Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alan Sugar

I bought a copy of 'What you see is what you get' Alan Sugar's autobiography...

This is a fascinating read, especially if you worked as an electronic engineer with televisions, hi-fi and me!

He talks about shops like 'Lasky's' and other shops on the Edgeware Rd in London. Places that I ordered stuff from in the 1970's. His mate the TV engineer that mended and modified old TV's and sold them on as a business. (sound familiar!) The 'valve pusher' and later the 'panel pusher'...I never got into this routine...fault find down to the component was my way! (Alan would have been proud of me!) Later, the famous Amstrad hi-fi (pretend) stack unit that took over our workshop like faulty daleks! The Amstrad TV...OMG...I hated them...when they went faulty, they took most of the switched mode power supply and line output altogether...I wouldn't touch one of these with a bargepole unless I had to!

Now the Amstrad 464 computer was ahead of it's time, but also had to compete with Sinclair...the Amstrad was quite reliable, I don't remember having to fix one (apart from cleaning the audio heads in the tape player) It had a wonderful proper keyboard and colourful as well! Then came the dedicated office word processor machine, which I didn't understand...tooo complicated, had a dedicated operating system and not flexible at all.

Now this one was good...PC arcitecture, full colour and software. I remember playing with this in the late 80's drawing colour pictures on screen. Twin disc drives and software to go with it...but expensive. I fixed a few of these at the time, mainly hard drives that were not yet reliable!

It's fantastic thinking back at the growth of technology in the 80's with Alan Sugar, Clive Sinclair and a few other guys (aka Acorn)

Alan Sugar - a shrewd business man, not a technical genious, but insiring!

Clive Sinclair - a technical genious, but not a shrewd business man and a bit ahead of his time!

I wonder who would be The Apprentice... Alan or Clive?
What you see is what get!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rockin' Robin

Snow, snow, snow.... and it's not Christmas yet!

I have a very shy Robin that visits my garden every day, but flies away everytime I try to take a photo. Today I lay in wait and managed to take some photos of this festive beast without it knowing....

It's Christmas time and time to hibernate until Spring!

See how the snowflakes are falling
Falling so gentle and white
Coming from God in his beauty
All through the days and the night.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


This is a photo that I took last Sunday at Leverhulme Park. It was about 3.00pm and all day we had freezing fog, temperature down to -6 degrees. The sun was just going down and the view was spooky!
I sent this photo to The Bolton News and they published it the next day!

The weather is crazy, snow in November and temperatures as low as -15 at night. Last night the temperature rose to +7 and all the snow!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snow in November!

Here is the view from my house this morning...
Could this be? Heavy snow in November?
Temperatures down to - 15 degrees, much of the country covered in snow, schools closed and worse to come. It's not even Christmas yet!

It is snowing outside now...unbelievable!

"Snow is expected to continue falling across large parts of England overnight, causing further disruption.
The Met Office has issued heavy snow warnings for London, the South East, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, the East and North East.
It also warned of widespread ice on roads across the whole of England.
Snow and ice covered much of the country on Tuesday causing travel problems and hundreds of school closures."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bolton Wanderers!

Now i'm not a football fanatic, but when Bolton Wanderers reach FOURTH in the Premier League with just Man U, Arsenal and Chelsea above it's time to follow!

Today they hammered Newcastle 5 - 1 at Reebok. Johan Elmander the Swedish wonderboy scoring two of the goals.

I can't remember Bolton being so high up and so far into fixtures. At last they seem to have come together and now have a great side...could they win the league? You never know!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Light Emitting Diodes...the future?

Have you noticed how the tungsten bulb is now being replaced by the super energy efficient, high brightness Light Emitting Diodes?
Torches, spotlamps, stick on lights, cars, traffic lights...they are everywhere...sneaking up on us, ready to take over the world!

I had a dilemma today, we are making a robot project with children and learning about circuits. Now simple circuits for children usually consist of a battery, bulb, wire and switch. The children want to make robots with different coloured lights and flashing. we use old fashioned glass bulbs that are just about useless now or bring in the LED technology? Remember, LED's are polarised, so how do you explain the concept of a circuit to young children if the circuit fails because the battery or LED is the wrong way around?

I decided that LED's are the thing....let's get rid if the old tungsen bulb and move into the future!

Lets Experience Digital ... (LED) ... even if it is an analogue device!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Sunday Papers!

Here is Jo Thornhill from the Mail on Sunday interviewing me and some children about a new website called 'Savingsquad'. It was quite an experience using digital technology to show off the skills of the children learning about finance and pocket money. The photographer took loads of pictures of myself and the children with the technology that they were using. I've never been in the Sunday papers before so this was really exciting, but also a bit worried that the story and pictures would not come out right...

When the story was printed I was sooo pleased, a nice photo and good reporting to go with it...Thank you Jo!

Here is Kate from D2 Digital that runs the website

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back to the Future 25

OMG...I can't believe it was 25 years ago since Back to the the Future was made!

"They invented the world's first time-travelling machine, the DeLorean, in Back To The Future.
And it seems the cast of the film franchise have turned back the clock once again for an anniversary launch of the Blu-ray set of the movies in New York.
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Mary Steenburgen reunited for the event where they showed that, despite shooting the first film nearly 30 years ago, they have aged remarkably well.

Lea Thompson, who played Fox's character Marty McFly's mother Lorraine, looked virtually as fresh-faced as she did in 1985, and wore a tight black dress on the red carpet.
The 49-year-old actress smiled for photographers and recalled her time shooting the films, adding that she has kept one of her most iconic outfits from the original Back To The Future film - her pink dress from her Under The Sea themed prom.
She said: 'I still have my pink dress, from the Prom. And every Halloween my kids try it on and I'm like, "No you can't wear that to a party!"

Meanwhile, Mary Steenburgen, who played Christopher Lloyd's character Doc Brown's love interest Clara, also looked enviably wrinkle-free as she posed on the blue carpet wearing a stunning red dress.
Speaking recently about what she kept as a souvenir from her film, Steenburgen, 57, admitted she had held on to a tiny pin from her costume which said the name 'Clara' on it.

However, while Steenburgen and Thompson were popular supporting characters in their own rights, the main roles undoubtedly belonged to Fox and Lloyd, who played Marty McFly and Doc Brown respectively.
Lloyd, 72, wore a black shirt and suit as he posed next to Fox on the blue carpet, and while he looked a lot thinner than he did in his Back To The Future days, he still had the same twinkle in his eye that Doc became famous for.
And Lloyd recently revealed he is keen to be involved in a Back To The Future 4, if it were ever to happen.
He said: 'I think it’d be a wonderful thing if it could be pulled off. I don’t know what the angle might be or whatever, but if Bob Gale wants to write another one and Bob Zemeckis gets excited to do it, anything could happen.

But Fox was undoubtedly the star of the event last night, looking healthy and relaxed as he smiled for photographers, despite having to cope with having Parkinson's Disease.
Talking about his illness, he told Sky News: 'I'm feeling OK. It's manageable. You know everybody gets their bag of hammers, this is just my bag of hammers, and I can handle it.'
And Fox, 49, admitted he still can't believe how popular the film series is.
He said: 'There are people who know a lot more about the movie than I do. They know trivia and ask me about the space-time continuum and I say, "I don't know I was just in the movie!"

The trilogy is fantastic, you can never get bored with it!!

Read more:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You know it makes sense...

Now i'm not a political type person, but this guy has got wrong!
Since coming to power schools and education are in a digital turmoil... progress has come to a grinding halt, creativity put on hold and support services pulled out the plug!
Are this lot afraid of technology?
Do they want children to return to the dark ages?
Its not about cuts, its about attitude, I don't thing the government understands (or doesn't care) how far technology has advanced in the last 13 years and how much work has gone into bringing it into schools for children to harness. BECTA, QCA, QCDA had a wealth of stuff on-line to access, teachers needed what have the government done...shut it all ridiculous is that! I think these guys need to grow up... just cos' we didn't think of it, let's shut it down... seems to be the attitude!

Come on David...get in the real world!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Election 2010?

In this digital age yesterdays General Election seems like a big cock-up!! (Not just you Gordon)
Voting in old wooden polling booths, paper ballot forms, black pencils, thousands of people manually counting papers in hundreds of sports centres and town halls. Black Ballot boxes paintakingly humped around to be securely opened and emptied...dare I go on?
How about hundreds of people unable to vote because of hold ups at polling stations and running out of ballot forms...are we really in 2010...the digital age?
Come it not time that we are able to vote from home on our laptops or mobile phones? What is the problem? Libraries and schools have full internet access and broadband wireless links via mobile phone networks are available from most of the country.
Voting finishes at 10.00pm...Results at 10.05pm...New Government 10.15pm
I'm sure that we piloted a computerised voting system in the last general election, what happened to it?
We need to get real vote digital!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blast from the past!

Well, here I am actually using the Acos microphone!

This photo was taken by Barry G3WIS back in the early 70's. You can see some weird stuff in there like my crystal calibrator and Cossor oscilloscope. My Hallicrafters SX24 and (at the right) my 160m transmitter. On the shelf you can see my 2m transmitter and on top of the receiver, my 2m converter (which tuned 2 - 4Mhz) Note the headphones, GPO type, awful to use!

My shack then was the outhouse a joined on brick building and concrete floor with a leaky roof! My brother uses this a garage now!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Acos Microphone

Gosh...I've finally found a picture of my bestest microphone!
This little beauty was a crystal / ceramic microphone with superb quality. I bought one and used it for years on 160m with my home brew rig. It was lovely to hold and made of diecast...I loved it! Then one night I was having a long QSO with Neil G3ZPL and I decided to hang my microphone on the flexible lamp and use it 'hands free', the heat from the lamp destroyed the insert in my pride and joy!!

After that I had to use a plastic mic that was not a patch on my banana beauty!

Then, one day I was looking in a shop window in Radcliffe when I spotted another Acos the same as the other but black. The shop was closed, so I asked Kath, my girlfriend to call in and buy it for me. She did...

The second mic somehow didn't perform the same...a bit low in output and quality not good, such a pity.

I had some great fun and good contacts with my original microphone on both 160m and later 2m.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

4m Transverter

Tonight was the 4m Tuesday night contest and this time I was determined to try to hear something on this band. My Yaesu FT817 does not cover 4m, so I thought I might try to get my transverter running again after years of being in the loft packed away.

My Yaesu FT101E is still running fine after it's service, so I hunted around to find the necessary leads to connect the transverter to the FT101E. The only lead I didn't have was a connection from the antenna (which is BNC) to the UHF input on the transverter. A trip to Maplin was in order to purchase a BNC socket connector. I also bought a cheap CB type SWR Meter, I needed it so that I see if my transverter put out any RF!
The contest started at 8.00pm and guess what? It still worked! Heard loads of stations, but although my SWR meter tells me that RF is present, nobody could hear me!!!
Managed to work Ross G6GVI, he could hear me OK, but why could other stations who were quite strong not hear a trace?
I measured the power out of the tranverter at about 3w, so really I put it down to my vertical and a very poor SWR.

I am amazed that the transverter still works, it is also a 6m transverter as well and this also works fine!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


At last...its Spring!!
Gosh...what an awful Winter we have had this year...snow, snow, snow. A gorgeous morning today, but clouded later.
Been planning my new antenna array, thinking about a 5ele 2m yagi, 10 ele 70cm yagi and maybe a 3 ele 50mhz yagi. All this with a (cheapish) rotator monted on the side of the house next to my shack. looking forward to going to the NRSA rally at Blackpool so that I can collect all the bits.
Spring is sprung
Grass is riz
Wonder wher dem birdies iz?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


So what has this blog got to do Shakespeare?
Well, today we had to give a presentation to members of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Although my knowledge of the man and his work is a bit sparce, I was totally fascinated by todays visit. I probably learned more about Shakespeare and how it can be used to inspire young people and communities than I ever would have thought. During the presentation we used a video clip of one of our children in school using digital technology that was truely amazing!
I still don't understand Shakespeare, but my English teachers at Hayward School certainly did and above is a picture of my old English teachers Mr Hanley and Mr Worthington taking group to Stratford-upon-Avon back in 1970.

Stand up for Shakespeare!

Friday, March 05, 2010

FT101E Revival!

My Yaesu FT101E has sat in the loft now for the last three years gathering dust. I decided a few weeks ago to bring this wonderful rig back to reality again and try to use it again. I bought it down from the loft and plugged it in only to find that it didn't work!!

The switches were noisy and no output from the transmitter, so tonight I spent some time getting it up and running again.

Nothing a squirt of WD40 can't cure!

Even managed to cure the sticky drive mechanism. This rig is superb, built like a brick toilet and still calibrated even after three or more years of neglect! I bought FT101E in 1980, the year my daughter was born, cost £380...a lot of money then...but 30 years on it still performs!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Does anyone still use CRTs?
I'm amazed at the transformation of CRT to Plasma and LED technology. Now you can mount a huge 42" plus plasma tv on your wall in High Definition, flat as a panacake!
CRTs are dead and buried, but how I remember these beasts, 25Kv on the final anode and i've had many a belt from this when changing a CRT in a television. Setting up the static and dynamic convergence, purity, scan coils ... gosh, what memories.

I was moved by the programme on TV called J.L.B. (John Logie Baird) This man was a genious, he actually used CRTs for true 3D television and nobody listened, particularly the BBC.

The CRT was a milestone in analogue technology and should never be forgotten!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

23cm night!

I must admit that this project was my most frustrating ever!

The DF6QK 23cm transverter gave me highs and lows. I remember working a station in Switzerland during an opening with milliwatts of power.
Other times it just refused to tune and spent hours tweeking becoming more and more frustrated!
I built it in modular form so that I could unplug modules to test and set up. I also added a 2w PA to the system which worked well when the rest behaved.

Tonight dragged the transverter from the loft and connected the transverter to my Yaesu FT-817 in the hope of hearing local stations taking part in the 23cm contest.I heard nothing, maybe its the antenna (just the discone) but more likely the alignment of the converter part of the tranverter (1296Mhz - 28Mhz)
It was worth a try! (I still can't work out how I built this beast!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Here are a couple of photos I found of my shack back in the 1970's and 80's. (Click to enlarge)
The top photo shows the Hallicrafters SX24 receiver with my 2m transmitter next to it, then my 160m / 80m transverter, above is my pride and joy 70cm tranverter with it's QQVO-320 valves. I used this tranverter for transmitting television pictures! You can also see the rather crude ATU.
The lower photo was taken in the early 1980's with my FT101E (I still have it!) rotator control box, 2m transverter in the dicast box and my all band VHF receiver that I built (and still have!)
Above is my VHF Frequency counter, power meter an Z-Match.
The amazing thing about these these photos is that I am sat here in modern shack in the same room looking at the same walls!

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Today was beautiful, almost fooled today into thinking that Spring has arrived!

Wall to wall sunshine, what a change after this horrible Winter that we are having this year.

Went for a walk around Bolton today and saw something strange...the Town Hall Clock in a condom!

What is going on behind the shrouds I wonder?

This nice weather got me thinking again about putting up some new antennas. The fittings on the side of the house are still there. Still thinking about it...

The Tuesday night contests add so much interest to the bands, loads of activity. Amateur Radio seems to be having a bit of a revival at the moment, I have certainly found more activity and more stations about now on most bands. I have even ejoyed reading RadCom again after all these years!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Scary stuff!
Now, Tony Blair had a vision ten years ago, it was that we should have a National Grid for Learning! This was a bit like President Kennedy saying that America will go to the Moon before the end of the decade back in the 60's.
Here we are 10 years after Tony Blair's vision and look how we have moved on in the on-line, digital world of the internet and mobile technology! The guy got it right and invested money into the technology so that schools could harness it.
As we now approach a General Election I am bothered...
Who has the vision now to move on the technology?
David riding his bike or Gordon twiddling his thumbs?
It needs someone now to pick up the NGfL and move it on, otherwise our children are going to lose out and return to the BBC computer days.
What are your policies David and Gordon?
We need to know!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Frozen Digital Britain!

What an amazing image!
Snow from above! (Click to enlarge)
We are now in the grip of the coldest Winter ever. The whole country covered in snow, here around 10" of frozen snow on the ground and roads terrible!
Tonight temperature down to -10 and still falling. The toilet has just frozen up and i'm flushing salt down it to keep it clear! Icicles like I have not seen since the 1960's hang outside my house and there is no end to the freeze!

Gosh...this brings back memories of the 1960's when Mum took us to school all wrapped up in balaclavas, snow piled against the front door and icicles hanging from the gutters. (Mum used to break some off to suck on the way to school!)
Schools never closed then, we would make slides and throw snowballs in the school yard and have great fun. Now all the schools are closed (including mine) and when we are open the kids are not allowed to play out in the snow!

I don't know ... Health and Safety gone mad!!!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Brass Monkey Weather!

The term "Brass Monkeys" is an accepted phrase used in the English language to indicate that the ambient air temperature (or weather) is cold. This use stems from a longer phrase "It is cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey". This generally perceived as a humorous reference to some unfortunate Brass Monkey who loses his testicles if the weather is too cold. Another derived phrase (but irrelevant to our story) is "it's cold enough to freeze your balls off".

The origin and true meaning of this phrase is actually totally unrelated to any form of animal or its testicles. Back in time to the period of the Napoleonic War, the great gunships of this time carried many cannons on various gun decks. As an efficient method of storage and delivery of cannon balls to the cannon for firing, a "Monkey" (this term is used to define a table and/ or a rail) made of brass was used to hold the balls. In very cold temperatures the brass would contract or even break thus allowing the cannon balls to roll off the Monkey onto the gun deck. Hence the sailors would say "it is cold enough to freeze the balls off a Brass Monkey".

Now brass has interesting properties, made from Copper and Tin, it is a good conductor of electricity and is hard wearing. Some of my VHF / UHF projects in the past required tuned lines, so I used brass for some of the thinner gauge lines because you could buy it at a hobby shop quite cheap.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Let it snow!

OMG! I have not seen snow fall like this since the 60's!

We have now had snow all the way through Christmas and New Year and last night it never stopped snowing. Spent today at school as we battled to keep the school open, but tomorrow the school is shut. Kath couldn't get to work for the second time in the last two weeks because of the roads.

My poor antennas look sad, but tonight I went on 2m SSB to work some stations in the contest and chat with some real Radio Amateurs. Really enjoyed it! I'm now seriously thinking of getting some new antennas for VHF. Maybe even re-building a yagi array on the chimney and a rotator.

Still thinking...