The early 1930s was a time
of rapid growth for radio sales and for the hobbyist/constructor who,
apart from the thrill of building something and hearing it come to life,
would hope - sometimes, it has to be admitted, vainly - to save money
whilst doing so, over the cost of a ready-made receiver. Numerous
magazines catered for this expanding market and Practical Wireless,
whilst not the first, soon became a leader. This was due entirely
to the tremendous efforts of Frederick James Camm.
FJ had started a
wireless supplement in Hobbies Weekly, which he edited. His knowledge of
engineering in general was very wide (for more on his life, click on 'F.J.
CAMM' in the top navigation) but he did face competition, most notably
from 'Popular Wireless', where the main contributor for constructional
articles was John Scott Taggart. To say that the magazine boasted about
the prowess of Taggart would be an understatement. The heavy
page-by-page exposure of the designer, whenever a new receiver of his
hit the pages, was tantamount to overkill.
It must have annoyed FJ Camm, who
preferred to let his designs speak for themselves but by November, 1935,
something of a volte-face occurred. Perhaps he thought it was time to
fight fire with fire, or then again, perhaps his publishers demanded he
fought back. Whatever the case, FJ's face looked out from the cover
of Practical Wireless for 16th November (bottom right), centred on a banner boldly proclaiming 'the best set for
1936'. The receiver in question was his £4 superhet four. Inside the
magazine - with its free blueprint - he produced a long and rather
fearsome invective in which he he stated 'We
have consistently been flattered by imitation - often copied but never
equalled... We LEAD and SHOW the WAY... this new receiver... has
selectivity vastly superior to the ordinary superhet'. Further in,
there are several pages devoted to the set, and he says 'This stupendous
achievement... as it would appear unseemly (!) for me to praise my own
work*, I have a natural diffidence in describing my own sets. I have been
accused in the past of being too modest in my claims, and it has been
pointed out to me by members of the trade that even my very large
following amongst home constructors would have been considerably
enhanced had I indulged in the extravagance of language employed by so
many other designers... I refer to ballyhoo... he then claims to let his
designs speak for themselves, rather than convert himself into 'a
passable imitation of a circus showman'.
He goes on in this vein for the best part of two pages
before getting into the actual constructional details of the set.
we may wish to speculate, was he referring to when he spoke of mock
auctioneers, embellishing superlatives, acrobats describing ever more
complex somersaults? Could it be that first in line might have been the
aforementioned John Scott Taggart? Earlier, in PW, September 22nd, 1934,
he wrote about a different set of his design that it '...contains no
stunt knob introduced merely as a stunt...'
'Popular Wireless' made much of Taggart, their star designer. I think it
is a case of 'love or loathe' when it comes to the latter's output,
which was individual in design and appearance, to say the least: flat
baseboard construction when Practical Wireless - and FJ - were
championing metallised wooden chassis and metal only chassis, the latter
having been industry norm for years previously. There is little doubt
that FJ's designs were modelled upon commercial lines, often simplified
to help the novice constructor, whereas Scott Taggart stayed aloof from
commercial product and went his own distinctive way, producing designs
that, as mentioned above, were and still are either loved or loathed - but definitely
different. Whatever the case, after Popular Wireless ceased publication
a couple of years before WWII, Scott Taggart seems to have published no more designs and his contributions to magazine
content became rarer and tended toward radio theory rather than
practical construction. FJ Camm went on right through the war years with
Practical Wireless, albeit in an emasculated form due to the exigencies
of wartime Britain. He continued as the editor of PW and several other
practical type magazines until his untimely death.
is, of course, exactly what he proceeded to do.