By Member Joe Mitchell
In the mid 1970s Radio Rentals had a fair number of elderly subscribers (RR referred to customers as ‘subscribers’). Then, our service call record system was ‘laid back’ to say the least. No job numbers, or computer records of calls. The only record was the engineer’s daily ‘journey sheet’ which was sort of filed. Sometimes the ‘sub’ would call the engineer for a social visit saying their set needed tuned or whatever, really just for a chat and make you a cup of tea. If this happened in recent times I’m sure it would be rapidly stopped by modern metric and cost driven management.
I remember one old chap who was a horse racing aficionado, he rented an old, even then, black & white Baird model 660. (Dual standard chassis. Transistor IF strip, PL 504 PCL805 etc. power stages) which he said was all he could afford, although I suspect the local ‘bookie’ took too much of his pension. On one of my fairly regular service visits to his home for a reported ‘fading picture, needs a new ‘picture valve’ (his description). He kept telling me how great it would be to see the forthcoming Grand National and others from Aintree in colour.
I arranged to have his old 660 taken to the workshop and we gave him a dual standard Baird model 718 on free demonstration (Baird 710 chassis which eliminated the PD500 EHT shunt stabiliser used on the 700 series.). We used to ‘refurbish’ these early colour models and rent them at a much reduced price as ‘economy’ models. I will say the CRTs in these sets seemed to last, they used a PFL200 as the luminance drive to the CRT cathode with colour difference signals applied to the grids. The later Baird models with Thorn chassis seemed to be very sore on CRTs. The next day after it was installed he called me in as there was no colour. Yes, he was using 405 lines channels 10 and 3. However, I carried out grey scale, tweaked convergence etc. and left the old Baird displaying an excellent colour picture also explaining how to operate the set. I left telling him I hoped he would enjoy his racing in colour.
The following Saturday I worked ‘overtime’ and was on workshop duty, as Saturday was a busy service day and I had to be on standby. Just before lunchtime Betty the receptionist came through (the workshop was the ‘back shop’ behind the showroom.) saying my friend with the 718 had no picture and he would miss the Grand National. I put my case in the Ford Escort Mk1 1.1 estate and went round. (Where would you get service like that nowadays? It would have to be logged on the system allocated a job No. downloaded to the engineer’s laptop or hand held device. Cost of visit charged to appropriate department Etc.)
When I arrived at his house there was an acrid smell of burning which masked the normal smell of his extra strong pipe tobacco and he was in a panic, the 718 was on with a blank screen and he was listening to a race as the sound was still on. A wisp of smoke was emanating from the rear of the set, much to his annoyance I switched it off and told him he was near to setting his house on fire!! The Baird 700 series used an unusual type of EHT tripler, it was not encapsulated as was normal. It was made up of individual diodes and capacitors enclosed in a sort of case which was made of what I think was paxolin.
The tripler could be repaired by replacing the individual components soldered joints had to be round with no spikes to avoid corona discharge. The tripler had shorted components and had been left on long enough to set fire to the tripler case. Making sure it was safe I bundled the 718 into the Escort (I had slightly more strength 40 odd years ago). I found him an almost new Baird 8757 Thorn 9000 chassis. ‘Syclops’ combined power and line output circuit. 20” PIL CRT. and installed it in time for the Grand National.
He subsequently said he couldn’t afford the colour licence and we reinstalled a black & white set with the BRC 1500 chassis and he moaned about the ‘fuzzy’ picture. The 1500 in my opinion was a poor design. Compared to the Baird chassis the picture was poor and the CRT did not last. Used a transistor video amplifier. BF257.
Enough of my rambling, but where would you get a sort of personal service like that from any company now?
In the mid 70s, we had quite a Number of elderly subscribers