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Trade Chat Visionhire Cable

 
mfd70
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Today I pulled out a Visionhire Cable box that I've had for some years, I can't recall where it came from. It has a multicore input cable, an RF output and a RF loop-thru controlled by a "TV Game" type switch, and four programme selector buttons, this suggests it is a Rediffusion type HF multi-pair system. I know that such systems were popular in the North of England, East Midlands, Bristol and the South Wales valleys, I believe that it was only economic at scale with large numbers of potential subscribers so I wonder where Visionhire was operating, as I understand it, Visionhire was mainly a rental outlet for Philips equipment.

In South Wales, I can't remember many Visionhire shops at all, in the seventies an into the eighties, there were many Radio Rentals, Rediffusion and Granada shops, but I can only remember one in Cardiff, in the nineties it became a bar and retained the illuminated shop signs on the walls and the ceiling, it was popular with students.

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Topic starter Posted : 01/05/2022 10:42 pm
slidertogrid
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@mfd70 Visionhire took over British Relay in Peterborough in the early 1980's. That plug looks very much like the plugs used on B.R TV sets. They didn't keep the wired relay system for long after the takeover as the system was old and struggled to keep up as technology advanced. It wasn't possible to have remote control or teletext on the wired system for instance.  British relay had provided subscribers with a box to adapt an aerial set to the relay system for people who owned their set and preferred not to rent a relay set. The boxes were not that good and there were all sorts of problems with sound buzz and the like. Where the system had solved problems of poor reception in previous years by the early 80's it was all a bit outdated and frankly clapped out.  Visionhire changed renters over to aerial sets and scrapped the wired sets . I remember huge piles of the relay version of the solid state GEC sets awaiting the scrap man. A few of my mates worked for "'Relay" but didn't stay long after the Visionhire take over read into that what you will...

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Posted : 02/05/2022 12:27 am
PYE625
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I did work experience at Visionhire in the summer of 1984. Unit 10, Brassey Close, Peterborough. I remember those plugs because I had never seen that kind of thing before. There was no doubt the cable system was out of favour, it was the norm for people to be changed over to an aerial for reception. The pictures via the cable system were dull and lacked contrast I remember. I also remember loads of set's piled up for the scrap man !

Visionhire must have rented out Philips or Grundig V2000 machines because I can remember being impressed by a video cassette you could turn over. Plus, the picture was better than our VHS machine at home.

Whilst at Visionhire, it was the last time I saw a 405 line set in use before the system was closed down. Specifically, I remember an old set that worked on 405, but not 625 due to a fault of some sort.

I further remember a grumpy boss man who sat in an office by himself and never spoke to anyone. He always looked like he would explode in anger at any moment.

I would go out on field visits with an Asian guy nick-named "Pet". He was so chilled and laid back, real nice guy. Think he had a brown estate car..... but it's a long time ago now.

Ah-well.... memories, forgive my ramblings lol.

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Posted : 02/05/2022 8:41 am
Cathovisor
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@slidertogrid Didn't B.R. operate stuff in the city - I'm specifically thinking of those flats behind the Cathedral facing onto St. John's Street as I'm sure I remember seeing manhole covers with "British Relay" on them?

Our first colour telly came from Visionhire in around 1979(?) - a Pye "Studio Colour". My brother rented it for our parents as our old mono KB sank into decrepitude.

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Posted : 03/05/2022 12:28 pm
slidertogrid
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The Pye Studio colour would have been an early G11. V.H. had loads, they came out the year I passed my driving test and kept us busy ! Relay was very popular in Peterborough the Hospital building along with the flats (St Mary's court ISTR) were the highest buildings apart from the Cathedral and were blamed for all sorts of ghosting problems. The development Corporation had also built a lot of houses which they banned tenants from putting up aerials outside, as they didn't want the clutter spoiling the skyline, so relay was the answer as I loft aerial needed a (then) expensive masthead amplifier. When you look at what a $hithole those estates have become now it goes to show how the "pride" in Peterborough has gone! 

British relay had a workshop in Cobden s.t in an old chapel along with all the reception gear and launch amps, it all looked like something out of "Flash Gordon". Visionhire moved the workshop to Brassey close and the days of the relay building were numbered.

When relay were in the building all of the "Gods" were all in situ the building was protected and they weren't even allowed to knock a cable clip into the woodwork. Times change however and the site of the chapel is now a car park for a Mosque... 

There is still some of the wiring and termination boxes for the old cable system around but as houses get renovated they are slowly going. Once I would say that the great majority had "relay" and it has to be said that during the 60s breakdowns were few and the maintenance was first class. It was watching the "relay man" fix our set that sparked my interest in Television as I was often at home when he called as I was an asthmatic sickly little kid often off school.

My parents first rented the set in 1961 when I came along as they couldn't go out dancing anymore now they had a sprog, we had the same set for over 10 years until they got a colour set which came from Granada as Relay couldn't install in time for Christmas. 

 

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Posted : 03/05/2022 5:40 pm
Cathovisor
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@slidertogrid That was it - St. Mary's Court. Mind you, that area of Peterborough always looked a bit "rough" to me. I'm fairly sure someone we both know used to have odd bits of ex-"Relay" gear for sale at Cowbit from time to time. Didn't they also get into Stanground?

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Posted : 03/05/2022 6:28 pm
slidertogrid
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@cathovisor I'm not sure if relay got as far as Stanground in the late 1980's the main gas supply hadn't got that far!  I had a few mates from tech who worked at relay, I also knew the service manager there he used to teach part time at the collage.  The Cowbit seller is a friend of my mate Mick who also worked for relay and later Visionhire.  I think he bought the lot when Cobden street workshop was cleared! A real gent!  

In the earlier days relay would keep sets going for a long time, often old chassis were refurbished and fitted into new cabinets, they had a reconditioned 20" model that looked like a late 1970's Pye but when the back was removed the chassis was from the early 1960's full of greasy old wax capacitors. even prior to that Lots of old 405 sets were converted to 625 with lots of mods including a new LOPT. The "front end" was just one of the relay "vid boxes" wired into the chassis. 

 

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Posted : 03/05/2022 9:41 pm
RichardFromMarple
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This article has some interesting information on the British Relay system in Whitehaven:

https://www.transdiffusion.org/2004/01/01/rentals

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Posted : 03/05/2022 10:21 pm
slidertogrid
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Here are a couple of photos of a BR cable point where it entered the house. This is one of my Mum's neighbours' house, it must be among a few now remaining “boxes” left. The estate was built in 1974 and was wired for Relay T.V and communal heating. Piped TV and piped heating! The heating system was abandoned in the early 1990s, as a lot of homeowners had removed it in favour of their own boilers. The heat exchangers were massive, noisy and expensive to maintain. One bonus was that the road 'Bretton Way' never iced over! Ironically, the site communal heating building at Bretton Centre is now 'Iceland' ! 

Relay 2
British Relay
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Posted : 10/05/2022 11:19 am