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Cool Vintage Electronics Tech Videos from British Pathé

Newsreel archive British Pathé (named in deference of French moviemaker Charles Pathé) has uploaded its entire collection of 85,000 historic films, in high resolution, to its YouTube channel. Subjects span a pretty wide range, but fortunately there is a search function so you can narrow the field down easily to topics like "electronics," "radar," "telephone," "transmitter," "atomic," etc. If you also like historical accounts of automobiles, motorcycles, airplanes, medicine, trains, boats, chemistry, or just about any other subject, British Pathé probably has something related to that as well. Most videos are only a few minutes long, so they do not take much time to view. It seems that some of the videos on the pages of their website have been edited for brevity, but the YouTube versions are full length. I have selected a few videos that should be of interest to RF Cafe visitors and embedded them below. The advantage of watching YouTube videos that have been embedded in a web page at less than some predetermined size (unspecified) is that the commercials are usually bypassed. I don't mind having to watch a short commercial or two, but sitting through the same Target ad dozens of times, listening to its annoying reggae music theme, with no option to bypass it after a few seconds gets old really fast. 


Valve - aka Vacuum Tube (1942)

Using cartoons and animations as teaching aids has been a successful technique for a long time. It appeals to the novice as well as the non-stodgy seasoned veteran. Here is a really good example for introducing how vacuum tubes (valves) work "in your wireless set."

Modern Telephone (1959)

A British telephone factory showing the high degree of manual labor required in assembling complex switching circuits as well as ordinary telephones.

Felling Radio Masts (1960)

If you like watching radio towers in fall over, this is the video for you. A 290-foot tall wireless telegraph tower in Somerset is felled using a winch. Personally, I prefer Peace Prize honorific Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite.

Radio Pill (1961)

Swallowing a pill with a miniature radio transmitter inside is nothing new. A lot of news stories recently have reported on smaller versions with greater data collecting ability, but the science has been around for half a century.

Transistors (1958)

A mere decade after Mssrs. Bardeen, Brittain, and Shockley invented the venerable transistor, this modern factory was turning out hand-constructed discrete transistors by manually scoring and singulating die from wafers, then welding gold wires from the die pads to the package lead frames.

Electronic Watch (1952)

France's LIP watch company is shown here with their early electronic watches. If has some cool shots of the watch component sand the test equipment used in development, including vibration testing.

Electric Light Bulbs (1960)

Electric light bulbs being manufactured at the Osram factory in Wembley, Middlesex. The entire process is documented, from tungsten powder for filaments to assembling the entire bulb. Mechanized manufacturing has always fascinated me.

U.S. Confiscates Enemy Radios (1942)

American citizens that were descended from countries of the Axis powers during WWII (Japan, Germany, Italy) had their radio equipment confiscated complements of the Roosevelt administration (no tell of whether they were ever reclaimed). Later, many of the owners would be relocated to internment camps until the end of the war.

Michael Faraday (1931)

"Michael Faraday - Filmed at the Faraday Exhibition, London. No country can take from the British race the credit due to Faraday, the pioneer of electricity today." It include a good demonstration of how a Faraday Cage works.

Printed Circuits UK (1960-1969)

Transistorized printed circuit boards (PCBs) being manufactured in the UK. Multi-layer, high density boards were rare in the day, and even plated through holes were considered to be high-end. The only place you will likely see those sweeping, curved traces these days are in distributed component microwave substrates.

Flying Radar Laboratory Plane (1954)

Before the purpose-built E-1 and E-2 flying radar platforms, existing airplanes were modified to host airborne systems. Here we see the venerable "Connie" (Lockheed Constellation) outfitted with coastline surveillance radar.

Phone in Your Car (1959)

The early car phone concept was basically a standard two-way radio that had a telephone type handset rather than an push-to-talk (PTT) microphone and a set-mounted speaker. This video shows some of the people and equipment behind the early evolution when mobile phones were just crawling out of the primordial soup and shedding their gills.

Pendulum to Atom Clocks (1959)

This is a short history of timekeeping that begins with pendulums and wrist watches and winds up (pun intended) at the National Physical Laboratory in Middlesex, UK.

Radio Signals Trailer (1949)

This is a recruitment film encouraging amateur radio operators to join the British Signal Corps. It has some nice vintage comms equipment





Posted  April 30, 2014

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