VRW  PUBLICATIONS          HOME   |   BOOKS  |   SERVICE DATA   |   RESTORATION   |   RADIO HISTORY

 

PERSONALITIES: F.J. and PW

PERSONALITIES  FJ CAMM  FJ AND PW  WELLS COATES  JL BAIRD  MARCONI 

The early 1930s was a time of rapid growth for radio sales and for the hobbyist/constructor who, apart from the thrill of building something and hearing it come to life, would hope - sometimes, it has to be admitted, vainly - to save money whilst doing so, over the cost of a ready-made receiver. Numerous magazines catered for this expanding market and Practical Wireless, whilst not the first, soon became a leader. This was due entirely to the tremendous efforts of Frederick James Camm. 

FJ had started a wireless supplement in Hobbies Weekly, which he edited. His knowledge of engineering in general was very wide (for more on his life, click on 'F.J. CAMM' in the top navigation) but he did face competition, most notably from 'Popular Wireless', where the main contributor for constructional articles was John Scott Taggart. To say that the magazine boasted about the prowess of Taggart would be an understatement. The heavy page-by-page exposure of the designer, whenever a new receiver of his hit the pages, was tantamount to overkill. 

It must have annoyed FJ Camm, who preferred to let his designs speak for themselves but by November, 1935, something of a volte-face occurred. Perhaps he thought it was time to fight fire with fire, or then again, perhaps his publishers demanded he fought back. Whatever the case, FJ's face looked out from the cover of Practical Wireless for 16th November (bottom right), centred on a banner boldly proclaiming 'the best set for 1936'. The receiver in question was his 4 superhet four. Inside the magazine - with its free blueprint - he produced a long and rather fearsome invective in which he he stated 'We have consistently been flattered by imitation - often copied but never equalled... We LEAD and SHOW the WAY... this new receiver... has selectivity vastly superior to the ordinary superhet'.  Further in, there are several pages devoted to the set, and he says 'This stupendous achievement... as it would appear unseemly (!) for me to praise my own work*, I have a natural diffidence in describing my own sets. I have been accused in the past of being too modest in my claims, and it has been pointed out to me by members of the trade that even my very large following amongst home constructors would have been considerably enhanced had I indulged in the extravagance of language employed by so many other designers... I refer to ballyhoo... he then claims to let his designs speak for themselves, rather than convert himself into 'a passable imitation of a circus showman'.

He goes on in this vein for the best part of two pages before getting into the actual constructional details of the set. 

Who, we may wish to speculate, was he referring to when he spoke of mock auctioneers, embellishing superlatives, acrobats describing ever more complex somersaults? Could it be that first in line might have been the aforementioned John Scott Taggart? Earlier, in PW, September 22nd, 1934, he wrote about a different set of his design that it '...contains no stunt knob introduced merely as a stunt...'

Certainly, 'Popular Wireless' made much of Taggart, their star designer. I think it is a case of 'love or loathe' when it comes to the latter's output, which was individual in design and appearance, to say the least: flat baseboard construction when Practical Wireless - and FJ - were championing metallised wooden chassis and metal only chassis, the latter having been industry norm for years previously. There is little doubt that FJ's designs were modelled upon commercial lines, often simplified to help the novice constructor, whereas Scott Taggart stayed aloof from commercial product and went his own distinctive way, producing designs that, as mentioned above, were and still are either loved or loathed - but definitely different. Whatever the case, after Popular Wireless ceased publication a couple of years before WWII, Scott Taggart seems to have published no more designs and his contributions to magazine content became rarer and tended toward radio theory rather than practical construction. FJ Camm went on right through the war years with Practical Wireless, albeit in an emasculated form due to the exigencies of wartime Britain. He continued as the editor of PW and several other practical type magazines until his untimely death.

 

*Which is, of course, exactly what he proceeded to do.

 

 

 

 

 

VINTAGE RADIO world: SIXTEEN YEARS OF WEB PRESENCE