Good Old 405 Monochrome

When TV came to Wales in 1952 via Wenvoe, Grandpa in Pont-y-Pool was a keen 'early adopter' and, after 'auditioning' several models at home, chose a Kolster-Brandes HF60W, a 17-incher in a magnificent walnut console cabinet with full-length doors, priced at 120 Gns in old money. Ah, that was another world indeed, especially in the customer service domain.

Grandpa would watch everything, including the children's programmes, not that there was much on in those early days of the BBC, and thought that this new invention was wonderful. His daughter, my mother, was already blasé, recalling TV in London in the late 1930s before the war, when the sets usually had 'mirror lids'.

Alas, Grandpa did not last for much longer and so we inherited the set. Our home up North in Llandrindod Wells was way outside the Wenvoe service area, although Edwards the local radio people were very obliging. The aerial, a large 4-element Belling and Lee 'Multirod' Yagi, eventually followed the set from Pont-y-Pool and they assembled it in the garden. At this point i helpfully ran over it with my tricycle and a certain amount of straightening out was required. It was hoisted aloft and, being at the top of a hill, reception of sorts was possible, much subject to the weather, and after a while slightly improved with a sinister multi-valved preamplifier on the window sill. "My house is the one at the top of the hill with the big TV aerial" was helpful in directing my little school chums when they came around to call.

There seemed to be a series of necessary repairs; my favourite engineer was, alas, laid off sick for a while. On questioning, his replacement explained that he had received a nasty EHT shock; of course, i insisted on having the dangerous areas within the set pointed out for possible future reference!

A little later we learnt from the Edwards people, on one of their endless long-suffering call-outs, that better reception at Llandrindod might come when the Blaen-Plwyf station opened, although according to published information this was not until late 1956, when we had already long moved away to Shrewsbury (receiving well from Sutton Coldfield). However, something happened during 1955-1956 to provide a large signal hike at Llandrindod and the set, presumably retuned, suddenly realised its past glory again. Numerous horizontally-polarised arrays also began to spring up, pointing vaguely in the opposite direction, at least as a little boy of five could remember, although we still had our original vertical Wenvoe array. It would be very interesting to learn which was the new transmitter, as the Llandrindod relay (horizontally-polarised, as was Blaen-Plwyf) was, again according to published information, only activated in 1961.

After a few years, whilst most folks had long also been watching ITV and had begun by then to adopt 'slimline' models, the old KB became rather tired. A new tube, a silicon rectifier and a bit of TLC once again restored it to soldier on, later moving to Edinburgh (Kirk O'Shotts) and later again to Yorkshire (Holme Moss), before it was finally retired, still working well, after 21 years of faithful service, passing the baton to a Bang and Olufsen 26-inch colour model. So, at very long last in 1973, my ancient folks had multi-channel TV for the first time, being possibly the final inhabitants of the British Isles to do so. Meanwhile, i had been quietly enjoying that up in my bedroom, plus DX reception from abroad, for many a long year before...

We still have the old KB set tucked away in an outhouse, with a great many others besides including the classic 9-inch Bush TV22 from 1951 and one of the first European colour sets, a Philips with the 21-inch round RCA tube. I could bore on at length about the KB's (and the others') interesting electronics of their time and i hope to rehabilitate them all in some future fantasy spare moment. The '405' models could readily live on using a standards converter, another now readily-available gizmo thanks to the intervening microelectronics revolution.

Meanwhile, our normal happy goggling is still via two 1986 B & O CRT sets. Concerning possible future upgrades, we are not keen on 3D, entailing "silly specs", although perhaps when the new 8k-HD format comes along we might go for the "whole curved wall" dream...

Jon Godwin

[End of document, updated to 7 May 2013 (amended)]