The History of Television
Events highlighting Rediffusions involvment in the development of Cable Television and the manufacture of TV Receivers in the UK.
When J. W. C. Robinson and J. F. Powell started a company called Broadcast Relay Service in Ramsgate in 1928, Eric Parkins decided to seek employment with them, first as a wireman’s mate but soon found that he was doing a bit of everything, from selling the service to collecting the rental; also, as he had some knowledge of radio, he looked after the equipment and did his share of set watching in the evenings.
In 1929 he joined Mr Frank Austen who had started a relay system in St. Peter’s, Broadstairs.
Here the work was even more varied because in addition to a wired service Mr Austen was also a pioneer in the field of public address systems, and used to build the equipment for this work in his greenhouse, which served as a workshop. He also manufactured his own loudspeakers for the wired system. Mr Len Austen, later to become Manager at Rediffusion Thanet, who was an apprenticed joiner, used to make the cabinets while Eric Parkins cut the cones and fitted the Ormond balanced-armature units, which were the best available at that time.
Early in the Thirties, Mr Austen’s business was taken over by Broadcast Relay Service and so once again Eric Parkins found himself back on the books of that Company.
He was loaned to Hull for six months and in 1934 and afterwards, transferred to Mr Adorian’s staff at Bush House, Kingsway, where he was involved in the development, testing and installation of equipment at the many branches which were then springing up throughout the country. His first installation job took him back to Thanet to install the equipment in the newly-built and very modern Relay House. At
that time what knowledge Eric had acquired had been by the try-it and see method but now, under the influence of Mr Gabriel, who was in charge of ‘The Lab‘ as the department was called, he was to learn a new and more sophisticated approach to the subject of electronics. The Lab was on the top floor of Bush House and was hardly suitable for the type of work; after all, carting amplifiers and equipment mounted in 6-foot Post Office 19” racks up and down in the office lifts was hardly an easy thing to do. However, it was not long before more spacious premises were eventually found in Lambs Conduit Street, near to Holborn. It was here that equipment was designed and built
for our Rediffusion's first overseas branch, Malta. It was also here where the first A.40 Amplifier was put through its paces.
The next move was to premises in Peckham and then in 1938 to far more spacious accommodation in Broomhill Road, Wandsworth.
During the war, Eric served in the Royal Navy, which not only afforded the opportunity of seeing a great deal of the world but also the
facilities, and plenty of spare time while at sea, to continue his studies of electronic and mechanical engineering.
In 1946, Eric was discharged from the Navy and returned to the Marine Department of Rediffusion at Broomhill Road, Wandsworth, where he was engaged in the development and production of many very interesting items of equipment, and also carried out the installation of transmitters in ships.
The next move was in June 1947 to join Mr Kinross, who was then Chief Engineer of London Rediffusion Service, as Service Manager.
It was here that Eric had his first experience with Television, as practically all of the hotels and blocks of flats for which he was responsible were wired with communal aerial systems.
In 1949 I returned to Thanet as District Engineer. The South East, at that time, consisted of the towns in the Isle of Thanet and Maidstone
only, so he was just in time to have a hand in the expansion of the Region, and also in the pioneering of cable television.
By 1954 the South East Region had added six branches and moved Regional Office to Canterbury. A year later a Chief Engineer was appointed to the Region and Eric assumed the position of Assistant to the Chief Engineer.
Eric Parkins retired from Rediffusion South East in 1974.
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Eric W Parkins Ass. IERE - A pioneer in Relay. A look back to the early days of distribution.