Hungerford Arcade: Cold War Calculator


When we think of the 1960s we often think of The Beatles, Woodstock and the summer of ’69.  But it wasn’t all free love and rock n roll.  

The Cold War between The United States of America and Soviet Russia was at its height and the threat of nuclear war was a very real prospect for people all around the world.  

Leaflets and posters like the ones shown here were a common sight – as far as the general public were concerned, a bomb could drop at any time – and they would have no more than 4 minutes to prepare for it.




The threat of nuclear war was so real fallout shelterthat the British government built hundreds of fallout shelters around the country and some more well-off home owners actually had their own private shelters installed on their property.  The shelter pictured was built by Fall Out Shelters (Deal, Kent) in 1962 and is in the back garden of a cottage in a village called Pluckley.  The current owner used it as a wine cellar until the damp got  to be too much of a problem. Photo credit Nick Catford.


But the purpose of this article is to case-cropped
showcase an interesting item I was shown the other day.  The RADIAC Calculator No. 1 was produced by a company called Blundell Rules Ltd in the early 1950s.  The purpose of the item is 
to determine when it might be safe to emerge from a fallout shelter by calculating how badly contaminated your surrounding area will be at certain times after a nuclear explosion.

An ebay search shows that it is not a particularly rare item, but I have never seen one before.  

The disc can be taken apart and reassembled in a different configuration depending on whether the radiation was caused by a “sea burst” or a “land burst”.  

The disc is small and robust and the instructions are clear but whether or not it works remains a bit of a mystery.  Luckily, nobody ever had to test whether this little calculator was accurate or not.  

The Cold War eventually died down and for the current generation, it’s difficult to imagine that the threat of nuclear war was ever a reality.








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