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"Wireless" for Americans
December 1955 Radio & Television News

December 1955 Radio & TV News
December 1955 Radio & Television News Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Author Lawrence Sharpe pointed in 1955 in this Radio & Television News article the potential for confusion when reading columns and advertisements written by our brothers from Across the Pond when they appeared in American electronics magazines. Most of us are familiar with valve vs vacuum tube, bonnet vs. hood (car), football vs. soccer, fag vs. cigarette, holiday vs. vacation, nappy vs. diaper, petrol vs. gasoline, torch vs. flashlight, flat vs. apartment. There are many more, but those come to mind. Read through this short list of purely electronics terms and learn that "earthed" is the same as our "grounded." One thing that surprised me was how the Brits had already adopted pico (e.g. pF) for the numerical unit of 10−12 while we were still using micromicro (10−6 x 10−6 = 10−12, e.g., μμF). Note how I omitted a comma after "e.g." in the pico parenthetical but included it for micromicro. That is because the Brits usually omit the comma after "e.g." and "i.e." but Americans include it.

"Wireless" for Americans

"Wireless" for Americans, December 1955 Radio & Television News - RF CafeBy Lawrence A. Sharpe

It is a well-known fact that we do not speak exactly the same language as our trans-Atlantic cousins in Great Britain. In literary works this difference is sufficiently pronounced for continental Europeans to specify on the title page whether a novel has been translated from English or "from the American."

In technical books the difference is not so pronounced due to parallel development and the international exchange of information. Still the American reader of such popular British electronics magazines as "Practical Wireless," "Practical Television," or "Wireless World" is constantly running into terms that are "quaint" to our way of thinking.

Fortunately, the American with a little goodwill is able to decipher nearly all the usual words from the context. They may be terms known but not commonly used over here or words that are completely non-existent in American "English. "

"Flex" is flexible lamp cord. The derivation is quite obvious but the word looks singularly unfamiliar at first glance. If a "H.T." battery (for high tension) is a "B" battery, then clearly an "L.T." battery is an "A" battery. A "valveholder" must be a tube socket since "valve" is the normal word for tube even though our word is used for TV picture tubes in England. "Demobbed valves" advertised in the magazines are, of course, surplus tubes.

When the lead touches the chassis of an English "wireless" set, it becomes "earthed" rather than "grounded," but these are, after all synonymous words. Such expressions as "shrouded drop through," however, are the ones that really stop the average American reader. It turns out to be a shielded "mains transformer" with the terminal end "dropping through" to the underside of the chassis, the opposite of the "shrouded upright." A highly misleading term is "radiogram" with the meaning of "radiophonograph combination," which in England may be bought on "hire-purchase terms" (installment plan) if desired!

After familiarizing himself with the examples given and a few other words, the American reader will feel pretty much at home in British radio literature, Diagrams are, of course, an international language. Here one may notice as a novelty the use of "pF" instead of "μμfd.", although the decimal forms with "mF" are also used. With a "valve manual" at hand to identify the exotic British tube designations and figure out American equivalents, one can have a great deal of fun learning how things are done on the "other side of the Big Pond."



Posted August 27, 2020

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RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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