Radio Ga Ga this week as old junk speaks volumes

EVER the dutiful husband, I’m obeying orders. Jane has this knack of coming home from jumble sales with items we never knew we needed and, in truth, don’t. Hence the garage is heaving with nests of tables, fold-out camp-beds and other stuff that waits, gathering dust, for a moment in the sun that never comes (or, more likely, for the time I smuggle them out under cover of darkness and whisk them away like a body-snatcher. No-one ever notices they’ve gone to a new home...)

Only, now, Emma has spotted promise beneath one cobweb shroud and decided there’s a place for it in her newly-tidied room. The latest thing in audio technology it was . . . in about 1982. It’s an Akai mini-system, in matt black plastic that once seemed futuristic. I was never rich enough nor interested enough to own one, but, as far as I can make out, they consisted of different bits of audio equipment stacked on top of one another and connected by wires. Hence, the one I’ve just brought in from the cold has a triple CD changer atop a stereo tuner, atop a stereo pre-amplifier, atop a stereo power amplifier (just controls for balance and surround, an on-off switch and a big volume knob) atop a double-cassette deck. The resulting mini-tower is level with my kneecap.

Not so long ago; and yet it all seems so quaint when compared to Emma’s 21st Century device that sits in the palm of her hand, is as thin as two or three After Eight mints, can store thousands of songs and links to an electronic world that can tell her the weather in Brazil, the price of tea in China, and trivia about Lily Allen (she once studied horticulture, apparently).

And then, in the garage, I stumble across another evolutionary step in audio technology: a Pye radio – made in 1954 in Cambridge – that was given to my parents as a wedding present and which sat in our kitchen for years, broadcasting Family Favourites as the Sunday roast browned and the pop countdown on Sunday nights. The size and weight of a small suitcase, its casing is of homely wood veneer. A bulb illuminates a tuning panel that shows not Radio 1, Classic FM or Kiss but “Light” (as in the BBC’s Light Programme of light entertainment and music transmitted from 1945 until 1967) and “Home” (the speech-based Home Service). Then there are exotic glimpses of worlds unknown to the listening child: Lille, Hilversum, Prague, Rome, Athlone. It might not be DAB or fetch you a podcast, but it sure has the power to stretch the imagination. I’ll get it working again. Mind you, bit of a lump to take out jogging . . . But, then, so am I.


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