Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reflecting on Media Technology (my early years to about 18)

For as long as I can remember my life has been connected with technology and as I cast my mind back I can see some pretty amazing changes - here's how they've been experienced by me.
As a child my father who was an electronics engineer made me a crystal radio used to have various electronic  odds and ends having himself been an enthusiastic radio constructor before the war (World War II).
As a child at primary school I had a small portable radio at the time of the offshore Pirate Radio stations and we also had a succession of other radios, tape recorders and of course a radiogram. My Uncle Len used to pass on various radios to my dad when they were no longer wanted and/or broken and he'd fix them and we'd then have them.
In Braintree where I lived from the age of about 10 there was a shop that used to sell various 'army surplus' goods  here you could get phone handsets, batteries and old circuit boards - I often spent my pocket money there. 
One of the uses of the home tape recorders was to record family get-togethers - playback used to invariably focus on how we didn't sound like that


Typical 60s AM/FM radio




Clarion Tape Recorder









As well as radio TV was a fascination and at secondary school I became friends with other like minded boys and got to collect old TVs, aerials and components - even advertising for unwanted items with postcards in newsagents. The first TV I got was a Pye 12" - the tube was well worn and when this happened the TV would give a negative picture - the only show that this worked for was Top of The Pops.
We also used to make small AM radio transmitters (illegal) and also I remember Graham Flynn getting a small FM radio bug. 
Something like my first TV
Having spent early childhood in modern houses in 'developments' some time in the early 70s we moved to a much bigger house more in the country and here I had a converted stable which I called a 'workshop' - then I was able to play music loud and have old TV sets as well as a Photographic dark room of sorts.

At this time computers were just becoming a practical usable technical element that was used in education and featured in some entertainment.
At my school we had a device for creating computer input on punched paper tape, the tapes would then be taken to the University of Essex - I'm not too sure to what effect.
As I became a sixth former I got involved in the sound and lighting team there- we did a school disco or two and helped on lighting for shows.
Also as a teenager I used to spend time with my cousin Tom (Tom Artrocker)  who was a trombonist with wide music taste influenced by Roxy Music and other way out artists we used to make some strange electronic noises during our summer holidays using audio oscillators in the Eno style (we thought).
It is hard to believe how little telephones were used communication was either face to face or by written word - there was a subculture around Radio Hams and Morse but this was incredibly tightly regulated  and restricted.
In the early 70s TV was BBC and ITV only, no early morning TV or late night. At School we had an early video tape recorder which was used for showing educational material (generally as I recall stuff warning us about the dangers of sex and drugs).
I had started taking photographs at an early age (around 7 I think) using a very simple fixed aperture and fixed focus camera the Kodak brownie the format was a 127 film, at secondary school quite a few people were interested in photography and I graduated to a Cosmos 35 camera which had variable focus and aperture. I was liicky enough to have another  uncle (Harry) who was Art editor on the Leicester Mercury, Uncle Harry helped me with fast film and some accessories like a flash gun.
At the age of 16 I got my first paid work (during school holidays) it was labouring work in a factory (Technical Panels) and meant for my remaining time at school  I had money with which to indulge myself and I got a Fidelity Stereo record player (plastic) it gave 2.5 watts per channel and I loved this, it also had (I think) a 5 pin din input socket that enabled other items to be played through the amp. (It's fascinating to see that as a vintage item such a record player gets £140!)
 Just like the record player I had



 
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