"Nu-Tron Security Ltd" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Thanks to various commenters, I now know that Nu-Tron is the successor company to yesterday's M-Tronic, and you can certainly see the resemblance in the big rounded initial. It's an unusual shape of box which I've not featured before, and anything called Nu-Tron that looks more like an Old-Tron simply demands to be put in the "retro-futurist" category. But as for naming your sounders after a thermonuclear device specifically designed to kill all nearby humans while leaving buildings standing? A bit extreme, surely. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"M-Tronic Alarms Ltd." burglar alarm, Islington • Recently there was much discussion under an old Lander box about the firm M-Tronic, and its successor Nu-Tron. To summarise, it was stated that M-Tronic was an east London company whose bell boxes were secured with two screws (just about visible through the rust here) similar to a Lander box, and whose owners sold out to Lander before going on to form Nu-Tron – a firm which will be discussed tomorrow. I'd never seen an M-Tronic sounder, and the commenters reckoned very few ever existed, but I've now discovered this incredibly oxidised, but still legible, M-Tronic example in the apt surrounds of an Islington antiques arcade. I've put it in the "retrofuturism" section because calling anything something-tronic sounds futuristically dated. And it also makes me think of futuristic-in-80s electro record label M-Tronic, and the similarly vintage electro-hip-hop duo Mantronix, whose logo serendipitously features yesterday's computer typeface. Though even both of those old-skool "tronics" are probably more recent than this ancient alarm with its pre-01 phone number. Interesting phone fact: the prefix here, 555, is regularly used for fictitious phone numbers in American films and TV shows (see for instance The Simpsons), as it covers a special set of numbers not used by any US exchange. • Spotted: Camden Passage, Camden, London, N1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury
"Regal Security Systems" burglar alarm, Hackney • Yesterday I posted a Regal sticker, and today here's an actual sounder, of the classic 1980s design that looks like a clock-radio when mounted horizontally. I've searched for this firm on the internet but turned up nothing whatsoever, so presumably they were bought out before the world wide web got popular. Which means I will never get to find out what the big fat "W" in the logo stands for – and whether it's meant to resemble a crown. (Update: if you check the comment below and here, the mystery is solved – Regal was originally Wimpey, and in 2001 sold out to ADT. Which makes it surprising I couldn't track down any info on Google, because 2001 isn't that long ago.) • Spotted: Hackney area, Hackney, London, E2, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
"Regal Security Systems" burglar alarm, Lambeth • Many moons ago I featured a Regal sticker which had taken over the shadowy running man on an RH Alarms box. And here's another, probably older design, that's been slapped over an ancient bell box whose name even the magic of Photoshop can't reveal. I found it in the fascinating warren of decaying covered markets that weaves beneath Brixton's railway lines like a multi-ethnic souk. It's now been reinvented as "Brixton Village" and, amidst a tangle of units selling everything from "cheap gold" to goats' heads, is home to a swathe of excellent pop-up eateries, from one of which I took this photo. True to its dodgy reputation, the area is positively bristling with burglar alarms, many as vintage as this one. So although I'm not keen to wander the Coldharbour Lane backstreets with an expensive camera – or even without one, for that matter – I'll be back. Preferably with tactical air cover. • Spotted: Market Row, Brixton, Lambeth, London SW9, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood
"Samaritan" burglar alarm, Camden • We all know Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan, who crossed the road to help a wounded stranger. It's an odd reference for a burglar alarm, as are The Samaritans, those nice people you phone up when feeling suicidal. But more interesting to the graphics geek in me is that this attractive modernist S logo is a rip-off of the seminal trademark for British Steel (below), before they stupidly changed their name to Corus. It was by top British designer David Gentleman, whose weirdly obscure mural at Charing Cross tube station annoys me every time I go past it. His British Steel S may in turn have been "inspired" by the eerily similar earlier Security Pacific Bank logo (below) by legendary art director Saul Bass, behind of some of the world's most famous logos and film titles, from Kleenex to The Man with the Golden Arm. He also claimed responsibility for directing the shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho; so, given the security and nightmare intruder references, maybe this Saul Bass "tribute" has some relevance after all. • Spotted: Museum Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras Left: Rembrandt's "The Good Samaritan" (1630) from the Wallace Collection in London. Right: a 1960s S logos by David Gentleman, above, and an earlier one by Saul Bass, below.
"Thorndon Security" burglar alarm, Camden • Graphic design heaven: a load of decaying type on a wall. The numbers are a good old 1950s font, typical of that era when presumably there weren't many different styles of signage lettering to choose from. The alarm sports one big initial, a very common device, and one I'll return to. I found it in the gem-dealing area of Hatton Garden (famously featured in Dustin Hoffman's 1976 film Marathon Man) and, although legitimately photographing in a public street, got very heavily hassled by a security guard for my pains. That was just three years after 9/11, and it would probably be even worse now. It's actually quite difficult photographing burglar alarms – it often makes me feel like a criminal myself! • Spotted: Hatton Garden, Camden, London, EC1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
"Chubb" burglar alarm, Hackney • It's ironic that I selected this iconic blue Chubb box for its Modernist design, as it turns out to be the oldest brand name of all; and also, sadly, a blueprint for the decline of British industry at the hands of high finance over the last 40 years. The company was launched in 1804 by Charles Chubb, who started out selling ships' ironmongery, but moved into security when his brother Jeremiah invented a new type of lock. After gaining a Royal Warrant in the 1830s, the Chubb family enjoyed five generations of global growth, providing security for everything from the Crown Jewels to the Koh-i-Noor diamond to Winston Churchill's wartime papers. By the end of the 1960s the Wolverhampton-based company had swallowed up Rely-A-Bell and many other smaller rivals and was a respected bastion of British industry. According to ex-employee David Ibbs, the rot set in during the 1970s when Chubb damaged its finances by acquiring – under government urging – the failing Gross cash register business. And so, as the era of deregulation dawned, the weakened Chubb shifted from being a proud family-run manufacturer providing careers for life, to being the financial plaything of City moguls driven only by the bottom line. Starting with a misguided acquisition by Racal in 1984, Chubb demerged and remerged with other multinationals several times, "downsizing" (ie making skilled and loyal staff redundant) each time, and gradually splitting apart so that locks, safes and alarms ended up with different owners. Today, the alarms division is just a small part of American conglomerate United Technologies Corporation (UTC), while the other pieces are owned by Swedish multinationals. Chubb's last family boss, George Charles Hayter Chubb, aka the third Baron Hayter, was a highly-regarded Lords cross-bencher who tried to block Maggie Thatcher's destruction of the GLC, and once chaired the Design Council. Presumably his interest in design led to the 1970s introduction of this minimalist blue branding with its striking triangular box, known for obvious reasons as the "Delta". This powerful design has survived Chubb's many changes of ownership and lives on still, its current incarnation being a chunky-looking round-cornered Delta in posh navy plastic. In earlier times there was also a square blue metal box bearing the same logo, and I recently spotted a distressing new pentagonal variation. The example pictured here is a classic old metal Delta with faded paint and sharp corners, possibly dating from the 1980s. The (intentionally?) "chubby" initial C is, apparently, based on the front view of a mortice lock – a last poignant link to the glory days of the original Chubb brothers and their once-great British company. • Spotted: Kings Wharf, Hackney, London, N1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
"Bulldog" burglar alarm, Derby, 2010 • Somehow, you feel the designer was not entirely in tune with the image that the word "Bulldog" normally conveys. With its popular "initial as logo" device and cheesy sci-fi-style fonts, this alarm's stickered livery resembles the cuff of a jaunty sports sock rather than a fierce beast. Maybe the way the B is formed by an absence of ink represents the chunk of flesh the bulldog will remove from an unwise intruder's leg, and the buzzing red-and-white stripes the raw blood and bone that will result. But I think not. It's on nice bricks, though: and I can recommend Derby as a repository of many fine historical buildings. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South