THE SECRET LIFE OF MACHINES
The Vacuum Cleaner
The Washing Machine
The Sewing Machine
The Central Heating System
The re-mastered versions of series 2 and
3 will be launched in May 2021
The Quartz Watch
the Fax Machine
The Word Processor
The Electric Light
In 1984 my position as a
cartoonist at the Observer had started to look insecure there were a rash of new
editors, each imposing some new feature on the paper, with the existing features
successively squeezed. Fortunately I had written and presented a TV script called Why Things Go Wrong a couple
of years before directed by Mick Jackson, today a successful Hollywood director.
Through this I acquired an agent, Rod Hall. Faced with my insecurity at the Observer, Rod
encouraged me to try writing a series for TV.
sides of my life - researching stuff in books for the cartoon strip and making things, had
made me realise just how much clever human activity in the world can not be explained in
words or suit the format of a book, let alone fit with the publishing fashion of the day.
The examples of this which seemed most immediate to me were the everyday machines around
the home that everyone takes for granted. Ive always enjoyed taking machines to bits
and trying to mend them. It was always frustrating doing my cartoon strip about this sort
of machine it would be so much better if people could actually watch the machine
I wrote a scruffy three page proposal about washing machines and sent it
off. Rod arranged numerous lunches with TV executives but none came to anything. On the
brink of accepting defeat a director I had drawn an animated cartoon for, Andrew
Snell, said he would approach Channel 4 with my idea. I heard nothing for several years,
but with impeccable timing, he rang to say it had been accepted within a month of my being
sacked from the Observer. Ive since been told, though I have no idea of whether its
true or not, that my proposal landed on Jeremy Isaacs desk (the then director of C4)
just after his wife had died, when he was struggling to use his washing machine for the
first time in his life.
30 years on Norman Margolus sent me a version of the
youtube versions, upscaled with Machine Learning software from Topaz labs. I
thought it was amazing so then sent him my digitised versions of the films
which are much better quality than the current youtube ones. Running these
through the same software produced even better results. They aren't perfect
- small text and small faces look very strange - but overall are a huge
improvement. So while we were at it I added a short commentary at the end of
I apologise for the intrusive adverts on the new versions.
I am unable to remove them and don't receive any of the income. Youtube
automatically detects the copyrighted theme music and posts the adverts to
pay the copyright holder, in this case the multinational company, The
Universal music Group.