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Oldest UK television discovered

21 July 09 11:43 GMT
By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent, BBC News

Britain's oldest working television has been tracked down in a house in London.

The 1936 Marconiphone is thought to have been made in the months that Britain's first "high-definition" television service began.

The set belongs to Jeffrey Borinsky, an electrical engineer and collector of antique television and radio sets.

He bought the set, which has a 12-inch (30cm) screen from another collector 10 years ago and is still working on restoring it to its original state.

The screen is mounted inside a wooden cabinet. The image from the cathode ray tube, mounted vertically inside the cabinet, is reflected onto a mirror.

The few controls include volume and vertical hold, but there is no channel changer, as there was only one channel when it was made: the BBC.

Modern in part

The set appears to be in good condition, but Mr Borinsky aims to replace a number of modern components with originals.

"The cabinet was beautifully restored by the previous owner," he explained,' but my aim is to gradually restore its electronics to its true 1936 magnificence," he said.

But the Marconiphone 702 still works as a modern television.

It has been hooked up to a Freeview box so that it can show digital channels, although Mr Borinsky has had to install a standards converter so that a modern television signal can be seen.

Mr Borinsky only keeps the set turned on up to two hours at a time, and he uses it to view films from the 1930s and 1940s.

He says he enjoys watching the kind of pictures that might have been seen by the original owners.

The National Media Museum in Bradford has a similar set, but does not use it to show television pictures for fear of damaging it.

Iain Logie Baird, the curator of television at the museum, said it is a thrill to see the Marconiphone working.

"It's very exciting to see the image the way people would have seen it in 1936, before television became ubiquitous as it is today," he said.

Mr Logie Baird, grandson of the television pioneer John Logie Baird, says this set would have been of huge local interest when it was first acquired at a cost of 60 guineas - the equivalent of £11,000 today.

"Television was a very exciting thing, it was something that the whole neighbourhood would come over to watch. People would crowd into the home of the owner."

The set was discovered as the result of a competition run by Digital UK, the body overseeing the switch to digital television. The aim was to publicise the message that just about any television, however old, can be used to show digital channels.


I still have an alarm clock in the shape of a hen which I bought in Dhahran Saudi Arabia during the first gulf War in 1990. This thing has survived many house moves and has a habit of clucking in my suitcase on long trips...
Paul Elvey, Cologne, Germany

I have a 1972 boiler. It has over the years become slower to start up and it normally takes a bit of planning before getting it going. The process is normally over in a second so does not put it under to much pressure. It still works but makes a hell of a noise when doing that or anything else....... A good whinge at me normally livens it up!
Gary Yandle, Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire

We have numerous old items that we cannot and will not throw away just beacase they are old, including:

1960's kenwood Mixer, 1950's Goblin teasmade, 1890's wall clock, 1920's mantle clock, numerous 1980's computers, 1980 Ferguson Video Star VCR which we trust more than our DVD recorder to work, 1979 Sanyo hifi system

When you see what people throw away just because of aesthetic reasons it makes me sad and I scour the local recycle site for a tv or some rejected piece of technology and rescue it more often than not. Use it till it breaks, then repair it till it breaks again is my motto.
Nick Blackburn, Douglas, Isle of Man

I have a portable spin drier bought on 31st January, 1959 at a cost of 12 and a half guineas plus £3. 13. 0 for purchase tax. It still works and is in occasional use today
ORVIN HILL, malvern, worcs, england

I still use, on a daily basis, a kitchen gas range, circa 1947. My grandparents bought it new, and it has been in the house since then.
Jeff Dahn, United States

I still have a pocket tv from 1980's. It works great especially if you watch it in the dark. You dont see pocket tv these days. I like scary movies.

1974 Grundig Party Boy Radio still in use, 1979 JVC Dolby Tape Deck still in use, 1979 Kenwood Chef still in use, 1981 Hoover Vacuum cleaner still in use, 1983 Sharp Microwave still in use, 1985 Ferguson Videostar VHS recorder still in use
Sara, Reading

The oldest appliance I have is a Hi Fi pre and power amplifier designed in 1967 by British manufacturer Quad. It is still in daily use and is used for stereo music and DVD soundtrack listening.

The reason I still use it? It was built to last and the sound is far superior than modern equivalents, is more reliable and can still be repaired by the original manufacturer in Cambridge.
Mark Bramley, Orpington, UK

I too, like Adrian Furnell, have a Panasonic Combi. Microwave/oven/grill that has worked without fail since the day I bought it back in 1987. I will be very sad when its obsolescence date finally kicks in.
Lynne Davies, The Hague, Netherlands

a chip cutter, it's ancient and gigantic, people are amazed that it was once thought of as a 'mod con'. from the 1920s.
t, vancouver bc canada

I have a mid 1960's N4408 Stereo philips reel to reel tape recorder. I'm still half way through restoring it, and have found an ebay seller with spares for it. I also have a pair of 1969 celestion Ditton 15's. Back then they cost £109.99! In todays money thats ~£750.

Moving on to the 70's I have a 3.5hp 2 stroke fly now, which needs a new ignition coil and the blades sharoening, but still in good condition.

I also have a Dual CS505-2 turntable from the late 70's, and a Rotel Ra-820 from the same timeframe.

Moving on again I have a stihl strimmer from the mid 80's. I also have a Philips toaster from the same timeframe, still with its original aluminium cable! Also from the mid 80's we have 2 sony trinton tvs.
Bejamin Bloomfield, St. Albans, Hertfordshire

My grandfather started building radio receivers in 1916. I have what appears to be a triode and base from that time period, as well as some transformers and other components and 5 boxes of miscellaneous valves (tubes)from various time periods. I have a working Philco "Superheterodyne 9" (model 90) floor model radio. My oldest non-electronic piece is a Columbia "Grafonola" phonograph which my grandfather bought as a wedding surprise for his first wife in 1918.
Tom Draughon, Ashland, WI, USA

1962 electrolux refrigerator with recipe book and original receipt of sale use it to cool drinks, in perfect working order
alan kirby, nottingham england

My oldest home entertainment appliance is a 1902 Gramophone Company "Style 3" gramophone. It plays 7-inch records and would've cost 3 guineas when new. It still works but the spring motor's a bit weak now. My next oldest is an Edison "Fireside" phonograph from about 1909/10. This is in lovely working order and plays 2 and 4 minute cylinder records.
Gavin Mist, York, UK

I have a 1964 Hofner Committee hollow-body archtop guitar. Still plays like a dream. Trouble is I play like a nightmare...
Nick Pinder, Hedon, East Yorkshire

I concur with other comments about the durability of old electronics. I had a keen interest in electronics as a teenager, and a friend of my brother gave me an old radio set which had been collecting dust in his grandmother's attic for decades, to see if I could repair it. From the size and appearance of the thing, I'd say it dated from no later than the 1920s. I gave it a good clean, performed a few basic wiring checks and then, fingers crossed, turned it on. To everyone's astonishment, it still worked, and could pick up and play LW and MW AM stations! The fancy DAB radios of today will not last as long; I've read that modern microchips only have a working life of around 10 years before they 'burn out'!
Steve Denton, London, UK

My grandfather (mum's uncle) has possession of my mum's TV set, a Phillips television set bought in 1976..its B/W, has a 24 inch screen and still works ( manual buttons and 8 channels ). It still works and when it doesn't, we give it a physical slap or kick -- that does the trick..and it runs again !!!
Mun, Bangladesh

Perhaps the oldest is the sewing machine, the last all metal moving parts machine made by Singer, in the early sixties. However, we still have a Hoover vacuum, from the same era.

Our TV is only about 20 yrs. old.

Perhaps the most disproportionate item, in age vs. cost, are the autos. Rarely now, does an auto operate for more than 5 yrs., without major repairs, in spite of the fact the average auto now costs $28,000 dollars. Autos are the worst cost to value ratio item, in the household. No wonder people have stopped buying them.
Rick McDaniel, Lewisville, TX USA

The oldest appliance I have in my home that still works is a 1933 Crosley 148 Cathedral stile five tube Radio. After 75 years I can still tune in what's left of the AM band here in america.
Shawn Schwartz, Grand Rapids, Michigan; United States Of America

I have (or have been passed down to) the following:Cinerex 707 Dual projector (around 1970) Vic 20 computer (1979) Commodore 64 computer (1982) 1970s TV game machine

I'm a bit of a technology hoarder to be honest, and also have assorted mixing equipment, an 8 track cartridge player and others. One particular classic no longer with us was a BT laptop from the 1980s that weighed as much as a desktop PC.

My favourite of all my wonderful classic items is however a 1976 12 string acoustic guitar!
Christian Cawley, Redcar, England

We still have a working Panasonic Microwave and Grill bought way back in 1988 (approx). Still used every day and in excellent working order! An identical one was in the Ideal Home exhibition last year (2008) in the Household appliances from the 1980's section as being an 'antique'!
Adrian Furnell, Fareham, Hampshire

Our family has a Sony 14" colour TV from the early 80's. Made in Japan. It was our only TV. It still gives a great picture but the channel cannot be changed and it turns off after a few minutes.
Imran Chaudhry, West End, Hampshire

When i was teenager in the early 70's I was employed as an apprentice TV engineer and went to an old ladies house in Birmingham and found one of these models. I and the engineer were flabbergasted. The owner of the shop I worked for also had one of the Logie Baird contraptions gathering dust in an attic store room.
Robin Tigrx, Cambridge

I have a round electric fire circa 1960, similar to one thrown into the bath, killing a baddie, by James Bond in Goldfinger or was it From Russia With Love. I also have in daily use a 1979 Toshiba Rack Stereo System and a 1983 Tricity Microwave. My Computer is 6 months old ... honest
Geoff, Taunton, England

British build Metrosound ST40 amplifier complete with Whalfdale Tritten speakers purchased 1974 from Lasky's in the Tottenham Court Rd on a day on which I bunked off school. It started its life with a Garrard record deck and now is fed MP3 from a laptop.
Trevor Ashenden, Orpington, Kent

I have a Bush radio of the 1950s which was working with good quality tone until one of the large valves went some years ago.
Sylvia Lee, Marple,Stockport, Cheshire

A VEF Riga Minox sub-miniature camera from 1939 and still going strong today. This model was the first generation of the tiny slide-in/slide-out (to advance the film and cock the shutter) 'spy' cameras popularised in one or two of the early James Bond movies and still made to this day. Fabulous engineering.
Pev, Dover

I have an Alba radio purchased in 1954. It was given to me by my parents as a birthday present and travelled with me all over the world. It still works although there are no stations transmitting on MW or LW ..just SW.
Jim Currie, Funchal, Portugal

I have a Ronson electric razor still working although the on/off switch needs replacing my Mother bought it for me on my 17th birthday that is 53 years ago
Joe Bennett, Leyland

The oldest appliance I have at home is a tube radio, a Philips 462a built in 1946. It is a magnificent radio, with it's glass "floating" dial, and it still works. I love the "warm" sound only tube valves can provide, and I also love the 40's 50's and 60's design.
Marcos López, London, UK

I have a Kenwood Chef mixer that I bought in the early 60's and it is still in regular use. I have the blender and potato peeler attachments with it but I don't use the peeler. It has the whisk, dough hook and K beater.
Joan Archer, Jameston, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Celestion Ditton 44 Loudspeakers Version 1. built in 1972. Perfect working order.
Dan, Worcester

There is an ECKO TV in our attic that was bought for the coronation in 1953 it was working until the transmitter was turned off it has a radio in it as well.

I also have a Murphy radio from 1938/9 that was working up to being stored in the mid 90's. My earliest memory was dad listening to the battle of the River Plate commentary, I understand the same model was used at Bletchley Park. Dad was a crack Morse reader and spent hours listening to transmissions during the war.
Robin Kenworthy, Staplehurst

Venusian theodolite with tripod, 2309, currently stored in my gazebo.
Roceci, Cardiff, UK

A still working, and in regular use, Hoover Constellation vacuum cleaner which is at least 40 years old.
Jack Dawsey, Colwall, England

I have a Philips reel-to-reel tape recorder that I bought in 1966. It's not in 100% perfect condition (you can't get spares for it any more) but it does still record and play. Unfortunately, magnetic tapes weren't intended to last 43 years and some of the really old ones have deteriorated and have a tendency to break if played!
David, Reading, UK

My parents still use the toaster that they were given as a wedding present in 1958. Dad has replaced the cable a couple of times, and it still works perfectly.
Adrienne, London

It's not in the same league as this TV but I bought a digital radio/cassette alarm clock in 1988 with my first wage packet. I am still using it. 21 years in the digital age isn't bad.
Michelle Cooper, Dover, Kent

I have a 1950 Bush TV22. It's in my garage in Marlow. I haven't turned it on since 405 line transmissions stopped. As a teenager in the 60's I attempted to use it as an oscilloscope but a switch put back to a TV. I use to watch That Was The Week That Was on it, with my headphones without my parents knowing.
David Keeble, Sheffield

Oldest appliance in our house? Husbandi Domesticari...unit brief indicates that unit should be capable of working alone. Is marginally self-starting, needs verbal initiative on occasions. All parts still functioning. Tends to leave additional bits around the house during work periods. Is not self-cleaning.
R Wells, Lichfield, Staffordshire

This brings back memories. My father bought one before WW2, and I remember watching it when the TV service started up again after the war. I also remember the excitement when it was replaced by a set with a front-facing screen, so that we no longer needed to crouch in order to pick up the mirror image. I never realised that it was such an expensive luxury!
David Wingate, London, UK

I have a 1926 (approx) Siemens Excel copper electric kettle. It's beautiful and worked the last time I tried it. Interestingly, it has a concealed element - just shows how the wheel of technology turns!
John Peedle, Yeovil, England

I have a Sinclair ZX Spectrum in perfect working order complete with the original manuals and styrofoam packaging, as well as a few tapes of games. Also still have the original cabels to connect it to any tape recorder/player.
Stephen Jeffrey, Glasgow, UK

I've got a Sony Titron portable colour TV in a wooden case it was bought about 37 yrs ago and still has a great picture but is currently out of use as one of the switches needs to be fixed.
Diane Dark, Swansea

My computer is so old it came with Windows Millennium Edition. I bought it as long ago as 2001. Do I win five pounds?
David Young, Wroclaw, Poland

Philco domed radio - black Bakelite - bought 1936 - was my grandparents' - original and working perfectly.
John Puddifoot, Leamington Spa

I own a bush DAC90A LW/MW Radio (valve) and a bush SRG91 Valve stereo radio gram. Both are in working order. I had to learn Valve electronics in order to keep them in working order. I do not know the age of the LW/MW radio but I do know my father bought the radio gram in 1963. We still have the original user's manual!
Mark Streete, Worthing, West Sussex

Hoover vacuum cleaner c. 1953. Stored in the loft and non-working. Identical to the model displayed in the National History Museum at St. Fagan's, Cardiff.
Jeff Brooks, Newport, Gwent, Wales

I have a Danset record player purchased in 1955/56. has been in storage for the last 40 years. Any idea of its likely value?
David Percival, Reading, Berks

I have a stereo, nearly 30 years old, only the radio still works but I keep it for the brilliant sound quality. Same for my dad only his is nearer 50 years old. Couldn't possibly afford anything so good now; please don't switch off the analogue signal!
Kay Taylor, Warwick

1920's / 1930's toaster. Opens on both sides to reveal bare elements akin to a open electric fire. The finger holds of the side flaps that fold down to enable bread to be clamped to each side are made of Bakelite. Worked last time we dug it out. In loft out of harms way.
Sue, near Marlow, England

My Mother who, at 87 years old still works very well
Pete, Wallasey, Wirral

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