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The simple CardTalk cardboard player was developed to play phonograph records without electricity. It's ingenious design allowed the sound to be played through a needle on the cardboard sleeve, which doubled as an amplifier.
The CardTalk was small, inexpensive and easy to operate. Hundreds of thousands were sent to the remotest places in the world.
The Cardtalk was not originally invented by Gospel Recordings (now GRN), but it was significantly developed and simplified by Gospel Recordings (GR).
When the first director of Gospel Recordings Australia and his wife, Mr and Mrs Stuart Mill, were returning from the first international gathering of Gospel Recordings Inc. in Los Angeles in 1958 via the UK. Stuart came across a toy cardboard record player made by a leading UK greeting card company. It had an approx. 5" record, on which was the Lord's Prayer one side, and a children's prayer on the other. He brought it home and for years it kicked around the Sydney office as a novelty. The cardtalk was made out of pieces of cardboard hinged together with tape. The record spun on a small ferrule in a plastic disc glued to the cardboard base. The record needle was fitted into a small clamp on the edge of the third fold of the cardboard. The record was turned by means of a pencil or pointed stick rotating in a hole drilled in the edge of the label area of the record.
When David Macnaughton returned from furlough from India in 1965, Stuart asked him to seriously investigate wherein lay the secret of this original cardtalk. As he circulated various commercial cardboard suppliers seeking to find cardboard of the same consistency as the original. One firm took an interest in the project, and they began mocking up models with various samples of cardboard. They found that the key to clear sound reproduction was the direction of the grain in the compressed cardboard. By the time David was due to return to India, they had begun making workable replicas of the original.
A moulded Plastic Cardtalk was tried. This was made in Hong Kong, but it was not successful. The volume was low and sound quality was poor.
Some years later Joy Ridderhof (founder of Gospel Recordings) was visiting India. At a relaxed staff gathering there was a demonstration of the Australian cardtalk prototype. Suddenly Joy asked David, "Why don't we make that in corrugated cardboard?" In response to Joy's inspired suggestion, David went up to the factory and soon knocked up a player from a cardboard carton folded from a single piece of corrugated cardboard, with no taped joints.
All who heard it were immediately struck by the enhanced reproduction clarity of this model in corrugated cardboard. Joy took the sample away with her, and so the cardtalk was re-born in the familiar style that was to become so widely used around the world. In India alone 100,000 or more were produced.
India used waste milk tin lid knockouts for the turntable. A friend made tools to punch the hole in the centre for the eyelet, and to make the needle clip with a slot which allowed needle replacement. Indian Cardtalks were supplied with spare needles taped to them.
The corrugated cardboard used for Cardtalks in India was made from bamboo, which helped make it stiff, and produce a good sound.
CardTalks were widely distributed through partnerships with a number of organisations. Tens of thousands were supplied to Operation Mobilisation, when they'd found many villagers couldn't read their literature, but could be reached in their heart language through the cardtalks.
For Gospel Recordings Assoc. India, the cardtalk became one of the main tools of our 'Distribution Drives' where specific un-evangelised areas were targeted with systematic distribution to every village in a given area.
Another key application was their use among India's blind people. Probably hundreds went out this way, stimulated by word of mouth. The blind received every parcel free of postage.
At the same time GR-USA was promoting the use of the Cardtalk in many other countries, and later GR-South Africa was to make their own. The cardtalk always created great interest, even among engineers. Joy once gave one to an engineer uncle of hers who had always resisted her efforts to lead him to the Lord. However, he was greatly taken by this simple application of basic acoustic principles. While playing the Gospel record over and over, the message eventually broke through to his heart and he was converted. A similar story was told of an American or Canadian Indian chief who led himself to the Lord playing a cardtalk with an English Children's record.
With the passing of the 78 r.p.m record, the cardtalk has become a museum piece. Only eternity will tell the full account of it's usefulness. It has been a dream of mine that as we stand before the Lord in heaven it would be so exciting if the person standing beside me were to tell his story of how he heard the Good News when someone gave him a piece of cardboard and a record. I have felt a deep privilege of having a small part in its history. - David Macnaughton - Sept 2009.