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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The 51-year-old Television Set Wired for the Digital Age

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:41 AM on 09th June 2008

With the digital deadline looming most people are forking out for the latest in cutting edge TV sets.

But not antique enthusiast Richard Howard who is sticking with a set he bought 51 years ago.

Instead of buying a fancy new TV he's keeping the 1957 flame walnut encased set and has had it converted to receive digital channels.

His father bought the set when he was aged eight and the television has been a cherished feature in the family home ever since.

Richard Howard

Antique enthusiast Richard Howard bought his television for £113 in 1957

Not only is it in perfect working order, the classic set, which enthralled Mr Howard through his boyhood years and brought him the first images of the moon landing, is now wired up to receive the 20 plus channels of the digital age.

According to Digital UK, the body coordinating the switch to digital, it is the oldest set ever to be converted to digital.

The 59-year-old furniture restorer can now watch Madonna music videos and glossy Australian soaps play on the tiny 17" black and white screen.

"It was my family's first TV", Mr Howard said.

"My father was walking past the store and was just taken by it. I think there were cheaper ones available but he liked the way it looked like a piece of furniture instead of just a big screen sitting in corner of the room."

Richard Howard

Mr Howard enjoys watching Madonna music videos on the tiny 17" black and white screen

He has even kept and framed the receipt for the £113 purchase of the Bush Television Receiver.

"I was away at boarding school at the time but I remember coming home and being amazed. I think the first programme I saw on it was the Lone Ranger.

"I have a lot of fond memories of Christmas time when the whole family would gather round and watch it together. I could never bear to throw it away it had too much value attached to it."

He had been unable to use the set since the late Eighties, when television pictures switched from the old 405-line format to 625 lines. But a specialist repair shop fitted an electronic converter, available only in America, so modern programmes can be shown on the 405-line screen.

Richard Howard

The furniture restorer feared he may have to get rid of the set due to the digital switchover

And by plugging in a Freeview box he can now see digital shows. As part of the £200 revamp, the experts also replaced 13 old capacitors, the brightness knob and a lead so the tube would keep from burning out.

The set takes ten seconds to warm up and antiques expert Mr Howard still gets the 'old TV smell' from the warming of the paxolin resin insulators.

The analogue signal is gradually being switched off across the UK and will affect Anglia his TV region in 2011.

With that in mind Mr Howard contacted Digital UK - the independent body co-ordinating switchover in the UK - who said there was no reason for his TV not to work in the digital age.

He took the set to a repair shop in Norwich and they fully restored and converted the set in a matter of weeks.

He added: "Nowadays there's a culture of forced obsolescence. We supposedly live in a hi-tech age but most modern electronic equipment you buy needs replacing after a couple of years and yet this has seen half a century and still sounds and looks great.

"I think I would have been heartbroken if they hadn't have been able to convert it."

Jon Steel at Digital UK, said: "We'd like to congratulate Mr Howard for proving that virtually any television, no matter how old, can be converted to digital.

"It's great to know that he can now look forward to many more years of happy viewing, even after the old analogue signals have been switched off."

Mr Howard's favourites include Foyles War and Waking the Dead and Inspector Morse re-runs.

As well being able to receive Freeview the adapter has allowed him to relive his favourites of yesteryear on DVD.

"There were brilliant shows in the late 50s, I remember Jimmy Edwards in Whacko, CrackerJack and Dixon of Dock Green. Watching them all again on the same TV is quite a nostalgic experience."

"I watched old musical hall shows and remember laughing at George Formby and Arthur Askey with my dad.

"I also watched the news and saw events like Churchill's funeral, the assassination of John Kennedy and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon."

Adding to this experience is what Mr Howard describes as 'old TV smell' caused by the heating of the paxalin insulator used to mount the electrical components inside.

Mr Howard has a passion for preserving memorabilia. Along with furniture he restores classic cars and still lives in the family home his grandfather built in rural Norfolk in the 1920s.

He added: "I think it is important to respect the past otherwise people will forget it. If it weren't for eccentrics like me nothing would be preserved.

And I think that would be a very sad world."