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“Modern Alarms”, East Grinstead: faded optimism

“Modern Alarms” burglar alarm, East Grinstead • This week I’m looking at what I think of as Modernist burglar alarms: those with an unusual rigour of form and branding. They are few in number, and seem mainly to have been bespoke designs for big companies. They also tend to be old, with minimalist design styles recalling the 1970s – before the sloppy post-modernism of the 1980s kicked in, and before purist geometrical boxes were supplanted by fiddly plastic faceting. So where else to start but with Modern Alarms, whose superb name and logo date from the mid-1970s, when the firm’s boss, the late Dennis Smith, had it rebranded from Modern Automatic Alarms. It is housed in the classic Eurobell “coke cap” case, designed by Colin Marsh for the Middlesex-based company Scantronic, who specialised in mid- to high-end security equipment (thanks to Richard Wilson for that info). Modern Alarms went on to use a variety of other cases, but they were always of simple form, solid yellow, and with the logo unchanged and well-placed. There are plenty of examples still to be found around London (and doubtless elsewhere), but Modern they are no more: most are sadly faded and effaced, often resulting in wonderful architectural compositions lent a rueful irony by the sunny optimism of that now-decaying name. • Spotted: High Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid

19 replies »

  1. The Eurobell took the industry away from the huge boxes previously used. Prior to its concept from Modern Alarms UK, all we had were massive metal boxes of all shapes and sizes. Some looked really good Moderns old “Cheesewedge” , Thorns Big Red Dome etc. but more and more fresh young companies were all wanting to make their stamp – so the old big boys had to move over a little , the likes of Chubb, AFA-Minerva, Thorn, had to seek out a specialist box that no one else could have. Modern were insturmental with the developement of Eurobell and thankfully did not take copyright – so a new world of choice was born.

  2. Sorry, no not the HKC SAAB, thats a Dublin based clone of a once popular scandinavian car (although I’ve heard it IS also very rattley…). I meant the HKC SABB of course!

    • Ha, I went for a look on the HKC device for details of this device, was quite disappointed when I found out it wasn’t actually called a SAAB.

      • So, we’re all freinds now again then! I totally agree that CQR were talking poo – but once I’d had that little statement in writing, it wouldn’t look very good if it ever came back to bite me on the arse. I simply took my custom elsewhere and spent my money with someone else, sadly for a slightly less proprietry look… No doubt there are other examples in other industries we’ve never heard of, but the whole EN thing must be the best example of the worst ever handling of a new standard EVER!

  3. How sad am I! Iremember having to go around the earlier Eurobells changing the Cams because the plastic was too brittle and they broke easilly!

  4. Eurobells were the bees knees in my opinion (at the time that is).
    It was one of the first SAB’s where you could easily replace the standby battery. It utilised a 1 ah battery (as a rechargeable ni-cad), and was held in by a bracket and screw.
    The way the bell rang was by an elongated cam, driven by a motor that moved a strike onto the bell itself (or gong).
    The gong completely covered the PCB and battery, held on by a 20mm hex bolt with a centre thread for the lid.
    The only tricky bit was the optional strobe that had to be fitted over the front of the lid, then wired to the back of the bell.
    Again it was the first the use a large strobe (80% the size of the bell itself), and the sound was a slow ring that travelled for almost half a mile.
    This bell (in my opinion) knocks spots off some of the modern types.
    It was only the cost that put itself out of the market – not cheap in comparison to most. Still if you want quality – pay for it.

  5. The ‘Coke Bottle’ Eurobell was introduced in around 1982 ish, it was also available with a white add on round strobe which covered the whole front of the unit, this particular bell was only used for a short time and replaced by the shape which is still used today by ADT.

    • Aha, I have a couple of those covered Eurobells, not featured any yet though. I wondered why they were different. Very useful to know they came in around 1982. If I’d had to guess I’d have thought more like 1972 – they just have that older feel. Not a criticism, I think Eurobell is one of the best-looking designs there ever was. Though I can’t speak from an engineering point of view of course!

      • Eurobells were definately still in production until the late ninties or early 2000s I think – I can remember them being discontinued and I didn’t really enter ‘the biz’ until 1997. Scantronic don’t make any kind of bellbox now apart from some really anonymous (and expensive) ‘wireless’ ones.

        • I think they were also the last mainstream, reasonably priced intruder alarm bellbox you could get that actually contained a real ringing mechanical bell!

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