vintage wireless museum, bbc, uncle mac, crystal set, wireless the modern magic carpet, phonograph, ramblin sam, edison standard model A square top, pye, headphones

Thank you for your interest - I shall try not to bore you! This page has been recently updated and now includes a bit about my vintage audio collection and a 1903 wax cylinder recording that I'm sure you will enjoy (see Vintage Audio).

My Background

My name is Lorne Clark and I have been interested in wireless (radio) since I was about 10 years old. I'm retired now but worked for many years in the design and development of electronic test equipment. I also spent several years as a Product Compliance Officer dealing with the electrical safety of products and it is interesting to note how standards of safety have changed over the years. In the early days of wireless, scant regard (by today's standards) was paid to safety. I am sure we have all seen such horrors as loudspeaker terminals placed adjacent to live mains terminals, HT connected to  headphone terminals etc. Still, I wonder how many serious injuries or deaths were actually caused by such hazards. Not many I suspect.

As long as we understand the dangers associated with working on vintage wireless sets and take some simple precautions then the risks should be quite low. 'Know the hazards and avoid the accidents' is a good motto. If you would like to learn more about hazards associated with vintage wireless and how to avoid related accidents, then visit my Safety First page. 

How My Interest in Wireless Started

Crystal Sets

Back in c. 1960 I can remember seeing an article in a newspaper about prisoners using covert crystal sets to listen in at night whilst in their cells. The article had a picture of such a crystal set fitted ingeniously into a fountain pen. This caught my imagination and I was hooked. I managed to obtain the necessary parts with which to construct a copy and, with a little help from a cousin, I was able to build the set and receive local stations through a very cheap crystal earpiece. Not much selectivity though and the strong UK 'Home Service', as it was then called, could be heard pretty well right across the band. It was not long before I produced a short wave version which then picked up mainly Radio Moscow I seem to remember! Oh well it was cheap and gave an enormous amount of satisfaction. The aerial (antenna) and earth arrangement that I used was of the counterpoise type which I had read about in one of my father's books called 'Wireless The Modern Magic Carpet' c. 1928. This type of aerial worked very well and could be housed within the confines of my bedroom which was the nerve-centre of operations and a definite 'no go' area for other members of the family!

Uncle Mac and an old Pye

My interest in those early days was to learn about wireless and 'listen in', particularly on a Saturday morning when I used to listen to Uncle Mac, a veteran children's presenter with the BBC (you will find some recordings of Uncle Mac, alias Derek McCulloch, at Uncle Mac's Nursery Rhymes). I can remember buying an old (extremely heavy) Pye set at a jumble sale for 2/6 (about 13 pence in current UK money). I can't remember how on earth I got it home but it took pride of place in my bedroom. It had a fault that caused very poor reception and this was traced to a particular valve (tube) whose metallization  had become detached from the base (although I didn't realize the true nature of the fault at the time). Placing my hand around the valve restored good reception and so I surmised that wrapping a piece of wire around the valve and then holding the wire would have the same effect, and it did. I would lie in bed listening to Uncle Mac on this venerable old radio with the crucial piece of wire held tightly in my hand. Safety? What safety!

Test Case

One day I saw an advertisement for a single valve radio in kit form. I managed to scrape together enough to purchase this and the parts duly arrived, complete with enormous blueprint. I built the set with great care and the time eventually came to try it out. LT and HT dry batteries were connected up and the thing switched on ....... not a peep, nothing. I had no test equipment or experience to deal with this, but fortunately my father knew an amateur radio enthusiast who quickly traced the fault to an o/c winding in the aerial tuning coil. A replacement coil was duly dispatched and fitted, whereupon the set did work. Lesson learned: get a test meter.

My parents must have observed my growing interest in radio and, thinking that they had failed to provide for me in some way, bought me a rather expensive transistor radio. It was a welcome gift and was used extensively, but it lacked the thrill of discovery.

On the Air

A friend of my brothers gave me a No. 38 set (a wartime British mobile set). This gave hours of exciting listening in spite of its rather limited tuning range. It also transmitted quite well as I found out to my great surprise. "Hello, hello, anyone there?", I remember saying as I pressed the transmit button, never really expecting the thing to work. To my great astonishment a voice replied to my message. I hurriedly turned the set off, fully expecting the authorities to be round at my house any minute!

Recent Interest

For some time my interest in radio lay dormant, but a few years ago it was reawakened as an interest in collecting and renovating/restoring/conserving vintage radios. My real interest is in the 1920s period, but unfortunately this is also the most expensive. I prefer sets in really good order, and I do try to restore them to original working condition. This is not always possible mainly due to the rarity of certain early valves. Working or not, however, they are venerable examples of vintage technology which need to be preserved for future generations.

If you want to see some items from my collection, please visit my virtual museum.

Vintage Audio

I am also interested in vintage sound reproduction and have an early 1920s gramophone and an Edison Bell Standard Model A 'Square Top' cylinder phonograph circa. 1898 together with many wax cylinders dating from the first two decades of the 20th century. The variety of material that was recorded all those years ago is quite staggering; everything from opera to yodeling! My favourite is a 2 minute wax cylinder comedy piece entitled 'Ramblin' Sam' sung by Arthur Collins on Edison Records. It dates from c. 1905 and features an early road accident complete with (deafening) crash sound effects and there is the most dreadful pun on the word 'auto'. You can hear the un-retouched recording here: Ramblin' Sam. The recording is not all that clear in places and so I have included the words for you here: Ramblin' Sam lyrics . Note that the middle verse is missed out to enable the song to fit onto a 2 minute cylinder. I recently acquired the original sheet music for this song which indicates that the words are by Harry Williams, the music by Jean Schwartz and the copyright for the material was held by Jerome Remick & Co., New York in 1905. See my Links page for some vintage audio links.

I am always pleased to hear from others who share my passion for vintage wireless and other vintage technology. You can contact me via the link below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Lorne Clark

Copyright 2000 - 2003 Lorne Clark