I was thrilled today to be contacted by Arthur, all the way from Australia who shared his memories from 67 years ago about his dad's Dalston radio shop, Tiny for Radio and the tribulations of the shop Mullard High Speed Valve Tester (MHSVT) which I can now share with you: -
We used Mullard valve testers for years and years, replacing them as they became worn out or superseded. I don’t remember the version numbers, but I would think the pictures that you show were identical to what I remember. We also had AVO valve testers, but although we still offered our customers the testing service, the AVO machines were slow and clumsy to operate. They were more valve analyzers than valve testers. I afterward became quite adept at testing valves on the Mullard machines; we had two. I must have tested tens of thousands of valves over the six years I worked in Dad’s shop in Dalston; even remembering the correct card to use for each valve type, not needing to use the index.
After a while we marked the top of each card with the valve’s type number, to avoid mistakes. Something that Mullard themselves should have done. The Mullard company themselves offered a service whereby they would actually punch out a new card for a new valve type, so we were always up to date. On older Mullard machines we had problems with the perforated card reader section. It was a collection of pins that pierced the card only where there was a perforation. This selected the valve’s pinout, operating characteristics, and heater voltage without needing a dozen knobs to be turned to their correct positions; as on the AVO.
Unfortunately, the thin corrugated copper strips used on the original Mullard valve testing machine were constantly breaking, they were then being repaired by a serviceman from Mullard with a large reel of copper braiding, like Solderwick, but without the flux. He made a neat double loop of braiding over each faulty connection, thereby securely joining the broken links in the pin array. Eventually, broken links became so very common that Mullard decided that every customer’s machine should be entirely rewired in this same way. A hundred or more connections on each machine. They were repaired by the Mullard sales representative, not their serviceman, as the serviceman had by then left the company.
The rep was furious, as he considered himself a rep, not a service engineer. He nearly gave it all up and left, but he did the job well. Each machine took at least two hours to do, it was a massive task; and he must have had a hundred customers with these machines. We got no further trouble after they were rewired, but my father decided to replace them anyway. So he bought two of the new models, which looked almost identical to the old ones, but used copper braiding instead of copper strip. The old rewired models were transferred to his other shop down the road, that run by my uncle at № 36. It was the radio repair section of his business.
People came from several miles around to test their valves at Tiny for Radio, my father’s shop in Dalston. It became quite famous. Afterward, we would sell customers new valves to replace those shown faulty on the machine, getting the family’s old radiogram or radio, going once again at minimum cost. It was a very good, very profitable, business. If the customer bought new valves to replace those shown faulty, the valve testing service was free. I was around 17 then, so it must have been around 1955 or so.
My father’s shop: -
Tiny for Radio
18 Dalston Lane
Dalston (Now Hackney)
Now, although Tiny For Radio no longer exists as a radio shop, the passage of time has resulted in E8 becoming a postcode of E8 1PQ and the shop being transformed into a Nail Bar.
Other things Dalston is famous for is that Tony Blair lived there for a while, before he went to war in the middle east and before he started drawing his index linked £85k per year pension...... Another more palatable Dalston icon is the famed Art Deco Rio cinema: -