Monday, August 29, 2011

Moving coil loudspeaker

After reading through some more of the Radio Amateur's Examination Manual, it suddenly struck me that one thing that the digital world has not yet found a solution for is the moving coil loudspeaker!
Rock concerts, lasers amazing special effects right down to the mobile smartphone and iPods... it relies on one thing...the moving coil loudspeaker! They might be huge or small, they all work the same and it is of course analogue and mechanical to produce the audio waves needed to provide us with the entertainment! LED, Plasma and 3D televisions still need a moving coil loudspeaker. Mobile phones and iPods still need moving coil earphones. Can anybody think of an alternative?


Radio Amateur Exam result 40 years ago!

I can't believe that 40 years have passed since I passed my Radio Amateur Exam!

I was 17 years old and had studied by myself along with the Radio Amateur's Examination Manual to get ready for the exam. Part one was about regulations, Licence conditions, operating procedures and interference. Part two was theory, electronics and calculating formulae. It was hard! I took the exam at Bolton College, I was so nervous, this exam was more important to me than the GCSE's that I failed miserably a year earlier. I took the exam at the begining of June 1971 and waited months for the result to arrive through the letter box in August. When it arrived I was over the moon! It was such a relief!

Back in 1971 there was the 'Class A licence' and the 'Class B licence', with the RAE you could apply for a Class B licence, but this only gave you access to 144Mhz and above. I had built a 160m (Topband) transmitter and I needed a Class A licence, this meant learning morse code and taking the 'Morse Test'... So next step was to apply for my Morse Test at the Liver Building in Liverpool. I was one step nearer to becoming a full Radio Amateur!

Gosh! I have just read some of the sample questions from the old Radio Amateur's Examination Manual. I am amazed that I can still remember the formulae and theory that I learned all those years ago!

Here is a sample of some of the questions...

Sunday, August 28, 2011


If you look on the wall of my last post you can see a QSL card of John G3MCR ... or G3...Mike Charley Roger! This guy was amazing to listen to on the radio, he could talk for hours about current affairs and always called a spade..a spade, no nonsense! I listened for hours on 160m and 80m. He lived in Breightmet and had a huge tower with a 2m beam on top. I was sooo impressed! I knew that John was bedridden and he frequently told people on air about this, so I decided to pay him a visit along with my friend Ian Harrison. We walked up to the top of the hill one dark night in Winter, knocked on the door and was greeted with a guy in pyjamas who peeped through the side of the door and said "What do you want?" (No nonsense!)

I explained that we were short wave listeners and had listened to him on the radio. He changed completly, opened the door and invited us in. When we went into his living room I was stunned at the amount of equipment he had in racks next to his bed! He climbed into bed and proceeded to show us his equipment. Next to his equipment was a glass with his teeth in it. His voice was different when he spoke to us, but then he went on air and called a station on 80m, having first put his teeth in. Suddenly, the voice of G3MCR came to life...amazing! He usually finished his sentences with the word 'there' and he did that on that night!

Next he decided to call a station on 144Mhz, at the time this was almost unheard of because 144Mhz was difficult to access. John tried to call the station and the decided that the beam was pointing the wrong guess what he did? He jumped out of bed went out of the back door in the freezing cold in pyjamas and climbed up the tower to turn the beam around! We stood there looking astounded!

I spoke with John a few times after I got my licence, but I could never hear the stations he was talking to on 80m and 160m...strange!

This is my QSL card that he gave to me on the night that we went to visit him!

1963 net

Many years ago when I first started with amateur radio I would get up early and go into my cold shed to listen to the Sunday morning 'nets' on Topband (160m) In those days we used AM (Amplitude Modulation) to talk to each other. I would listen to the Bury club net with G3VVQ, G3RSM, G3UGC and others. Also G3JJM would be around and G3XCI along with lots of others. I would also listen to the RSGB news as well!

This last few weeks I have not got up early, but have switched on my FT817 to AM and listened to the 1963 net (1.963Mhz) It is amazing to hear some of my heros from the past back on Topband AM. Last week I listened to Gerry Openshaw G2BQO (The local GPO inspector from years ago) Today I listened to John G3EGC who I have not heard on the radio for over 30 years! When I was 14 years old I went to visit his shack along with Peter Holt, he showed me the array of home made equipment that he made...a real inspiration for myself and also Chris Price G4AGJ. I listened in awe this morning, these guys are still giving inspiration after all these years. One day I will join in on the 1963 net, but it is more fun to just listen and think back to the old times of the days when Topband AM ruled. I built three transmitters for Topband, my first one before I got my licence that had a few problems. The second was a rebuild which worked fine, and the third was a dual band 160m / 80m SSB Transciever with an EL84 valve in the final. This also used the Plessey SL600 system. I don't know why I took these rigs apart, I would treasure them today and still use them!

Last week I went up to Matchmoor Lane on the side of Winter Hill with my FT817 to listen and work some stations on the 50Mhz contest. When I got there I met Keith G8HXE who was parked on top of the hill with an FT817 like mine!

Its like they say...golfers don't get old they just lose their balls!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Food Festival

It was fun today at the food and drink festival in Bolton, the Hairy Bikers were there and some other famous folk. A great atmosphere and the smells were gorgeous! We had German, Polish, French, Spanish, Turkish and many Eastern Countries with food on offer...but what about Scandanavia? In London, shops are opening called 'Totally Swedish' It would have been nice to see this represented at the food festival. We have IKEA after all!

Although I didn't drink anything is was great to have three different places to have a drink, German Beer, Cider Bar and Bank Top Brewery. I still want to have a pint of Bank Top beer!

I have to say this...Bolton and it's people is a wonderful place, but an international festival like this against backdrop of a town centre that is going down the plughole is not good. Today Bolton was vibrant, but how many buildings are empty and shops closed and derilict? Have you seen Bradshawgate? It is horrible!! Come on...lets get Bolton back on the map again like it was in the 1960's and 70's! I loved going to Bolton then on a Saturday afternoon it was always vibrant and loads of things to see and do. The Food and Drink Festival is a great idea...but what about next week? Sometimes I come home from town feeling depressed and wondering what has happened to our wonderful town. Have a look at Bury...they got it right!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hayley Mills

When I was 7 years old I went to the cinema to watch 'In Search of the Castaways' I thought it was amazing. I loved Hayley Mills! My Uncle Eric bought me a book for my birthday called 'In Search of the Castaways' with lots of glossy photos of Hayley Mills. Later I remember watching on television 'Whistle Down the Wind' with Hayley and the guy who made her think that he was Jesus. The film was made near to Clitheroe and one of the children in the film was a friend of my wife Kathleen. In 1967 they made the film called 'The Family Way' which was all filmed in Bolton and about Bolton people. Hayley was in Bolton and also her Dad John Mills! Amazing! I remember the launch of the film at the Capital cinema on Churchgate. This film is everything I remember about life in Bolton...especially the tin bath when Hayley stands up in front of the fire! A wonderful film!

I never understood why Hayley married that old bloke, one of the Boulting brothers. She made quite a diverse number of films, from the early child film star to the rebel in another film that I remember very clearly, but can't find it again...I have never seen it on television again. I really like 'Parent Trap' very clever filming of Hayley playing both of the twins and much better than the new version. I'm not sure about 'Pollyanna' maybe that is because she spoke with an American accent and it kind of didn't match with a Bolton accent when she did Family Way.

The photo above is so strange, nothing has changed apart the fountains that has moved. I can still stand at the same place that Hayley and John Mills stands and the background wouldn't look any different.

Do you notice the technology in this photo? Microphones on trucks...all analogue...not a digit in sight!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hi tech riots!

The last days and nights have been unbelievable! Young kids and youths running amock through our cities looting and smashing shops cars and buses. It is truly sickening to watch on television and listen to the reports coming in. Last night it kicked off in Manchester and Salford as well as Liverpool and Birmingham. Some of the images are shocking!
What turns young people like this into such greed and thuggery?
What part has digital technology played in this event?

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook has been used by the rioters to organise and communicate with each other. The Blackberry phone with its encripted instant messaging has also played a large part according to the media. Some of the top targets for the looters have been mobile phone shops, Curries, Argos and music stores. Many of the images seen on television show looters with mobile phone boxes, Large LCD and plasma Televisions, Guitars and Keyboards.
Social media is an amazing phenonimum, it is taking over our lives. While I am writing this I am reading messages coming in on Twitter about the current situation in the cities tonight. A million people have supported the police through twitter and others have organised clean-up campaigns through facebook and twitter.
Now some of the looters and rioters are being brought to justice through images from security cameras, television images and images and video captured by passers by on mobile phones. These are now being published on facebook, flickr and websites.
The two sides of digital technology in situations like this, love it or hate it, it is here to stay!