Lamenting the demise of Tottenham Court Road

rpb424

Active Member
Being a teenager in the 80's and keen on AV tech back then (and still am!), one of the best 'techy' indulgences was a wander around the myriad of hi-fi/video emporiums on Tottenham Court Road whenever I was up in London. Sadly the march of online commerce means that they have pretty much all now disappeared and the area has reverted to chain stores/ coffee shops etc.

Living out in the sticks at the time, we never really got to see all the latest stuff in the shops near us, or even know of its existence pre-internet. I was very much into my Sony Walkman at the time, and remember being on 'T.C.R.' one day and seeing the Sony Professional Walkman in a window. My jaw dropped - never had I experienced such techno-lust. There was no way I could afford it, but imagine my delight about 12 months later when I received one as an 18th birthday present. It's still a prized possession, in pristine nick, and gets a run every few months for old time's sake!

Short of going to a trade show or similar, it seems that there's little opportunity these days of getting to wander round and see pretty much everything available at the same time, as you could on T.C.R. every day.

Currys/PC World etc. these days is all very well, but they stock a 'standard' range of products, where as most of the T.C.R. retailers were independents, so what you didn't see in one shop you'd more than likely find in another just a stone's throw away, from budget right up to high-end.
 
Last edited:

Trev

The Dumb One
I feel that a trip to Shenzhen might just quell your technolust. I hear that it beats TCR into a cocked hat.
 
OP
R

rpb424

Active Member
Back in the day, I think there was a similar area (again, bigger) in Japan (where most of this stuff came from anyway), but can't recall its name.

UPDATE

Akihabara (Tokyo) I think.
 
OP
R

rpb424

Active Member
I didn't actually know that it had all disappeared until a couple of months ago, and apparently the rot was almost complete nearly a decade ago, which shows how long since I'd been there (probably 25 years now).
 
Last edited:

prpr

Well-Known Member
Akihabara (Tokyo) I think.
It is. I've been there - er, 1990-91 I think. I found it quite overwhelming, but interesting to see nonetheless. I didn't buy anything. I expect most of it was geared to the US and/or Japanese markets anyway, rather than the UK one.
 

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
I have similar memories. I spent my youth an hour's train ride from Liverpool Street, and fares couldn't have been silly prices in those days (maybe child's or student) because I used to pop down quite often, even just to buy something specialist I couldn't get locally (on-line shopping not invented then!).
 

MikeSh

Well-Known Member
Wow. That brings back memories. I worked for London Transport 40+ years ago, mainly in central London, so free transport. I often wandered up TCR looking in the shops and getting odd electrical bits. Haven't thought about that in years, probably decades.
 

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
It used to amuse me that TCR also stood for "Total Control Racing" (some Scaletrix-like thing where the cars have the ability to switch tracks).
 

Trev

The Dumb One
I was using Maplin for years. My customer number was 1649, so a really early adopter.
 

prpr

Well-Known Member
obviously there were catalogues (Maplin comes to mind
Some that I remember: Home Radio, Watford Electronics, Bi-Pak, Display Electronics, Denco and then of course Maplin, which did away with all of the rest from my PoV as their prices and service were so much better (apart from when they introduced the original computer system which caused chaos for months).
My customer number was 1649, so a really early adopter
5710 was mine I think - these were just the original computer system numbers. I was a customer from the "send a handwritten order, receive a photocopy of it back with the items ticked off as a picking list" days which didn't have customer numbers at all.
 

Trev

The Dumb One
Yep. I wrote a BASIC prog on my BBC computer to read the serial port (modem input 1200bps) wait for the right time then send the next line of my order from a text file. Wait a bit for the Qty prompt and send that. Used up less line tome than doing it by hand.
 
OP
R

rpb424

Active Member
Don’t forget Tandy. I used to buy a lot there when I couldn’t wait a week or more for Maplin mail order, albeit at a higher proce usually.

Maplin were good as shops for quite a lot of years but then lost their way, sidelining the hobbyist sector and relying more on remote control toys, DJ gear, and overpriced computer components. In fairness, one thing they were good for right up until the end was batteries. 100 x AA batteries for £15 (when on offer) was a good deal when you have small kids with lots of toys.
 

fenlander

Active Member
The Edgware Road was another early centre for electronics outlets, having many of the same shops as the TCR. I particularly remember Henry's Electronics. I bought my first kit there: Garrard SP25 deck, Sinclair 2000 amp and a pair of Henry's own-brand speakers. I had to take a soldering iron to the amp and add some resistors: as sold it had a talent for picking up radio transmissions.
 
OP
R

rpb424

Active Member
Happy days. I remember my Dad modified our TV to add a socket for an external speaker. Unfortunately he used a standard 3.5mm mono jack socket (breaking the TV’s internal speaker connection when used), and this was I was young, naive and before I knew about the difference between line level, speaker level and TV chassis tendency to float to half mains potential. One day I connected the socket to the Aux in on the stereo to try and record something to cassette (well, it was a 3.5mm socket after all!). Sadly it didn’t end well for the amp or the TV!
 

Andy Fox

New Member
I remember going to Edgeware Road for electronic bits in the 70s. I worked for BT (or Post Office Telephones as it was then) and was on a course at Bletchley Park. British Rail used to do a cheap evening ticket into London for people in the Milton Keynes area to enjoy the night life, but I used it a few times to get bits for projects - bit sad in retrospect!

I also remember getting stuff from the original and only Maplin shop when I visited my cousin In Southend. Later on you could check stock before you ordered it on their 300 baud BBS access, something I did after I 'borrowed' a modem from BT.
 
Top