Tag Archives: Retro Gadget

Gadget Man – Episode 140 – Retro Gadgets Part 7 – The GPO Telephone Handset

Before the age of privatisation of utility companies in the United Kingdom, the General Post Office (GPO) of the United Kingdom was responsible solely for the provision of telecommunication services for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The notable exception was Kingston Upon Hull which has been granted the licence to provide it’s own telephone services in 1906.

Alongside its telephone services, the GPO also issued a variety of telephones for use on this service. Although handsets were supplied in different forms, it wasn’t until 1937 when a new line of ‘portable’ telephones was introduced using the Type 332 code number. These telephones used the rotary dial system with the handset sitting directly on top of the unit.

During 1959, the 700 series was released by the GPO. This was launched after public demand for handsets similar to those featured on US television shows. These devices were modern in design with anti-tangle cord and came in very smart two-tone colour schemes. This was the design which is still found in many homes some 60 years after launch (although some modification was necessary to bring them in line with current BT sockets).

The 706 models came in two-tone green, topaz yell, concorde blue, two-tone grey, topaz yellow, lacquer red, ivory and black. The red models being in great demand still today.

Such was the popularity and demand for the Model 706 and later the Model 746, several manufacturers were contracted for its manufacture with both table-top and wall mounted version was available to rent.

GPO Type 746 Telephones
GPO Type 746 Telephones – Image Credit: Wikipedia

In 1981, the GPO was privatised and the New Plan Socket was introduced for all new handsets, this allowed for approved 3rd party telephones to be either rented or purchased for use on the British Telecom network. The public was quick to drop this rotary dial phone in favour of new Tone-Dialing push-button models and the 746 was consigned to history and in many cases rubbish-skips and land-fill.

However, I think every house needs at least one Model 746.

Listen in the audio attached and listen to me talking to Matt Marvell on BBC Radio Suffolk about this amazing retro gadget

Thanks for reading and listening, don’t forget to LIKE, SHARE and SUBSCRIBE and I will see you next time.

Matt
The Gadget Man

Gadget Man – Episode 135 – Retro Gadget Part 4 – SodaStream

In this episode, I talk to Matt Marvell at BBC Radio Suffolk about the SodaStream.

The SodaStream is a fizzy drink machine which uses CO2 gas forced under pressure into an attached bottle of fresh water. After fizzing has taken place, the user adds their choice of flavoured concentrate to the water and thus create their own home-made carbonated drinks.

SodaStream
SodaStream

SodaStream was popular in the ’70s and ’80s with big-named brands such as Irn-Bru, Tizer and Fanta licensing their concentrate, with many other brands and flavours available.

The product has been modernised over its lifetime with Samsung building the product into some of its refrigerators.

In this episode of the podcast, we chat about our childhood memories of the SodaStream.

You can listen in my click on the link above or subscribing using your favourite podcast platform.

Don’t forget to Like, Share and Subscribe!

Thanks for listening

Matt

Gadget Man – Episode 134 – Retro Gadget Part 3 – Hostess Trolleys

Now we have reached the third part of our Retro Gadget series, we go left-field by selecting something that has been a part of peoples dining rooms for many many years.

Hostess Trolley
Hostess Trolley

Yes, I’m talking about the Hostess Trolley, a dining gadget that has been keeping our dinner party food warm for many years.

Listen in to the podcast by clicking on the play button above and subscribe using your favourite podcast app using the widget.

Don’t forget to Like and Share and I will see you very soon

Matt

Gadget Man – Episode 132 – Retro Gadgets – Part Two – Sony Walkman

In the second of my 10 Retro Gadgets of the Week, I talk about arguably one of the most important inventions of the 20th century!

Don’t forget to listen in to the podcast link above where I talk about the gadget and its functions.

Sony Walkman

The Sony Walkman was a portable cassette player launched in 1979, it started a revolution in personal audio cassette players and altered the listening habits of people and brought music to the masses wherever they might be.

 

Soundabout, Freestyle and Stowaway

Originally invented as the Sony Pressman to allow journalists to record interviews using a compact device, it became a personal entertainment device shortly after, settling on the name Walkman after being names the Soundabout, Freestyle and Stowaway. It very quickly became very popular and Sony began marketing it under a single brand-name, the Sony Walkman was born.

Originally the Walkman came with two headphone sockets with individual volume controls and a Hotline button which lowered the volume levels and opened the microphone to allow for station announcements to be heard or the user to have conversations with other people.

Sony Walkman Hotline
Sony Walkman Hotline and twin Headphone sockets

Other manufacturers such as Aiwa, Toshiba and Panasonic soon followed suit launched competing products, but the devices all became known as a “Walkman” as the brand-name crossed over into popular culture and entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986.

Walkman Effect

The Walkman was used when walking, exercising and running. Sony launched the ‘Sports Walkman’ which offered a degree of waterproofing and allegedly drove the fitness craze of the late ’80s. It was during this time that cassettes began outselling vinyl as millions of people chose the Walkman for their entertainment.

As music delivery advanced forwards, Sony was quick to adapt the brand to suit new formats, thus they launched the Sony Discman for the CD marketplace, the Sony DAT Walkman, MiniDisc Walkman and Sony Watchman TV.

Without the Sony Walkman, we wouldn’t have modern personal music players and most certainly would never have seen the Apple iPod. Sony continued the brand of Walkman into the modern smartphone marketplace.

Don’t forget to listen to the podcast above! Like, Share and Subscribe and I will see you next week for the Retro Gadget No.3

Thanks to Matt Marvell at BBC Radio Suffolk for having me on his show as a guest again this week.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

Gadget Man – Episode 131 – Retro Gadgets – Part One – Casio MG-880 Music and Game Calculator

This week begins a 10 week series of Retro Gadgets. Technology which has featured in my life and evokes childhood memories.

Listen in on the audio recording above. I have included a surprise at the end which wasn’t recorded at the time. 

If you grew up in the  ’70s or ’80s, you may have experienced some of these gadgets. You might be still using them or maybe they are gathering dust in a drawer.

The first of these is an absolutely awesome gadget. A gadget which opened up the national curriculum to the use of calculators. It also introduced us to mobile gaming.  Leading thousands of young people to huddle around each other in the schoolyards of the early 1980s.

Casio MG-880

Released in the summer of 1980, the Casio MG-880 was ostensibly a calculator aimed at young people. The 1980s saw a revolution in the teaching techniques applied to mathematics in schools. Initially seen as a way of ‘cheating’. Soon, however, it was accepted as a legitimate means to ‘check’ calculations, whilst continuing to show workings-out’ in answers.

Casio had something up their sleeve though. Their customers not only received a calculator, but they also received a musical instrument and game. This was genius marketing, Casio tapped into the school market and rewarded the kids at the same time.

The Calculator

The calculator functionality allowed for addition, subtraction, multiplication and addition. In addition to this, results could be written to memory, recalled and directly subtracted or added to further calculations. Percentage calculations were also included.

It was a beautifully designed device which hasn’t aged at all.

The Casio MG-880 Pocket Calculator
The Casio MG-880 – a creation of a timeless design that hasn’t aged over its 40 years!

Music

MG-880 provided musical entertainment by either a preprogrammed ‘Oh When the Saints’ or by users composing their own music. Musical keys illustrated by the relevant Solfège above the enabled buttons allowed for simple compositions.

Musical keys on the MG-880 were illustrated by the relevant Solfège above each key
Musical keys on the MG-880 were illustrated by the relevant Solfège above each key

The sound came from a piezoelectric speaker. The result was a fine 80s sound that comfortably sits alongside games to follow. I was fond of playing the Star Wars’ theme. For for those interested is 1-5-4-3-2-8-5-4-3-2-8-5-4-3-4-2.

IYou can hear this being played at the end of the attached podcast. 

It was no secret that switching the calculator to ‘music’ mode in a lesson would result in its swift confiscation.

The Game (Digi-Invaders / Space Invaders / Invaders)

The ace in the pack was in the inclusion of the Game. This took the form of a button mashing invaders themed game utilising the simplest of graphics, the number display itself.

The invaders game required the using decimal-point to cycle through 0-9 and n which denoted the mothership. Digits slowly advance across the screen from right to left. The player matches the number and presses ‘fire’ to remove it. Each level became faster and more difficult. Lives are lost when invaders reach the base.

The game was an instant hit across the planet, from my school in Hitchin, England to schools in New Zealand, every child wanted to own one and more-so, they wanted to excel at the game. Millions of the devices must have been sold with a substantial amount of them confiscated by over-enthusiastic teaching staff!

As with all fads, the MG-880 fell out of favour to be replaced by more advanced handheld games and creating a new boom in entertainment. Perhaps thousands of them still exist in boxes on the shelves of staff-rooms around the world.

This was the beginning of Casio’s boom. Relentlessly creative, they produced some the most ingenious of technology of the 80s. From calculators to watches with built-in calculators and melodies, they were the kings within their marketplace.

Don’t forget to listen to the audio using the link above. It was recorded at BBC Radio Suffolk & broadcast on the 11 May 2019. Listen to the VERY END! I have included something geeky and special.

Thanks to Matt Marvel at BBC Radio Suffolk for inviting onto his show. Keep tuning in for the next 10 weeks for more gems!