21 Mar 2023

The Eric Robinson Memorial Museum

by Jason Allen

In a huge space at the rear of the second storey of Jands HQ in Mascot, NSW, there’s a new multipurpose space referred to as the Eric Robinson Memorial Town Hall, named for one of the co-founders of Jands. It’s appropriately named, as it’s the space once occupied by Jands Production Services (now JPJ), where Eric ruled until his passing in 2015.

The Town Hall is now fitted out with the latest in conferencing gear in the form of Shure MXA910 Ceiling Array microphones and Dante-networked ceiling speakers that create an amazing voice lift environment. Big projection screens are automated, and PTZ cameras focus on those presenting automatically. It’s a beautiful set-up that Jands use for tech training, staff meetings, and more.

At the rear of the Town Hall sits tech from another era entirely, in the form of the Jands Museum. This is an amazing collection of gear lovingly salvaged, rescued, and otherwise acquired by Jands staff, that represents their manufactured output from the late 1960s right up until the 2020s, when production ceased.

Jands co-founder and current Director David Mulholland has been one of the driving forces behind the museum’s collection. “I started quite a while ago, watching online auction sites for old Jands equipment to come up,” he explains. “We had a reasonable collection stored in a separate building here in Mascot, but not many of either the very early or more recent products. When JPJ moved out of the space, we decided to repurpose it as the Town Hall. Building the collection into a dedicated museum in the space made sense, as this is where a lot of people will come when they visit the company.”

Some of the very earliest Jands products are displayed in the case pictured above. The twin strobe at the top was designed and sold by Bruce Jackson & Philip Storey when the company traded as J and S Research Electronics. Next down is a colour organ, a power amplifier, then a Strand Electric dimmer that Jands designed and made the electronics for. “Jackson & Storey won the contract shortly before we purchased their business and had built several batches before we took over,” recalls David. “We went on to build hundreds at a time, and it helped establish our manufacturing business. We couldn’t afford a specialised wave soldering machine to solder the circuit boards, so we bought a Sunbeam electric frying pan, filled it with solder, and dipped them in that to speed up production. When a tax inspector come out to audit our books his eyes lit up when he saw we’d claimed the frying pan as a tax deductable expense. He thought we were trying it on, but ended up having a laugh when he saw what we were actually doing.”

Other highlights in the collection include Jands’ first computerised lighting board, the Aurora, designed by now-billionaire WiseTech Global CEO Richard White, who joined Jands in 1982 as head of R & D when his business at the time, Rock Industries, sold out to Jands. There’s also one of five massive 12-send foldback desks, standard in Jands’ concert sound systems through the 80s.

Jands are very keen to acquire examples of products they don’t have, and have given CX a ‘Wanted’ list. “While our PA speakers are too big to fit in the space, we plan to add some photos showing the progression from columns to four-way systems and composite boxes,” David elaborates. “Interesting things come up but can be difficult to secure. For example, there’s one of our JL72 lighting consoles in Adelaide. It’s a very large 72 channel, two pre-set board with A/B switching and an external matrix panel for patching scenes and chases. I was told that the venue is government owned and there’s no mechanism to allow them to sell it, but they are allowed to throw it out. We’re also keen to find one of the smallest products we made; an SM 1 DI box; we have an SM 2, but not its predecessor. There are a lot of other units we’d like to add to our collection – I’m sure they’re out there somewhere!”

Photos by Jason Allen        


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