Nov 8 2011: The Wobbulator and Other Cover Images from Practical Wireless and Shortwave Magazine (1959 – 1970)

Six covers from amateur electronics magazines published between 1959 and 1970, showing how to build wireless equipment (and if you’re not sure what a ‘wobbulator’ might do, then look out for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s Paddy Kingsland and a record he made going by the title Wobulator Rock). Taken together, these covers offer a glimpse into a world largely vanished, where analogue technologies were the future, and the future could be made in a garden shed almost as easily as in a multi-million pound corporate or government research facility. These days, few of us have the high-level programming skills or access to sterile environments needed to repair computers designed with built-in obsolescence, so perhaps these magazines also represent a kind of democratisation of technology.

Perhaps we need to rethink electronics markets, so that the TV repair and hi-fi shops that died out during the 1980s are replaced on UK high streets, updated for the 21st century with facilities to extend the operational lives of computers, ipods, cameras, mobile phones and other gadgetry. That many of these items have become effectively disposable is one of the factors driving the race for ever-lower wages that has – for the moment – culminated in the unacceptable working conditions and pay found in many Chinese factories. This is one of those areas (like insulation, glazing and heat recycling programmes to reduce domestic and industrial waste, or deposits levied on packaging) that makes economic as well as environmental sense.

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