When the Field's Fab Forties were introduced in May 2001, we enhanced the Index page with a picture of David Ballantyne holding a portable record player-cum-radio called the Discatron. The chart for May 8th 1966 included a feature about the Discatron and its Radio London advertising campaign. Below is part of the item:
This competition ran in the 14/05/66 edition of 'Trend' magazine. (Trend was, of course, a Big L advertiser)
WIN ONE OF THE WORLD'S FIRST TRULY PORTABLE RECORD
You can see great pictures of a real-life, brand-new Discatron here!
Pete Anderson has now kindly written to tell us about the manufacturing of the Discatron and its successor, the Discassette. Pete says:
We're very grateful for Pete's input; it's certainly good to have a little more information about these two Sixties products.
How staggered I was to realise that the Discatron had been promoted indirectly by Radio London! I immediately recognised the Discatron as soon as I saw it in the photo. Many years after working for the company which made the Discatron and its successor, the Discassette, it has now occurred to me what happened. I had not previously realised the Radio London connection, through that Trend magazine promotion, and the significance of it!
The Discatron was a great success. It was manufactured by Discatron in Aston, Birmingham by a very small company that grew fast. At that time I was not working for them. Clearly the reason for the Discatron's success must have been that it was advertised indirectly by Radio London. The average Brummie could not receive offshore stations like Big L and Radio Caroline, unlike vast numbers of us in the south and most of the rest of the country. Therefore, Brummies tend to be generally completely ignorant on radio matters. They do not realise the importance of the offshore stations, and this would explain why the Radio London significance was never mentioned to me at the time, as the people working at the Aston company had no personal knowledge of, or interest in listening to the pirates.
Such was the success of the Discatron, the radio record player, that RANK was persuaded to buy and pay for the successor of the Discatron, the Discassette. It was at this point (at the start of RNI days) that I moved up from the south and joined the company making the Discassettes, in Aston, Birmingham. Part of the deal was that the original company stopped making the Discatron and the RANK company took over the business of selling the Discassette. This was a backwards step, as the Discassette had no radio on it, but instead consisted of a cassette player and singles record player. The pressure on the stylus was sprung loaded, so after a few plays the record was scratched to death with wear! Dreadful design, as indeed was the similar sprung-loaded mechanism on the Discatron, although that was not quite so bad.
By the time the Discassette was in production, Radio London was off the air, (the Discassette had no radio in it anyway), and Rank was left with a massive pile of unsold stock in their warehouse, which was sent back to the manufacturing factory where I worked and there ensued a great row over the production quality. In actual fact, it was the design, and now it would appear to me, the lack of indirect advertising by Radio London! I was made redundant as the factory stopped making the Discassettes. I then moved on to Streetly Electronics which manufactured the Mellotrons, although I had nothing to do with that product and was on wiring conversions for BBC studio reel-to reel-tape machines. Incidentally one of the founder members of the Moody Blues worked at Streetly before becoming famous! Anyway that is the story of the Discatron and Discassette.