Vintage Television Museum
Technical and Logistical Frequently Asked
I found an old TV in my
attic. Should I plug it in?
- No! Whatever you do, don't plug it straight into the mains - If you do, it may well go bang! The chemical composition of certain sealed components inside a TV can change after a period of non-use and connecting them straight across the mains will cause them to heat up to such an extent that the components can literally explode. The force of which has been known to blast through the cabinet and / or smash the delicate glass neck of the tube. If you really want to power your set up, first contact a competent radio or television restorer who will have the equipment to "Re-form" the sensitive components.
If I do eventually power my set up, will I get a picture?
- It depends. If the set was made before the early-mid 1960's, then you may get a raster (Lines, or "Snow") on the screen, but probably not much else. In the 1960's, the UK's television transmission standard changed from 405 lines to 625 lines. The frequency used to transmit the pictures and sound was also changed from VHF (Very High Frequency) to UHF (Ultra High Frequency.) The 405 line VHF service was subsequently turned off in the mid 1980's, so if the set is of the 405 line type, you will need some fairly elaborate equipment to convert from the modern 625 line standard. If your set was manufactured later than the mid 1960's, then it is more likely to be a 625 line only or a dual-standard (405 and 625 line) set. And in this case, you have a better chance of obtaining a picture, although any set that hasn't been used for many years will almost certainly need attention to display a reasonable picture.
Is my TV dangerous?
The TV itself isn't dangerous. However, it is very dangerous to operate any electrical appliances with any of the covers removed. TV's generate very high voltages and can easily kill. They can also store a charge for quite some days after the set is switched off. If in doubt, refer any servicing work to a competent technician.
How can I tell the age of my set?
- This can be quite difficult. You can get a rough idea of the age, by looking at the size and type of the screen, the general styling, the size of the cabinet and the types of control on the front. First look at the tube (the screen.) If it is clearly a circular tube (even if it has a cowl to make it look more rectangular) then the chances are that the set is pre-mid-1950's. (Although this is a generalisation - there were rectangular tubes before this date, and some circular tubes were still in use afterwards.) If the tube is circular, then measure the diameter (check diagonally from corner to corner if there is a cowl on the tube.) 9 and 10 inch tubes were the most common type after the war, so a tube of this size could indicate that the set is between the late 1940's and the mid 1950's. (Again this a fair generalisation.) If the circular tube is smaller than 9" (5, 6 or 7 inches in diameter) then you may be lucky enough to have discovered a pre-war set (Although these are extremely rare as so few of them were sold originally.) If the set has a rectangular tube, then the set is more likely to be post-mid-1950's (Especially if the set has a channel tuning knob.) If the set has a tuning knob marked with channel numbers 1-13 and also channel push-buttons or another circlular tuning dial marked with channel numbers 21-68, then the set will be early-late 1960's or even very early 1970's. Often a good way to tell the age, is to look at pictures of similar sets in antique books or on the Internet etc.
Is my set worth anything?
- It could be, although the majority of sets that turn up in peoples lofts etc. are fairly common and not worth an awful lot. Having said that, it is always worth asking your friendly local radio or television restorer to identify and the set and give you at least a rough valuation. Certain sets, particularly bakelite sets can fetch a reasonable amount of money, so it's always worth finding out.
Where can I dispose of or sell my set?
- It depends. If you would like to see the set go to a good home, such as a museum, then your local town museum my be glad to have it, or of course you can email the South West England Vintage Television Museum (firstname.lastname@example.org) with details of the set. On the other hand, if you would like to sell the TV to a private collector, then you can try your local paper, your nearest auction house or put the set in an on-line auction such as e-bay. If all else fails, most rubbish tips or recycling centres will take old TV's without any problem.
I would really like to get my old 625-line or dual-standard TV working. What can you suggest?
If you've decided that your set is a 625 line or a dual standard (405 and 625 line) set, then you may just need to take the set down to your local small TV repair shop and explain that you would like the set overhauled. Most larger retailers will probably laugh and tell you to throw the set away, but generally the small shops can be quite helpful, and many technicians will probably remember the sets the first time around! Once the TV has been sorted out, simply plug it into your UHF aerial, tune it in, and hay presto. One thing to remember is to treat the set the same way as it would have been treated when it was new. E.g. Don't go out and leave the set on; they have far less protection than a modern set, and are more likely to catch fire. Also, don't expect miracles from your old set; if the picture isn't quite as bright or clear as your modern set, just remember that technology was much cruder 30-40 years ago than it is now.
I would really like to get my old 405-line TV working. What can you suggest?
This is a bit more complicated. Because there are no 405 line television transmissions any more, after you have had your TV overhauled, you will need some kind of 405 line source. This may be a recording of 405 line programs played back on a suitable VHS video, or you may want to build or purchase some kind of converter. If you don't mind just seeing a test-pattern then you may be able to find a suitable 405-line test-pattern generator. These are often called "Cross Hatch Generators" or simply "Pattern Generators." The problem with these old generators is that they may be in just as poor condition as the set, so you may need to get the generator overhauled too. Digital standards converters exist, but these are highly complicated and expensive pieces of equipment. These converters take a 625 line signal, and change it digitally into a 405 line signal; they are highly prized by collectors and restorers, and rarely appear on the second hand market. The easiest and cheapest method of obtaining pictures on your old 405 line TV is by purchasing a tape of 405-line recordings, an old VHS video (Most modern videos will not play 405 line material), and a VHF modulator to emulate the VHF aerial. These items can sometimes be found in the classified pages of vintage radio and TV magazines, such as the BVWS (British Vintage Wireless Society) magazine. If you want to source the items yourself, most pre-1990's video machines will work, and these can normally be picked up very cheaply from car boot sales or local TV dealers. VHF modulator kits can be obtained by emailing Steve McVoy at email@example.com 405 line source tapes are a little bit more difficult to obtain; you will need to find somebody with a converter who can copy you some material onto a VHS tape.
Can I still obtain parts for my old TV?
Mostly yes. Although there are certain components such as transformers and Cathode Ray Tubes which can be difficult to find. The things that most people think will be difficult to find are the valves, however, with a few exceptions, these are readily available.
- The group does have a large number of old televisions, and although we have limited space (and money), we are always on the lookout for particular types. Very often, people donate items to the museum, and if we can't use them, we can normally find them a good home. If an item is donated and the museum does end up using it, we will always label the set with thanks to the name of the previous owner. If in doubt, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a more general question about the museum. Where can I find the answer?
For more old TV's, click here.
All enquiries, please mail: email@example.com
The South West England Vintage Television Museum is a not-for-profit group run entirely by donations. We are currently looking for all brands of dual-standard colour televisions. Any condition considered. Please click here if you think you can help. Cash paid. Many thanks.