My grandfather was born in 1900. He lived in Edinburgh all his life. In 1914 he began work in a firm providing life assurance and qualified as an actuary. In the 1930s he bought a house in the modern district of Greenbank which he shared with his wife. There he enjoyed eating cupcakes and smoking Embassy No. 1s.
Earthly pleasures aside, his great delight was a humble wooden cabinet in the corner of the living room. This caged a slumbering beast bristling with buttons, dials and strange symbols. When awake it would hum quietly then emit extraordinary wails, drones and howls while bathed in a fuzzy warm glow.
For this was my grandad's “Radiogram”, apparently nothing but a pile of panels, mesh, wire, plugs, glass, tubes, coils, dials, magnets and card, were it not for his ingenuity and the mysterious buzzing light source. Only close proximity could offer any explanation other than the occult. Then bakelite switches would appear, with coal-black surfaces so hard and smooth they reflected the living room lamplight. When grandad clicked these tiny obelisks into place then needles would jump on meters and whirs, thumps and crackles soon followed.
Hand-built in the 1930s the Radiogram was the original music centre. Despite its age it stood in defiance of rival Hi-Fi invasion for nearly 50 years, until ready-made microchip, L.E.D and liquid crystal displaced it. But in the meantime it would continue to wage a war of terror against the housecat and the net curtains.
Only once did its master's indifference to these collateral effects ever change. That was the day his grandson was inadvertently magnetised and the machine's exclusion zone was penetrated. As the boy's fingers drifted towards a toggle switch, he shot across the floor with uncustomary haste with the machine blaring like an alarmed elephant.
Don’t touch that one!
He softened as the boy withdrew his fingers in shock.
That’s the factor 10 amplification. I put it in for music hall performance. No doubt it would have blown up the house!
And from that day forth, my grandad took special care to ensure that this particular boy was always suitably earthed.