Radio Days

When I was young I was always in awe of my grandmother’s stereo radiogram. Not a record player, a radio, or even a tape recorder—a radiogram. It lived in its own elegant wooden cabinet, carved and varnished and polished so that it would fit in with even the most majestic surroundings.

Behind a glass front panel was the radio dial, itself constructed from glass with markings painstakingly painted on. Lit from behind, it glowed like the control panel of one of the spaceships in the TV shows I was always watching, and was marked with both a scale in kHz and with the names of more radio stations than my young mind could concieve of.

Luxembourg… Hilversum… Caroline…

My gran also had a smaller radio for the kitchen; a portable model. A wireless. It measured about 30 × 20 × 10 cm (not that they would have measured it in cm those days) in its carefully crafted wooden case. Inside was a big rectangular Ever Ready battery with two metal tags on the top which attached to a pair of wires. Other wires went to the speaker and to the actual radio circuitry, hidden out of my sight behind an internal wooden baffle.

A while ago I spent the weekend in Exmouth, Devon. Walking down the high street I noticed an electrical store. Looking in the window I saw a number of radios just like my gran’s.

At first I thought the shop must be one which sells second-hand equipment as a sideline. Then I noticed that the radios were in fact brand new, with shiny new buttons along the top. A small notice nearby announced that these radios were made by Roberts. The one like my Gran’s was just under fifty pounds.

It looked somewhat incongruous next to a tiny, sleek, black Sony world receiver. (The Sony was cheaper, too.) Yet there it sat, stubbornly refusing to admit its dinosaur-like obsolescence.

Fascinated, I peered more closely at the old-fashioned yet carefully-fashioned Roberts radio. I saw a small crest on the top. “By appointment to H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II”.

I suppose it makes sense. I can’t really imagine the Queen grooving to a Sony Walkman. Somehow I find it comforting that in spite of the onslaught of Japanese technology, there is still a company manufacturing uniquely English radios.