Submitted By Member: Terrykc

Unlike most service departments, I think, ours was open to all – and we’d built up a healthy trade in spares and components for enthusiasts and others – but there was a catch …

This event, one day in the mid 60s, came about by chance. The solicitors’ along the road brought in one of those telephone amplifiers that were around at the time. I re-soldered the battery wire they’d pulled off, licked the rubber suction cap on the pick-up coil and stuck it on the back of the ‘phone to check all was ok – and left it there.

A little while later, a chap came in looking for a fuse. He hadn’t brought the fuse for some strange reason but I could easily identify it because he’d written all the details of the end caps on a piece of brown paper. As I handed him the fuse he said “While I’m here …”

This, of course, was the catch! A few coppers profit on a fuse in exchange for a couple of pounds worth of technical advice!

He continued “… can you tell me how to stop the humming noise I get on the Light Programme at night?” I quickly established that he didn’t have the option of listening on either Long Wave or VHF, so all he’d got was medium wave …

“The problem”, I said, “is called co-channel interference and is caused by another transmitter on the same wavelength” (remember, the wireless was metric in those days!) “As the station you want to listen to and there is nothing you can do to stop it!”

“Huh!” he said, “What you mean is, it’s something simple I could do myself but you want me to bring it here and charge me a fortune to fix it!”

Keeping my temper at this insult, I replied “Well, it’s something I’d like to know more about for myself”, picked up the ‘phone and started dialling 01LAN 4468, noting as I did so the smug look on his face now that he was getting, as he obviously thought, special treatment! I finished dialling and switched on the little amplifier: we both heard the familiar ringing tone …

“BBC, good afternoon!”

As I asked for Engineering Information, I swear his chin bounced off the floor and secretly hoped he’d picked up a splinter in the process …

“EID. How can I help?”

“I like some information on the source of the severe co-channel interference on the MWF Light Programme, please?”

“Please hold the line and I’ll pass you over to our Mr Sykes, who is our expert in this area”

Sykes? BBC? Surely not …?

A man who was clearly not Eric came to the ‘phone …

“Sykes here! I understand your calling about evening Light Programme interference problems. The problem is called co-channel interference and is caused by another transmitter on the same frequency as the one you want to listen to. In the case of the Light Programme it is caused by a high power transmitter at Skutari in Albania, supplied to the Albanian government by the Chinese People’s Republic for propaganda broadcasting.

There is nothing that we, the BBC, can do about this although the GPO, who act as our agent in such matters, have made representations to the Albanian government on our behalf but it is exceedingly unlikely that it will have any effect.

Who am I speaking to, by the way?”

“We’re an independent retailer, and we sometimes get queries from our customers.”

“Well, if you ever have any problems with any of your customers, if you call us, we’d be only too happy to speak to the customer on your behalf!”

As I ended the call and switched off the amplifier, there was a click as the door opened and the man sidled out. My mate Sid, who’d had a grandstand view of the proceedings, said “I think, if the gap under that door had been an eighth of an inch wider, he would have oozed under it!”

Any elation from this victory was soured a little while later when I found a scrap of brown paper on the stairs – the details of the man’s fuse. As I picked it up and turned it over, I found it was an old pay packet and that he’d earned five times as much as me the previous week …!

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