Are YOU watching illegal TV?

It seems they think I am…

I’d possibly be slightly concerned about this red bordered scare-word infested letter if it wasn’t for the small fact I own a TV License and have even paid it this month! I can go on the TV Licensing website, type in my membership number and see an electronic version of my license for this address.

I hope their system is thoroughly screwed up, a visit from a member of the “enforcement team” might be quite amusing.

How and why it works – a TV from the 1940s

A television receiver from the 1940s

Here is another book I found in a local car boot sale. Coming from a time when education and intelligence was assumed and the dumbing down disease hadn’t yet taken hold How and why it works is a book that does exactly what it says on the cover. It tells you how things work, and explains why they work that way using neatly labelled diagrams and paragraphs of text. Everything from how a coal mine operates to electricity generation.

The fascinating part is the section on the television receiver. According to Wikipedia, television was first transmitted in 1932 by the good old BBC but this was a mechanical system at first, eventually using an electronic scanning method by 1936. Then it all stopped during the war and wasn’t resumed until 1946. The book I have was published in 1948, and the television is introduced by relating it to a radio set and to a cinema, making it look to be a fairly new concept compared to the radio on the preceding pages which starts with “The programmes you listen to on the radio” where it’s assumed everybody knows what a radio is. I scanned the television section in as a series of images, and have also created a PDF from it.

The book is really interesting, it contains a mix of brand new technology such as the TV and very old more traditional technology like the plough, electric torch and ratchet screwdriver. It’s a snapshot of time before the transistor existed, everything electronic contains valves and there is no mention of computers whatsoever.

Tomorrow – Infantry Training and mortars in the attack.

Kinescopes and old TV

Following on from my earlier post about vacuum tubes I’ve found this YouTube video. It’s a 1949 NBC program comparing their first attempts at TV with the ‘current’ (in 1949) technology. It’s amusing that this video contains some of the first TV recorded, rebroadcast using a slightly better technology, then presumably rebroadcast again on modern TV, and now it’s on YouTube.

Taming the sea of spaghetti behind my TV

Joytech 540c control centre
Joytech 540c control centre

Like most people, I have quite a few electrical devices around my TV, and each one comes – as standard – with a load of wire that needs plugging into various things. In an attempt at taming the snakes behind the telly, I bought a Joytech 540c control centre which is really cool and allows me to control all my devices from a handy remote control.

The control centre didn’t really tame the wires, in fact it made it worse! And deciding there wasn’t enough wire behind my TV I also added some more to allow my Macbook to be connected for listening to music.

I’ve just spent an hour grovelling around the floor neatly untangling and tieing up the mess. It’s better. I also found a chewed serial cable and remains of a beermat that must have been left from when my gerbil escaped.

Does not compute

No signal!
No signal!

Having got most stuff arranged into rooms, and the remaining stuff piled up in the front room we set about getting the most important stuff working – like the Internet and the TV. The Internet is working fine and is being given a thorough test.

Making the telly work was a little confusing, confusing even for the FreeView box. Their front room has three aerial cables poking out the wall, their use a mystery. There’s then one more poking out another corner of the room. One of the wires had an aerial connector plug on the end, but that didn’t work. After some farting around Jonny eventually found the right one, but by then the poor FreeView box was having a little fit and needed leaving alone for a while to collect its thoughts.

We’re now watching Red Dwarf, just to make sure it works.

Behold! the monster!

That is the reason for this weekend’s mad 600-mile round trip, stopping off at four people’s houses on the way to break up the trip and make it a bit more interesting. It’s a 42 inch Toshiba rear-projection telly.

Getting it into my car was a mission and a half. We spent the journey home with the front seats slid forwards, and the back seats flattened. The telly just fitted in my car but did very horrible things to the fuel economy. Getting it out required help from my neighbour, but me and Amy managed to lift it onto its stand by ourselves. It’s a big bugger, coming almost up to my shoulders.

I got it free for one reason; it has convergence problems and will randomly decide that the red, green and blue images shouldn’t match up.

Rear projection tellies are strange beasts. There’s three CRTs in the bottom part of the TV, they project their image upwards and through a complex system of lenses and mirrors the three images are converged on the back of the screen. The screen is a giant piece of plastic that has been tinted. If something happens to the convergence ICs, or some part of the optics, the image starts to look like one of those anaglyptic 3D images with mis-aligned red and green images.

However, when working, the picture is pretty good 🙂 It’s big and doesn’t have any weird artefacts like LCD displays show. I have tested it out with some TV, a bit of Crackdown and Space Giraffe.

I’m strategically ignoring the convergence problem until it becomes permanent or starts to irritate me. The Internet is full of people saying their rear projection tellies, and the fix seems to be to gut the telly and replace the driver ICs with new ones. Apart from the lethal death voltages the replacement is a simple soldering job.

I shall have to closely watch the telly for a few hours and make sure it works properly 😉 I don’t think I can go back to a “small” TV any more though. Maybe two player Halo and Mario Kart will be better on such a large screen too 🙂

Six hours and 300 miles later

Me and Amy are in South Wales paying a visit to Jeff and Giles and their menagerie. The weather has been warm and nice all day, making the trip more enjoyable. The route down was fairly straight forward, no major traffic or route finding problems; I had my Nokia N810 and Maemo-Mapper telling me wnere to go.

Apart from paying Jeff a visit, our other reason for coming this far down was to collect The TV – one of the other YakYak forum members known simply as ‘Mr Dom’ had a 46″ rear projection telly that he didn’t want. It needs checking over by a TV repair man, having colour convergence problems, but is supposed to be OK otherwise. In need of a new telly I said I’d have it.

I drive a Fiat Panda, one of the newer ones. Not the biggest cars going. I now know my car’s boot space is exactly the same size as a 46″ rear projection telly. Using sokoban and Tetris skills, we got it to fit… just. My knees almost touch the dashboard. It’s like riding cattle class in a plane.

Jeff’s place is a nice colloection of old and new tech, sheep, llamas and other fluffy things. We’ve been introduced to the beasties and the perculiarities of his giant plasma telly.

I have TV!

As hinted in my previous post, I have working telly. No, my landlord didn’t come around and repair the spiky lightning rod on my roof. No. I spent 40 quid in B&Q and bought myself a new aerial (with masthead amplifier and “log periodic” design – the dipoles having a pleasing fractal-like pattern to their size and positioning).

It spent a few days lying on the floor of my front room. Then, with some assistance – and only dropping it out the window once – it got attached to the bricks outside my bedroom window.

67 channels of crap… whoo!

Oh, and it came with the satellite-style “F” connectors, rather than the usual crappy phono connectors. F connectors rule, they have screw threads and attach to the cable in a much quicker and cleaner way. All my telly cables will use them from now on, with just a short flylead to convert them into the phono-style connector on the back of the telly.

Another TV Aerial

I just bought a new tv aerial to replace the bent coathanger leaning off my roof. It has a built in powered amplifier where the cable joins the aerial.

… and it’s rather good! I get a signal and 20 channels if I hold it indoors and point it sort of in the same direction as everyone else’s. If I stand outside with it and watch the signal meter in my freeview box I can get a 60% signal with 100% quality. This gives me 62 channels of crap and 21 channels of radio.

Tomorrow I will bolt it to the bricks under my bedroom window – it’s the only high place I can reach, there’s no way I’m doing a Rod Hull and falling off my roof.

And since this is the second time in two years that I’ve bought a TV aerial, I’m taking this one with me when I move out!