Teletechnique was born during 1976 in Queenstown, East Cape, South Africa
A very long time ago, the trading name “Teletechnique” was coined by Ger’s partner Anna for a new shopfront on the Hexagon in Queenstown, Eastern Cape. A regional farming centre located about two hundred hundred kilometers West of East London, about 800 kilometre South of Johannesburg and about 800 kilometres North of Cape Town. Right on the borders of Transkei and Ciskei. Talk about being in the middle of nowhere. But hey, Queenstown had tarred roads in four directions and a grass strip as airport. A liveable city. And now they had television as well.
The premises were occupied by Ger and Anna selling and installing television antennas and masthead amplifiers for remote farms and fixing TV sets. The shopfront of Teletechnique was soon shared by the Discotique, ran by Anna, selling Seven Singles and LP’s. “Grease” was the word in those days. Remember Olivia Newton-John? We even threw disco parties in town.
Queenstown was one of the many South-African regional centers that wasn’t going to get television for another decade or so after the first transmissions of the SABC in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein and some of the larger cities in South Africa. One of the very last countries in the world where television was deployed during 1975. And in the local politically correct presentation style, the evening program was first in English, then in Afrikaans. And the next day first in Afrikaans and then in English. At least TV was already quite sophisticated in those days with the German PAL colour and dual carrier stereo. Just the standard UK TV sets wouldn’t work on Johannesburg channel 13. You had to buy a local manufactured TV set.
Now, the people of Queenstown had engaged with Teletechnique to get their TV going. That required high-gain antennas and low-noise amplifiers because of the long distance to the East London tranmitter. Lucky for Queenstown they had a rather high mountain next door called “Madeira”, with a hardened road to a viewpoint near the top. And on this high point, the TV signal from the East London transmitter was surprisingly good and strong. A relay television transmitter was constructed and operated from a set of truck batteries. On a time clock to save power. And hey, presto, the village of Queenstown had television and never looked back. And Anna ended up carting the batteries up and down the mountain every few days for many months to come. Eventually, the municipal ranger took over that job and much later a powerline was built.
It didn’t take long for the nearby village of Tarkastad to knock on the Teletechnique door to see what we could do there to make television work. They also had a high mountan next door called “Martha”. That one didn’t had a road to the top. So, a party set out to climb to the top and look for TV signals.
Same as on Madeira, the mountain Martha was high enough to get a good TV signal from the East London transmitter. A plan was made. The local bank manager was appointed treasurer and the population of Tarkastad (a few hundred homes) got together, invested en masse in television sets for their homes and jointly put up the money for a relay transmitter. Because there wasn’t a road up that mountain and climbing up with a set of truck batteries was rather tough, one of the local farmers donated a wind charger and that has served the town well. No, we did not have solar panels in those days 🙂
Then some nosy reporter put a story in the local farmers weekly. A magazine that was read in every town, village and farm in South Africa. The story spread like wildfire. If your town wants TV and you don’t want to wait for the SABC to put up a tower, then get those people from Teletechnique to come out and help you. From there on, the phone never stopped ringing again and the pilots of the local flying club were happy to clock up more licence hours to bring us to all these remote locations with the job to make television there. Plenty of mountain climbing. And no ‘direct to home’ satellite or solar panels in those days. Windchargers were the way to keep the batteries going and give the villages their television coverage with strings of smallish TV relay transmitters.
Those were the days 🙂