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
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
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)
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)
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
Printed Circuits UK (1960-1969)
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)
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
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