My parents realised this was an
intolerable state of affairs . . . My Original Studio ‘E’ Set
In 1957, I was 10 years old.   My younger brother had a crystal set and I didn't.   My parents realised this was an intolerable state of affairs, and when the Studio ‘E’ one-valver series began, the plans were sent for and my mother was dispatched to the local radio shop (R F H Porter, Guildford) to buy the kit of parts.

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The man who introduced radio
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one-valve circuit, 1948-78.
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Undiluted nostalgia - memories of
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Comments on the 1957 leaflet and on
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Extracts from the scripts preserved by
Gilbert Davey himself since the one-valver
series was broadcast in 1957.
This series raised almost as much interest as
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My recently built version of this simple set
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The salesman was somewhat patronising, going through each component's characteristics and purpose in unnecessary detail. My mother, a State Registered Nurse, said indignantly: "Never mind how his radios ticked - I could have told him how he ticked!".

Never mind how his radios ticked - 
I could have told him how he ticked!
    Surrey Advertiser, October 26, 1957, with R F H Porter's
    small-ad offering kits for the BBC one-valve receiver.

    Copyright © Surrey & Berkshire Media Ltd; reproduced by kind permission.
    Prepared from a British Library image, copyright © British Library Board: Shelfmark 476.

I didn't really know how radios ticked either, and the leaflet didn't mean much to me.   However, I noted the confident assertion at the end of the instructions on page 2: "Insert valve, connect aerial, earth, phones, battery; set now works".   To this I added in a childish hand "WE HOPE!!!", summing up both my anticipation and perhaps a healthy scepticism at such confidence.

My Dad set to work and first built the chassis, not of plywood as many doubtless were, but of glossy brown Paxolin.   This, set off by a couple of pierced aluminium brackets bracing the front panel, lent the whole thing a high-tech scientific aura that had great appeal for his 10-year-old client!

Dad was an engineer who had started his working life as a plumber's mate, and was expert at soldering - the plumber's way.   He didnt have an electric soldering iron, or cored solder.   He sat in his favourite chair by the fire, in which the soldering iron was heated.   You knew when it was hot enough by the eerie green flame that surrounded the copper bit.   The bit was first dipped with a hiss into Baker's Soldering Fluid, then a stick of tinman's solder was applied to it.   The iron was brought to the joint to be soldered (which already had a drop of Baker's Fluid applied), there was another hiss, and the joint was made.   (You can still get Baker's Soldering Fluid - it now comes in a plastic container, so it doesn't eat its way out as it did from the old metal can!)

As an afterthought, my father added a switch in the LT supply after consulting a knowledgeable relative as to whether this would also cut off the HT current.

It only remained to rig up an aerial in the loft, run an earth wire behind the chest of drawers to the existing earth connection on my brother's crystal set, and deliver a careful warning to me about interfering with nearby listeners' reception with improper use of the reaction control.

Mostly I listened to Radio Luxembourg, learning (along with the rest of my generation) how to spell K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M, but I also remember listening to a Home Service drama series of "Lorna Doone", and a Children's Hour programme about the life of the civil engineer I K Brunel on the centenary of his death (1959).

By this time, I had moved to secondary school (Sheerwater County Secondary, Woking, now Bishop David Brown School), and waited impatiently to join the Science Club, only open to Third Year pupils and above.   My first project here was to add another valve to the one-valver to drive a loudspeaker (this would have been autumn 1960).   I was assisted in this by the exceptional teacher who presided over the Science Club, Mr King.

E V King was a prolific writer for Practical Wireless and other titles, so much so that he acquired two pen-names: G K Vine and K Given (anagrams of his name).   His school lab was stuffed with Government-surplus equipment and components of all kinds.   It seemed you could build anything there.   It was my idea of Heaven.

From this treasure-house came the necessary parts to add another valve, including the valve itself, an LF transformer, an output transformer and a loudspeaker.   Having learned how to solder the radio engineer's way, I built most of the extra components on to the one-valve chassis itself.   I'm fairly sure that I had kept my BBC leaflet at least to this point, and that I worked from Mr King's sketched additions to the leaflet's original circuit diagram.   (To support the second valve and the inter-stage transformer, I fixed a piece of wood to the right-hand aluminium bracket, drilling a hole in it for this purpose.   (These same brackets have gone into my rebuilt set, and that hole can still be seen - see My Rebuilt Studio ‘E’ Set.)

I made up a plywood cabinet to house the chassis, speaker, output transformer and battery.   I got into a bit of trouble at home because I used some wood bought for another purpose, but both my parents agreed that I had made a good job of it, and my mother found a piece of fabric to cover the speaker aperture.

By this time, transistors were becoming readily available, and Science Club members built transistor radios to Mr King's duplicated plans.   More advanced Science Club members were still building multi-stage valve receivers to his designs.

In due course, I dismantled the one- (now two-) valver, thinking I'd use the parts for other projects.   Unfortunately I never took any photos of the set either as originally built or as modified.   I used a few of the smaller bits, but the rest languished in my spares box while I moved on to adulthood.