. . . no National Interference Crisis has arisen . . . Studio ‘E’ under fire!
Just after the Studio ‘E’ series ended on 18 November 1957, the design became the subject of a debate conducted in a succession of Letters to the Editor of that most august journal, Wireless World (now Electronics World).   A correspondent was concerned that the Studio ‘E’ receiver, if allowed to oscillate, would cause unacceptable interference to other listeners' reception.

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The man who introduced radio
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Extracts from the scripts preserved by
Gilbert Davey himself since the one-valver
series was broadcast in 1957.
(This page)
A series of letters to Wireless World in
which Davey defends the Studio 'E' design.
This series raised almost as much interest as
the earlier one-valver series. Some stories by
those who remember the series. Notes on the
leaflet and the design.   Image downloads -
please read copyright and usage notes.
My recently built version of this simple set
This portable receiver clearly became 
very popular, as it was published seven 
times from 1962 to 1981.
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Wireless World's Letters page saw many technical
debates, some of which lasted for years.
    Wireless World's Letters page saw many technical debates, some of which lasted for years.

    Site author's image.

Wireless World began in 1911 as The Marconigraph, published by the Marconi company.   In 1913 its name changed to The Wireless World.   Other name changes followed: The Wireless World and Radio Review (1922, later shortened to Wireless World), Electronics and Wireless World (1984) and Electronics World (1996 to present).

The journal, serving radio and electronics professionals, has been the forum for seminal articles (the best-known is probably Arthur C Clarke's Extraterrestrial Relays (1945) foreseeing geosynchronous communications satellites), and for high-level technical debates conducted as Letters to the Editor, some of which lasted for years.

Gilbert Davey never contributed articles to Wireless World, but the journal reviewed some of his books.   I do not know if he was a subscriber; if he was not and thus did not see the opening letter of this series, the Editor would no doubt have courteously written to him to invite him to reply.

The debate was conducted in most gentlemanly terms from December 1957 to April 1958.

These letters throw new light upon the germination of the Studio ‘E’ broadcast series and the receiver's design, and upon the steps that Davey took to minimise nuisance interference.   The last letter sets out his general approach towards designing sets for young beginners to build.   They also include a delightful evocation of the “magic” of the radio hobby by a third party coming to Davey's defence.   They are reproduced here by kind permission of the Editor, Electronics World, successor publication to Wireless World.

Wireless World
December 1957 edition
Mr Walters' letter,    
published a few days after the    
Studio ‘E’ series ended.    

Copyright © SJP Business Media;    
reproduced by kind permission of    
the Editor, Electronics World.    
Prepared from a British Library image;    
Copyright © British Library Board:    
Shelfmark (P) RT 40 -E(19).    

. . . an intrument which is, basically, a transmitter
capable of ruining reception for thousands of listeners.
After the Studio ‘E’ series had ended on 18 November, Wireless World's December 1957 edition, published on about 25 November, printed this letter under the title "Do It Yourself" Interference, expressing deep concern.

At that time, the UK Post Office, under the Postmaster General, was responsible for tracing sources of radio and TV interference and penalising those causing it.   After passing to several agencies since the reorganisation of the UK Post Office, responsibility now lies with the Radio and Television Investigation Service, a division of the BBC.

Captain P P Eckersley was a Marconi engineer who turned writer, producer, actor-manager and entertainer at the radio station 2MT (Two Emma Toc in the radio alphabet of the time) at Writtle, near Chelmsford, Essex.   The station's broadcasts, beginning in February 1922, led to the setting-up of the 2LO station and subsequently the British Bradcasting Company, now the BBC.   Eckersley became its first Chief Engineer.

Wireless World
January 1958 edition
Gilbert Davey's reply to    
Mr Walters' letter, and    
Mr Chadwick's two-penn'orth    

Copyright © SJP Business Media;    
reproduced by kind permission of    
the Editor, Electronics World.    
Prepared from a British Library image;    
Copyright © British Library Board:    
Shelfmark (P) RT 40 -E(19).    

. . . I hope that I have added over 25,000 youthful
enthusiasts to those of us who love the hobby.
The January edition of Wireless World carried this detailed reply from Davey, explaining the precautions he had taken against excessive oscillation.

The prototype receiver pictured at the top of The Studio ‘E’ Leaflet page is almost certainly one of the three mentioned in this letter.

In the same edition, whilst agreeing that the sets were a potential nuisance, Mr Chadwick was less concerned, having already given up listening on AM.   Neither the combatants nor anyone else took up his somewhat tongue-in-cheek point.   However, his letter is a reminder that 1950s listeners, as well as enduring overcrowded AM bands, also experienced interference from TV timebases and from fluorescent lamps - similar hindrances to those we now get from switch-mode power supplies and LED lamps.

Wireless World
February 1958 edition
This defence of Davey's series    
includes a delightful evocation of the    
magic of the radio hobby    

Copyright © SJP Business Media;    
reproduced by kind permission of    
the Editor, Electronics World.    
Prepared from a British Library image;    
Copyright © British Library Board:    
Shelfmark (P) RT 40 -E(19).    

. . . a valve that cast strange patterns on the wallpaper in
the failing December light, and a neighbour, pipe in mouth,
finding where I had erred, was true happiness.
What better portrayal of the appeal of the radio construction hobby could be imagined?

Mr Lansley became a Merchant Seaman during World War 2, and was decorated for his service during the conflict.   His prophecy of the influence of the Studio ‘E’ series was amply fulfilled, as evidenced by the numerous tales from visitors to this site - see News Archive.

Wireless World
March 1958 edition
Mr Walters' second letter    

Copyright © SJP Business Media;    
reproduced by kind permission of    
the Editor, Electronics World.    
Prepared from a British Library image;    
Copyright © British Library Board:    
Shelfmark (P) RT 40 -E(19).    

. . . my guns were aimed at the designer
of the set, not at the user.
Mr Walters'second letter included another attempt to arouse the interest of the Post Office Radio Department.

Wireless World
April 1958 edition
Gilbert Davey's second letter    
in response to Mr Walters    

Copyright © SJP Business Media;    
reproduced by kind permission of    
the Editor, Electronics World.    
Prepared from a British Library image;    
Copyright © British Library Board:    
Shelfmark (P) RT 40 -E(19).    

It is endlessly probed for weeks beforehand by every possible
BBC department, including several branches of the Engineers.
In the last letter of the series, Davey refers to the discussions and checks that preceded the broadcasts, and sets out the governing principles behind his designs for radio beginners, emphasising the need for economy and simplicity.   Finally he acknowledges the support from Mr Tansley (sic).

And there the correspondence ends.   The Editor, F L Devereux, remained aloof throughout.   Despite two attempts, Mr Walters does not appear to have succeeded in persuading the Post Office Radio Department to take his bait.

P P Eckersley's entreaty to listeners not to cause interference had great relevance when he made it.   From the beginning of broadcasting until the late 1920s, listeners were using "straight" TRF sets, many of which had detector-with-reaction front ends and could cause a nuisance if the reaction control was misused.   During the 1930s superhet sets, which cannot radiate interference, came to dominate for family listening.   But beginner costructors went on building simple sets including one-valvers with reaction for decades - without causing a national nuisance.

The Studio ‘E’ set was just another example of this type.   Davey states that, having discussed the interference issue with the BBC Engineers, he explained the choice of reaction capacitor value to dealers and viewers, and would undoubtedly also have explained the use of the reaction control during the last of the broadcast series.   Mr Walters does not say whether he actually saw the broadcasts; if he did not, he may have missed these explanations, and that may have given rise to his concerns.   Be that as it may, one wonders how many of the receivers with which he assisted his young friends were one-valvers with reaction.

It is worth noting that in his early (1948, Boy's Own Paper) version of the Beginner's One-Valver the reaction capacitor was .0005μF for use with the specified home-made coil.   For the version that appeared in the first edition of Fun with Radio, published in late 1957 but undoubtedly in preparation for months beforehand, this was reduced to .0001μF, the same as the Studio ‘E’ set.   Both of these sets used the same coil (Teletron D/R).   Was the capacitor value reduced for either or both versions as a result of Davey's discussions with the BBC during the run-up to the broadcasts?

In typical one-valver designs from the 1920s to the 1940s, we find reaction capacitors of .0003μF or more.   Reaction on my original Studio ‘E’ set was lively enough for oscillation at the HF end of the medium-wave band, and yes, I occasionally turned the reaction up to annoy my brother listening on his crystal set, but the pleasure soon palled!   My latter-day experience and that of other builders with the Studio ‘E’ set and other Davey one-valvers is that .0001μF is adequate on sets with medium wave, but not enough on sets with long wave.

Davey designed several sets employing RF first stages that prevented radiation (see, for example, the Holiday Radio and the Simple Three-Valver on the YOUR DAVEY SETS page).   But, with their greater complexity and hence higher cost, these were not really beginners' sets.

As it is, the Studio ‘E’ set, along with its fellows in the Beginner's One-Valver stable, remains lively enough to be fun to operate (provided you can find something worth listening to on medium wave) without causing a National Interference Crisis.