Saturday, August 30, 2008


The last few days have brought warm nights.
While sat in the garden sipping my amber nectar a bat flutters around my discone antenna. I have tried a few times to capture an image of this silent little creature. Is it really a bat I can see or is it a bird?
Well tonight I finally cracked it, here it is... a cute little bat!
Here it is close up...

Amazing to watch, flying at high speed twisting and turning but never bumping into anything.

So is it digital or analogue?

I works like radar a thing called 'echolocation'
Acoustic features of bat echolocation calls:
Frequency Modulation and Constant Frequency: Echolocation calls can be composed of two different types of frequency structures: frequency modulated (FM) sweeps, and constant frequency (CF) tones. A particular call can consist of one, the other, or both structures. An FM sweep is a broadband signal – that is, it contains a downward sweep through a range of frequencies. A CF tone is a narrowband signal: the sound stays constant at one frequency throughout its duration.

Definately sounds analogue to me!

A nice link for a more technical explanation:

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Morse Test

The Liver Building - A magnificent structure!

In 1971 however it was a bit mucky. This is where I had to go to take my Morse Test having just passed my RAE (Radio Amateur Examination) Using Georges Tapes (G3ZQS) I finally mastered the CW and was able to send and receive at a speed of around 20wpm (words per minute) and applied for my test in Liverpool.

I can remember the day so well. (I was a nervous wreck!)

My Dad took me to Liverpool and I had to arrange time off work at Telefusion. We travelled down the East Lancs Road into Liverpool, I remember shops having metal shutters, something we never saw in Bolton then! When we arrived my Dad stopped a man near the docks to ask for directions, he told us how he was on strike!

We entered the liver Building and climbed up three flights of stairs to the maritime bit for my test. My Dad waited outside when a man came along and I was taken into a small, long room with a table with three morse keys, one made of solid brass.

"Try them out" the said! When we were ready he sent me morse code groups at 12wpm. I was happy with that, but when it was my turn to send I thought I had fluffed it! The guy laughed and said "You held on a bit there....but have passed!"

Well. you can was like passing my driving test! I was over the moon!

Digital communication, text messaging...what the hell...I can still send and receive morse code after all this time! Whats more...I can send morse code faster than my daughter can text on her phone!
Morse code is not digital, you learn by listening to the 'rhythm' not counting dots and dashes!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Digital London Bus?

The closing ceremony of the Bejiing Olympics was awesome!
Our 2008 Team GB were fantastic - 19 Gold Medals, 4th Place!
London 2012 coming up!

Handover to London...
Well what can I say...a red London Bus? Come on?
Jimmy Page playing 'Whole Lotta Love' from 1969?
Leona Lewis in a Spanish Flamingo Dress?
Boris on a 60's trip?
Was Cliff Richard driving it?
Come on GB, look to the future if we have one! The athletes have done their stuff, how about the rest of us?
By 2012 China will leave us in the dark ages, look at the digital technology used during the games, everything from digital satellite links to digital fireworks. While we still ride around London in big red buses China control the digital technology. They have a stranglehold of digital technology production and export to our country. They buy up our scrap metal and things that we don't want and produce goods that we buy!

It's time GB woke up, if we fall out with China and Russia turns the gas off, we can't afford London 2012!

Will the last person that leaves Britain please turn the lights off!

Why do we rely so much on other countries for technology, we have the brains but not the brawn!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Codar AT5

I never used one of these famous 160m / 80m transmitters. A friend of mine from college had one and I spent one lunchtime having a look at it. So small and compact, unbelievable that this was a valve rig (and unbelievable how this thing was stable looking at the chassis layout!)

I know the circuit of this transmitter back to front.

I built my own 160m transmitter back in 1970. The valve line up was EF91 (VFO), EF91 (Buffer), 5763 (PA) ECC83 (AF PREAMP), 6BW6 (AF AMP/MODULATOR) the design came from Short Wave Magazine by F.G. Rayer G3OGR. Frank Rayer produced many variations of the famous Codar AT5, basically the same circuit!

When I built mine I had all kinds of problems, particularly winding the coils and obtaining a suitable PA anode choke. I eventually got one from the shop on St Georges Rd who reluctantly let me have one. He asked me how old I was and am I really old enough to buy a transmitting choke! The modulation choke was a sod to find as well. I needed two air spaced capacitors (500pf), one dual gang I got from an old radio, but the second had to be pretty substantial. I ordered one from Modern Radio, when it came it was brand new and cost me an absolute fortune. I had it up and running long before I got my licence, but boy was it unstable...dip the PA capacitor and the VFO went up the band causing havoc! I borrrowed my transmitter to George G3ZQS and he used it for a while on 160m but drifted up and down the band! While he was using my rig we had a heck of a thunderstorm while he was working Neil (G3ZPL) and Chris (G4AGJ) his antenna got hit by lightening and the plates of the air spaced capacitors got welded together!

I just had to add this photo! This is me in back in 1970 using the rig, the front panel is actually green, made from steel made by my Dad at work. To the left is my R109A receiver and then my WS38 (which I didn't use much) The lamp on top of the R109A is my 'Dummy Load' which was used to replace the antenna to test the transmitter - a 15w bulb that lit brightly!

Needless to say when I finally got my licence I rebuilt the transmitter on a better chassis with more screening and it worked a treat!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Verve

After ten years The Verve have made a comeback. I watched in awe at their performance at Glastonbury this year. It was incredible! Tonight I watched in awe again at the Radio 1 studio performance. Richard Ashcroft and the guys have matured but at the same time got better.

Back in 1998 The Verve and Richard Ashcroft wrenched some of my feelings and put them into words, yet soothed me through the awful times of the infamous OFSTED inspection. I sat in my loft room writing my lesson plans while listening to 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' and the rest of that classic album 'Urban Hymns'.

Tonight I cried when I listened to 'Lucky Man' and 'Bitter Sweet Symphony'. When Verve performed at Glastonbury I cried at the same songs...they are so powerful!!

The video of Bitter Sweet Symphony is so simple, but its my favourite ... it depicts life in such a vivid yet subtle way.

Rock on Richard..older but wiser!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sunflower magic!

My garden must have stange electo-magnetic properties. Melissa planted a feeble looking little sunflower that she grew from a seed at school in May and just look at it now!

Sunflower magic!

In fact every Sunflower that we have planted in our garden have grown into enormous beanstalks. I put it down to the effect of my aerials that attract RF radiation and cause the famous 'Sunflower Effect!'

Friday, August 01, 2008

Torchy - The Battery Boy

Was this the starting point? Was this my first inspiration? I was only 4 years old, my mum and dad had just got a television and I lived in a flat in Draycott Street. I still went to bed with my 'dummy' and I loved TORCHY! It was electric!

This is extreme nostalgia!

I have always remembered the words of the Torchy Song, but until tonight (50 years later) I have never seen him! I watched the first episode on YouTube and the strangest thing happened...I could remember the words spoken by the characters and almost knew what was coming next!

Another Gerry Anderson Classic, he harnessed the technology at the time.

'Four Feather Falls' was another one that I used to watch, but I can't remember 'Twizzle'
Some great links here:
Was Torchy really that scary?
I read somewhere that he was the model for 'Chucky' We were so innocent in those days, you never noticed the strings on the puppets and there was nothing at all wrong with a 'toy boy' or 'bossy boots' or a drunken Irishman that played with little children in his garden!