Playing in the garden was not always possible so construction continued on the kitchen table, not with the Tonka toys but with Lego. With Lego we could design and build anything, offices, houses, rockets, space ships, we could even design the machines to make them.
After a while Lego became to restrictive, technical Lego was years away and there is only so much you can do with square blocks of plastic, what I needed was something you could make real machines with, something you could bolt together and construct things with, something like Meccano.
This was the late seventies/early eighties and electronics was the new kid on the block. A trip down to WHSmiths had rows of electronics magazines, Electronics Today International and Hobby Electronics became regular reads. Along with the projects and articles, two things all the magazines had in common then was companies selling surplus equipment and Maplin electronics. At pocket money prices I could buy old kit and strip it down for parts or buy new components for my designs.
It was at this stage of my life when, much to my parents annoyance various things were taken apart around the house, upgraded, with varying amounts of success, and sometimes put back together.
Many other projects were started often just for experimentation but never completed in to anything useful. With my interest in bits and pieces I inherited the internals of my granddads gramophone, an old record deck, valve amplifier and speakers, I put them together and made my first stereo, this was fun! My interest in audio was born.
Around that time a youth club started in the village, this was a time when youth clubs were places where kids met and chatted, all very civilised. I think someone took some music along, a cassette player or radio, what ever it was it was so quiet that only a few people could hear it. The next week myself and a mate Paul took my valve stereo along with a pile of records and cassettes, set it up in the corner of the village hall and played music that people could hear and dance to – my first disco.
We were still doing the disco when I left school and I had made a 50 watt hifi stereo amplifier from Maplin parts for home and put it in a big metal box. I took this along to my first interview for a job and whilst it didn’t work very well (bits kept blowing up), the wiring was messy and the metal box looked like it had been beaten from old washing machines it contained all the aspects of what I had learnt over the years, mechanics, electrical and electronics. Using this I was able to explain all of the design and build process, functionality, improvements and why it did not work. It must have made a good impression as I won an electronics apprenticeship at the royal aircraft establishment in Bedford, 1 of the 8 taken on that year from over 200 applicants.
All the old diggers, lorries and tractors were eventually thrown away, the Lego was passed down from brother to brother but the Meccano still sits in the loft waiting for retirement so I can once again relive my childhood! As for the electronics, that part of my childhood still lives on today along with the new skills I have learnt since then. I never did drive a digger but still remember it as my earliest career choice but through a series of connections from those early days I am convinced it put me where I am today.