_ Box clever
Halcyon, Pilot, Dynatron, Echo; these are the forgotten names from the early days of television when Britain led the way in pioneering this form of home entertainment. Before the Second World War, 70 per cent of all televisions were lovingly produced in polished wood cabinets by craftsmen in Britain. Admittedly the numbers weren’t huge; by 1948, still only 50,000 homes had televisions, and no wonder. They cost about as much as the average family car.
A year later, the first mass-produced, bakelite television appeared leading to an explosion in television’s popularity and accessibility. By Coronation Year, 1953, 2% million televisions had been given pride of place in British living rooms. A now familiar pattern was establishing itself and British companies were already losing their lead over American television makers.
Michael Bennett-Levy, an Edinburgh antique dealer who specialises in old technology, hasn’t been collecting televisions for very long but has already amassed what is believed to be the biggest collections in the world. lie decided to collect them because nobody else was. ‘0ld televisions were difficult to get hold of but they weren’t anything like as expensive as they should have been, given their rarity,’ he recalls.
Pie-war televisions were made in such small numbers - less than ten of some models were produced - that Bennett-Levy doesn’t expect to ever see them. But he lives in hope of one day getting his hands on a Halcyon, the llon Grail for television collectors. (Eddie Gibb)
TV Is King, which traces the history of the television set and draws heavily on the Bennett-Levy collection is at the City Art Centre, Market Street from until 7 May.
r— ; Crack of ; Dome
It‘s five years since the Discovery Dome ﬁrst landed in Princes Street. and it still resembles a fun lair. Children throw sandbags at a fast-spinning ‘wheel of fortune‘ and watch them appear to ﬂoat; a large group crowds
‘ around a ‘Gyro Chair' with a stranded woman demonstrating how the spinning chair speeds up when her limbs are held close to her body. and slows down when they are strewn in all directionns: Skelly the skeleton pedals in tandem with you. and demonstrates how joints work in action.
Elsewhere. quiet puzzlement takes the place of giggles. Brains tick-tock and try to make sense of the ‘Spinning lllusion‘ discs. ()ne sets your palm's life-line wriggling like a worm; another has the ﬂoor beneath you rising and falling like an ocean swell. A simulated
i archaeological dig means that you too can be Indiana Jones. First. ﬁnd your artefact, then clean it. and identify it. Don’t forget your toothbrush.
t_ A very British 1coupé
This is a story that should be optioned by a movie producer; it has all the elements required to make a heart-
? warming, life-affinning and, above all, very British film about the little man. It would be a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the 90s.
It’s the story of Project Volta and the real-life Dick Van 0yke is Peter Fairhurst, an art teacher from a small school on the Sussex coast. llis achievement, with the help of successive classes of enthusiastic pupils and visionaries from the remains of the British manufacturing industry, was to build a world record breaking electric-powered car. Over a measured kilometre, Volta topped 106 mph — a land-speed record for a car of its size.
There are remarkable parallels between Volta and the bike that helped track cyclist Chris Boardman win Olympic gold, not least that both were designed by the same people at lotus Engineering. Volta was never intended as a prototype for a production car; it was designed to go very last over short distances, and
But that‘s not all; this year sees a brand new series of family and children‘s hands-on activities at the Science Works based in Adam House. Chambers Street. Here you‘ll find whirlpools. computers, microscopes. sound waves. magnetic ﬁelds. As well as engrossing. dazzling and generally setting the average punter‘s mouth agape. the exhibits are designed to get you asking questions. But here. you don‘t necessarily need to have a brain
‘Boffins are go’ — the Science Festival has returned to bamboozle your brain cells. In the first part of The List’s two-issue coverage, we preview some of the main exhibitions.
the size of a planet to work out the answers. In the Madlab Electronics workshop you can make your own robot. True. it might resemble a cotton reel-and-sticky-backed-plastic Blue Peter job. but it will work and for a tenner you can take it home.
Another do-it-yoursell‘el‘fort involves the creation of a rather grand sounding ‘biosphere‘. in California this has come to mean a self-contained clump of futuristic greenhouses. where trees produce the oxygen for humans to breathe. The Edinburgh version. however. houses a brine shrimp in a Coke bottle. The premise is this; in the water. there's green algae which as well as soaking tip the sunlight also produces oxygen for the shrimp to breathe; the shrimp gives off carbon dioxide which provides food for the green algae. Apparently. the two will live happily ever after for years. To take the happy couple home will cost a mere £1. You'll have to hope they don’t divorce -- who'd get custody of the Coke bottle? (Gabe Stewart)
Site/tee War/(3‘ at Adam House. Chambers Street. I’ri l—Sut 23 Apr. l()un1—5pnt. Iz'ritrv/ree. Clutrgesfnr some events and kits. Seienre Dome. West Primes Street Gardens. Fri 1—30! 23 Apr. 1 0am—5pm. £1.50.
nothing else. But one of the reasons for Fairhurst’s perseverance was a desire to promote the possibilities of battery-powered vehicles, which he is convinced have proven themselves as ‘green’.
‘For local trips, battery-powered vehicles are fine,’ he says. ‘The problem is trying to convince people to hire a car or use public transport for longer journeys. But by breaking records we’re chipping away at that idea.’
Fairhurst believes electric-powered production cars will be available
within the next live years but it may take longer for the public to be convinced. “Clive Sinclair set back electric transport many years,’ he reckons. ‘The CS was not what people expected for a car of the future. It was the wrong approach.’
Meanwhile Fairhurst is already planning the sequel - an attempt on the water-speed record for an electric-powered boat. (Eddie Gibb) Peter Falrhurst talks about the project on Saturday 2 April at 10.30am and 2.30pm at Adam House. Volta will be on display 2—23 April.
68 The List 25 March—7 April 1994