Friday, July 15, 2016

Honey, I've shrunk the machines

Published in Deccan Herald on 15 July 2016
Honey, I've shrunk the machines
By Brig A N Suryanarayanan (rtd), July 15, 2016:

In the army in 1963-64, only tiny Sanyo transistors would be sold by a draw of lots.

The other day, I got a WhatsApp video showing how a smartphone or a tablet of today has shrunk over 20 different instruments that we used to have from the 1950s to the noughties into one. The same day there was an email too showing how a desktop of 1981, cluttered with many different machines, has shrunk to a laptop.

Coincidentally, we were in a restaurant the same day, where my granddaughter saw a transistor radio in a display case and asked what it was. I told her how that used to be a craze in the early 1960s, when even vegetable vendors could be seen ‘karaoke-ing’ with one hanging around their necks, belting out loud vernacular songs.

Reminiscing about ‘those days,’ the first scene that came to mind was the purchase of a valve-radio at home in 1948. Dad had six different brands and models brought – one every day – for trial and chose a GEC with 7 bands. Strict orders existed forbidding anyone from touching it; he would listen to AIR news in English and Tamil, and Carnatic songs from Trichy, Madras and Bangalore stations; and that was all.

In his absence during market/temple trips, the ladies of the house would request me, his pet, to tune to film songs from Radio Ceylon. But the moment his cycle bell was heard from a 100 yards away, I would get the band and metre needles back to the Trichy station, switch it off and disappear into my room.

Once, we didn’t hear the cycle bell warning because of the loud volume; still, I quickly put it off but couldn’t change the band. Dad had heard film music wafting from inside the house; and upon entering, he touched the top of the set and found it warm. I owned up and was excused. The radio served him faithfully for 28 years and for 16 more, till we sold our property!

Sony, Phillips and National Transistors were status-indicators. But in the army in 1963-64, only tiny Sanyo transistors would be sold by a draw of lots (10 per 30,000 troops)! I was lucky to get one. Then, scrounging from a meagre pay, the wife and I managed a Panasonic Piano type portable audio-cassette player in 1978.

It took me 11 more years to get a better one and a national VCR through a friend returning from abroad. Even a B&W Dyanora TV was difficult to own as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1979, which we bought in Rs 100-installments for 12 months and watched the Asiad 1982 in it, while posted in Delhi, despite the advent of colour TV.

Today, thinking back, I laugh to myself at the ridiculousness of it all, with everything easily available thanks to PVN-MMS or NDA. I?forgot to tell you: I have kept all the old machines nicely wrapped for display for any restaurant that may request them; but first, I must show them to my granddaughter!


Charles Gordon said...

Yes those were the good old days of transistors especially in the Field Areas to listen to Radio Ceylon. I had a Sanyo transistor. Thx for the memories

Charles Gordon said...

Yes those were the good old days of transistors especially in the Field Areas to listen to Radio Ceylon. I had a Sanyo transistor. Thx for the memories

Pooran Uppal said...

A wonderful read leading readers to take a trip down memory lane to hear the resonating voice of Amin Sahaney Coimbatore over Radio Ceylon on tiny transistors!! And the gradual progression to all-in-one contraptions today. Thanks Surya for your lucid writing as always! Pooran

Lt Col CR Sundar said...

I remember we had a Murphy radio in our house starting from 1955. Ladies from our neighbourhood would come in regularly to listen to 'Isayum Kadaiyum', a popular programme from Radio Ceylon. In those days Madras Central railway station displayed a big sign board (hoarding) of Murphy baby in the front.

SURYA said...

Thank you, Charlie. One had to have real luck to get a Sanyo by lottery, of course on payment... some Rs 270 or so, when our pay was 460 (incl 30 KMA and 30 SDA)!!

SURYA said...

Yes Pooran, Amin sayani 's voice was so sexy that ladies used to swoon to hear that, as much as the Hindi Binaca Geet Mala! (Like Chitra Haar in B &W DD days!)

SURYA said...

Thank you, Sundar. Murphy baby was ubiquitous, not only at MAS but at many maj jns!

R K Deb said...

Sir, we too had a Philips valve radio. Except my dad no one else could touch it. Now fast forward to today. My grand daughter of 5 yrs teaches me to use my smart phone. Sir, felt very nostalgic. Thanks.

chak said...

Yes in 50s and 60s Radio used to be a lxury/ status symbol. There used to be a Public Radio in Marina Beach, which we used to call as Radio Beach and most of the middleclass families living in and around Triplicane used to invariably reach the Radio Beach at 5 PM and spend two hours listening to the only Broad caster AIRs Programme. During the criket season, people used to flock to the nearet Radio available to listen to Running commentary. We used to scream and go crazy, whenever the commentators, like high profile Maharaja or Demello narrated on the knocks of Sardesai, Chandu Borde or Nadkarni or Poly Umrigar and name any of those cricket icons of yesteryears. One can never find the joy that we experienced in listening a running commentary in a Transisto radio, in any modern or televiewing. For news reading in Radio, it was Lotika Ratnam who used to capture the entire attention of the listeners.

In 60s Radio Ceylon was the only commercial broadcast in INdian languages available in India, Years later Vividh Bharathi . We used to wait for Wednesday 8 pm to listen to Ameen Sayani's Binaca Geet mala, which one never wanted to miss, just as the "Oli Chittiram" or Sound Track of movies on sunday evenings. "Neengal Kettavai" listeners Choice of filem musics are some of the most popular and unforgettable programme that the Radios and Transistors provided to Most Indian families.

Well today, the quality and standard of entertainments or infotainments have stooped down to the lowest level. Along with that the taste of the present generation . Worse still is the impact of such lousy programmes on the budding generation is even more dangerous ! Wonder whether Radio Anna will ever come back to set right everything !!

SURYA said...

Thank you Jangali again for your comments on this too.

SURYA said...

Sweet of you Chak, that you have taken the time and trouble to read and also post a comment.In 1959 & 62 when I had gone to Ceylon, I visited the Radio Ceylon Studios and met our heroes of Tamil and Hindi "announcers" unlike the RJs of today.
I have taken part in MANIMALAR on Sundays and with Radio Anna!

Prabir said...

As many have said, Amin Sayani with Binaca Geetmala and Forces Request with English songs on (I think on Mon nights) were very popular. Particularly with my mother with my father posted in field areas. Of course, the valve radio had pride of place in the drawing room.
The transistor really got popular after the Goa Operations. Then, it pushed the radio out, slowly but surely. The piano tape recorder and the tape Canon player allowed recordings of personal songs, recitations, readings - which used to be part of 'Gaaner Ashor (Song Get togethers in Bengali homes)'. The scene today has changed so much more.
Enjoyed reading the article, Sir.
Thank you.

SURYA said...

Thank you Prabir, for adding more gen to the discussion!