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For those who enjoy a trip down memory lane

Discussion in 'Personal' started by modelmaker, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    A few months before my dad, who has Alzheimer's, went into a nursing home last year, he was having trouble with his TV. It was actually because he had completely lost the ability to manage the two remote controls, the TV and Sky. He told me on the phone that he'd tried to phone Radio Rentals (where I think we rented a telly from when I was a child) to ask them to come and fix it, but the chap he spoke to was very rude and said he was too busy.
    I never did find out if he actually phoned anyone and if so, who it was!
    Lalad likes this.
  2. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    When I first lived in Canada I rented a TV from a small local outlet. A few weeks later the shop I'd rented it from burned down and they went out of business. I had assumed that they would come and re-claim the TV as they still owned it.

    They did - three years later.
    Jolly_Roger15 and ACOYEAR8 like this.
  3. modelmaker

    modelmaker Lead commenter

    This is something else that would seem absurd these days, but lots of people rented TVs (and radios) at one time. TVs were very expensive and not that reliable compared to what we're used to now.

    Those who couldn't afford to keep up with regular rental payments could rent TVs with a coin meter that gave a few hours viewing for a few shillings, like electricity meters did.

    It all seems like light years away now.
    Lalad likes this.
  4. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    I never realised what an abusive relationship the Pogles had!

    We moved house in 1982 from a house with one phone socket to a newer house that had three! My mum and dad bought a phone for one of the extra places but kept the rental one in case the purchased one broke! They had the rented one for years more, a great big old heavy thing.
  5. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    @Doitforfree : In 1965, when we moved to Slough, the house came with a telephone point. We had to wait nearly a year for a line to ‘become available’, and even then it was a party line. The phone was one of the then newer models, which had a long, curly plastic cable connecting the handset to the base. Over time, this super-coiled until it was a large knot, hanging off the side of the phone. To use the phone, you either had to spend time unravelling this knot or pick up the whole set and hold it to your chest. The knot that formed on our phone was resistant to any wiles to uncoil the wire, such as hanging it over the bannister. You could dangle the body of the phone by the handset and it wouldn't budge: you just had to unwind it.

    @modelmaker: Until well into the Seventies, the nightmare of a television set owner was 'the tube going', especially if it was one of the later colour models. In the early Sixties, to replace a CRT could cost several week's wages. If you rented a set, all repairs were someone else's problem.

    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
    colpee and Lalad like this.
  6. modelmaker

    modelmaker Lead commenter

    Yes. That was the basis on which rental TVs were promoted, but from the age of 14, I had a part-time job in a shop that rented TVs. They also sold electronic components to the likes of radio hams. I carried on working in that shop on a part-time basis until I was well into my 20s and had a proper job as well.

    Among my tasks were to unpack goods inwards and stock the shelves. The guy that repaired the sets taught me a lot about servicing them, but you know what? I never saw a single CRT being delivered and they didn't carry a stock of them.

    I'm not saying that CRTs never gave up the ghost. I know full well they can do, but nowhere near as regularly as was made out. I rather suspect that if any of that shop's TVs had a CRT that went up the pictures, they'd just salvage any useful parts and chuck the rest in the skip.

    Like everything then as now, technology was always improving and looking more stylish. Nobody rented a TV for longer than the contract period. When the contract ended, they'd take out another contract for the latest model, so the issue of the CRT was a red herring anyway.
    colpee and Lalad like this.
  7. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    @modelmaker: I daresay you are right in that 'tube anxiety' was a fear on which TV rental companies played to their own advantage. My parents were only on their second set when I went to University. A 14" Sobell 405 line set, which lasted from 1960 to 1970, and then a 625 line 19" Baird that lasted them until they bought a colour set, in the mid Eighties.

    The 14 inch Sobell, was a wonder to behold, when it arrived. It had a dark, wooden case that my mother kept highly polished. It had a large, clunking rotating switch on its side, by which we changed the channels: Channel 1 for BBC, and Channel 10 for ITV. As the set got older, it developed 'idiosyncrasies', such as we had to jamb a piece of 'Aspro' packet under the channel switch to keep the contacts touching each other, and a five minute wait for the picture to stop rolling, after you turned it on.

    I was about five years old when the set came into the house, and it lasted about ten years. On it, we watched Yuri Gagarin, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the funerals of JFK and Hugh Gaitskell, the Aberfan disaster, and Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon. Ted Heath getting into Downing Street, the following year, proved too much for it, and it 'died' in June 1970. Fifty years ago!! :eek:

    I remember the day the chap from Radio Rentals (the successors of what had been 'Rent-a-Set') came to take it away as obsolete, and dumping the back of his van, all my mother's decade of polishing coming to nought.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
    Lalad and colpee like this.
  8. modelmaker

    modelmaker Lead commenter

    It was an era in electronics when failures were more often due to mechanical failure than failure of the electronics. By this I mean that when when things like picture rolling were usually an issue with the potentiometers that controlled the horizontal and vertical holds. They used cheap carbon potentiometers.

    When you took the back off those old tellys they always had a distinct smell. It was the smell of burnt dust. When you looked inside, there was a patina of fine dust everywhere. This was because they electrostatically attracted it. That fine dust would get under the potentiometer wiper and on the track, causing higher resistance. Because those old TV sets used valves, they would get hotter inside after they were turned on. The carbon tracks in the potentiometers would expand and change their resistance, so if your TV eventually settled down after five minutes, it was because the track had expanded to the degree it had been when it last worked properly.

    A lot of TV problems of that era could be solved by giving the contacts a squirt of "Electrolube" This was basically a contact cleaner. A quick squirt in a potentiometer and winding the **** to and fro a few times would sort it out.

    Sometimes valve heaters would burn out and there was nothing other than replacing the valve that would help, but more often than not, it would be down to corroded contacts in the valve bases. Just pulling valves out and putting them back in would get a TV going again, as did giving it a thump bring a temporary repair for a bit.

    With the CRT issues, it was just as likely that the HT circuity had broken down as it was the tube had packed up. Wherever high voltages are concerned, the high voltage is going to do its utmost to find a way back down to ground. It will find and explore every weakness in the insulation it can and work on it relentlessly until it has its way.

    Although the TV shop I worked in never stocked cathode ray tubes, it did carry a stock of HT cables and corona caps.

    But there's another fascinating thing to consider about how the world has changed.

    As technology has evolved, we've all become it to be far more reliable than it used to be. Back in the era we are discussing, when televisions use valves rather thatn solid state technology, everthing was hand built. These days most electronic stuff is made my computer-controlled robots in controlled conditions, with the human involvent being merely the things that robots either can't do or would be too expensive for them to do. The human involvement is relatively low skilled compared to what went before.

    But how do we compare the likes of computers, phones and TVs with other things that can't be built by robots and can only be built by humans without the benefit of working in controlled conditions?

    I have in mind a lift replacement I oversaw. It involved mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. The chap who did it worked hard and was in the main competent, but were talking about three specialties that I know from experience it's very rare to find anyone who's an expert in all three. To be frank, anyone who is, would expect to be paid far more than a lift refurbishment engineer could hope to get.

    Yet popular expectation these days is that everything will be perfect from day one.
    Lalad likes this.
  9. Bungie

    Bungie Occasional commenter

    My mother, who had early dementia, could not manage the two remote controls either, and we had to abandon Sky.
  10. Lidnod

    Lidnod Star commenter

    My family love museums for a good nostalgia fest. The Amberley Museum at Arundel has a fantastic collection of wirelesses and TVs and Mr Nod’s favourite Cambridge museum display was of electronic calculators from days gone by.
    Lalad and Jolly_Roger15 like this.
  11. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    @modelmaker : Thank you explaining things so thoroughly. I remember the Rent-a-Set man taking the back of the old Sobell, pulling out the valves, and giving its innards a good hissing from a spray can, which 'restored normal service'.

    In the mid Eighties, my parents bought a Sony colour set, which was still going twenty years later.

    @Lidnod : We have been to the Amberley museum a few times, and it is a nostalgist's fantasy come true! We had fun calling each other on the old Strowger telephone exchange, which we could hear whirring and clicking, as it made the connections.
    Lalad and Lidnod like this.
  12. Lidnod

    Lidnod Star commenter

    Mr Nod remembers that too! Years ago we took my mum to the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke and she really enjoyed the 1940s street scene and the radio shop. Her father had a radio shop in the 1920s and early thirties. Another museum I can recommend whenever life gets back to normal.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
    Jolly_Roger15 likes this.
  13. lapinrose

    lapinrose Star commenter

    Jolly_Roger15 likes this.
  14. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    Not just big companies, there were thriving local
    businesses that did rentals.

    I thought I could remember Tv rentals well into the eighties, so googled "tv rental in uk"
    to see if it was true - only to find there are still loads of companies doing it! Who'd have thought?
    modelmaker likes this.
  15. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    We have, and it is. We particularly liked the old Post Office counter.
  16. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    In the Eighties, many people used to hire video players from Radio Rentals, as they extremely expensive to buy then.
    colpee likes this.

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