We all like watching the tube, but perhaps no-one more so than Doug King. With an attic packed full with over 100 television camera and display tubes dating back as early as 1930, Doug is a true TV addict.
His keen interest in all things electronic began early. At the bright young age of just 4 years Doug was witnessed pouring a pint of milk into the vacuum cleaner. Sparks flew and a love of electronics was formed.
Thankfully, Doug made it through the rest of his youthful years safely. He spent much of his childhood fascinated by his dads work at various RAF bases as an electronics technician. A career in aircraft and electronics was a marriage made in heaven for Doug too.
Doug jokes; “I’ve always been pulling things to pieces. I really enjoyed visiting scrap metal merchants from the age of 10 and would often buy a broken TV, radar or missile guidance control unit for a few pounds. Electronics is a very practical subject. It’s very dynamic too. I’ve always had an interest in the subject from those very early years and my key interests lie in some of the very old electronics.”
From the 1930’s to the 1970’s television cameras used quite large glass vacuum tubes to capture the images. Often, an image target was scanned by an electron beam to sequentially read out the video signal. The signal was amplified and delivered to a cathode ray tube for display. Doug’s prized possession is the length of his arm – a four and a half inch diameter image orthicon tube.
It took days to manufacture some of the tubes – they are not just wonders of science – they are artistic creations (although one of his lady friends suggested converting them into vases).
In his office role, as an electronics design engineer on various aircraft projects it’s Doug’s role to design and test electronic equipment used to test military aircraft. Electronics is at the heart of any modern aircraft. It’s the brains of the system that controls a fly-by wire aircraft and constantly gathers data to help the guy sat in the front seat.
Strictly speaking, Doug isn’t just sat at a desk all day. Doug was keen to point out the electronics lab at Warton which recently underwent approximately a one and a quarter million pound investment.
“It’s wonderful. We can do everything we need to in the lab. From manufacturing circuit boards to building systems and integrating them to be used on the Typhoon test rigs. It’s a one stop shop. There’s nothing better than putting on you lab coat and rolling your sleeves up to set about a new design.”
Currently the lab is a busy hub of activity. Most of it is Hawk activity for existing customers including some upgrades to the Hawk weapons system test kit. One of the biggest challenges that face the team is producing kit that is robust and safe enough to endure the harsh and meticulous standards that military aircraft standards demand.
Doug explains; “Electronics is moving on at an incredibly rapid pace. There is a constant challenge of things becoming obsolete. Gadgets are getting smaller too, but at the same time increasing in complexity.” Doug enjoys working in the Support Group of the Electronic Engineering Department not only because he can see projects with life cycles of 25 years, but because the group works together as a tight knit team to help their customers.
With a new generation of iPad fluent youngsters filling the world, Doug is sure that electronics will continue to be as exciting a career choice for them as it was for him.
“Good eyesight and a microscope are essential for your CV these days. Computers and tablets have shrunk so much you can’t see the individual components. A lot of modern day electronics relies on a good microscope and an even steadier pair of hands!”
In between tubes and Typhoons Doug is also a member of the British Vintage Wireless Society. In a typical year Doug will visit various society gatherings and displays. He’s even extended an invite to his own home for members to view his tubes.
So, next time you’re sat in front of the box take a minute to remind yourself of the wonderful evolution of electronics over the years. From tubes the size of your head in the 1940’s to the flat screen on the wall today…maybe in the decades to come we’ll be changing the channels through mind control. That won’t do much to help Doug’s attic collection.