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Clubs, Groups and Societies For discussions about various clubs, groups and societies relating to our hobbies, such as the BVWS (incl NVCF), BATC, RSGB, APTS, CLPGS, THG, TCC etc. This is NOT an official forum for any of these organisations.

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Old 28th Nov 2022, 2:30 pm   #1
Lucien Nunes
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Default MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

This is a post I hoped never to have to write.

Many will be aware of the noises we have been making over the past year or so, about starting up MEET - the Museum of Electrical and Electronic Technology. The idea is a completely new take on vintage tech of all sorts, to get it out from the sheds and de-nerdify, de-anorak it and make it accessible, exciting, engaging and educational for everyone. It is my brainchild and my life's work, was going to occupy me nearly full-time for the next 20 years, and we have got as far as forming a committee to steer it and fundraise for it and convert my collection into the nucleus of a permanent museum.

My health, which has been variable since my cancer diagnosis last year, is now in decline again. I have been given a new, much shorter prognosis and I am faced with the likelihood that I will not see the project into fruition. To put it bluntly, I've probably got a year at most. I am not alone in it, so the project does not have to die with me, but as the 'engine' that was powering it along, there is a risk that if I have to bow out sooner rather than later, it will be left somewhat out of steam before it has gained enough momentum.

There is an opportunity here for getting involved with something big and exciting, if you happen to think along the same lines as us. It is a huge task and a huge ask, but if I don't ask, an opportunity might be missed. Let's be clear, this is not a quick job, nor a jolly-up with the lads playing with a few tellies although there will be plenty of scope for hands-on along the way. There's fun for everyone but a lot of hard work needed behind the scenes. This is a serious educational resource that could reach national scale, covering the gamut from nuclear power stations to digital watches, but dwelling very much on the fun stuff because that is how we draw people in.

We have had a lot of vocal support and donations of various sorts, but now what is in short supply is me myself. When I'm out of the equation it needs an energetic, enthusiastic leader and sponsor. Someone who will give it vision, who can see the relationship between vintage tech and education and use each to help the other thrive, and project the value and purpose onto every possible target where it could do some good. We have some good people on the team but not, at the moment, someone who would specifically step into that role.

Who will bite? Who has access to channels outside the vintage tech hobby sphere, where it would be worth publicising this call? What can you add? All thoughts appreciated.
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Old 5th Dec 2022, 11:17 am   #2
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

Lucien, I can at least break the stunned silence that your post has produced. I am sure I speak for very many in saying how sad we are at this latest news.

Your life's project is widely known, and respected. You have so eloquently explained the thinking behind MEET (Museum of Electricity and Electronic Technology) and Elektrokinetica. I urge everyone to see Lucien describing his vision, on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4V1GXxC7as . He says it all.

For myself, I know that I will always be somewhere in the background, continuing to support MEET in whatever form, and am now more than ever going to publicise that great project wherever I can, inside and outside the "tech hobby sphere". Many hands make light(er) work.

Courage, mon brave.
-Jeremy
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Old 5th Dec 2022, 11:42 am   #3
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

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Originally Posted by Pamphonica View Post
Lucien, I can at least break the stunned silence that your post has produced.
You've got it, Jeremy.

Lucien, I have learned more from your posts here and your website than I can ever thank you for.

I hope MEET will be the success it really deserves to be.
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Old 5th Dec 2022, 6:03 pm   #4
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

Thank you, Jeremy and Nick, for the kind words.

I would like to write more on the philosophy and reasoning behind my conviction that education is the single best use of all the vintage hardware we love, but it runs the risk of over-complicating something that is fundamentally very simple.

It probably all started with my dad. He had a general all-round knowledge of science and engineering and was good with people. When I was a child, when we made things or visited museums or took part in activities, he would always encourage me to jump in with both feet and not just look on passively. A conversation would take place and I would be snuck in under the rope and given a tour behind the scenes. I can well remember even at age seven or eight, Ivan Fear at Kew Bridge Steam Museum (as it was then) teaching me unofficially after hours how to drive a Cornish engine. I would be round the back of fair organs asking to operate the keyframe or dragging home a length of underground power cable given to me by the electricity board jointers afer spending an hour sitting on the edge of a hole in the road learning how to make a resin joint. Everything was an adventure and as a youngster I could get attention because that was novel and people did not want to disappoint.

As I entered my teens, I started to get more serious with projects and had some excellent mentors who rapidly boosted my skillset. I was not always the most appreciative and could be quite abrasive and awkward, but that's part of being a teenager and eventually as I grew out of that, I realised how generous and helpful so many people had been and what a privilege it was to have those opportunities. But it was yet a long time after that, two decades at least, before I realised that many people, especially young people, with an interest in engineering, might never get the chance to get stuck in the way I had, because the circumstances of their life were not conducive to it. And then to realise that there were probably as many or more people who didn't realise how interesting engineering could be, because they hadn't been exposed to it at all. And then finally the idea started to crystallise, with various incidents like the lift controller reveal that I mentioned in the video.

Fun old machines + welcoming environment = success engaging public with engineering
Public engagement + educational resource = return on social and financial investment
Investment + enthusiasts = opportunities to save fun old machines.
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Old 5th Dec 2022, 7:09 pm   #5
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

There is also the issue of some 'pure' scientists being rather deprecating about mere engineering.

I like to remind them that we are the people who make the equipment that they are destined to spend their lives fighting over, for access or funding.

Subtle? Moi? Never!

David
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Old 5th Dec 2022, 8:41 pm   #6
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

Lucien,

I just PM’d you. I also want to publicly offer my condolences for what you are going through and the self-evident qualities of courage, strength, determination and selfnessness that shine out of your post.

I recognise and really value the enormous contributions you’ve made to the forum over the years, thank you . I’m also aware of the tireless and enthusiastic commitment that you’ve making towards your formation of MEET.

I’ve been fascinated with mercury rectifiers ever since you first illuminated their properties here years ago and I well remember your phenomenal restoration of an organ which transcended all previous markers of commitment and scale.
I hope to hear from you soon.

Much respect for you and your journey and what you contribute to the world
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Old 5th Dec 2022, 11:32 pm   #7
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

I am genuinely sorry to read of your prognosis. I can tell, we can all tell, of your unbounded enthusiasm for your MEET project where you are obviously the initiator and prime mover.

If I understand your short video correctly, you are seeking to capture and harness the natural enthusiasm of mainly young people towards all forms of electrical interest in the hope that it will lead to understanding and for some perhaps … well who knows where it might lead.

My suggestion to you is, and it’s an obvious one, have you made any sort of contact with the IET who on the face of it might be a very suitable ‘partner’ for your ambitious project? They have the contacts and the organisational skills at local and national level and importantly the longevity to see programs through. I would enquire myself but I gave up my membership upon retirement. Food for thought I hope. Best wishes.
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 4:37 pm   #8
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

I to am sorry to hear your prognosis. I was similarly diagnosed with terminal cancer some 21 years ago, and obviously in my case it has turned out to be quite wrong. I am fit and well today, with no sign of recurrence of the cancer that I had. The medics haven't been able to say why their predictions were inaccurate, and I can only hope that you have a similar experience. It isn't over until its over, as someone said.

Coming to your dilemma with MEET, I hope you will welcome honest opinions about this project. Firstly I should say I know nothing more about it than what has been written above, plus what you say about it in your YouTube video. What I understand is MEET's USP is a proposal to make technology (specifically vintage technology) "accessible, exciting, engaging and educational for everyone".

I am fully in support of such an aim, but have to point out that you are very far from being the first to try to do this. The Science Museum has been at it for decades. Techniquest in Cardiff Bay (https://www.techniquest.org/ ) has also been at it for decades. So long in fact, that I remember taking my own kids (who are now 37 and 40) along when they were 5 and 8. Other museums make attempts at it.

All the technologies these museums demonstrate are "vintage". Some of them are near prehistoric, and date back centuries. Indeed the only technology that can be realistically demonstrated with a hope of being educational are very simple implementations of first principles. I recall a typical one being the use of pulleys to lift heavy weights - seen that one in several museums.

When it comes to electronics - or indeed simple electricity - its possible to have simple demonstrations of batteries lighting up bulbs, or swinging a meter needle. But moving on to valve circuits? I doubt it. For one thing health and safety would be difficult - and all the big museums are absolutely paranoid about health and safety. That's principally why you hardly ever see vintage technology live and working - except for "special open days" when there is an expert on hand to safely to demonstrate it (Think beam engines for example). The idea of letting the general public play with the average bit of old technology unsupervised would be unthinkable - its simply too dangerous for the non-expert to handle.

And sadly that last point is true of virtually all the electronics we discuss in this forum. The public could be allowed to twiddle knobs - but there is little interesting or educational about that - once they get the point that the knobs replace their modern touchscreen on their phones.

Sorry if this is an unwelcome dampener on your project. If I am wrong then please give us more detail about how you see your unique offering working in practice.


Richard
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 4:49 pm   #9
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

This venture - http://radiocommunicationmuseum.org/ - may have already covered some of the ground you hope to cover. I think in your position where you have possibly only a year left - I would be looking to team up with other ventures, that might welcome collaboration.

I found this statement on the above website:

"An important aspect of the museum, is engaging with youth. By promoting “hands on” engineering in areas of software development and electronics design. School children and college students, will learn how to solve problems and create software and hardware solutions. Thus not only will we help to create the engineers of tomorrow but also make them enthusiastic about becoming radio amateurs and so make radio communications a key part of their lives. We are already engaging with local schools to establish a series of projects which will support the National Curriculum and provide children with practical experience to let them understand the range of interesting and rewarding careers that exist in the electronics, software and telecommunication industries for both young men and women."

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Old 6th Dec 2022, 6:06 pm   #10
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

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The idea of letting the general public play with the average bit of old technology unsupervised would be unthinkable - its simply too dangerous for the non-expert to handle.
This is the conclusion that many people come to; however I have been working for many years to devise ways around it, and now have over 100 exhibits designed where people can interact deeply and meaningfully with machinery, without necessarily being exposed to any of its risks.

I will say from the outset that quite a lot of the best and most exciting 'activities' require a demonstrator. One might at first assume that the manpower this entails makes it impractical for a small organisation. However, with careful scheduling that gathers up an audience for each special demo, one person can actually handle quite a large throughput of visitors and a range of different activities. I have studied manpower utilisation at existing museums and it ranges from highly efficient to terribly wasteful, where people have to be there but they don't contribute to the visitor experience. We have to be efficient, and ensure that everyone on the premises makes a useful contribution to the visitor experience.

I envisage a range of formats including:
* Demo of major exhibit run to timetable, so that visitors can gather around it when it is due to operate.
* Theatre-style presentation where multiple demos can be given to a seated audience without them having to move.
* Roving demonstrator connects with visitors as they interact with unstaffed exhibits, and subject to availability, leads them on to related demonstrator-only exhibits.

But anyhow let's have a look at some example directly interactive exhibits that can operate unstaffed.

1. Lister 'Start-O-Matic' domestic lighting plant c. 1930s-40s.
See here for plant details: http://electrokinetica.org/d1/1/3.php

The original DC Start-O-Matic generators are very robust and capable of frequent starts without excess wear and tear because they start on the main dynamo, not a starter motor, transitioning smoothly from starting to running like a hybrid car. Therefore it is quite practical to set up a demonstration with a completely authentic and attractive engine room tableau, in which the plant comes to life under the control of visitor-operated switches that apply load. The switches can be vandal-resistant 12V controls that operate period lighting fixtures via relays. A supervisory timer resets the exhibit if unattended for 5 minutes and thwarts attempts by vandals to damage the exhibit through excessive starts etc. Yes, it will need maintenance. But all sorts of fancy modern interactives need maintenance too.

The exhibit is is designed to teach about simple logic controls via the generator's electromechanical control panel with its large, highly visible timer solenoids and relays, which can be presented up close to the visitors in a transparent case, so that the actual relay logic can be seen working. An interpretation mimic panel has indicators connected to the relays that show what it is doing, augmented if desired by spoken narrations synchronised to the operation of the panel describing what is happening.

So you get multiple benefits from a single exhibit:
* Exhibition of authentic off-grid power generation setup
* Demonstration of relay logic and operation of dynamo with guided interpretation
* Visitors feel engaged because they are in control of the exhibit and it responds authentically, but they aren't left behind if they don't already understand how it works.
* Forms part of various themed paths of discovery that visitors can choose to follow, including logic, power generation, 1930s etc.

How is this different to offerings elsewhere?
* At the Science Museum, you cannot see a diesel generator operating.
* At an engine museum, you can see diesel generators operating, but the only people who will see them are those who would think of going to an engine museum. The power plant is relevant and potentially interesting to lots of people who wouldn't go to an engine museum.
* In neither location will a working power plant exhibit form a memorable learning step about control systems. The science museum will teach you about electrical machines but lacking the engagement of a real live machine cranking up in front of you; the engine museum won't typically explain the electrical side of things in detail at all.
* It's part of a range of programmed journeys of discovery. You might come along because you want to see old washing machines etc 'like granny had.' but as you follow the journey, you can find out how they were made, how the electricity was made to operate them etc.

This post has got rather long so I will come back with other example exhibits in further posts.

Just a final note about the radio communication museum: Nothing wrong with that. You can see radios in a radio museum, computers in a computer museum, telephones in a telephone museum, power plant in an engine museum, electronic musical instruments in the synthesiser museum.... do you see what I am getting at? I'll return to this point later.
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 7:38 pm   #11
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

2. Binary memory. How is data stored? What's a bit and what kind of space does it take up? What's actually different about a bit that makes it a one or a zero?

In all computers that you might see operating, it happens in microscopic scale, invisibly, by the movement of a few electrons. You can learn about this at a computer museum but it's impossible to see it actually happening. Or is it?

Before electrically-readable and writable binary memory was in general use for computation, it was in use embedded in control systems. For example, from the beginning of the 20th century, the London Underground was transmitting encoded train descriptions that were stored word-wise on a device called a drum receiver. It's got huge great 'bits' that pop in and out and are easily human-readable. It's very easy to see it read and write them, and a great introduction to all the core ideas and principles of binary memory. Where can you see one working? Answer, very occasionally at the London Transport Museum depot open days, maybe nowhere else. And of course, if you wanted to learn about how your mobile phone works and how your laptop stores data, you would instinctively make a bee-line to a transport museum, wouldn't you? And when you got there and asked about the 'binary memory thing that you can see working' they wouldn't know what you were on about, because to them it's a piece of signal equipment to be demonstrated as part of signalling technology. But it's more than that, it's a direct precursor and excellent demonstration of some of the principles of what is going on in everyone's pocket 24/7.

We don't have a drum receiver in the MEET collection but we have another good one: The Compton piston selector. It's the memory that stores programmable stop combinations in some very large organs from the late 1920s, and also theatre lighting consoles up to the 1950s that Compton made. Its visual resemblance to the die of a 1970s EPROM is uncanny but it's macroscopic, you can see it mechanically juggling the contacts into the '1' slots and the '0' slots as you write to it. Once you've got an understanding of the word-wise construction and the relationship between addresses and data, it's a simple step to understand that in the memory IC, electrons are being moved back and forth instead of springy wires.

So how does this translate into an exhibit?

Visitor-operated keypad allows simple text messages to be typed in, stored, and recalled onto a large LED display. The memory unit is right there in front of you with a perspex front and you can watch it work from literally six inches away, but you can get a really close-up view on a screen connected to a miniature camera inside that shows a huge display of just a few bits, with overlaid text that shows what the position of the parts means in terms of the data stored. If you don't want to use the hardware keypad you can scan the QR code on the exhibit and send it a text message to store and recall.

OK, I hear you say, you could custom-make an interactive to demonstrate that with all modern stuff, like a regular museum. Sure you could, but it would cost a bomb to have commercially designed and built, when I've already got the Compton units working in the stores and could put the money towards something else. More importantly, you can see the very same piece of machinery in the back of one of our working lighting consoles that forms part of a demonstration itself. When you see it there, you will think, 'Aha, I know what that is and how it works, it's like a flash memory but bigger, it must be storing the lighting changes'. You start to get a sense of achievement, because the learning experience with the interactive exhibit connects with the real world, rather than being a sterile, artificial construct.

When you go into the cafe you'll find the juke box standing in the middle of the room with a perspex back on, with arrows pointing at various parts of the mechanism. No interpretation, it's a puzzle. What's arrow No.3? 'Aha,' you say again, 'I know what that does, it's like the other memory mechanism but different.' When you select a record, it pushes a pin up, and when it plays, it pushes it back down. You start to follow paths and make connections between things you've played with and others that work similar ways, and so you build and cement your understanding.

So the jukebox is an educational tool too. So many things to watch going on inside. And quelle surprise, it's a ready-made, customer-friendly piece of vintage tech you can interact with, designed for heavy use and placed in its natural setting. The only thing we have to to is make a perspex back for it.

Back to that point I made at the end of the previous post:
The juke box, lighting console, organ piston memory and drum receiver are all parts of the same story that leads into home computing, which might be what brought you along to MEET in the first place. But can you play a record on a juke box at the London Transport Museum? That's our USP. We hooked you in and got you thinking about different things, and therefore learning.
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 9:16 pm   #12
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

Another aspect of the power plant setup that I omitted to mention is the fuel flow indicator. By sneaking in a little flow sensor with a display at the control panel, one can see how the number of appliances switched on affects the fuel consumption. Experimenting with the switches, you soon discover that it's quite uneconomical with just one light on, but gets better as the load increases. This explains why it was originally used in conjunction with a storage battery, and the concept translates to many other things you'll see around the museum.

Have you ever stood next to a showmans' engine generating for a heavy fairground ride like an ark, and felt it take up the load as the ride pulls away? The belt shifts a little, it slows briefly, the governor falls and you hear the effect of the steam valve opening and the whole thing picking up. You don't need to be technical to feel the excitement of a powerful machine doing work, and responding to the load by working harder. A diesel is not quite so photogenic but it's cheaper to run and really does all the same things. When you switch on the heater, you can see and hear it working harder and the governor reacting to the load. Presto! You just had your first lesson in closed loop control systems. You can see more of those at work in the following locations...
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Old 7th Dec 2022, 1:34 pm   #13
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Quote:
I think in your position where you have possibly only a year left - I would be looking to team up with other ventures, that might welcome collaboration.
Returning to this point, yes I agree that we are more or less out of time to set up as intended on our own patch under our own steam. I am still probing in various places to see whether anyone is game for taking the project on as a whole, but it's big and it's difficult and that is one of the reasons it doesn't exist already. It's inherently a big project because of its broad scope, and the broad scope is designed-in as part of the concept.

Working museums of vintage technology tend to form around clusters of industry 'veterans' who are sufficiently forward-thinking and generous to turn their hobby - preserving what they know and care about - into a publicly beneficial venture. This is good in one way because it focuses available skills and resources into concentrated hubs, but it has the significant limitation of subdividing all the different branches of technology in artificial ways.

There are very few tape recorders at the BVWTM, which has its main focus on domestic radio. Back in the day, tape recorders and radios came from the same makers, were sold in the same shops and catalogues, were used in the same home for the same purposes (listening to music). But now we have an artificial divide where you might have to visit two museums to see a Ferguson radio and a Ferguson tape recorder that were side by side in the shop window. This is not a criticism of the Wireless Museum, it does what it says on the tin par excellence. It's an observation that topic-specific museums that are ideal for dedicated enthusiasts who want to see a particular thing, are not ideal for helping people with a general curiosity about how things work to find their feet, see the big picture and start learning the principles.

Having arrived at this concept and made it a deliberate policy to cover a wide range of material, it's more difficult to integrate with existing organisations that tend to be tightly focused. We can't go to an organ museum and offer them our collection of organs with the condition that they also take the CNC lathe (because it runs from perforated paper tape like the roll-playing instruments) and a chunk of telephone exchange (to show how the crossbar relays are related to organ relays) and a bench counter-timer (to show other applications of frequency dividers) and so on. They will only take the organs, in which case that aspect of the MEET concept unravels and the collection devolves into separate items bearing little relationship to one another.

In one sense, it is the concept that I want to preserve and promote, over and above the collection which will generally find takers if only piecemeal. If that can be passed on reasonably intact, then we have found the solution.
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Old 9th Dec 2022, 11:24 pm   #14
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

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When it comes to electronics - or indeed simple electricity - its possible to have simple demonstrations of batteries lighting up bulbs, or swinging a meter needle. But moving on to valve circuits? I doubt it.
The Winchester Science Centre did a good job of explaining how a valve or transistor works with an exhibit that shows a pipe carrying fluid being restricted mechanically. They also provided our lad's first experience of a programmable machine in the form of a Mars Rover simulator.

They have some very interesting exhibits but they are more about education than being a museum.

Our lad is fascinated by the idea of mechanical computers at the moment but I'm not sure how many others of his age share his fascination.
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Old 10th Dec 2022, 4:56 pm   #15
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Hello,

I concur with Jeremy’s post #2 as I was also stunned by the news so subsequently it’s taken me a bit of time post a reply, but I felt I should.

As Curtis Mayfield sung… Keep on Keeping On.

Often ponder how we can take our [vintage] technology and wrap it up in form the up-coming generations can appreciate and learn from.

I can see where you are coming from regards something like a tape recorder, and I can see how the division has occurred because of evolution and circumstance, I concur the museum does a absolutely cracking job.

Of late, I see some [younger] folk getting into vintage technology via musical instrument amplification and associated gadgets, alright it’s right on the fringe of ‘vintage technology’, but it I could be one of the means to somewhat help bridge the gap. In a recent guitar magazine, I saw a young guitarist wax lyrical over the qualities of 6V6, crikey, this valve was introduced in 1937, however, a young musician in 2022 appreciates the qualities of this valve some 85 year later!

Given the current economic climate, I’m pretty much committed to working with guys at work as there is some tough ‘ole times ahead for British Manufacturing, and we will need all the hands to the engineering pumps - so to speak - to navigate the up-and-coming choppy waters. However, in my own way, I’ll keep trying to bridge the gap between vintage technology and them [young] guitar playing musician folk…

I like the Juke box idea. This is good way to demonstrate the playing of records as it gives a very visual process of the playback process.

As I said at the beginning Keep on Keeping On.

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Old 11th Dec 2022, 1:51 pm   #16
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Of late, I see some [younger] folk getting into vintage technology via musical instrument amplification and associated gadgets, alright it’s right on the fringe of ‘vintage technology’, but it could be one of the means to somewhat help bridge the gap.
You have hit a nail square on the head there Terry with a perfect example of the possible ways in which the MEET principle of cross-fertilisation of interests can work.

As one of our specialist sub-collections, we have in the MEET inventory the collection of public address equipment put together by the late Ken Yaxley of Norwich. Like most types of equipment that was only used in commercial / industrial / public locations, it's hard to collect for preservation because there's none hidden away in Granny's attic. Such infrastructure is usually handled only by contractors working to a time and budget, who unceremoniously smash and skip anything that's in their way, while any amplifiers lucky enough to escape that jungle tend to be hunted down and slain for their transformers or Tannoy badges. Therefore, we are indebted to Ken and his colleagues for having put the collection together, because although it still needs work and expansion, it's about the only reasonably representative collection in existence and would be near impossible to start from scratch now.

But PA history has another problem: Who loves it? Who cares about the disused column speakers on the old town hall proscenium, encrusted with 23 layers of purple paint? Or the rusty old horns still hanging at the ends of the railway platform? You could count the number of people who actually feel deeply for this stuff on the fingers of one endless cartridge player. Fair enough, most people only brush up against it briefly, often to complain that the announcement is unintelligible. Why would they stop to think about the reason behind that problem? Hence, very little exposure to repay all of Ken's investment of time and effort putting the collection together. It's good to have conserved material, but most benefit is lost if it's hidden away for eternity.

What that collection needs, and what we hoped to offer it, is to bring it out from the world of veteran PA contractors, the guys who still have a dozen Grampian horns hanging in their sheds, and make it part of the discovery of sound and music. Percentage of people with a declared interest in PA systems: 1%? Percentage of people with a declared interest in music: 90%?

Youngsters like to see their voice on a scope screen. I know this because I've tried it. They soon discover the relationships between wavelength, pitch, amplitude and volume. So you hook them in with that, which is another of those operational interactives (although this one doesn't specifically benefit from vintage exhibits) and gently guide them along. You let them listen to their voice over a horn speaker and a hifi one, show them how much power is needed for each, get them thinking about why the announcements they hear in the supermarket sound thin and tinny, but those on the main stage at Glastonbury sound rich and full.

There's no end to the connections you can now make. Try the electric organ - what's the lowest note you can hear? Can the horn speaker reproduce it? If not, why not? Is that why the bell of a tuba is bigger than that of a trumpet? Then they see the dismantled part of the tone generator and the etched waveforms inside, and compare the idea of wavelengths etc. You can go as far as you like towards it being a physics lesson, and as far as you like towards the nostalgia for holiday camps with their enormous showpiece presentation consoles (RIP Ruth Madoc.)

A family comes in lured by the social history side of things, then one of the children who has just started learning to play the recorder discovers this wealth of music-related material that wasn't on their must-see list but strikes a chord, and they venture down the connected topic of amplified sound. The PA system announces that at 2.30pm there's an interactive demonstration session where they can record on tape and experiment with analogue sound effects like tape echo and reverb. They'll stick around, and Ken's collection has a whole new audience.

E2A: For anyone who hasn't seen it already, this dates from before the current challenges with my health, when I was spending my weekends actually setting up the displays for MEET Mk.1. https://iscve.org.uk/the-present-and...ae-collection/
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Old 11th Dec 2022, 3:14 pm   #17
Uncle Bulgaria
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

Lucien, I must be one of many viewing this thread who is feeling quite upset that they don't have the right mix of skills and time to take on your role. The more I read about your ideas for the museum, the more it sounds like the ideal museum.

I think it's the perfect antidote to the grumbles expressed in a previous thread about 'dumbing down' in museums and the rush for interactivity meaning rudimentary touchscreens. Your proposals are fascinating, and the links you're making between different disciplines are an inspiration for us all.

As an architect, I find the commonly expressed sentiment that it's one of the last professions to be generalist to be truthful. We need to be able to bring in art theory, physics, psychology, drawing and communication skills, among almost anything else. From this background, as more and more 'silos' are set up, it's rare to have the vision required to cross-pollinate in the way you express so eloquently and that makes me appreciate it all the more.

I seem to recall you saying that funding was OK, but for those of us wanting to be part of this magnum opus without being able to be the next Lucien Nunes, is it possible to donate money so as to do something to help, at least?
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Old 11th Dec 2022, 5:42 pm   #18
Lucien Nunes
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

Thank you for the support and for bringing up this point, which I haven't mentioned so far in this thread:
Quote:
the rush for interactivity meaning rudimentary touchscreens.
That is a very succinct description of this problem of misuse of technology. I have nothing against touchscreens per se and there are many places in which they provide a very effective interface. But attractive though they might be at the planning and design stages and for commercial reasons, they are not the be-all and end-all of museum interactives.

One negative is that they divert attention away from the exhibits. All the time a visitor is looking at a screen, they could be anywhere; the value of being physically present at the exhibition is lost to them. Another is that the mode of interaction is so much alike to many other life activities, no matter how good the content is, the user experience (UX) of accessing it is reduced to that of ordering a hamburger. Even if it's a highly optimised UX, it's not memorable because it's lost in a sea of similar ones.

This ties in to something that I was about to write in the thread called 'What's good about tape?' My observation was that with physical media, and application-specific hardware (record player + camera + calculator + dial phone vs. smartphone) is that operating each different device or using each different format brings a unique UX that does not occur when all the activities are applications on a single, multi-purpose device. For example, separate to any advantages and disadvantages they have as recording media, 78s, LPs, 1/4" tape, cassettes and minidiscs each offer a specific UX that differs from the others and from non-audio-media. That serves as a handle by which to remember the activity and a reason why using these formats is more engaging than tapping 'play' on a phone, which could equally be 'redial' or 'buy now'. I don't want to make it sound too much like Pavlovian conditioning but the principle is similar.

When people come to MEET and interact with the exhibits, I want them to remember the sensations as a means to recall what they learned in the process. Not many people have the need or opportunity to pull big switch levers in daily life; if we give them one as a control input on an exhibit instead of the standard vandal-resistant pushbutton, it will stand out clearly in their recollection of the activity.

Quote:
is it possible to donate money so as to do something to help, at least?
Thank you for the offer. In theory the GoFundMe channel is still open, but I would say hold that thought for the moment, until we have a clear idea of what happens next. The fundraiser so far has been instrumental in preventing the need for an emergency dissolution of the collection and to allow hiring professional advice for development of the further, larger-scale fundraising that would be needed for us to buy our own premises instead of renting as we do now (which all comes out of my pocket and is a bit of a ball and chain.) I will talk about fundraising and sustainability in the next post, and its relationship with accessibility and the interaction of conservation and education.

In the meantime, keep the ideas flowing. The forum membership is pre-selected to have a particular range of views on history of technology which differs from that of the public at large, and the majority of museum professionals, so it brings additional important viewpoints. The collective experience is extremely valuable and I enjoy the discussion it triggers.
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Old 13th Dec 2022, 9:17 am   #19
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

Hello,

This story is kind of centric to my previous post and I hope it’s keeping on topic.

I’d been chatting to young guitar player about vinyl playback systems to check their vinyl record test pressings and the music they are in process of recording etc.

This got me talking about my first job, building valve guitar amplifiers some 37 years earlier in the 1970’s (it’s now actually 47 years ago!) … This young lad went on to say he used an old valve amplifier to record the guitar parts on their first single as this gave him the sound he wanted on the guitar. I asked the make of the amplifier he used, and I was absolutely staggered when he said it was a combo amplifier made by the company, I worked for some 37 years ago back in the 1970’s (this was back in 2012). I know I would have defiantly tested it and I could have possibly built this amplifier.

This gave me a direct connection with the young guitarist, as he was using an amplifier, I’d worked on and tested many years ago. This gave me feeling of a continuation of my skills, which was even heading out of date back in the 1970’s when the amplifier was made. From memory Mullard ceased production of the EL34 in the latter part of the 1970’s.

This [old] technology gave a common connection between the two of us. Its things like this that make me pursue the musical instrument and audio playback side of [old] electronics. This technology can mate quite nicely with state of the art digital audio. A 24bit 192K DAC connected, via something as simple as a volume potentiometer to a Leak Stereo 20 sounds rather nice.

When talking about [vintage] valve technology I find it easier to bridge the gap with comments like… Brian May (Queen) and Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters) use valve amplifiers with the same valves as found in 1940’s-50’s radios, radiograms, and record players. This gives a connection between valve radios etc., and current use of [old] valve technology. It’s the link between the PYE Fenman and Brian May.

As I said, in my own little way, I’ll keep plugging away at bridging the gap between valve vintage technology and them [young] guitar playing musician folk…

Terry

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Old 13th Dec 2022, 11:55 am   #20
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Default Re: MEET - call to arms! Can you help?

What about contacting Sam Battle who does the Look Mum No Computor channel as well as running a museum. He's young, has energy and an appreciation of vintage tech. Just a thought.

Andy.
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