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Subject: ‘Britain in the 60s’

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Television and its social and technical advances during the postwar years

Posted in Britain in the 60s, Communications, Historical articles, History, Royalty, Science, Technology on Tuesday, 28 February 2012

This edited article about television originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 654 published on 27 July 1974.

Queen's TV broadcast, picture, image, illustration

Another first for BBC television – the Queen’s first Christmas Day television broadcast, by John Keay

During the Second World War, British television was off the air. These would have been the lost years of an infant marvel, but for its fast-growing cousin, radar, whose secret advancement gave television a technological boost when peace returned

On September 1st, 1939, the day that Hitler marched into Poland, BBC Television came to an end for the duration of the Second World War, and did not start again until June, 1946. The day after the service was resumed BBC cameras televised the Victory Parade in London.

During the war years, great technical strides had been made, not only in America, where the television service had continued, but also in Britain. Here many scientists and electronics engineers had been secretly developing and operating radar, which worked on the same principle as television. In the First World War, radio advanced because of the necessity for instant communications between field commanders, and huge amounts of money were spent which would have been unthinkable in peacetime. Again, in the 1939-1945 war, radar became a number one priority. Many people believe that without the use of the “magic eye” during the Battle of Britain, Britain would have undoubtedly lost the war.

So, although the BBC Television Service was shut down for seven years, it did in fact emerge from the war stronger in technical resources. There was a vast number of skilled electronics engineers available from the armed services, and this, together with the “know-how” that the United States had acquired in running their television service, gave the BBC an encouraging start.

Immediately after the war, there was very little indication that within ten years there would be more people in Britain watching television than listening to the radio. Even in 1948 there were only 50,000 receivers, but the BBC were planning to extend the service to the rest of Britain, and a combined radio and television licence cost only £2.

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When did Look and Learn first appear?

Posted in Art, Britain in the 60s, Education on Friday, 10 June 2011

This edited article about Look and Learn originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 964 published on 30 August 1980.

LL First Issue, picture, image, illustration

The first issue of Look and Learn

Interesting articles, well-drawn pictures . . . subjects varied and exciting . . . incidents in history, how things work, life in other countries, great artists, inventors, politicians . . . all these and many more were the ingredients that went into Look And Learn in its very first issue, and are still with it today. Look And Learn was launched in January, 1962, and was greeted by youngsters, parents and teachers alike as an excellent magazine.

The circulation in those days was over half a million copies every week. Among the features which appear regularly in the paper one of the most popular is The Trigan Empire which first appeared in Ranger magazine.

The Aberfan Disaster

Posted in Britain in the 60s, Disasters, Famous news stories on Wednesday, 8 June 2011

This edited article about the Aberfan disaster originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 961 published on 9 August 1980.

On Friday, 21st October, 1966, the children in the South Wales village of Aberfan had trooped to school in happy mood. At midday the school was to break up for the half-term holiday. The bell rang for lessons to begin, and children began crowding into their classrooms, where the teachers were waiting to call the register.

Suddenly, while some of the children still lingered in the playground, a deep rumbling sound was heard from somewhere behind the school buildings. Moments later, hideous tragedy struck . . .

Dominating Aberfan was a lofty spoil-tip, or slag-heap; one of those ugly man-made hills that scar many an industrial landscape. This tip had been formed of the accumulated waste from the neighbouring Merthyr Dale coal-mine.

Anxiety had been previously expressed about a possible threat to the village from the Aberfan tip, though the Coal Board experts do not seem to have appreciated the danger; but on the morning of the 21st the Merthyr Dale management received a report that there had been some movement in the tip during the night, possibly as a result of recent heavy rain. They decided to send a maintenance man to inspect.

It was as he stood on the summit of the tip that he suddenly heard a noise like thunder, and, to his horror, saw a huge mass of soil, stones and mud begin to slide down towards the village. The school stood right in its path.

Neither teachers nor pupils had any time to get out of the buildings before the 40-metre-high avalanche fell on them. Walls were crushed and furniture smashed. Many were killed instantly, others trapped in the wreckage or engulfed in a deluge of mud.

Not only those inside the school fell victims. Even some of the children in the playground were caught by the rolling mass before they could run clear; while, at a nearby farm, a woman and her three grandchildren were later found dead.

The alarm quickly spread, and soon the villagers were desperately working to rescue the trapped and injured. Mothers waded through the clinging mud in a frantic search for their children. Rescue services joined in the action, and the search for victims went on.

After darkness fell, the quest continued by the glare of floodlights. When at last the heart-breaking task was done, Aberfan mourned the death of nearly 150 members of the little community.

The dreadful experience of that day taught the members of the coal-mining industry a bitter lesson; and today the formation of colliery tips is more carefully controlled, with special attention to drainage.

Where Pantglas School once stood, there is now a memorial garden, lovingly tended in rememberance of the 116 Aberfan children who died.

The story of paint

Posted in Art, Britain in the 60s, Science on Wednesday, 11 May 2011

This edited article about paint originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 932 published on 1 December 1979.

painter, picture, image, illustration

The house painter at work

At one time it took 30 days to paint a coach and just as long to paint the first motor cars. The fact that it now takes less than four hours demonstrates how paint has responded to a changing world.

From its beginnings, 30,000 years ago, paint has been not only decorative but durable. Cave dwellers, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all had a hand in making this remarkably versatile material and the equipment they used is still used today: clay pots for mixing, palettes, reed brushes and the all-important pigments.

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, paint came to be regarded not merely as decoration, but as a vital form of protection.

Manufacturers experimented with new processes, with new lead and zinc-based paints to combat rust and corrosion. Paint had to cover enormous areas of iron and steel – and it had to be cheap.

As the 19th century advanced, however, it became clear that paint had its limitations. Its performance was no match for this new environment, nor for what was to follow – a revolution in the techniques of industrial production.

Mass production meant the end of paint-making as a traditional craft and the end of recipes derived from the Middle Ages. The craftsman had to give way to the scientist.

In today’s man-made world, paint plays a crucial role. Modern paints reduce corrosion while spray painting accelerates the speed of mass production. To achieve these ends, the raw materials of paint have changed drastically.

But what is paint? Basically, it has three main constituents: pigment, varnish or medium, and solvent. Pigment gives the paint its colour, covering power, and protective qualities; varnish gives the paint its flow and binds together the particles of pigment to form a tough film.

The ratio of varnish to pigment controls the degree of gloss of the paint. Varnishes are generally too thick for easy application and the paint is thinned with solvent so that it can be brushed or sprayed more easily. After the paint has been applied, the solvent evaporates and the film dries.

Raw materials are carefully weighed and measured, before being passed through one or more “milling” processes depending on the type of paint to be made. Milling disperses the pigment and other dry materials evenly through the varnish while breaking up any lumps into fine particles. The milling process also determines the gloss of the paint.

Four main methods are used in the manufacture of paint: the ball mill, the single roll mill, the sand mill, and a device called a high-speed disperser.

The ball mill is one of the oldest tools in the industry and is a cylindrical steel shell, either bare or lined with porcelain tiles, and filled to about 45 per cent of volume with either steel balls or beach pebbles. Porcelain ball mills use beach pebbles and are suitable for white and light colours, while the steel mills use steel balls and are reserved for the production of the darker shades. The ingredients are passed into the ball mill from a hatch on the floor above and, once filled, the mill rotates, allowing the balls to drop through the mixture in a regular cascade. The milling takes place by the action of the balls rubbing together. The process can take up to 20 hours, the time depending on the type of pigment.

Single roll mills are used for milling certain types of pigment. Here, the raw materials are first put into a “pug” mixer which mixes the ingredients but does not break up the pigment. The mixture is then fed into the roll mill, where it passes between a rotating steel roller and a bar which presses against it, rather like an old-fashioned laundry mangle.

One of the most modern techniques in paint manufacture involves the sand mill. In this machine, tiny particles of sand are circulated at a very high speed by spinning discs inside the cylinder.

High-speed dispersers distribute the pigment and, to a certain extent, mill it using specially designed blades rotating at high speeds. This type of machine is used for manufacturing undercoats and emulsions which require relatively little reduction of the pigment.

Whatever the milling process used, the resulting mixture, plus a proportion of solvent, is dropped into stationary tanks. Varnish and further solvent are then added, and the paint skilfully shaded (by eye) to the required colour. A sample of the paint is taken to the laboratory for rigorous tests for particle size, dry colour, viscosity, specific gravity, and flow characteristics.

The approved batches of paint are strained and passed down to the filling areas where the tins are labelled, filled, lidded and usually coded with a batch number – all in one operation.

The last stage of manufacture is reached when the tins are packed into cartons and sent to the warehouse before being dispatched to the customer.

Paint is older than the wheel. Its manufacture is now a great industry based on science – but it owes its existence to man’s desire to create and his age-old longing to decorate his dwelling and his possessions.

The school dinner lady

Posted in Britain in the 60s on Thursday, 28 June 2007

School lunch/dinner lady (illustration, picture)

This evocative picture is from the series ‘People You See’ which appeared in Teddy Bear magazine in the early 1960s.

The school bus

Posted in Britain in the 60s on Wednesday, 13 June 2007

School bus (picture, illustration)

This picture is from the series ‘People You See’ which appeared in Teddy Bear magazine in the early 1960s.

At the hairdressers

Posted in Britain in the 60s on Tuesday, 12 June 2007

At the hairdressers (picture, illustration)

This picture is from the series ‘People You See’ which appeared in Teddy Bear magazine in the early 1960s.


Posted in Britain in the 60s on Monday, 11 June 2007

Playground (picture, illustration)

This picture is from the series ‘People You See’ which appeared in Teddy Bear magazine in the early 1960s.

Donkey ride on the beach

Posted in Britain in the 60s on Sunday, 10 June 2007

Donkey ride on the beach (picture, illustration)

This picture is from the series ‘People You See’ which appeared in Teddy Bear magazine in the early 1960s.

The bicycle shop

Posted in Britain in the 60s on Thursday, 7 June 2007

Bicycle shop (illustration, picture)

This picture is from the series ‘People You See’ which appeared in Teddy Bear magazine in the early 1960s.