by Ian L. Sanders, with photography by Carl Glover


Published by the British Vintage Wireless Society (BVWS)

Each edition - hardback, large format 8 x 12 inches.  Profusely illustrated with full-page photographs. 

Tickling the Crystal - Ian Sanders
BVWS Books

When it was introduced in 2001, Tickling the Crystal was the first book dedicated to the subject of British crystal sets to have been published for over twenty-five years.  Spanning just a few years during the early 1920s at the start of regularly scheduled broadcasting, these simple receivers played a crucial role in the development of domestic wireless throughout the United Kingdom. 

For many families, rich and poor, the crystal set provided an introduction to the new pastime of "listening-in" to broadcast programmes from the fledgling British Broadcasting Company.  Soon to be made obsolete by the introduction of more sophisticated valve receivers, crystal sets disappeared from people's homes as quickly as they had arrived, but not without leaving an indelible mark on wireless history.

Since its initial publication, Tickling the Crystal, has expanded into a series of five volumes and an index supplement, providing a comprehensive reference work on the subject.

Tickling the Crystal 1 by Ian Sanders
Volume 1, 256 pages
"Compiled by a long-time authority and enthusiast, Tickling the Crystal is the most comprehensive work on the subject ever assembled.  Volume 1 contains almost two hundred full-page photographs, many in colour, and a wealth of previously unpublished material covering commercial and amateur crystal receivers, components and early broadcasting.  It cannot fail to be an invaluable reference for anyone interested in the history of early wireless and should appeal to both the experienced collector and to the novice alike."

"The second volume of Tickling the Crystal, published in 2003, complements the first and expands on the story of the domestic crystal set during the early broadcast years.  Like its predecessor, this volume is packed with high-quality, full-page photographs and a vast amount of new information relating to crystal set models, manufacturers and broadcast conditions at the time.  These volumes fill a void in the much-neglected field of vintage wireless literature and are intended to provide an extensive reference work for enthusiasts and collectors." 

Tickling the Crystal 2 by Ian Sanders
Volume 2, 208 pages
Tickling the Crystal 3 by Ian Sanders
Volume 3, 240 pages
"Produced with the same careful attention to detail as its companions, Tickling the Crystal 3 published in 2005 continues the story of the domestic crystal set.  Like the earlier volumes, it contains many full page photographs of previously unrecorded receivers, but places greater emphasis on early manufacturing company profiles and ephemera.  An extended collection of period advertisements has been incorporated to help in the identification of lesser-known models."


"New information related to vintage wireless continually comes to light and seems to show no sign of slowing down.  So, without apology, the need to update, expand and where necessary correct information published so far hs been satisfied with the publication of a fourth volume.  The central feature - the Pictorial Dictionary - contains a further quota of full-page photographs of crystal and crystal-valve receivers along with note magnifiers, mostly unrecorded and previously undocumented."

Tickling the Crystal 4 by Ian Sanders
Volume 4, 280 pages
Volume 5, 252 pages
"Volume 5 offers another serving of crystal set photographs, manufacturer and model data and general miscellanea. A review of broadcasting conditions in the "regions" reflects the challenges of the crystal set era, when the BBC's aim, with their limited resources, was to provide as much coverage for crystal listeners as was technically possible.  In addition to much new information, updates and corrections to facts and figures published in earlier volumes is provided."

About the author:
Ian Sanders
Dr. Ian L. Sanders grew up in Harrow, north-west London. His life-long involvement with vintage wireless began with the chance discovery of an early 1920s receiver in a local antique shop while an electrical engineering student at the University of Wales in Cardiff during the 1970s.  He became fascinated in what was then a field of relatively little interest, concentrating on wireless receivers from the early BBC broadcast era.  His enthusiasm for the subject grew after moving to the United States to pursue a career in computer data storage technology.  Dr. Sanders has written numerous journal articles on various aspects of early wireless history which have been published on both sides of the Atlantic, and is the author of a book detailing the history of the General Radio Company, Limited.

The Tickling the Crystal series of books is the culmination of some thirty-five years of research into the development of the domestic crystal set, drawing on the author's comprehensive library of contemporary literature and ephemera and the generous contributions of a small number of like-minded enthusiasts.  Most of the receivers illustrated in the series are from his own collection.

Dr. Sanders is a member of the British Vintage Wireless Society and the Antique Wireless Association, and currently lives in the town of Morgan Hill in Northern California's Silicon Valley.  In addition to his interests in early wireless technology, he is the author of two books on local history.

Contact the author at:

Book design and layout by Aleph Studio, Greenwich, London, SE10 8HR.
All rights reserved.  No material may be reproduced without express permission.
©2001-2013 Ian L. Sanders

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