Geoff Tootill: making a radio alarm

Geoff Tootill talks about making a radio alarm clock in his youth in the 1930s.

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I made myself a wireless set from our bedroom. I made a crystal set first of all, and I used to listen to the late night dance music on the local regional station. They were called regional stations in those days. And it was very irritating because the Midland region station dance music programme, I suppose this was from 10.30 or perhaps 10 o'clock or 11 o’clock in the evening, it was always interrupted by the news in German. And this is how I picked up off by heart the closing sequences of the news in German, ‘Und das ist das Ende unseren heutigen Nachtberichte in deutschen Sprache. Wir kommen morgen um zwantzig Uhr fünfzehn mittlere europäische Zeit mit unseren Abendsendung in deutschen Sprache wieder. Gute Nacht meine Damen und Herren, gute Nacht.” etc. Well, every night I had to listen to this. So it wasn’t all that long before I made a valve receiver which I could tune to one of the other regional stations which brought continued broadcasting the dance music and didn’t have the interruption for the news in German. But then arose the problem of switching the damn thing off. Naturally I wouldn’t switch it off while I was still awake and listening, so I had to have a time switch. And I had an old alarm clock and I set it to go off at midnight, I think. And you know the old alarm clocks had a bell on top and a trembler which hit the bell? Well I put a piece of string from the trembler to a switch. Well the switch had to be capable of being operated by a very light pull from this hammer on the bell, and any ordinary switch was far too strongly sprung. I had a switch from the Boys’ Electrical Set, which was just a few bits of metal screwed down to a piece of wood, and I used this as a main switch. And the piece of string was non-conductive, so I could tie it to the knob on the switch arm. And I would set it, set it up, so that the clock would pull the switch to off at midnight, and I then switched it on at the power point on the skirting board. And there it was, a dangerously lethal installation at the side of my bed, that my parents didn’t know what it was and didn’t understand how it worked, so that was all right.

  • Interviewee Geoff Tootill
  • Duration 00:03:15
  • Copyright Geoff Tootill
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 12/3/2009
  • Shelfmark C1379/02

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