April 22nd 2011 00:51
: Vyoos news
In 1936, just three weeks after television transmissions began in Britain, a man in London made a decision to spend just under 100 pounds on a TV set.
It wasn't just any TV set. It was a Marconi model, personally made by the great man of that name, the Italian inventor Gugliemo Marconi.
In fact, the set was a joint venture, Marconi having been joined by another inventor, a Scotsman named John Logie Baird. He invented television.
Their television set was a masterpiece of both technology and craftsmanship. Contained within a beautiful walnut and mahogany case were the mysterious workings of the new technology. The set had a 12-inch (30cm) screen, set flat in the top of the unit. The picture was projected onto a mirror mounted in the cabinet lid, which opened up to create a flat screen.
It was a beautiful and wonderful thing, but it wasn't cheap. In 1936, 100 pounds was about half the annual average wage, and perhaps our man in London hesitated at such extravagance. But then out came the wallet, and the television was delivered to his home.
It was a brave new technological world and his home, our man may have been forgiven for thinking, would never be the same again.
Not quite. The television entertained, we assume, our man, his family, friends and neighbours, but it did so only for three weeks. Then the screen went blank.
The problem was not with the set. It was with the television transmission tower down the road. It caught fire and was destroyed.
The tower was not replaced in a hurry. Britain had greater priorities in 1936 dealing with the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, and it wasn't until almost 10 years later, after the end of World War II, that the transmission tower was replaced and the Marconi TV set once more came alive.
It has never died. It was working fine when it passed to a second owner, and it was working fine this week when that second owner put it up for auction in London.
"There are more authentic Stradivarius violins in existence than pre-war televisions,'' said the auction house, trying to ramp up interest and justify their prediction of a sale price around 5,000 pounds.
The PR worked. Bidding was described as "frenzied", and the winning bid, which came anonymously down a phone line from America, was 16,800 pounds.
It's a bargain really. That's rather less than half the average annual wage in Britain today.
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