Monday, December 31, 2007


While we are on the subject of classic groups and albums, this one is also timeless!

Its 1973 and I remember watching 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' late one night. The whole program was the group 'YES' recorded live from Earls Court (I think)
I didn't really know much about the group then, but that performance absolutely stunned me! Rick Wakeman surrounded by the most sophisticated analogue and digital equipment i've ever seen. Moog and Melotron synthesisers were state of the art then and the only other song I heard using one of these was 'Son of my father' about the same time!
'Yours is no disgrace', 'And You and I', 'Roundabout' and Rick Wakeman' s 'Six Wives of Henry the Eighth' solo was incredible at the time.
Here they are:

So what did I do next?
I saved up my money and bought the TRIPLE album 'Yessongs' This cost £8...a heck of a lot of money at the time. Again, I was at college and went out at dinner time into town, then upstairs at W.H. Smith's - which at the time was a great record shop. I had really given this some thought about buying the record, but finally made a decision to splash out. I then went back to college with my carrier bag containing my £8 triple album, I guarded it with my life!
Some of the lads at college were really into this kind of stuff, Dave Eire especially, he was dead impressed when I showed it off to the others!
When I tried listening to it at home on the headphones there was really too much to take in...where do I start?
When I met Kath, she also had 'Yes' in her collection as well, but not Yessongs!
As well as the tracks, the graphics are superb! You can only see this on the vinyl album to appreciate it!
This is one of those records that grows on you and become timeless! (but I still don't understand the lyrics!
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Led Zeppelin

Back in the 70's two of my favourite LP's were 'Led Zeppelin II' and the one that I called 'Led Zeppelin IV'. These albums are timeless! I remember listening to 'Black Dog' and 'Rock and Roll' at a record shop on Knowsley St called 'Russells' during my tea break when I was at college. The Cafe is still around today in a basement that Kath and Jacquie often visit. I saved my money and bought it shortly after. When I met Kath she also had the same two albums in her (amazing) collection!

During dark, wet nights like tonight I enjoyed listening to Led Zeppelin sat in the corner away from the telly and next to the solid state, state of the art, audio system that I built with my headphones on! (No iPods in those days!)

Just before Christmas Led Zeppelin re-formed to do a one off concert. I bought on the day it came out 'Mothership' the latest Digitally Remastered best of Led Zeppelin...superb! Here are photos of the concert

About the same time iTunes have released the complete catalogue of LZ for download.

A visit to PC World a few weeks ago reminded me of that first encounter at 'Russells' when Led Zeppelin was playing on a PC with digital Dolby 5.1. I could hear it all over the store, but I still kept walking back and standing in front of the PC to listen to the suberb quality...trouble is...assistants kept trying to flog me a PC!

Obviously, some of the young assistants at PC World like Led Zeppelin!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Classroom!

This picture shows the remains of my classroom at St Andrew's School.
Looks like the area is about to be transformed as builders move in to replace the school and all it's memories, with houses. Down the road a huge building structure is taking place that will become a all singing and dancing Health Centre and mini hospital. How times are changing this year!
After Christmas St Osmund's School will be demolished changing the face of the area again...for the better I hope! Quite a year!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Goodbye St. Andrews

This is difficult to swallow... so many memories, so many children, so many good times (and some bad times) I stood looking at the gutted heart of St Andrews school just five days before St Andrews Day! By Friday (St Andrews Day) all will be gone.

You can see the hall and stage, the staffroom, the door to Orange Class...still with displays on the windows, PE Cupboard. Nursery and Reception classes gone, just a pile of rubble.

Melissa was in Nursery, I wonder if she will remember?

My classroom next, still untouched, but 15 years working in the same classroom takes some swallowing!
But the top my tree...planted as a little twig twelve years ago!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


It never rains, but it pours! This man needs a yellow umbrella!

An eventful day...

St. Andrews, my old school has now reached the end of the road and the demolition crew have moved in. It was sad seeing Nursery and Reception building lying in a pile of rubble. The beautiful Ash tree that I planted at the front of the building about 12 years ago now gone. I stopped outside tonight and looked in awe, then shouted out of the window "Where is my tree!"

I was on my way to Focus in Horwich where Kath works, it too has reached the end of the road. On Friday the store closes as a Focus store, brought back some momentos in the final 90% off sale!! When I got home I watched the craziest ever game... England and Croatia on a new Wembley pitch that looked like a peat bog! The most important game for years, England had to win or draw to qualify for Euro 2008. Guess what?

Goodbye Euro 2008!

Lost 3 -2!!

and to think that I was going to buy a Digi Box for my new classroom so that we could watch Euro 2006 on TV....Humbug!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Goodbye VCR!

Well, the end is nigh...after a major battle with Philips and Sony Betamax, the VHS Video Recorder has finally reached the end of the road. Digital technology has taken over! I remember it well, the Ferguson Video Star top loader with its piano key buttons! A wonderful piece of engineering with a hint of digital control technology. I know this superb machine inside - out... Servos, Digital - to - Analogue convertors, chips, chips and more chips! I've lost count of the number of Video Heads i've cleaned with a chamois leather and isopropil alcohol. Video Heads were expensive, so you tried everything before replacing it. (remember the 'put it on pause for two minutes to unblock the head' then charge the customer £30 for the repair?)
When I went to University training as a teacher, one of my placements was at Bolton College where I taught students about the Video Star!

Philips and Grundig were non-starters, mechanically too complex, but electronically brilliant. They both had servos that physically moved the head position to track the signal from the tape. The BetaMax had a more simple mechanical system, but complex electronic system, playback quality was good, tapes smaller. I must admit I didn't really like BetaMax, it was difficult to find faults.

"Now VHS was...just right!" (said Daddy Bear!) A good combination of both digital and analogue technology for the time and a straight forward mechanical system. Easy to fault find and cheap to replace parts.

I bought my first VCR from Hitchins, my Mum got it for £80, A brand new Hitachi with big buttons on the front! A super machine that lasted for years!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Digital Holidaymakers!

What is a digital holidaymaker?

"Quite simply, they aren't trying to emigrate anywhere...Do you know any digital holidaymakers?

Quite probably yes.

If you've ever had the pleasure of leading in-service training on any ICT, you'll definitely have met some. They are the ones that will attend in-service training as it's a 'day out', go through the process of learning new things, cope well with the new ideas and then leave at the end of the day having shelved absolutely everything they learned - it was a day out of school after all, and the tutor was quite entertaining.You'll have met them on a day to day basis too. They are the ones that will incorporate ICT into lessons, units and topics where it explicitly says so. They are the ones that will use ICT to teach skills exclusively and make no connections to anything elsewhere in the curriculum. They are the ones that use the interactive whiteboard only on the day the QIO or HMIe comes to visit."

Well, I must admit that I have to deal with this daily!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sputnik - Analogue Native?

50 years ago today!
Now, I really don't remember this because I was only three years old, but I bet this little beasty was made up of early transistors and didn't have a digital bone in it's body. I would love to see the circuit diagram of this 'bleeping machine'. I'll bet it had a bi-stable mulivibrator, modulating transformer and a big valve!

Launch date: 4 October 1957
Mission: First man-made satellite to orbit the Earth

In 1957, Sputnik 1 became the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. The world looked on with awe as the space age began.
Sputnik was a triumph of technology. It sent back information about the atmosphere at the edge of space - and of course, it showed that man was capable of sending a spacecraft into orbit.
Yet Sputnik was never intended to be a scientific mission. The United States had already announced their plans to launch the first satellite. The Soviet Union wanted to show the world that their space technology was the best in the world. Sputnik's radio broadcast at a frequency that amateur radio fans could tune into - just to make sure the whole world was talking about the little craft.

Sputnik's transmissions were monitored all around the world. The craft itself was less than a metre across. However, the booster rocket that launched it also reached orbit, and this was easily visible from the Earth.
The satellite's batteries lasted about three weeks. The craft itself remained in orbit for nearly six months, and completed 1400 orbits of the Earth. The fact that the Soviet Union launched a craft that repeatedly flew over America did much to spur on the American space programme.

The word 'Sputnik' originally meant 'fellow traveller'. However, thanks to this little spacecraft, 'Sputnik' has come to mean 'satellite' in modern Russian.

Now this link is brilliant, it tells the story of and launch of Sputnik 1 Click HERE!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

High Pressure!

Todays pressure map.

Historically, Autumn and particularly the first two weeks of October, brings High Pressure and superb openings on the VHF and UHF bands into the Continent and Scandanavia. My logbook shows some great openings on 2m, 70cm and even 23cm!
Checking out my log book, here are some stations worked with less than 10w!
28/9/83 EA1NU on 2m (Spain)
12/10/85 HB9MIN on 70cm (Switzerland)
12/10/85 EA1CYE on 70cm (Spain)
13/10/85 HB9AEN on 70cm (Switzerland)
4/10/86 OK1DIG on 70cm (Belgium)

This one is a classic, this time a later opening in November:
5/11/87 FD1FHI on 23cm with about 50mw of power!
7/11/87 SP6MLK on 70cm (Poland)
Sadly, I have no beams (arials) anymore for 2m and 70cm, I feel that i'm missing something, but when I listen on the bands it is completely DX at all. The magic of working DX on an Autumn evening with the bands open is no more. Sometimes I would stay up most of the night listening and the excitement of working a continental station with home made equipment has to be experienced!
Don't you just love High Pressure!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Piccadilly Radio 261!

While we are on the subject of Pop Radio Stations... Piccadilly Radio on 261 metres MW.
My Ford Escort had three of these stickers displayed at the time, two in the back window and one in the front!

It's now known as Key 103, but it's roots lie in the early 70's when it first came on the air on Medium Wave as a 24 hour station. Great to listen to at night and during the day when I spent my days on the road doing field servicing. The studio was in Piccadilly Plaza (on the second or third floor I think) and when I went to Manchester on Saturday afternoons with Kath, we used to call in at the station to pick up some stickers and other info about the station.

I also remember a visit to Radio Manchester at it's old site in Piccadilly (next to Woolworths)

It was a visit organised by the Bolton Radio Society when I was secretary. We had a look around the studios and talked to the producers and engineers. At the time James Stannage was on the air who caused quite a controversy when he was at Radio Manchester. Wouldn't think twice about using the word 'Pillock' which was not acceptable on-air then!

One night on Radio Manchester (or Piccadilly...I can't remember) Johnny Walker was a guest and invited people to ring up to speak to him on guess what...I stopped my A35 car (with Kath) next to phone box near where she lived and rang up. I got through to the studio but then put on hold until my money ran out! At the time he had left Radio 1 and hadn't been heard of for ages. Now Johnny Walker is on every day on Radio 2!

Click HERE to find out more about Piccadilly Radio!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Radio 1 launch today in 1967!

September 30th 1967, Tony Blackburn presents the first ever show on Radio 1!

The 'Summer of Love' lasted all the way through the six weeks holiday when I was 13 years old. I can still remember the words of classic flower power records and Monkees singles! Going back to school still left me on a high listening to music at night on Radio Luxemburg and weekends on the Light Programme. Radio 1 was the BBC's answer to the Pirate Stations (which had been closed down by the BBC), Radio Caroline was my favourite!
Today 40 years ago Radio 1 was launched at 7.00am by Tony Blackburn, it was a Saturday so I missed the first half hour but woke up in time to listen to the rest of the programme on our transistor radio! From then on I would get up at 7.00am before school go downstairs, light the gas fire and switch on the GEC Transistor Radio (with it's PP9 battery) and listen to Tony Blackburn while reading my comics until ten to eight when I set off for school.
It was brilliant...pop music every morning with all my favourite songs before school!
The first record played by Tony Blackburn was 'Flowers in the Rain' by The Move.
Memories of Radio 1

Morning fry-ups (egg dips!)
The 7.30 news and a great record to follow
Reading Dandy and Beano comics while listening to Radio 1
Sitting next to the gas fire on a cold morning listening to Tony Blackburn (we didn't have central heating then!)
Waiting for White Plains 'My Baby Loves Loving' so that I could listen in my shack LOUD!
The GEC Transistor Radio sitting on top the 'stove' in the corner.

Friday, September 28, 2007

New Home!

Well, here it digital classroom!
In the cabinet are 15 laptops and the whiteboard is a latest SMARTBOARD along with an Hitachi Digital Projector, Hi-Fi Denon Amp and JBL Speakers.
I must admit that tonight I feel pretty worn out after teaching my class, chasing technicians around the school and trying desperately to get Interactive Whiteboards to perform. The trouble with computers and digital technology is that nothing is ever simple! Setting up wireless networks, computer domains, virus protection, network users and policies...the list goes on! They say that patience is a need it! Our technicians come for half a day a week...the rest I try sort out myself.
I enjoy it though, tonight I spent the best part of an hour after work sorting out and throwing out leads and digital projectors!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Digital Mischief!

Melissa loves my new school, lots of buttons to press and knobs to turn. On Wednesday she decided to test the fire alarm by pressing the button in my classroom causing havoc around the school! Builders and Electricians running around trying to find out what has happened and Staff leaving the building thinking that there really was a fire!
Well...who can blame her....she's a digital kid and three years old! The alarm box is actually eye level...for children! (You can see it in the picture below just to the left of the door) I wonder how many more Digital Kids will be tempted to press it!
It was all quite funny in the end!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Beginning of a new era?

Here is my new classroom at the new school.

Today the 'keys' were handed over in a photoshoot with the Bolton News. I have spent most of the week helping with the big move. On Monday the staff return to school followed next week by the children. You can see from my classroom millions of boxes, now multiply that by 100 and that will give some idea of the task ahead next week unpacking!

This is a 21st Century 'Digital School'

Camera Imaging for security, Digital TV and Audio points in each room, Interactive Whiteboards, piped audio and alarm systems and even eco friendly lighting that senses when you are not there to turn off the lights! Trouble is...they have these in the toilets as well, and they have no windows, so you have to keep moving or the lights go off!!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

End of an Era!

This is my classroom, empty and totally ripped apart. A lot of memories and a lot of kids!
You can see my interactive whiteboard and blackboard, my chair in the corner where I sat and talked to the children on the carpet.
Above the Whiteboard is the Video Conferencing Equipment ready for moving down to the new site. A super piece of digital technology!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Writing on the board!

Today I went into school to begin the big move down to our new school site. My classroom was completely empty with everything ripped off the walls and rubbish on the floor. My Interactive Whiteboard was still up and next to it part of my blackboard which was revealled when the 'Whiteboard' that replaced it was removed. This is what I wrote on the blackboard for the very last time with CHALK before the new whiteboard was fitted.
Look at the dates...we have been waiting since 2001 for the closure of the school and now at last, it is actually happening!
I was only 4 years out!
Here is an example of Chalk and Digital Technology (Interactive Whiteboard) working side by side.
The new school looks fantastic, wiring is fully integrated including digital TV, Microwave Broadband link and a 'Server Room' to house the servers and other digital equipment.
A 21st Century School! WoW!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Did I really look like that?

This photo was taken by Barry G3WIS back in 1973 (I think!) Nothing digital can be seen here at all!
In the centre is my faithful Halicrafters SX24 receiver with one of my first attempts at a 2m convertor, my multimeter to the left and external (large) S Meter attached to the receiver. Next to the SX24 on the right is the re-built Topband Transmitter with a vernier dial. To the left of the SX24 is a Crystal Controlled Calibrator and an old Cossor Oscilloscope bought from a 'junk sale'. On top of the shelf is my first 2m transmitter with a QQV03-10 valve which I later re-built.
The Tilley Lamp was in the corner, but you can't see it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer of Love!

1967 - Forty Years Ago! The Summer of Love!

This was the year when music started to make a real influence on my life! The six weeks holiday in Summer '67 became a milestone, every Sunday afternoon recording the latest Top Twenty with Allan Freeman on my Ekco reel to reel tape recorder with a microphone in front of the transistor radio! The Monkees 'Alternate Title', Scott McKenzie 'San Fransisco' I can remember and sing all the words now. This was a wonderful time, I was 13 years old and just discovering pop music...what a year! I started to buy 'Musical Express' and even attempted to read it, although some of it went completely over my head. I also bought my very first single ... 'I'm a Believer' by The Monkees.
Summer 1967 was the time when for the first time I encountered electronics. Earlier that year I built an 'Electric Shock Machine' made up following a visit to my Uncle Bill in Harwood one hot sunny afternoon to see if he could provide me with a transformer to make one up. In fact he built (on the spot) a very small transformer and buzzer to produce the best 'Electric Shock Machine' in the world! I took this device to school with me just before the holidays and had it 'confescated' by the Headmaster. He said I could collect it after school. I sheepishly knocked on his door at 4.00pm to ask for it back where he looked up at me from his work, handed it over and muttered "Not again boy, not again!" I don't think he had a clue what it was!

In Summer '67 my Uncle Bill (Bill Kay) made me a kit with nuts, bolts, transistors, resistors, capacitors and wires. It was a Monostable Multivibrator connected to a carbon earphone which produced a tone electronically. I was amazed with it! This launched me into the world of Analogue Electronics which would change my life completely for the next 20 years!

The mixture and influence of both music and electronics in the Summer of Love is unforgetable!
The image above is our 1960's week to celebrate the opening and closure of our school, my life now 40 years on!
Links: Monterey Festival

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I remember that Radio Amateurs in Bolton like G3XCI and G3YGJ used HRO's as their main receivers. I went to Tom's Cottage in Harwood (G3XCI) and he showed me this wonderful receiver with it's plug-in tuning modules and weird looking dial. In fact, hundreds of these receivers were used during the war at Bletchley Park for monitoring and code breaking.
One night in Winter 1970 I went to the Bury Radio Society with my friend Pete on a Tuesday night for the meeting. When we got there nobody was there! It seems that we got the date wrong! As we sat in the empy room wondering what to do as buses to and from Bury only run once every hour, a guy walked in that we had never seen before. We chatted with him and he was coming to the club for the first the date wrong. Then out of the blue he asked us if would like and old HRO receiver that he had at home and was going to throw it away. We were stunned...come and collect it he said! We had no transport, but the bus was not due for another hour or so so we walked down to his house on Manchester Rd, about a mile away to collect this beast. We carried this heavy HRO complete with PSU and tuning module all the way back to the George Hotel in Bury where we waited for the next bus. Then, we had to take it back to my house on the bus!
What did we do with it then? Well, we decided to 'Toss for it' if I win I give Pete my R109A and if he wins he gives me £10...fair enough? Trouble is...Pete lost...and he wasn't happy, cos he wanted it the end I let him have it and he gave me some money.
Imagine how naffed I was when a month later he sold to the guy on St Georges Rd for a fiver!!!

I never understood why???
We still stayed friends though!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

End of an era?



Went into Bolton town centre yesterday, got out of the car on the car park on Great Moor St. behind the old Odeon Cinema. This is what I's the Odeon Cinema being demolished and you can see the old insides of this beautiful picture house.
I could see the exits, balcony, fancy decorations and even the toilets!
This building has been left derelict in Bolton for years with it's white marble effect front and steps. Quite an imposing building!

Many memories of the Odeon...Saturday Morning Club, Saturday Afternoon Matinees ...cost 2 shillings to watch back in the 1960's! I took Kath (my wife) here on our first dates in the 1970's! (I seem to remember watching the Led Zeppelin movie here, sat in the balcony!)

I did like going to the was plush...carpetted...and next to the bus station!


In the 1960's I remember bands used to play here as well.

"It was one of Bolton's best-loved venues and hosted 1960s acts such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers, Dusty Springfield and Freddie and the Dreamers. Following interior rebuilding, its three screens showed thousands of films before it closed in January, 1983, when it was turned into a bingo hall amid protests from cinemagoers."

The sound quality and acoustics in this cinema were superb even in the days of analogue technology and the picture quality is not much different than it is today! They still play the same Pearl and Dean music before the adverts in the Multiplex Dolby Digital Cinemas in Bolton now...only difference is it's surround sound!!

Quote from the Bolton News:

"It is the end of an era as workmen move in to demolish the former Odeon cinema building in Bolton town centre.
Developer Woodthorpe Homes wants to turn the venue -which also hosted pop music acts such as Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry and the Bee Gees - into an 11-storey hotel, residential and retail complex.
The scheme includes 50 luxury apartments, offices, basement parking for 86 cars and offices and shops on the ground floor. The hotel section would occupy up to the eighth floor."

Cinema History:

Lido Cinema: now a huge building of luxury apartments.

Capital Cinema: turned into a JJB Sport's Centre then demolished and replaced with a tax office!

Queens Cinema: became an Asian Cinema then demolished and rebuilt as a Comet store.


Back in 1971 when I built my first topband rig I needed to power it, so I built from scratch, a nice 300 volt PSU on a shiny new aluminium chassis. BY100 rectifier diodes bought from a rally (which were leaky!) and smoothing capacitors which came from TV sets. I built this up with two ot three 16 microfarad capacitors lined up like missiles on the chassis. The PSU was 'hummy' to say the least, but it powered the transmitter! friend Paul came to my shack to see my new transmitter...

"CQ, CQ, CQ, ....Oh...the PA meter is not reading right"

"CQ, CQ ...what's happening...the inputs dropping...look Paul"

"I'll try again....CQ, CQ ... watch's going down!"


A capacitor bounced from the ceiling and the floor and the shack half filled with disgusting, pungent, oily, waxy white fumes! My ears rang and when I looked round mine and Paul's head and shoulders were above the smoke and everything else was submerged in white smoke! The marks of this catastrophy can still be seen in what is now the garage at my brother's house, the dint in the roof.So what was the cause of this?Remember the 16 microfarad capacitors? They were only rated at 250 volt and my transformer was pumping out near 350 volt into leaky rectifiers! Never again!

The chassis was a mess, buckled and covered in sticky wax and paper, thing is, the explosion went downwards as well which messed up my bench. Bit's of waxy paper could be found for the next few weeks in places you would not imagine!er...Paul didn't come back after that!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tilley Lamp

My shack at home consisted of a brick out-house joined onto the house with a coal shed and outdoor toilet next door (it was state of the art in those days!)

My 'shed' had a re-enforced, flat concrete roof which had a crack right down the middle and leaked. So there I was with a polythene cover to capture the water and my shack underneath, where I was building 350v Power Supplies! SCARRY!!

The biggest problem with my Radio Shack was heating it. At first I went in the evening with just a light on and a coat, then later I used a tall paraffin heater which kept me warm, but left condensation all over and boy did it smell!! (Not good with high voltage everywhere)

The Tilley Lamp was a Godsend...I still don't know where it came from, but this little beauty would heat up the whole shack and made it warm and cosy, even on a cold and frosty night. I can still see myself snuggled up to the glow of my Tilley Lamp, pumping it up every half hour or so to keep it going. A marvelous invention!

The great thing about the Tilley Lamp was that it was portable, so I took it along to Field Days up on Rooley Moor to heat up the tent. Wonderful!!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Starting out!

This picture was taken back in June 1971, I was 17 at the time and had just taken my Radio Amateur's Exam (RAE). You can see my faithful R109A Receiver and next to it my WS38 set powered by a 90 volt battery! The power for the R109A can be seen under the bench, 2x 6 volt motor bike batteries given to me my Arthur, G3JJM. Arthur managed to secure the R109A from a shop on Fold's Rd in Bolton who sold ex-government communications stuff...cost £1. 50p. I also bought the WS38 set from there as well. The shop moved to St Georges Rd and this became a hive of local 'pirates' who could obtain all sorts of equipment to cause havoc on 160m! I used to enjoy visiting the shop while at college, usually in that awful break time between 4.00 and 5.30 when I had to go back to college for night school. At the time I worked for Telefusion as an apprentice and went to college one day a week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Digital Dalek!

It's not often you see one of these while out shopping birthday!

This close encounter ocurred in Bury town centre, a real life Dalek trundling it's way through the shoppers. My Granddaughter Melissa was absolutely stunned when it came up to us and spoke! As I took some pictures with my mobile phone it came right up to my face and said

"Is this close enough for you!!!"

in a Dalek voice.

The Dr Who Police Box was there as well...Brill!

This was to promote the Dr Who Exhibition at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. I went last week with 60 kids...they loved it!

Back in 1963 I remember the very first episode of Dr Who, I was at a party at my cousin's house in View St, Bolton and about 8 years old. As I watched it on black and white TV it scared me to death...I even hid behind the couch! When the Daleks arrived later in the series I watched it on TV again shaking like a leaf, but assured that they were not real!

I remember watching the first ever episode of Fireball XL5 in 1962 ...that scared me as well! Steve Zodiac was great, I fell in love with Venus though even if I was only 8 years old! Just found out that her voice was Silvia Anderson... I did'nt know that!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

AR88D Receiver

I still dream to own one of these...the RCA AR88D!

A fantastic receiver, built in 1940 and used during the second world war in America. It is a huge beast and weighs a ton, but the the tuning drive is wonderful! I can feel it now tuning through 80m with the huge flywheel drive on an AR88D owned by someone else.

Maybe I should start collecting these old receivers and store them in the loft. I now have a Yaesu, but it doesn't tune like the oldies!
My Hallicrafters SX24 had a main tune dial similar to the AR88D and a lovely 'Bandspread' dial which had a big flywheel behind it, again...great to tune!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Time Capsule

Tomorrow my school closes forever.

In September we move to a new school site (The Moss) where Jacquie and Paul, my children, went in the 80's and 90's. To celebrate the opening we decided to make a Time Capsule, which was constructed by Dave my brother from stainless steel with an engraved plate on the top.
Today we filled the Time Capsule with newspapers, letters, coins and greetings from the children at both of our old school sites. The contents have been wrapped in aluminium foil like sandwiches and carefully placed in the Time Capsule tube. The tube has now been sealed with the many bolts and tonoght we took it to the site of our new site for burial.
In the Time Capsule were some DVD Videos and CD's which included digital information and contained Powerpoint Presentations and Word Documents.
The question is...will anyone in the future be able to access these resources? Will DVD and CD media retain the digital data for the next 50 years?

The thought of making a Time Capsule has really made me think, particularly with the digital media resources ... a lot of questions!
Do you remember the Sony Beta- Max, Philips and Grundig Video recorders, the 8-track car tapes, cassette tapes, reel-to reel-tapes, floppy discs, vinyl records? Even VHS is now obsolete!
It's only a matter of time before CD's DVD's and memory sticks are replaced and what about the Hard Drive...will it survive? Nobody yet has thought of something that will replace the HD's digital capacity...and guess what? It runs from a's mechanical (and analogue!)
Which is one good reason not to put a hard drive into a Time Capsule...the bearings will seize!!

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Today and tommorow is VHF NFD (National Field Day)

This used to be in September, but was moved in the later 70's to July. This was when we spent the weekend on top of a hill shouting "CQ CQ CQ, CQ Contest, CQ Contest!" As I write this I am listening to G3ZTT/P on 2m doing the same thing.

VHF NFD was quite an event. With the Bury Radio Club in the early 70's we would hike up to the top of Rooley Moor near Rochdale and live rough all through the night. I used to man the 4m tent with Neil G3ZPL and boy was it cold up there at 3am in the morning! To warm us up I brought with me my 'Tilly Lamp' which was great for heating the tent. Always got a bit quiet during the night, but the best time to catch those elusive DX stations.
Later, with the Bolton Radio Society we chose sites nearby, Affetsite was the favourite, located about 800ft asl on a car park right opposite the Pack Horse Pub which served lovely beer. Great fun operating most of the night with plenty beer on hand.

VHF NFD was run by the RSGB on bands 50mhz, 70mhz, 144mhz, 432mhz and 1298mhz. One year with the the Bury Club we used a dish antenna for 1298mhz and this worked well as long as you held it still! I remember taking my own home built 23cm converter and yagi up to Matchmoor Lane on Winter Hill one year, but I don't think we worked anyone.

There is still a lot of interest in VHF NFD, i'm listening on 144mhz to MW1LCR/P on top of a hill in Wales and he is doing quite well, but I can't hear most of the stations he is working. My Yaesu FT-817 is only connected to a disconne antenna, my array of yagis have long gone, but it's great listening to the at the moment.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Maplin Modem

Maplin 300 baud modem - the same one as mine but mine was in a similar home built case. I don't have a photo of this but I did make a video of Jacquie (age 5) playing on my Sinclair Spectrum with the modem next to it.
I bought this as a kit from Maplin and built it up along with a serial RS232 interface with a UART for the Spectrum. A dial-up programme and a couple of micro relays allowed auto dialling on the old telephone system before tone dialling. With the modem I could access the Open University's computers which allowed me to complete my assignments on-line, bulletin boards and the 300bps Prestel system. This was the internet in it's infancy!
I can't remember what happened to the modem...I think I sold it at a rally or bring and buy stall. A neat bit of kit at the time!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sinclair Spectrum

I could talk for hours about this technological icon...where do I start?
Home computers hit the market in the 1980's. My first encounter came in 1983 when I was doing an Open University course on computers. I was sent an 8080 based computer as part of the course. It was pretty crude, having no operating system and only understood basic commands. The course gave me an insight into digital technology where I learned about the building blocks of computers and CPU's.
My first ever computer was a 4 bit hand held Sharp computer which I traded for my Liner 2 tranceiver. I actually enjoyed using this little handheld device, no software, but would respond to standard basic programming language. I remember writing a Lunar Landing game on the machine which I later used on the Spectrum.
Buying a proper computer for the first time was difficult. The BBC Computer was the standard and beginning to arrive in schools, but it was very expensive. The Dragon 32 was very popular and I was tempted to go for that one. I remember making a journey to a great computer shop in Accrington, which also sold electronic components, to get some advise. So many machines...I was quite taken with another computer which didn't take off at the time but it's specs were nice...The Lynx computer.

My first experience of the Sinclair Spectrum came when a friend of mine invited me to his house to have a look at his new Sinclair Spectrum 48kb machine. He showed me games that blew my cotton socks off! Pi Man, Space Invaders and The Hobbit. Graphics were out of this world and the rubber keyboard so easy to use. I really wanted one, but they were expensive £199 for the 48K which at the time was a heck of a lot of money. Then, suddenly W.H.Smith dropped the price and advertised it in a full page spread in the newspapers. I went to buy one!

I remember going into the shop that morning expecting all the machines to be sold but not so...they had some in stock, so away I went with my new purchase straight to work having taken time off to get one!

From then on the Spectrum was my life...night after night downloading programmes games and software from the radio on 2m. Data was saved in audio onto audio tapes. Bought a new tape recorder, made up leads, bought tons of accessories...most of which were useless, and best of all bought tons of 5 minutes long tapes to store the programmes.
Digital and Analogue technology in harmony!
Later, I wanted a Joysick and it's plug-in interface, but again this was expensive. The Spectrum and other new Computers on the market were now taking off, so at Belle-Vue in Manchester probably the first Computer Fair arrived. I went along not really expecting what to find, but that was one of the best afternoons ever. I came away with Joysick, interface and loads of other stuff at less than half price! Later, I splashed out and bought a printer which used heat sensitive paper but worked quite well.
My Spectrum became the centre of many projects, my best was the construction of a 300 baud MODEM and interface for the spectrum which controlled access to the Open University's computers in Manchester and Newcastle. (the early internet!) The interface programming was written in pure machine code which I wrote myself! I even wrote a programme that stored telephone numbers and then auto-dialled through the 300 baud modem. I was then able to access bulletin boards.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Creative Anachronism

The Decca CTV22 a Creative Anachronism from the early 1970's

Today I recieved my weekly newsletter that keeps me up to date with digital technology in education. Here is an interesing bit that made me think...

"Due to both the lack of creativity in most of the technically inclined and refinements in plastic forming and mass production, the home computer was denied what I feel to be the proudest time in the life of any technological device.
It was robbed of the fleeting, wonderful period right after invention, where it is celebrated and honoured by the finest craftsman and creative minds, and given a structure befitting its potential and greatness.
It was essentially denied a "novelty period".
When the steam train roared into history, hissing smoke and howling into the night, it was an awesome beast, adorned in the finest woods, ivory, gold, and intricate inlays, like some Serpent King on a sacred tapestry. The automobiles of the 20's to 60's, each was a work of art.
The television and radio affected the world in more ways that can be imagined, changing the entire dynamic of human social structure and communication. They were both appropriately gifted with the most lavish of hand tooled, wooden scrolled cabinetry, housings which borrowed architectural details from the grandest schools, churches and banks.
Sadly, the personal computer, which has impacted the world more profoundly than probably all of the previously mentioned inventions put together, never received the same kind treatment. It went from a buzzing beige cube, to a buzzing white one, to the garish space-eggs you see nowadays."
In other words...You can have it any colour you like as long as it's grey!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Digital Overload!!

Yesterday, I had a new loan car delivered while my Ford Focus was being repaired. (having been bumped by a truck from behind!) A 2L Ford Mondeo with just about every digital gadget in the world fitted!
Took me a whole day to work out how to use the radio, the SATNAV is asking for a CD, the heater and cooler has a digital readout making it difficult to balance the two. It even tells you how many miles are left of fuel! Switches all over the place...Melissa had a play and it took me ages to try to restore the car back to normal. I was driving along with a kind of 'heat haze' on the windscreen making it difficult to see, I realised that Melissa had turned on the front windscreen heater!
Gosh...I remember the days when your new car never actually had a radio fitted or even a carpet!
The times I spent on my hands and knees fitting an 'AJAX' car radio and speakers, drilling holes in the wing for the aerial and cutting carpet to make it fit in a brand new Ford Escort!

Times have changed!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Here she is...'M' ...the Digital Kid!

Today is her 3rd Birthday and Easter Sunday, An Easter Digital Kid! Melissa never ceases to amaze, she picks things up so quickly. For her birthday Mum bought her a Karaoke Machine, complete with microphone and buttons to play songs. Well, you can imagine how quickly she learned how to operate this digital problem!
Last week she took photos using my new Canon EOS 350, scared me to death letting her hold my precious camera, but she took her photos and gave the camera back to me...phew!!

Happy Birthday Melissa!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lifetime Licence!

I received my Lifetime Licence from OFCOM the other day. That means that I don't pay for my Amateur Radio Licence any more! Well, 15 pounds is what I have payed for the last 30 years, which is not bad really. It means that (at last!!) my Callsign is mine and nobody can have it until i'm gone!

Super! I now want my Callsign as my Car Registration....trouble has a 'Q' which is not allowed!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Whats a QQVO3-20A?

This amazing valve, which looks a little strange, was a wonderful device for VHF and UHF transmitters. Driven correctly, it would provide 20w output on 144mhz and 10w output on 432mhz. The device had twin anodes which was great for balanced tuned circuits. It's 'big brother' was the QQVO6-40A which would provide 50w+ output, but needed a higher voltage. It's little brother was the QQVO3-10 which looked like a conventional valve.

My first 70cm transverter used two of these QQVO3-20 devices, one to 'triple' the frequency from the 144mhz input to 432mhz and the other to provide the power output.

The base was made of ceramic and quite difficult to obtain. The transverter was Grid Modulated for Amateur Television Transmissions and worked quite well! Quite a bit of metal work was needed to build the transvertor, including tapped brass anode and grid lines. It was tuned with a PTFE square which passed between the anode lines.

Now, I had some of these devices in a box in my loft, but I can't find them...surely I didn't throw them away? I'm still looking!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Radio Rallies

These well worn badges were bought and made at the Leicester Show by one of the dealers. I must admit that sometimes I stayed incognito at rallies!
Radio Rallies were great events for Radio Amateurs! It was a chance to meet others amateurs that you talked to on the Radio and buy equipment and components from dealers that normally would advertise in Radio Communication Magazine or Short Wave Magazine. You could get some real bargains!

In 1969 I went to my very first Radio Rally at Preston. The venue was at the T.A. Headquarters on Deepdale Rd, next to the football ground. I only had about 50p to spend! I was amazed to see so much equipment all under one roof. I came away with a huge bag of mixed components which lasted me for years afterwards.

During the 70's and 80's I travelled to many Rallies on Sundays, Drayton Manor was one of my favourites and in 1982 when I went down with Kath and little Jacquie now 2 years old, it the end of April! The whole thing was a disaster as most of the Rally was set in large Marquees. I remember carrying Jacquie freezing cold and unable to use the buggy because the snow was so deep. To top it all, Kath lost her engagement ring in the snow!

Rallies I went to in the 70's and 80's include: Drayton, Leicester, Belle-Vue (Manchester), Bolton (Silverwell St and Horwich Leisure Centre), Bury (Castle Leisure Centre), Telford (a pain to get to!) I went to few other 'odd' ones as well.

The best, without doubt, was the Leicester Show at Granby Hall. A brilliant rally where you were guaranteed to get everyhing on my shopping list and some great bargains (70cm Transverter to match my FT101E for 30 quid...boxed and new!!) Could spend hours at Birkitt's stand and buy hard to get components dead cheap! I actually took time off work to go to the Leicester Show as it was a three day event.

In the late 80's I had my own stand at the Bolton Rally in Silverwell St and the Bury Rally just to sell off my own 'junk' I really enjoyed it!

Sadly, Radio Rallies are not what they were....the best ones have now gone, and the ones that are left have lost the atmosphere and appeal. Although, it is the Blackpool Rally next week...might just have a look!

In the Digital World, Radio Rallies have been replaced by 'Computer Fairs' ...more on this later!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Analogue Weather Station

In the early 1980's Bill Kay (My Uncle) sent me a complete analogue weather station which came off the Television Mast at Winter Hill. (along with some spare bits) It had actually been struck by lightning (several times) when on the mast and was replaced. This machine was painted grey and built of solid brass to military standards for weather recording. A superb piece of equipment, but REALLY heavy! The equipment had a wind speed rotor and wind direction fin with sensors which could be connected to meters.
I had the station running at one point with the station mounted on the shed, but the weight of this monster was not really practical!

When I spent some time on Sundays at the Winter Hill Transmitter, every hour the Manchester Met office would ring the station for the latest weather readings. In the reception area on the wall were the wind speed, direction, pressure and humidy meters that were read and passed on to the Met Office along with cloud type and height (which could easily be estimated from the cloud cover of the Mast)
Amazing to think that I had some of the same equipment in my back garden!

The weather station was eventually passed on to a school to be used as part of the Science Curriculum. (I seem to remember putting it in Loot to see if any local school wanted it!)
I now have a digital weather station sitting on my desk which tells me the inside and outside temperature, humidity and what the weather is like at the moment!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Analogue Native - Digital Rebel!

Here is Winter Hill taken from Scout Rd with my 200mm Zoom lens.

I'm now truely a Digital Rebel!
Bought the Canon EOS 350D Kit with 18mm - 55mm lens and 55mm - 200mm zoom lens. At last I have updated my kit to DSLR. My Pentax MV is great, but like everything else...time to move on!

Test images with the Canon are superb! Easy to use in Automatic Mode, just point and click!

I'm going to have some fun with this camera!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Digital Rebel!

The EOS 350D DSLR 'Digital Rebel' (It really is called 'Digital Rebel')

Twenty five years ago I bought a Pentax MV automatic SLR camera. It was state-of-the-art then and cost me 120 pounds which I bought through Littlewoods Catalogue. A super piece of equipment, fully automatic, 35mm...great!

Last year, I finally bought, on Ebay, a wide angle lense, 200mm zoom lens and flash for less than 30 quid! I have a superb 35mm set up!

So whats the problem?

The problem technology!

Film Photography is dead, you can still get photos processed two days later, but today you can choose and print your pictures immediately on the computer.

I want a state-of-the-art DSLR (Digital SLR) so that I can catch up on the latest techniques in photography, particulary in Astro-Imaging. My Sony Cybershot is fine for snaps, but when it comes to Deep Space Imaging it is useless. I use my Philips Toucam Pro II webcam which is great, but the best images that I see are with the Canon 350D DSLR.

So do I splash out and buy one of these....or carry on with my webcam?

Am I opening a new Pandora's Box when it comes to imaging with a DSLR?

Will it cost more money for all the add-ons, adaptors and stuff?

How can I justify spending 399 pounds when I already have a 35mm film set-up?

I'll let you know when I decide!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Test Card F

An institution! Never to be forgotten and I will certainly always remember the famous BBC Test Card! During my twenty years or so as a Television Technician this wonderful piece of analogue art would light up the screens. As an apprentice I used to time the start of the BBC2 Test Card with it's music at Nine O'clock in the morning and try to guess which tunes would play first! Sometimes my favourite two tracks would come on first!

The test card of course was used for setting up and aligning colour televisions. The blackboard and noughts and crosses marked the centre of the screen. The cross was used to accurately align the Red and Green Static Convergence, the horizontal and vertical lines on the blackboard were used to align the Blue Static Convergence. Other outer white lines were used to set up the Height, Width, linearity and dynamic convergence controls. Many an hour spent trying to get the alignment 'that little bit better' and wishing you had never started!

During bad days the smile of that little girl and the relaxing music became quite theraputic when things were not going right!

So who is this little girl?

Her name is Carole Hersee, daughter of the Engineer and Designer George Hersee. She made her first appearance on BBC2 in 1967. (Where are you now Carole?)

Check out the Test Card History site and this great news page from the BBC about Test Card F

What about Test Card 'C' and the music? HERE!

How about your own Test Card F Wallpaper? HERE!

Some facts:

Carole Hersee has had more television airtime than Carol Vordermann, Coronation St, News 24 and Bart Simpson! (all put together!)

The ITV Test Card F which was transmitted from Winter Hill, was a 35mm photographic colour slide and flying spot scanner. (I actually held the slide!!)

The clown's name is called 'Bubbles'

Carole Hersee is four years younger than me!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Telpro Kids!

The only picture I have of me working on televisions! here I am with Brian quality checking some Telpros. OK...this was a set up... the photo went in a management magazine, so the televisions were not actually connected (note the wires!) We were given a couple of newly ironed white coats to make it look good. (In reality, I wore a short grey dust coat!)
Do you like the long hair and flared jeans?

Back in the 1970's Telefusion launched it's own version of the Decca Bradford television called the 'Telpro'. The circuit was identical to the Decca 2230, but the chassis and components were totally different. At first production started with the black and white TV called the M101 followed shortly after by the Telpro Colour Receiver.

Production started at Cobden Mill (where I worked) then later moved to a new factory at Kearsley. I remember the very first employed production line girls (Janet and Susan) fresh out of school who later became managers on the production lines (where are they now?)
I was involved a bit with the design of the Telpro by telling Gerald, the design engineer and radio amateur, who I was pally with at the time, that it was not a good idea to use cheap foreign transistors, especially in the video output drivers! I got them changed to proper ones!!

I worked at the Heywood warehouse later and set up a Quality Control system for incoming goods from different suppliers, including Telpro. Managed to get them to change a few things at the factory like the convergence yolk, which cause havoc to the convergence of colours after the sets had been moved.

The Telpro was a good little earner for Telefusion and even produced a prototypes of a new model based on the Decca 80 /100 system.

Sadly...Telefusion was taken over by Visionhire, who didn't want to know when it came to producing televisions, so promply closed down the factory at Kearsley!
The end of an era!

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Well, the end is nigh!

The Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) has served us now for many years, but now there is a DIGITAL replacement...the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) Alright, I gave in about about four months ago when I bought a 32" LCD Television to replace our Grundig 26" CRT TV.

Many memories of the CRT. These beasts were made of solid glass with a vacuum inside and were incline to 'IMPLODE' if you didn't treat them right! When I worked at Telefusion as an apprentice this was a common occurance if you dropped a Television on the floor or dropped the CRT that you had just removed. Scary stuff!!
One day we had a flood at the Gower St Mill when the fire sprinkler system went off just above the CRT store. One of my tasks was to take the CRT's out of the wet boxes and send them down a conveyer belt to the floor below for re-boxing. What a sight when a conveyer belt full of CRT's started to slide down the belt and collide with each other 'BANG!!' glass everywhere, we all ran for cover!!

These beasties needed 25000 volts on the final anode to make them work and the rubber connection clip would hold that charge for a heck of a long time because the CRT made a perfect capacitor. The final anode had to discharged before even touching the CRT, and what a crack it would make with a couple of screwdivers! Changing a Colour CRT was a regular job and I must have changed hundreds in my time, but always wary of the static voltage still on the frame even when discharged.

I once had a stint as an apprentice at CRT testing and re-juvinating (blasting) - a scary job!

No...I won't miss the served it's purpose, but let digital technology rule on this one!!

Rest in Peace! (See the link!)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Digital Birthday Cake

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 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!!

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.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Melissa...Digital Native!

Here she 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!!!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

R1154 Transmitter

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!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Yellow Van!

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

Friday, January 19, 2007

Winter Hill Transmitter

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!