back to article UK's oldest working telly up for sale

One of Britain's oldest tellies - set to go under the hammer later this month - is 75 years old and surprisingly still in working order. When the Marconi Type 702 was made, in 1936, the BBC had only been broadcasting television shows for three weeks, offering just two hours of programming a day on one channel. Marconi type- …


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  1. Flugal

    Oldest working telly

    I wonder if he went for the extended warranty option?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Won't be working for much longer

    Digital switchover

    1. Ted Treen


      Add a bog-standard Freeview box to it & it will be working again.

      Though as it dates from the time when Auntie Beeb truly was impartial, it might find today's Beeb's smug lefty-liberal patronising as hard to digest as I do.

    2. A J Stiles

      Not quite

      With the addition of a 625-to-405 line converter (admittedly a highly-specialised piece of kit, but they certainly do exist), it will be able to accept the signal from a Freeview receiver.

    3. Paul RND*1000
      Thumb Up

      Read the auction

      Never mind the digital switchover, 405-line broadcasts stopped in 1985.

      But not to worry! It comes with a 625-405 line converter and a Freeview box thrown in, so it really is a genuinely working, usable TV set. This setup appeals to me just for it's sheer bloody-mindedness. "I'm damn well going to keep using this TV if it kills me, I paid enough for it and couldn't even use it for a decade back then."

      Reminds me of the caution printed in the original Sinclair Spectrum user manual: if your television could not receive BBC 2 you would need a converter box to connect the computer to it.

  3. Graham Marsden

    Yeah, but...

    ... can it get Digital...?

  4. Martin 19

    Typical; you buy a new TV

    and then there isn't anything on the bloody thing...

  5. DayDragon

    The digital tick?

    Hmm, what is it actually worth though. I mean is it Freeview compatible?

    1. Cazzo Enorme

      Re: The digital tick?

      According to the description on the Bonhams website, it comes with a Freeview box. And no, I'm not joking. In addition, it was serviced in 1946 by a bloke called Gerry (formerly Jerry) Wells described by Bonhams as being famous. A quick Google and it turns out he is something of a vintage radio and telly legend, with a museum consisting of over 1500 devices in his house that can be visited by appointment (curated by the octogenarian Mr Wells himself).

      1. Robert Lougher

        Gerry Wells

        I visted Gerry Wells and the museum yesterday. He's still there to meet and talk to people though he isn't as active as he used to be, after suffering a stroke in 2008.

    2. stucs201

      Freeview not a problem

  6. CraPo

    1936 RTFM equivalent

    From the manual:

    "A few minutes devoted to careful study of these instructions before an attempt is made to operate the instrument will be amply repaid by the consequent ease of adjustment."

    Love it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How do we know it works if nobody is broadcasting on 240 or 205 lines anymore?

  8. Lottie


    That's really impressive. I wish consumer electronics had as much class these days.

    mahogany looks so much cooler than cheap plastic with metalised pieces.

    "in 1936, the BBC had only been broadcasting television shows for three weeks"

    And even then, 20% of it was reruns of 2 pints of lager...

    1. JaimieV

      Custom work

      If you want a 50" screen in a mahogany box I'm sure you could find a decent artisan for half a year's wages!

  9. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    But does it have

    a DVI port?

    Couldn't resist

  10. bluesxman

    History Repeats?

    "Unfortunately for Davis, Crystal Palace burned down 3 days after he bought it, meaning he couldn't receive signal until after the war"

    And the lucky buyer will be similarly shafted (though likely for considerably longer) when they finally turn off analogue in the next year or so.

    Flames ... for Crystal Palace, of course.

    1. Arnold Lieberman

      Um, no

      You haven;'t been able to receive 405 line analogue transmissions since 1985. barring the use of a scan converter and modulator, this set hasn't been useble for the last 25 years...

    2. Phil Endecott

      405-line transmission lasted till 1985

      > the lucky buyer will be similarly shafted (though likely for considerably

      > longer) when they finally turn off analogue in the next year or so.

      Actually the lucky owner has been shafted since 1985, when 405-line transmission was turned off.

      (Which was surprisingly late; certainly much more relaxed than the current changeover.)

      I guess the vintage TV people have some sort of converted gadget.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    This is where it all started!

    The beginnig of an endless road to re-runs, crap advertising and mindless pap for the masses to vegetate in front of!

    If I had the choice I would sell the thing and tell the Beeb where to stick their 175 sovs a year, sadly I'm outvoted by 2 kids and a wife who loves CSI!

    1. Ted Treen


      You could always sell the thing, AND sell the wife & two kids then (ignoring purchase prices) you'd be a lot more than 175 quiddies a year better off...

  12. rhydian

    @ "Does it get digital"...

    Well, all you'd need is a Freeview/Freesat/whatever STB, a 625/405 line standards converter (can be run from a laptop IIRC) and then a VHF modulator tuned up to whatever frequency the set is designed to recieve on. Simple*

    *The above statement may not be true.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "and then a VHF modulator tuned up to whatever frequency the set is designed to recieve on."

      45Mhz if memory serves.

  13. CraPo

    Digital switchover

    From the Bonhams pages,

    "Operational apparatus including:

    A Domino 625/405-line standards convertor;

    A Home-made modulator with leads, contained within metal OXO tin chassis;

    A modern Freeview set-top box;

    And a small quantity of valves and some components, mostly boxed, but limited use for this set."

  14. alanbg

    Alexandra Palace not Crystal Palace

    Whoops. BBC TV didn't transmit from Crystal Palace in the 1930s. From the start of BBC TV in November 1936 until closedown, a couple of days from the outbreak of WW2 in Sept 1939, and then again from 1947 until the 1950s, the service was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in north London.

    It was only in the 1950s that a new transmitter was built, on the site of the old Crystal Palace in south London, and services were moved there.

    The Ally Pally mast is still there. It was used in a Doctor Who programme, the Idiot's Lantern, in 2006. The BBC used the space at Ally Pally for its studios from 1936 until the 1970s (when they were used for Open University programmes).

  15. rich_r

    Alexandra Palace transmitting, not Crystal Palace.

    Alexandra Palace began transmitting at the beginning of November 1936, using most of the equipment from Crystal Palace. So by the time Crystal Palace burnt down at the end of November 1936, it wasn't transmitting TV anyway.

    So he would have been perfectly able to watch TV on his Marconi.

  16. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    RE: Working? and History Repeats?

    >> How do we know it works if nobody is broadcasting on 240 or 205 lines anymore?

    Well, they have things called signal generators - that's what pretty well all TV repairers now use for adjusting TVs and why the test card transmission isn't needed anymore. I'm sure there will be plenty of 405 line signal generators around, and it wouldn't take much to make a 240 line one - modern computers are now fast enough to do this in software !

    >> And the lucky buyer will be similarly shafted (though likely for considerably longer) when they finally turn off analogue in the next year or so.

    Doesn't matter, AFAIK, there have been no VHF/405 line TV transmissions in this country for a very long time - as the article states, UHF/625 line was introduced back in the 60's (I still recall the excitement when we got our first colour telly). So this set will not have had any transmissions to display for many years.

    If you were masochistic enough, it would be possible to make a Freeview-405 line converter. Once again, modern computers are fast enough to do it in software.

  17. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up


    What's even more awesome is that he bought it from HMV!

    1. Robert Lougher


      Marconi and HMV (His Masters Voice) were both brand names of EMI. At that time they had a large consumer electronics business. They also conducted large scale R&D, with the worlds first complete television system, stereo sound recording, radar, computers and the CAT scanner. All of which has long gone. As with much of our "industry", EMI is a shadow of its former self.

  18. Tim Russell
    Thumb Up

    @ Rhydian

    "A Home-made modulator with leads, contained within metal OXO tin chassis;"

    Excellent... I want to see that :)

  19. Andy 115
    Thumb Up

    Already proven Digital ready

    I remember seeing an article online when the digital switchover started about this very television. Apparently it takes a while to warm up so you need to plan ahead, but will tune into a properly modulated signal from a STB no problem.

  20. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

    No, it hasn't got a DVI port

    Apparently, DVI wasn't around prior to 1956, so it won't have a DVI port either.

    Nobody's mentioned it, but does it still come with the original remote?

    Seriously though, how long would this take to warm up?

  21. Christian Berger

    If you'd only read it

    It comes with a Freeview box and a 625/405 line converter.

  22. Anonymous Coward


    Yeah, they had a habit of taking about an hour to warm up to the point that the picture was stable and locked, rolling/tearing was commonplace.

    Some of the very early TVs needed them changed every few weeks because the hot/cold cycles would eventually cause heater-cathode shorts and other "Fun Stuff" ...

    I was saying to someone a while back that the vertical tubes were prone to debris falling into the grids over time, this is still a major problem on the old style games machines with a large CRT positioned facing upwards.

    AC, because this would probably fail fire safety, PAT, EMC *AND* RoHS at the same time :-)

  23. Robert Lougher

    Some facts

    The information is somewhat garbled. Fellow enthusiasts and I have been discussing the telly for a while:

    The television was sold some 3 weeks after the start of the BBC television service. Initially this was broadcast using the Marconi-EMI 405 line system (interlaced) and the Baird 240 line system (non-interlaced). The systems operated on alternate weeks. Televisions sold at this time had to support both systems, and they had a 405/240 line selector switch.

    The Baird 240 line system was dropped at the start of 1937. First generation televisions sold after this date do not contain the extra valve and switch needed for 240 lines and have blanking plates fitted instead.

    The problem is, many sets were returned to the factory for servicing, and any sets with the switch and 240 line circuitry had it removed. So now we have sets which never had the switch, and ones which had it removed. It is hard to tell exactly, as they both have blanking plates fitted.

    Because this set was sold before 1937 we can say it definately will have had the circuitry and the switch. However, like all sets it had it removed and a blanking plate fitted. The switch is not original (it is completely wrong) and it is not connected to anything.

    Having said that, it is still an interesting set. Some extra notes:

    1) The television service was broadcast from Alexandra Palace, not Crystal Palace. It closed down for the duration of WWII, but reopened in 1946.

    2) These tellies use the Marconi-EMI 405 line system, that was finally turned off in 1985 (although 625 lines had been in use since 1964, and PAL Colour since 1967).

    3) Using a standards converter converting from 625 to 405, you can connect up pretty much anything you want to it. I've even demonstrated playing a PS3 on mine.

  24. Mark Serlin
    Thumb Down

    guide price of 3-5k

    It cost £99/15/- in 1936 which according to was actually £5,208.95.

    That's depreciation I guess.

  25. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Still working, 75 years later !!

    I wonder how many of the newest, latest and graetest 3D LED super-thin super-colour super-HD ultra-fantastico TV sets will be working by 2086. By my wild estimation... zero

    1. Rich 30


      I would guess zero too. But the question is hardly fair.

      I would ask - How many of the latest TVs are designed to last more than 10 years, how many cost over £10,000, (article says the old TV cost half average annual wages) and how many will have owners prepared to pay to replace approx 1/3 of the parts over the life of the TV.

      Thanks to the cheap cheap prices stuff costs, most people will bin and replace the entire TV.

    2. Martin 19

      Reliable like Trigger's broom

      Ahem; "Around a third of the TV's parts are not original, however, though they were replaced with parts identical to the originals."

      Things often do keep working for a long time, as long as you replace the components when they break.

      1. unitron
        Big Brother

        I could rule the world, if I could only get the parts...*

        "Things often do keep working for a long time, as long as you replace the components when they break."

        Only if you can get replacements, which nowadays is the exception, rather than the rule.

        Big Brother, who had a vested interest in keeping television sets working. : - )

        *The Waitresses, 1982

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's nothing ...

    My brother has an old boiler from 1974. It's got a bit slower to get going over the years, but with a bit of prodding and poking can still be persuaded to be useful.

  27. John 61

    Has anyone else

    noticed that on sets with an integrated decoder the pictures and words (speech) aren't properly synchronised properly? It takes the biscuit that a 75 year old set adapted and with bolt-ons would still work better than the super-duper all singing all dancing efforts post 2005...

    1. F Seiler

      hard to believe true in the general case

      Maybe i didn't really undestand what you want to point out, but..

      Given that MPEG transport streams contain presentation timestamps on all content frames it is hard to believe that all of them would be unable to present stuff at the time specified in the stream, that is, not be proper MPEG decoders. And the clock has some quite high frequency (90MHZ IIRC) so it seems unprobable to be a source of inaccuracy or visible/audible jitter.

      Of course if the program is already broadcast with desync, the TV doesn't magically know how to fix that :)

  28. Dead Short

    Gerry Wells, that console, and other marvelous contraptions.

    I recently re-watched the utterly charming Secret Life of Machines, and the episode on Television Sets has a section with Gerry Wells and one of the devices in question. Dunno how internationally accessible this direct video link is:

    so perhaps Hunkin's series page at is better. 40-50% of the way through the TV episode, though I can't imagine not wanting to watch the whole thing.

    As fine as geek art gets.

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