SHE blinded me with science – Judith Hann, that is. She was there on the sofa the other night as the BBC paid a kind of a tribute to its best-ever science programme. Maggie Philbin was there too.
Forgive me another week wallowing in TV nostalgia, but I loved Tomorrow’s World throughout the Sixties and Seventies, when Raymond Baxter and James Burke talked us through the intricacies of the space missions and promised that we would all be travelling around on personalised jet packs by the 1990s.
Judith Hann explained the latest developments in the world of medicine, and may have had a hand in showing us the very first Compact Disc, on which we would be able to listen to the music which up to now had been engraved into the scratchy grooves in a black vinyl platter.
If memory serves me correctly, they spread marmalade over a copy of a Dire Straits CD and then played it to prove the laser technology would work perfectly well even if the disc was besmirched. Who knew such wonderments were possible?
Not everything went according to plan, and plenty of new inventions failed to function correctly in the studio. As if in tribute, a brand-new robot went a bit haywire during the tribute programme, something to do with bandwidth. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The best of the presenters back in the day was the former Second World War Spitfire pilot Raymond Baxter, who had also competed in the Monte Carlo Rally and was therefore the perfect person to explain the latest developments in science to an eager father and son in Paignton.
We embarked on a number of science projects from the comfort of our home. We bought a kit with which to make a pocket calculator, which may have come from Sinclair. The smell of solder filled our house for a couple of evenings as we laboured to assemble the tiny circuit boards and diodes, and eventually we had a serviceable calculator that did all the basic non-scientific stuff. We also made a rudimentary digital watch. Most exciting, however, was the digital clock that we had some time in the early Seventies. This had come in kit form from STC up the road, where dad and his mates had acquired the bits and pieces needed to assemble an actual working clock that had no hands and no winder.
Just a few years after man first set foot on the moon, we were about to have our first digital clock. It was a giant leap for Paignton.
More delicate wisps of solder smoke rose into the air as the great timepiece took shape. A little green circuit board was kitted out with capacitors and other tiny wire components, and four glass bulbs were fitted in a row to show the figures. A case was levered into place and thing was plugged in.
After a few moments of utter relief that it hadn’t gone off with a bang and blown the fuses all the way down the street, we watched its little glowing red numerals as they told the time in a magical new way.
Did we all sit up, as a family, way beyond our bedtimes, after the TV had finished for the night, to watch the new clock register a magical four zeros at midnight?
Of course we did.