Digital Birthday Cake

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My 41st Birthday Cake to celebrate my advance in Digital Technology!

In 1995 I finally made perhaps one of the most important decisions of my life …. to buy a brand new PC Computer!

After weeks of heartsearching my final decision came down to:
Do I buy a second hand 384 processor computer or buy a brand new 486 processor computer at a price tag of about 600 quid, a lot of money at that time. I looked at Simple Computers first, but could not get through to them on the phone to find out more and possibly order. Then, out of the blue came a flyer through the letter box the same day from a company with a shop on Bradshawgate in Bolton, offering a 486 SX25 (25Mhz), 8Mb RAM, 240MB Hard Drive, monitor, keyboard, mouse for just over 400 quid! A real bargain!

I will always remember that afternoon at 4.00pm meeting Kath (my wife) and kids outside the shop on Bradshawgate, about this time of I remember. In we went and asked for the computer on offer, at the time Windows 3.1 was extra, but I couldn’t afford that! We waited a long time in the shop while my machine was built and finally the boxes came in. Slight problem…they had no boxed monitors, so they let me take another monitor on show while they ordered my new one.

WOW!!! A brand new PC!

I remember loading up the boxes outside the shop on double yellow lines and driving off with a huge smile on my face! At home I sat on the carpet putting it all together, then going next door to borrow their discs of Windows 3.1 (7 floppy discs) It worked!
The next day we went off to MFI to buy a neat little trolley which fit nicely in our bedroom.

Never looked back…a lot of money, but what the hell!

My friend Doug supplied me with unlimited software and tons of advice for the PC. I’m still trying to remember the name of that shop that I bought it from…it will come to me one day!
Ahhh! ‘ESCOM’…Kath has just told me name of the company!

The PC served me well, I added a CD ROM drive later, updated the memory and put in a 486 DX80 processor.

Sold the computer a few years later and built one of my own….cool!!

How things have changed, last week I bought a 1GB flash drive! (Pen stick) GigaBytes were unheard of in the days of ESCOM and 486 machines.

Melissa…Digital Native!

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Here she is…meet Melissa…or ‘M’ as in James Bond!

This kid is a true Digital Native, button pressing and screens are her life. This kid can use a Sony Mobile Phone/Camera and send (blank) texts to numerous people on her Mums contacts list. She can shout ‘Cheese!’ in the Pub and take high quality photos of other people eating next to us. This kid can play computer games and loves ‘Mouseclub’.
During visit to PC World she managed to switch off the computer that controlled the displays of all the widescreen HD televisions sending half the store into darkness!
This is the kid who tells me that I must turn off the NTL box before I can play her favourite DVD so that no intereference is on screen!

A true Digital Native ‘M’…what will the future hold for you Melissa?

By the way….Melissa is just two years old….scary!!!

R1154 Transmitter

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I cannot believe that I actually had one of these in my shack, and in good condition, before I tore it apart! It’s the famous R1154 Transmitter that was used during the war in Lancaster Bombers.
Here is the story…

At the time I was working at Telefusion Ltd as an apprentice in my first year repairing UHF TV Tuner Units (Valve ones…PC86 and PC88) In the same room as myself was an Australian guy who used the sophisticated alignment equipment for Transistor Tuner Units. He was a licenced Radio Amateur in Australia and I thought he was really clever because he could use a ‘UHF Sweep Generator’ and Oscilloscope to accurately align these little beasties with their AF138 and AF139 transistors.

When he decided to move on and return to Australia, he asked me if I wanted this R1154 Transmitter, so I went to his house in Worsley with my Dad to collect this and a few other items. My intentions were to get the R1154 working, but it became obvious that it linked to other devices and would be impossible to get this going alone. I remember removing the front plate of this transmitter and seeing a row of huge high power valves in a line as though they were about to take off into space! The two meters on the front and also another seperate RF Meter that I used later to measure the RF Output of my Topband Transmitter.

So guess what I did with it?

I decided to gut it and remove everything that would be useful, particularly the coils, tuning capacitors and meters. The coils were connected to huge switches and the tuning capacitors to the brightly coloured knobs. Most of the case and knobs were thrown away, but the coils, capacitors and meters were all put to good use.

At the time it was a heap of junk….but now….I wish I could have put it in cold storage and then onto Ebay!!

Yellow Van!

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Watch out! Watch out…there’s a yellow van about!

The yellow van is owned by the Post Office Radio Service and driven by Gerry Openshaw G2BTO. Gerry was our local Post Office inspector, he was well respected and the sight of his van when working mobile would make any Radio Amateur quake in his boots!
When I was first got my Amateur Radio Licence the airwaves were monitored by the GPO and if you were to (God forbid!) step out of place and say something you shouldn’t on Topband, a visit from Gerry Openshaw was imminant. He had the power to close down your station at anytime.

Gerry is a great bloke! He came to inspect my station shortly after gaining my licence and very thorough it was too then signed my log book. Part of his job was finding Pirate Stations and at the time Topband was rife with them. (I tell a few amusing tales about them…stay tuned!) Using state of the art direction finding equipment, Gerry was able to pinpoint a station to within 10 yards…scary!!
I met Gerry once in town, his famous yellow van was parked outside the pastie shop on Churchgate and he was enjoying a pastie and taking direction finding readings on one of our local pirates. “Come on Steve…i’ll show you how it works” he said. There was the state of the art equipment…a ferrite rod, a map and an Eddystone EC10!! I thought the back of this yellow van was packed with equipment! Television Interference was another one of of his roles. Television Interference (TVI) from Radio Amateurs (and other sources) was a big problem. My friend Neil had a ‘Korting’ Colour TV and Gerry spent a lot of time trying to solve the problem by adding various filters.

Gerry has a long history of Radio Communication and has a great story to tell of his role during the war at Bletchley Park and the Enigma Code.

Cracking the secret code

Winter Hill Transmitter

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Back in 1967 my Uncle (Bill Kay), who worked for the IBA at the Winter Hill Transmitter invited my Dad and myself to come to the open day at the transmitter at Winter Hill. I thought this was fantastic and couldn’t wait for that day on the 27th September 1967, I was 13 years old!
We went up Georges Lane to the transmitter on a coach and when we arrived there was a marquee for refreshments next too the road.
I remember vividly the tour around the station in the ITV building particularly the Transmitter Hall and the Control Room. In the BBC building there was a real BBC Colour TV Camera and cameraman where I saw myself on Television in COLOUR…WoW! Remember, Colour TV was launched in 1967 so I must be one of the first to see Colour TV in action! (At home we never got a colour TV until about1975) I brought back loads of info about the station which I still have today.

A great day out – thanks Dad!

Since then, I spent quite a lot of time at the transmitter with Bill Kay (my uncle) on Sundays where I spent all day working with him on the transmitter. It was great to see the station during a normal day and how it was important to monitor the standard of the transmissions. During that time the transmitters were changed to 625 lines and a new extension was built to house the new equipment, this included semiconductor and digital technology.
I really enjoyed my visits to the station, at times I would wander about and look around the area of the mast and stand on the ‘stays’ which were concrete slabs that held the guys that hold up the 1015ft mast.

When I was at the transmitter one day Bill took me into the base of the mast, which is actually two small rooms with doors, here I could see the cables that supplied the signals to the aerials and see all the way up the hollow mast. The mast has a lift that takes engineers up to the 750ft level. If you slam a door at the mast base, the sound travels all the way to the top of the mast and bounces down again then bursts the door open! Incredible!!

I’ve got to tell this one…
Outside the station is a pool of water, which looked quite nice, but is really there in case there is a fire at the station.
One day, Bill was mending his Mini in the garage at the station when a guy came along and asked…”Have you seen an old Army Tank round here?” Bill looked at him puzzled and replied, “No, but there’s an old submarine in that pool there!” This guy really didn’t know what to make of it…I thought it was hilarious!
He went away scatching his head still looking for this Tank!

Radio Nordsee

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Do you remember the Pirate Radio Stations?

Back in 1965/6 I was listening to Radio Caroline during the day and Radio Luxemburg at night. Radio Caroline on 199 metres could be picked up clearly with a good transistor radio but not very strong. My Dad used to listen to Radio Caroline in the kitchen by placing our (GEC) Transistor Radio on top of the electric cooker power switch, this acted as a super aerial when picked up by the ferrite rod in the radio. Pop music during the day? unheard of if you listened to the BBC Light Programme or Home Service! When it went dark the reception of Radio Caroline went very noisy as QRM swamped the station from other continentals. (Remember Radio Prague and Radio Moscow?) Radio Luxemburg with it’s powerful transmitters and huge aerials was the best station to listen to at night if you wanted pop.

1967 and along came Radio 1!

The Postmaster General’s tried to make way for the BBC’s answer to Pop music by shutting down the Pirate Stations. Radio Caroline moved to international waters in an attempt to keep on the air.

“Too many stations! “
Was the excuse for trying to close the Pirates.

See the story of Radio Caroline

I remember the day when Radio 1 came on the air, got up early to listen to Tony Blackburn and the first ever Radio Broadcast before going to school. At school everyone was talking about it…pop music at 7.00 in the morning before school…Brill!!
I loved to listen to the breakfast show on Radio 1 in those days, Tony Blackburn would always play a great record just after the news at 7.30am.

I still listened to Radio Caroline, although there later became two Radio Carolines (North and South) Later however in 1971, another station appeared…an excellent station that could be picked up clearly and played not just pop music…but ROCK MUSIC!

This was Radio Nordsee International RNI which broadcast some super stuff! RNI was a Pirate Station from the Radio ship MEBO 2 located in International waters off the coast of Holland. When the station first came on the air reception reports were requested, so I sent them a full report of my reception of the station over space of a couple of hours. In return the station sent me a QSL card!

My best memories of RNI was listening to songs like Silvia and Hocus Pocus by the group Focus along with The Who and even Led Zeppelin! I could easily pick up the station from my own Communication Receiver (Hallicrafters SX24) or my ‘other’ broadcast receiver which was a wonderful old valve receiver with a half moon dial that sat in the cabinet that held up the bench in my shack! (The speaker was huge and you could really blast out the music from RNI!)

On the back of my QSL card details of the station are listed:

MW Transmitter: RCA 105 KW
Frequency: 1232 kHz – 244 metres, 1367 kHz – 220 metres.
MW antenna: Vertical Marconi

SW Transmitter 1: BBC 10 kW
Frequency: 6205 kHz – 48.3 metres
SW antenna: Inverted V

SW Transmitter II: RCA 10 kW
Frequency: 9935kHz – 30.18 metres
SW antenna: Inverted V

FM Transmitter: R&S 1 kW
Frequency: 100mHz

Generators: 2 x 250kVA Struver Diesel

Length: 60 metres
Width 9 metres
Displacement: 570 BRT
Aerial Mast: 52 metres

Who would have thought…

Today we have thousands of Radio Stations…it seems that anyone who wants one can have a licence for one! 24 hours of commercial crap! Play one record then ten minutes of ads, follow it with a phone-in, a wind-up and a competition. Garbage!!!

Bring back the Pirates!

CQ2 VHF Receiver

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This was a classic project! Back in 1969 there were very few Radio Amateurs transmitting on VHF (2 metres) along came this project in Practical Wireless which used a previously unknown device called an FET (Field Effect Transistor) these devices could work at very high frequencies (VHF) so I decided to have a go at this one!
After spending all my pocket money on a 2N3819 FET, the CQ2 began to take shape. I mounted the receiver on an aluminum front panel which was originally built to house an oscilloscope that I began to build when I was at school. (not a good idea!!) The metal chassis caused havoc with the tuned cicuit, so I rebuilt it on a piece of plywood! When the receiver was built I made a QUAD ANTENNA for 2m. The receiver was tuned by squeezing or lengthening the coil and fine tuning with the variable capacitor. Very tricky, as the receiver was a super-regen it was inclined to ‘take-off’ and blot out everyones television for miles around!

Here is the circuit…

The first results was listening to the gas board from their PMR transeivers, but after hours of twiddling I finally heard Chris Hartley from Bolton who worked 2m! Chris had a huge antenna system located in Bromley Cross and ran high power on 2m!

My very first attempt at VHF communications!

Why have I posted this…because my Grand Daughter, Melissa who is two years old decided to tear off the front cover of the original magazine (35 years old!!) After a big sort out with some magazines in my room. CQ2 Melissa!