Wright's Aerials

“I saw this in that shop where you have to stand looking at a catalogue until you find what you want. You know the place. After you’ve studied the catalogue for a few hours you have to queue for a few more, then they tell you that the item you want is out of stock. But I got lucky this time, because I bought this fantastic little aerial and it was only £29.95! This is a really good idea. It's a coil of cream-coloured fibrous flexible stuff, about a sixteenth of an inch diameter and about two foot long. On one end is a normal coax plug. The idea is that this device works as a very portable, lightweight, flexible TV aerial. To make it conductive all you do is soak it in water for a few minutes. Then you can plug it into the TV and it simply drapes anywhere you want it to. The name on the pack is Bitta Wet String Antenna (I think it's made for the USA market). The catalogue says that it's only suitable for strong reception areas, but I think they're only saying that to cover themselves, because mine works really well. Actually, it’s not quite 100% – there’s no Channel 5 and BBC-2 is a bit dodgy, and now I come to think about it the other channels come and go a bit as well. Still, it’s not bad, considering I’m at least two miles from Sutton Coldfield. But I’m a striver after perfection so I think I’ll go and get the booster I saw in the catalogue. It’s got 72dB of gain (dunno what that is but it must be good) and runs from three AAA batteries. Got to be a bargain at £24.95, plus £3.99 for a pack of four batteries!”

When I was a kid my mum used to drag me round Donny market every Saturday. Sometimes there was a bloke selling ‘miracle television aerials’. These consisted of a coax plug with about five feet of thin wire attached, and they cost 5/-. On the other end of the wire was a big fat old electrolytic capacitor, attached by one terminal. There was a lot of that sort of electronic scrap about in the 50s, left over from the war. The salesman extolled the virtues of his product, referring to the cap. as the ‘patented exciter diaphragm’ or some such twaddle. He always offered a money back guarantee, but he never stood in Doncaster market for two consecutive weeks. . .

I asked my dad about it and he said, “Well, five foot of wire works as well as anything. I bet he has lots of satisfied customers.” This was in the days of VHF television, of course, and five feet isn’t that far from a quarter wave on channel 2.

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