Saturday, December 07, 2013
Last week I read an article in this months RADCOM by G0CHO about using a DVB-T stick as SDR to recieve all modes from VHF to Microwaves. I was fascinated by the article and also the free software to use with the stick. I have an old stick, but the chip is not suitable for SDR.
I decided to buy a new DVB-T RTL stick, so set about trying to find one on ebay. I was amazed to find a company called 'Cosycave' selling a new and fully tested DVB-T stick complete with leads and all the software required to receive SDR...and the cost? £13.95!!!
I sent for the package and it arrived from Jersey the next day...too good to be true?
Definately not! The instructions that came with it on the disc is worth gold, very thorough, step by step instuctions on using the software and setting up the stick. Also includes SDR Sharp, an excellent and easy to use piece of software. After going through the initial set up the DVB-T stick worked straight away with SDR Sharp. I was amazed to be able to tune any frequency in all modes with just a tiny stick. Where are the tuned circuits, coils, variable capacitors? How could something so tiny receive everything from broadcast FM stations to Packet, Weather Satellites and Amateur Bands including 70cms and 23cms?
When I first got the stick receiving I listened to a local station on 2m and watched the spectrum waterfall for other stations. It seemed a bit insensitive, but then I realised that there is an RF gain control in SDR Sharp. When I found it I wound up the RF Gain and almost fell off my chair...wow!
Now I am hooked on this SDR stuff, it has opened up a new dimension that I didn't know about. I thought SDR was expensive and even plug in sticks like the FunCube were not cheap. To think that you can buy the whole SDR set up for 13 quid is fantastic!
Now I am experimenting with weather satellites, with the pack you get software for decoding and displaying the weather pictures from the NOAA satellites. Today I built a 137Mhz Turnstyle Antenna which seems to work well.
Saturday, November 09, 2013
Bolton Institute of Technology (BIT) was the new Higher Education college which later became Bolton Institute of Higher Education (BIHE)
This is where I met Kathleen at the Saturday Night rock concerts in 1973. I remember waiting outside for the doors to open. Inside was loud rock music and two groups. Kathleen started to go there before me and saw some big groups like 'Hawkwind' and 'Vinegar Joe' (Elkie Brooks) I saw groups like 'Judas Priest', 'Dr Feelgood' and lots of local rock groups. Youngers Tartan Ale, Newcastle Browns and Steak Butties...I used to live for Saturday night at BIT! Sweet!
As well as the social side of BIT, I also went on an evening course there in the tower block to learn about BASIC computer programming. It was truly amazing looking back now. In the room were 'terminals' like typewriters and you built your programme without any VDU to see what you were doing, making sure that you didn't make any mistakes. The computer that served the terminals was a PDP11 Mini-Computer that sat in the corner with lights flashing and wires everywhere. When you saved your work it was a paper tape full of holes that you rolled up, took home and brought back again to put into the reader so that you can carry on. I wrote my first comuter programmes then (we call the apps now)
I really enjoyed that course, I learned a lot and still use it now that the new 'Computing Curriculum' has now been developed in schools. It is like going back in time!
Things have changes so much now, the tower block and a lot of the buildings have been changed. Now it is Bolton University along with a huge sports and leisure centre. Across the road is the new Bolton College and Sixth Form College. It is very impressive!
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Back in the old analogue days when I met my wife Kathleen we went to BIT (Bolton Institute of Technology) on Saturday nights to watch rock groups and freak out to loud music and Newcastle Browns. On Sunday things were a quieter, we went to the Trotters pub on Bradshawgate in Bolton. The Trotters was a strange place named after the nickname for Bolton Wanderers football club and quite close to the football ground at Burnden Park.
Sunday night was disco night upstairs at the Trotters, we went there a lot just to have a quiet drink and chat. The best you got in the way of rock was 'Radar Love' which I danced to once! So why do I think this place is special? Well, this is the place where we decided to get engaged and later married!
Also across the road was Mike Dzubias shop where I bought a lot of my electronic components. Next to that was the Clarence Hotel which was the venue for the Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society in the 70's.
The Trotters shut down and knocked down... I don't know why that was...strange!
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Jack G8HIK and myself at the exhibition.
On Thursday I went into Bolton to look at the 'Preparing for Winter' exhibition. There were lots of things to see including the Emergency Services, Mountain Rescue, Gritters and RAYNET.
Only a couple of days earlier I was thinking to myself that I had not heard anything about RAYNET recently. I don't remember seeing anything in the magazine RadCom as well.
I had not been involved with RAYNET, but some of our club members from The Bolton and District Radio Society were active back in the 80's and 90's. I was surprised when I saw Jack G8HIK and Max looking after the RAYNET stands during the exhibition. It was nice to chat with them after such a long time!
Max and me with my grandaughter Melissa
Picture of Max around 1980 during a DF Hunt.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Shortly after I was born my parents moved into a flat at Draycott Street on Halliwell Rd. I have a lot of vivid memories of this house. I remember the old record player in the corner with the green velvet around the record deck and the needles that had to be put into the arm head. We listened to my dads 78's.
In the other corner was our first television set, black and white! I loved to watch Popeye, Sparky the Battery Boy and Four Feather Falls. My bedroom had a fireplace and my Dad had a workshop in a small room upstairs, with a 'Wolf' drill that made a lot of noise and scared me. There was a shop joined on to the building and an old lady lived upstairs in the flats. Across the road was another shop that sold fishing stuff, I went there to buy some little fishing nets to play games like fishing in the mop bucket!
My Dad had a motorbike and sidecar, he would spend a lot of time in the yard tinkering with the motorbike, I remember riding in it with my Mum. When I was old enough, I went to Nursery school up the road at Wolfeden Street, on a Friday my Dad would buy me a Matchbox car from the shop on Halliwell Rd. Also just round the corner was my Aunt Gladys who lived on Halliwell Road. When I took this photo I felt strange because although everything has changed now, I can still see the old slate walls around the house and the motorbike. Happy memories!
Monday, October 21, 2013
Bullough's Radio and Television had their Head Office and service department on Manchester Rd in Bolton. When I was at college some of my friends were apprentices there. At the back was a 'dump' where they would throw away panels from old televisions and radios. It was a goldmine for components when I wanted to build something when I was about 13. I remember once carrying a huge bag of old panels and bits from there into town then crossing the Johnson St footbridge over the railway station. I got stopped by two 'big lads' who promptly beat me up for no reason at all, probably because I was helpless with my big bag of bits. I still carried them home on the bus even though I was bleeding after my encounter.
Later in the 70's Bullough's changed it's name to Rumbelows and then later still was taken over by Focus Ltd. Now all these television companies have gone. Only Curry's remain...
The Bullough's Head Office building still remains, but for other purposes!
Back in the 60's Bullough's was one of the major television rental stores in Bolton. The store was on Knowsley Street and it also had a great record shop inside the store where you could listen to music in one of the small sound booths. I used to like going there when I was young, even though I didn't have enough money to buy a single record which cost 7/6p at the time. If you were really lucky, the girl behind the counter would play a record for you, even if you were only 11 years old. (as long as the boss wasn't around) The record shop was featured in the film 'The Family Way' Hayley Mills as Jenny, worked in the shop and some scenes show the inside of shop as well.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
My first company car in 1975
In 1975 I was 21 and had just finished my apprenticeship in electronics, I decided to move on from my job at Telefusion. I got a job at a small company in Bolton called Harlow Electronics. The name 'Harlow' was derived from the companies original directors - Ken Harris and Kevin Ludlow. They had two shops, one on Halliwell Road in Bolton and the other on Market Street in Farnworth. Both shops sold and rented televisions, mainly Thorn televisions (Ferguson, HMV) Ken Harris later became service rep for Thorn based at Chetham Hill in Manchester. I met him a few times when I worked at Telefusion.
On the roof is a home made mag mount 1/4 wave for 144Mhz inside the car was my Pye Cambridge transceiver.
The job came with a company car, which was a green Ford Escort. At first I had a second hand car, but later was given a new one. It was great having my own car, I had only passed my driving test a few months before. The workshop was at the Farnworth shop. Most of the time I worked on field service repairing televisions in the home and also delivering and setting up new colour televisions.
I remember that my service manager was called Kevin, Aziz was the other engineer and the driver was (I think) called Dave.
I worked there for a year. At first I really enjoyed being out on the road in my car, but later I found it quite hard working with a small company. Prospects looked gloomy and didn't want to stay. In the end I returned to Telefusion and later TAM Techserve where I got a company car again. I guess I felt claustrophobic working at Harlow, not for me.
Some years after I left, Harlow set up as an electronics company in an old mill on Chorley Old Road. They did close circuit television systems. After a few years the company seemed to disappear in the turmoil of the electronics industry in the 80s and 90's.