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Old 11th Aug 2019, 4:38 pm   #1
stevehertz
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Default Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

This was a pre war HMV/Marconi set that I owned in around 1979. I think it's a HMV 903 and quite rare even by pre war TV set standards. It is shown here partly stripped down, as I was doing a temporary 'tart up' job on it at the time, cleaning the knobs, applying scratch cover polish etc. Saying that, it wasn't in that bad condition, needing a few veneer chips working on. The chassis as I recall was also in decent condition. I don't have any more photos I'm afraid. I picked it up from Sittingbourne in Kent from a TV repair shop following an ad in 'Television' magazine for vintage TVs. I think I paid 30 for it!
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Old 11th Aug 2019, 5:20 pm   #2
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

I would think it might still exist, even in 1979 pre-war TVs were fairy scarce. One thing for sure you'll have to pay a bit more than 30 for it now.
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Old 11th Aug 2019, 5:40 pm   #3
stevehertz
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

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Originally Posted by MurphyNut View Post
I would think it might still exist, even in 1979 pre-war TVs were fairy scarce. One thing for sure you'll have to pay a bit more than 30 for it now.
Well, wherever Gordon Bussey's sets went to, then that's probably where it is now as I let it go to him as it was a set that he wanted. Gordon used to get his sets professionally restored in every way, chassis, cabinet, the lot, up to mint condition. He had an 'old guy' who used to work in the R&T industry way back when and he could refinish a cabinet exactly as it would have been done when it was made.
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Old 11th Aug 2019, 9:16 pm   #4
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

The following year - 1980 - was the year of an exhibition of vintage television at the London Science Museum. I recall there were several pre-war sets there showing impressive pictures, as supplied by Gordon Bussey. Had you parted with yours by then, Steve?

The attached pictures show the Marconi equivalent - the 704. It looks like "Picture Page" on the screen. Amazing to think that the first examples may have had a green picture (mentioned in another thread).

Steve O
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Old 12th Aug 2019, 7:54 am   #5
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

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Originally Posted by Panrock View Post
The following year - 1980 - was the year of an exhibition of vintage television at the London Science Museum. I recall there were several pre-war sets there showing impressive pictures, as supplied by Gordon Bussey. Had you parted with yours by then, Steve?

The attached pictures show the Marconi equivalent - the 704. It looks like "Picture Page" on the screen. Amazing to think that the first examples may have had a green picture (mentioned in another thread).

Steve O
No, I still owned the set in the early 80s. I think Gordon had it off me in around 83. What happened to Gordon's collection? Did it wholly or partly go to one place or were sets sold off individually? I recall they 'all' went somewhere?
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Old 12th Aug 2019, 9:39 am   #6
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

Reading the advert for that TV puts into perspective how little you got for your money, and what a poor viewing experience it provided. A screen 7.75" x 6.25" (10" diagonal) - about A5 size, (similar to an iPad). But of course it was novel and no doubt a 'must have' for those with deep pockets towards the end of the '30s depression years. 45 guineas = 47.25 in 'new money', in 1938 which would equate today to a price of 3,066 when accounting for inflation. It could be bought for 'just half a guinea a week' which today equates to 35.70. Few families back then would have had that much disposable income to spend on a TV.

The BBC Television Service officially launched on 2 November 1936 from a converted wing of Alexandra Palace in London. It broadcast from Monday to Saturday between 15:00 and 16:00, and 21:00 and 22:00, so just two hours viewing per day, six days a week on one station. At that time, there were countless radio stations on LW, MW and SW broadcasting a wide range of programmes more or less around the clock, so in contrast, those who could afford a TV didn't get much of an experience for their money, beyond 'one-upmanship' - a facet of 'pride of ownership' being enhanced by a TV aerial on the chimney for neighbours to see!

The first major outside broadcast was the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in May 1937, which I guess - like the Queen's coronation in 1953 - was no doubt used in adverts to try to stimulate sales.

Barely three years after TV broadcasts began, on 1 September 1939, two days before Britain declared war on Germany, the station was taken off air with little warning and BBC Television transmission didn't resume until 7 June 1946 at 15:00, by which time pre-war TVs were 8 - 10 years old, and after seven years in storage, may not have fared too well.

So it's easy to see why pre-war TVs are now so few and far between and are much valued by collectors. Quite a challenge to restore and put back into use with standards converters. Unlike radios, I guess that no-one who is a novice would attempt to restore an old TV, even post-war, so at least they end up in good hands.

I recall the 1953 Coronation. Few houses had TVs and those that did, were obliged to have friends visit to watch the proceedings. I wasn't yet 14 years old - to old to watch nonsense like 'Muffin the Mule' and to young to have the slightest interest in the Coronation. Even so, along with others kids who'd been pressganged into watching the Coronation, we were expected to sit on the floor in silence in a room full of adults and to appear awestruck when in reality, we were bored out of our skulls. When I say we 'watched' the coronation, we didn't so much 'watch' the TV as 'see' it. Even with the curtains drawn and the lights off, the picture wasn't so much black and white as 'shades of grey'. The 'magnifier' on the front of the 9" picture did nothing to enhance the experience.

We didn't have a TV till 1959, rented from Rediffusion. By then, in my late teens, it was an era of Espresso bars and skiffle groups. TV was for old fogies who didn't get out much. Why would a teenager want to stay in to watch 'Dixon of Dock Green', Hitchcock', The Army Game' or 'The good Old Days'. For goodness sake? Pubs were just as bad - full of old geezers smoking full strength Capstans and Park Drives, coughing and spluttering, playing dominoes, or worse still, playing an old out-of-tune piano having a 'sing-song'.

Though I can understand why there are still many valve radio around, given their small size and in some instances, attractiveness, but what always surprises me is just how many old TVs there still in existence. I guess we must have had at least 10 - 15 sets in our 57 years of married life, but they'll all have gone to the tip. Most had no 'eye appeal' - just a box on legs with a screen, small speaker and a few buttons.

But then countless millions of TV have been sold over the last sixty years, so if only a tiny percentage have survived, that's a sizable number.

Just a few socio-economic nostalgic ramblings really. Sorry if that's taken the thread a bit off topic.
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Old 12th Aug 2019, 12:53 pm   #7
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

Nice post David, in fact if I'd had the facility, I would have pressed 'like'.

Yes, I can see where you are coming from re the teenagers of the time. I was born in 55 so I (sadly) missed the skiffle and R&R years and to some extent, the cafe culture. With the way the world is going now, I think those born immediately after the war were born at the best time, the best compromise of witnessing so many new things and still being able to make use of the latest technology and medicine in later years. They witnessed the birth of rock and roll, pop music, The Beatles, the emergence of TV, etc etc. I was only eight when the Beatles hit the scene, so I did 'get' them but I never went out to the dances that were held in every scout hut on a Friday so to speak. I was more of a late 60s/70s guy.

When I was collecting and restoring vintage TV in the 70s and 80s, I would often find that a family's 'old set' was stuffed into a cubby hole or even the airing cupboard beneath a pile of blankets by thrifty people who bought them just after the war and had learnt not to waste or throw things away. We're talking 9" sets now. I made it my rule not to collect (in the case of post war) sets with screens bigger than that, as bigger sets tended to be multi channel, big, bulky etc etc. I only liked single channel, 'dinky' sets, and most 9" sets were just that. But anyway, yes, a small percentage survived the dump and those same frugal owners kept them until a suitable outlet was found, in my case me, a vintage TV collector. I had a collection of about 28 sets before having to let most of them go to gather costs towards a divorce. So yes, in the 70s, truly vintage TVs were not uncommon. I have to laugh (not in a nasty way, each to their own) at how even colour sets fall into the vintage TV category these days. My collection 'stopped' at 1950!
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Old 12th Aug 2019, 2:22 pm   #8
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

Hi Steve,
this is an interesting thread,
yes it is an HMV 903 and I think the only one in existence. It is listed in Steve McVoy's database with no name given for the owner.
http://www.earlytelevision.org/prewar_database.html

A Marconi version of this set (Marconi 704) recently changed hands and can be seen working here:-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVQutdYBsgM

David - I think your post is entirely relevant. Given the short broadcast times of pre-war television, the owner of an HMV 903 would surely have been upset to find that only a few months later their set had been superseded by the HMV 907 which had a smaller cabinet for the same screen size, included a radio and was quite a bit cheaper.

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Old 12th Aug 2019, 2:51 pm   #9
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

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Given the short broadcast times of pre-war television, the owner of an HMV 903 would surely have been upset to find that only a few months later their set had been superseded by the HMV 907 which had a smaller cabinet for the same screen size, included a radio and was quite a bit cheaper.
But (in my opinion ) also quite a bit uglier! Same price (here) but yes, you got more for your money.

Steve
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Old 12th Aug 2019, 2:53 pm   #10
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

Thanks for your kind and understanding comments Steve and Andy.

The Marconi 704 picture look excellent, and the sound is good too.

My Wife and I married in 1962 and didn't bother with a TV till 1964 - too busy with DIY! Not sure but I think the TV was a Ferguson. It was dual standard and just a nightmare - very unreliable, with long multi-contact switches on the PCB. The contacts on the turret tuner were forever getting tarnished, taking the set off tune. By the time it was out of its one year guarantee, I'd seen the service engineer taking it to bits and cleaning the contacts with Duraglit so many times that I took to doing it myself.

I don't think we had a colour set till 1988.

Back in 1976 I did the first year C&G Radio & TV course at night school, just out of interest. The only think I learnt was not to take the back off a TV or I might kill myself! The tutor delighted in putting a large plastic handled screwdriver on various parts of the set drawing a big fat spark , saying "don't go near this or that could happen". Huh, as if I would - too young to die - too old for nasty shocks. His (un-reassuring) mantra was 'it's mils that kills, and volts that jolt'.

Hats off to those who do take the back of sets and preserve scarce heritage.
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Old 12th Aug 2019, 3:26 pm   #11
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

If you look through the pre-war Radio Times television schedules there is an amazing amount of content but of course it doesn't compare with that available in the post war era. Although there was turmoil in Europe pre-war there was still much optimism that we were not simply crashing into the destruction of civilisation. The world of pre-war television for those who could afford it did not need to be compared with the variety of programme material available on radio. The sheer novelty of seeing remote activity live in your own home was the excitement of the age and clearly there were many new possibilities still come.

The attraction was not the current content but what might be yet to come.
Just like today, when everything appears to be going to pigs and whistles there are still those who think we will break through to utopia.

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Old 12th Aug 2019, 4:58 pm   #12
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

I had television from the day I was born in 1953. One of these in fact,
an HMV 1805 on the left and a 2805 on the right, the difference I think, being London and Birmingham respectively.

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Ours was receiving Holme Moss, so maybe either of those with a re-tuned?
A post-war set with a decidedly pre-war mains derived EHT philosophy!
I can remember the little console set towering above me!

The thing is, the one on the right was recently listed on ebay and I would definitely had bid for it had it not been too far away to collect. That's in spite of the severe woodworm damage evident in the other images. Such is the power of an object evocative of ones childhood.

In the end it sold for its starting price of 50p
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Old 12th Aug 2019, 8:05 pm   #13
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Default Re: Just out of interest, a pre war set I once owned

Hi Graham,

Unfortunate luck on your eBay. I still have the CRT and projection optics from my parents' television from that event and the chassis but not the cabinet, unfortunately it hasn't been powered up since that time so probably requires some work to become servable again.

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