Report: Retrotech 2021

Retrotech, formerly the National Vintage Communications Fair, held its first event in two and a half years. It normally takes place on the second Sunday in May, but disruption by the pandemic meant that this year’s event was on 26 September, at the usual venue – the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre.

BECG exhibited there, attracting considerable interest. The general feeling at Retrotech was of pleasure at being back. Visitor numbers were down but there was still a lively atmosphere, with everything from valves to televisions to telephones for sale. We would like to thank BECG friend Carol de Solla for her help.

BECG stand at Retrotech showing a working Ikegami 323 Plumbicon colour camera. Photo: Alex Hewitt

One of the highlights of the show was a Roving Eye. Paul Elkington, a friend of BECG, has recreated one of these iconic vehicles, which had a camera with operator mounted on the vehicle roof, as none of the originals has survived. Citroen estate cars were chosen because their unique suspension systems made it possible to keep the camera level and absorbed any unevenness on the running surface.

Roving Eye at Retrotech. Before the doors opened and it was surrounded by people. Photo: Alex Hewitt

Paul’s original aim was to recreate CRE-1, a DS with a Philips LDK-5 camera on top. Sadly, the cost of restoring the vehicle was prohibitive so he settled instead for a Citroen XM, a later model also used by BBC, that is itself now a classic car. Paul has restored the car, fitting a roof platform with swivel camera mount, and brought it to Retrotech with an LDK-5 camera on top. BECG trustee Richard Harris provided the LDK5 camera and the monitoring equipment, and built the engineer’s operating panel and control systems. The LDK5 is complete, but has been fitted internally with a modern camera for ease of use at exhibitions.

Interior of Roving Eye. The operator faced backwards. Not a popular job if the car was being driven vigorously! Photo: Dave Hill

Sat in a prime position at Retrotech, the roving eye was a tremendous draw. We are unable to confirm the rumour that children were seen on the roof of the vehicle, supervised while having fun operating the camera.

Read this article by Richard Harris if you would like to learn more about the history of the roving eye.