The Wallis's ~ The Complete Story
The Polytechnic Regent street had a number of shop fronts each side of the main entrance. One shop Boosie and Hawkes was of interest to me, for I would like to wonder round the pianos and other instruments and sometimes trying out a keyboard or two.
During my second term Bookie and Hawkes had a promotion sale presented in some ways like a military communication display. The company had purchased a huge stock of Ex-Army wire recorders which were put on sale at temptingly low prices. They also had available circuits and data for converting these recorders into sound tape recorders Within the shop they had separate tables with records operating and being demonstrated. “Wireless World” had a very interesting stand for their magazine was just starting a series explaining how these wire recorders could be modified and used as tape recorders. Details were given on how to make the additional parts required such as the recording heads and drive mechanisms. I soon became hooked and followed with interest each edition of the magazine.
I soon found where the “government Surplus shops were and would spend most lunch breaks in the Shaftesbury Ave area of London buying odd bits and pieces for my project. I soon found there were many huddles to jump before I obtained a reasonable result. Screening of my components was a great problem and the positioning of components was a grittle factor. A year before in 1949 I had made my first “Transistor” Radio. The circuit had been printed in “Practical Wireless” and the transistor could be obtained as Government surplus. Using eight them and the circuit provided I was able to build a really portable radio using a small 9 volt dry battery which the magazine said would last 6 months before it needed to be replaced! Such an idea was unheard of at that time. The smallest commercial portable radio required a heavy 3 volt low tension and another even heavier high tension battery supply! The complete unit was heavy and bulky. When I showed friends my miniature receiver most could not believe it nor understand what was in it for Transistors were unheard by the general public in 1949
The same applied to my sound recorder those who saw it working could not grasp what the recorder was actually doing they assumed the sound was placed on the tape as a normal record recorded a needle surely was required to pick up the signals from the surface.
During my second year I was able to use the recorder to help me remember my lectures and class work. I have always suffered from Dyslexia, getting notes down correctly was quite a problem but if I had a recording with the main headings there I could sort it out in the evening when the tape was played back then I could write up my note books from what I had recorded. Making the recordings were not straightforward for I often was unable to get a microphone near to the speaker. A compromise had to be made and often I would repeat into a throat mike what the lecturer had said but not wanting to distract anyone this meant sitting away from the other students who assumed I was a nutter talking to himself.
I was soon tempted to tried my hand, making a television receiver myself. A magazine had arrived on the market called Television, which contained many articles discussing ways of using cheap government surplus equipment. I decided on using small six inch Radar screen the Ex-Governmant shops were full of them these Radar units could be easily and quickly be modified to give a reasonable 405 line scan on the bright green screen (Black and white Cathode Ray screen were very expensive and hard to come by).
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