remote” controller on a long lead for changing the channels from the comfort of your armchair. Watching the picture dissolve into a pin-point of light and closing the doors was the accepted way of ending an evening’s viewing.

When video recording came in, the TV rental shops had a new lease of life as customers added a VCR to their weekly rental and protected themselves against the vagaries of the emerging technology, especially the clash between VHS and Betamax. The shops also started selling and hiring out videos to provide an additional revenue stream but eventually their days were numbered and they gradually faded away with the Flatter Squarer Tube being the last good technology change they brought to the market. They subsequently lost money on the huge and ungainly grey CRT’s that stood in the corner of the lounge like an elephant [there’s a well-known phrase or saying lurking behind that comment but I can’t quite put my finger on it], had an uncomfortable picture ratio, and whose only virtue was that they were practically burglar-proof.

A number of medium-sized electrical retail chains like Hughes and some small independents still do TV rentals alongside washing machines, dishwashers and other appliances, but the desire to have large flat-screen TV’s fitted to the wall and the demand for Smart TV’s has made the home TV market difficult to satisfy on low volumes. With such a wide choice now available on the internet, purchasing on a credit card can equate to a monthly rental and you own the product from the outset.

How times have changed……..

Radio Rentals supplied my first colour TV πŸ“Ί as I couldn’t afford to buy one. My newly found status in the TV world was probably the equivalent to getting today’s latest iphone !!!

I shared a house when colour tv first appeared with a chap who worked for the BBC, and was able to get his hands on one. I regret to say he removed it after a few weeks because we all spent too much time watching it! What a novelty it was. Times haven’t changed, except we can watch a colour picture wherever we like on our phones. I wonder how long before we spend more time in virtual reality than we do on the real world doing real things?

Just taken a break from cutting my hedges – must go.

Alfa- Do you remember the slot meters on the back of the TV -to turn it on you had to pay in ? John -whats wrong are you “banned ” from using the word WHITE as in “white elephant ” ? This is inverse RACISM .

No Duncan – Those ugly TV sets that stood on big fat legs were always grey so they looked like elephants. They weren’t ‘white elephants’ in the sense of being useless articles as they became very popular until the flat-screen plasma and LED TV’s came along and resolved the picture ratio problem. The wide CRT TV’s couldn’t produce a proper circle [which screwed up BBC-tv’s globe logo] and gave everybody 12″-wide shoulders.

Like Alfa, my first colour TV came from Radio Rentals and it certainly was a bit of a status symbol. I remember having to see the other 27 residents in the apartment building to get their approval to having the communal aerial system adapted and uprated to carry the 625-line signal to each flat – many thought I was just showing off. As if!

Okay John -you’ve “got me ” on the “Elephants ” but it was possible to produce a reasonably round circle on a CRT but it required much adjustment to get it right ,usually it was a oblong either vertically or horizontally you were dealing with the spot deflection in two directions from two different circuits on those old TV,s Frame and LIne output. various gadgets were attached to the tube neck depending on the vintage . Very old 50,s had a big lever and magnetic deflection later 60,s had electrostatic deflection , as well as that early tubes were 90 degree -later 110 degree , then in the 70,s the shape improved again . I do agree it was usually the case shock/movement / aging components affected the purity of the circle. This was made more complicated when colour came in and three colours needed adjusting with three times the complications . Have a look at the tube base connections of an early 60,s TV with their multitude of variable resistors to adjust the spot of each colour.

Thanks Duncan. I have no technical knowledge or aptitude in respect of televisions but I remember being persuaded to give up an FST [flatter squarer tube] set in favour of a new wide-screen CRT set and being appalled at the poor aspect of the picture. There was virtually no additional content in the image, it was just spread out across the extra width without a proportionate increase in height. This was towards the end of the 1990’s. Luckily good quality and better value sets became available once the tube was eliminated and the early resolution and definition problems of the plasma and LED models were overcome. It is hard to see what more uplifts in TV performance can now be achieved other than incremental advances on definition and fidelity that are barely perceptible to the human eye [and perhaps that’s why it’s hard to see them!].

I don’t remember TVs with slot meters Duncan. I paid RR monthly.

The first wide-screen TVs were awful. We needed a new TV when they first came out, didn’t like the squashed people, so went for the old CRT.
Wide screen has improved immensely since then.

I have long suspected every new tech that comes out gets gradually downgraded so we fall into the trap of needing the latest tech. The more canny of us will wait until we need it rather than want it.

I remember seeing a Finlandia TV probably around 1980, that had an amazing picture and would probably still be so, even by today’s standards.

I remember the remarkable circuit board on the previously simple base plug. Six pots – grid bias and gain (or, if preferred brightness and contrast) for each of the three primary guns.

A lot of sets had a service switch which effectively collapsed the firld scan to next to nothing to allow easy setting of the grid biases.

As for deflection fidelity, there were so many frigs that were deployed to overcome the fact that the tube angle had increased to keep set depth down it’s almost laughable. One very good aspect of digital is perfect geometrical rendition.

As Duncan has said, the early TVs had to be properly set up to produce a decent picture. Even then, the internal controls needed to be adjusted periodically to correct convergence errors and the balance in output between the red, blue and green electron guns or black & white films would show colour fringing and have a colour hue.

The later TVs used had the three electron guns inline rather than in a triangle and that made setting and maintaining convergence much easier.

Regarding Finlandia TVs, I found this on another forum: “In the UK, Finlandia was the brand name of Granada and these were usually rental sets. Finlandia’s were usually Salora, Nokia, Finlux or Sanyo based sets.”

Your right John its only persistence of perspective in vision that allows up to “see” a scanned picture in an old CRT as well as movie screens . Our mind “stores” the displayed full image .light striking the retina retains the image for approx 15th of a second because its a chemical reaction and the eye cannot distinguish speeds faster than this , they go unnoticed as they appear to be one continuous picture. Its like flicking those Victorian moving picture cards, amazingly the eye doesn’t function to replicate the world we come in contact with but to sense-process and encode and transmit to our brains into something it will interpret . This goes back to our changing DNA as a human race over millions of years to live in a visual sense of reality. Its also why people with mental problems “see ” life differently from others . Look how people can be hypnotized by moving objects .

You are bringing back memories again, Roger. After moving home I disposed of photocopies of TV circuit diagrams and various redundant kit including a home-made crosshatch generator.

You have “remembered ” me on a subject you asked me about years ago Wavechange . I told you I had a set of yearly bound Wireless World magazines going from 1930 up to 1947 they included Arthur C Clark,s first disposition on satellites but you asked about patents of well known electrical engineers of their day including John Logie Baird whom I said recently had patented colour TV and stereo TV- both ELECTRONIC . I wanted to give you my large collection but due to the weight would have cost an absolute fortune to send . BUT I have found a solution a USA website that has archived the lot including all the UK favorite electronic magazines and a host of others –marvelous website !! and you can download for FREE ! now you know why I love many things American – nothing like it in this country . I have already downloaded valve equivalent books as mine are getting raggedy –no problem downloading -no viruses etc http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Wireless_World_Magazine.htm radio history in abundance . You will be surprised at the innovations and patents including radar. Old 30,s radios were better than later models as they Incorporated many features never seen now.

I remember our earlier discussions, Duncan. I have spent hours browsing through the americanradiohistory.com site in the last couple of years. I cannot remember if you told me about it or I found it by chance. I agree that it’s a truly wonderful archive. I was tempted to get rid of my collection of Practical Electronics and Practical Wireless magazines after seeing this site, but I’m hoping to find a younger enthusiast who could use them.

Thank you very much, Roger, for putting in the correct technical terminology what I was struggling to describe. As you say, “one very good aspect of digital is perfect geometrical rendition”. I could see at a glance what was wrong with the early widescreen CRT television pictures but the trade and customers loved them. It really was a case of “never mind the quality, feel the width”.

My word! I remember designing and knocking up a crosshatch generator to help with convergence – used a small handful of TTL chips – 7490s to count lines down and “pixels” across – and a 74121 to generate the narrow verticals! The heart of it was a crystal-driven Ferranti ZNA134J – one of the early LSI chips (add a single xrystal and you have all the pulses you need, line sync, line blanking, field sync, mixed blanking – including the interlace. Talk about memories… That beast was pricey – about Β£25 – and ran very hot!

You might see a couple of my circuits in PW and PE – they used to send me Β£5 postal orders if I sent a good one in!

I found a few good ones in there too – including a car burglar alarm using relay logic. Loved relay logic.

It’s possible I might have constructed one of your circuits then. My main interest was in faultfinding – I relished the challenge of diagnosing and fixing faulty electronics. Many of the faults in TVs etc were the result of dry joints in hand-soldered connections.

I detested Veroboard etc. for my own projects and produced my own boards, first using spray-on photoresist and then using pre-prepared boards. I could buy ferric chloride and sodium hydroxide from our lab stores at work and use one of the lab UV lights, which was more predictable than sunlight. Being able to design circuit boards on a computer and print a mask on sheets intended for overhead transparencies made life was a big step from using a permanent marker to draw the circuit tracks. At work I taught a couple of my technicians to produce circuit boards so that we could build our own research equipment at a fraction of the price of the equivalent commercial product.

I have just been looking at one of my burglar alarms that is destined to become electronic waste. It has 12 DIL relays plus a standard one. Happy days.

You might have done Wave – I sent in a few clever relay things their way. The one I was most proud of though used TTL (as well as the ubiquitous relay!) – which I was disappointed never made it into print, it was a wiper intermittent circuit that didn’t need any new holes drilling, reliant instead on the existing control and a rewire under the bonnet. Basically a flick wipe started a timer, and if flickewiped again within ~15 sec would remember the delay – and do the repeat flicking at your timed interval. If you flicked it before the time was up it would reduce the interval to the new time – and if you flicked it while it was doing a sweep, that cancelled it. I thought that was quite clever – still do actually! Oh – and I never actually built it as my father’s car (1961 mini) didn’t have a flick wipe so there was no point! It was probably too complicated – a master oscillator formed from a crude 74123 cross coupling with an output pulse every second or thereabouts, two 4-bit counters (were they 74163?) , the odd flip flop and a quad comparator. I was I think 15 when I penned that. Halfords were selling aftermarkiet kits for a few quid – the cost of this was higher in parts alone – but oh so elegant in operation it would have been!

Once the PCB layout process progressed to software I left it to professionals (who used to report to me by then!). I was a Chartpack man myself! – and our firm (EEV Chelmsford) had a decent photoreducer/dark room to produce photoresist masters, and a huge vat of Ferric Chloride. As you say, happy days!

I only made simple wiper delay units but what you say makes a lot of sense because the system adapts to your needs. Cars provided plenty of opportunity for experimentation. I did not have a car but my father was amenable. I built several designs of electronic ignition systems, the first based on a circuit from the June 1971 PW during the summer vacation when I was a student.

I did not build any sophisticated circuitry but had access to the services of electronics, mechanical and glassblowing workshops that could produce what I and my colleagues wanted for the cost of the parts.

We are hopelessly off-topic but I’d like to thank Kate Bevan for the opportunity to indulge in nostalgia. πŸ™‚

My first car – 17th b’day present – a white mini of dubious history (7 + previous owners, a milometer stuck on something ,999 that clicked… and clicked… Was very useful as a 1 mile audio trigger to enable speed trials with a stop watch in one hand πŸ˜‰ This had more mods than original wiring, switches and adaptions before meeting its maker finally. BFN 807 B. Wiper delays, warning lights, burglar alarm, Very comfy seats from an 1100 (nobody in the back after their fitting). Having installed switchgear around the column from a later car, the original floor mounted dip switch served as an “all warning” button. I’d removed the latch mechanism but pressing that down gave a full compliment of additional hooters and headlight. Hooters went off when you took your foot off, headlights stayed on f r 5 seconds I think.

This is a tad off-topic πŸ™‚ . Maybe this convo on dream cars would be a good place for this discussion: https://conversation.which.co.uk/motoring/car-christmas-stocking/

Apologies Lauren. Feel free to create a topic entitled, say, “Antique electronics”. I’m sure that most if not all of the above off-topic stuff would fit in there (with authors’ consent of course). Dream cars would be polluted by this.

Lauren – I propose that Roger is invited to write a Convo on antique electronics. πŸ™‚

LOL – I should report that post …

Joking apart it would be my pleasure. But not before 24th May.

Go for it Roger. I’ll look forward to it.

Meanwhile, back on black & white TV, I read that some might be paying for a b/w licence and watching colour TV.