Sunday, December 30, 2012

Baofeng UV-5R Dual Band Radio

When I got one of these for Christmas I was pleasantly suprised!
I have never seen or held one of these before, but thinking about how cheap it is selling at the moment and made in China, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had read some good reviews on the internet.

I was amazed when I opened the box and assembled this little beauty. Not plasticy and light, but solid and feels more like a £200 radio not one that costs less than £50! The radio covers 144Mhz and also 432Mhz FM with either frequencies or channels. The dual display is clear and easy to read and the audio is powerful. The Baofeng is easy to use of you are just scanning through the bands, a bit like 'tuning high to low' on 144Mhz (go on...who remembers that?)

Programming is another can programme channels from the keypad, but with repeaters and tones is a bit of a pain. I bought a programming cable and downloaded the Baofeng software. The software is pretty straightforward, but the drivers for the cable are a total nusance!
It seems that all the cables are cheap and nasty and the drivers are not compatable with any computers. I got mine from Amazon, at first I thought it was working, but now my computers don't even recognise the cable despite numerous versions of the drivers.

On 432Mhz I have been listening to the GB3CR repeater with just the rubber duck antenna and reception is fine. What I don't understand is why I can't hear anything on my base station vertical, I bought a F to BNC adaptor (which works) but even though I can hear stations at S9+ on 144Mhz with my FT 817, I can't hear anything at all on the Baofeng with the same antenna...very strange! I'm still investigating that one!

I really like this this radio, it even talks to you! I'm not too bothered about programming, I would rather just scan around. It would be nice to to access some local repeaters, but i'm working on it!

Here is a great site that explains everything about using the Baofeng:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thunderbirds are go!

Here are some of my Christmas presents, the famous Thunderbirds vehicles!

I always wanted these dicast models, but could never find them, but I found these like new on ebay.

It is sad to hear today that Gerry Anderson has died aged 83.

I loved to watch Thunderbirds when I was at school and before that Fireball XL5. When I was only 4 years old I remember watching 'Four Feather Falls' and 'Sparky'. Gerry Anderson had some amazing innovative ideas. He harnessed the analogue technology of the times and brought puppets to life. I actually believed that Steve Zodiac and Venus were real when I was small.
Although I watched every episode of Thunderbirds, including the first one, I also have the DVD set and watch it quite a lot. I guess it looks a bit dated now, but at the time it was state of the art!
Did you know that the Tracey Brothers in Thunderbirds Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John were all named after astronauts?

Monday, December 24, 2012


Photo of myself with Alban G8NVW on the left at the Belle-Vue Convention around 1975 
I just heard today about Alban G8NVW who became silent key on Saturday. I haven't seen Alban for a number of years or worked him on the radio. Alban was an enthusiastic member of the Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society back in the late 70's and 80's. Alban was just a teen then, but became licenced and could be heard on 2m in those days. Only recently, I put on a photo of Alban along with other members sent to me by Ross G6GVI when we were talking about the old G8WY callsign being used again. The last time I spoke with Alban he worked as a technician at Salford University. A sad loss, but fondly remembered.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Steve, me (at the back) Dave Pete, Dave Becky, Colin
Note the company tie and shirts, I must admit that I hated the fact that everyone had to dress the same and I was a bit of a rebel. I always tried to make sure that I looked different, sometimes I even wore my old school tie!
In 1987 I found myself working for Serviscope which was the Visionhire equivalent to TAM Techserve that I had worked for before. TAM Techserve was part of Telefusion and one day we woke up to find that Visionhire had taken over the company! At the time I was based at Whitefield, Manchester. Many friends of mine became redundant or were moved to other service depots. I was moved to Serviscope at Bolton. The depot was modern and quite small, the staff were friendly and the Area Manager was also based there. Moving to Serviscope and Visionhire was a culture shock. It soon became obvious that the company was driven by paperwork of an enormous proportion. You couldn't breathe without consulting company policies and form filling in triplicate! Figures, targets...stock takes...the company was choking to death on its own paperwork. I remember that one girl in the office had to spend over two days each week counting resistors, capacitors and transistors in our component store, then spend another day filling in the forms. The next week the same was repeated again...unbelievable!

I had my own little room, where I worked on audio equipment and computers, it was quite nice really. Sometimes I went out on field service when it was busy, and I had my own little Serviscope Austin Metro. I stayed at Bolton for about a year, during that time I went to training courses at Burnley to learn about the Sinclair Spectrum computer and other machines around at the time. I also did training for installing the new computer EPOS systems that went into the Visionhire shops and service depots. That was quite enjoyable. After a year or so at Bolton along came another takeover...this time Granada! I have to say that I was not surprised at the takeover, Visionhire just didn't have it right, too much paperwork and not enough common sense! An example - Six new Hitachi colour televisions with the same fault - a 6.2volt zener diode short circuit. The central store had non in stock for months and our faulty televisions were needed for loan sets. I suggested going to a local shop to buy some. OMG! You can't do that! Not company policy!!  "Sod it!" I said. I went to Modern Radio in Bolton and had the televisions up and running in less than an hour! I payed for the zener dides myself, cost me 50 pence! Craaaaazy!

Again...another culture change, Bolton depot and lots of other small depots shut down and moved to one big depot at Salford. Serviscope kept it's name along with most of the staff. I ended up at Salford and I hated it! It was disoganised and too big and clumsy. I was lucky though, I only had a few months before getting my degree and having the option of leaving this rat race and doing something completely different. In August 1988 I left and went to university to complete a PGCE and become a teacher. I never looked back...but the year I had at Serviscope in Bolton and the friends I worked with was fun. I wonder where they are now?

A year later after I left Serviscope, the company was sold for £1 to some guy who specialised in disposing of 'poisonous' assets leaving the staff with no redundancy pay or compensation. Some of the staff had worked for the company for many was a horrible thing to do! I am so glad I got out of there!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Comet - end of an era!

Today the electrical retailer Comet closes for the final time.

Electrical stores came and went, but Comet was always there. I bought lots of stuff at Comet and sometimes prefered it to Currys and Dixons. I must admit that recently I have avoided going into Comet because of the vast number of staff in orange shirts that follow you around and asking if everything is alright. I hate that! I just want to be left alone and browse, maybe that was one of it's downfalls.
Comet has been around for 78 years, but it has changed it's spots many times. In the 70's Comet and Trident opened up stores out of town to sell discounted electrical goods. I worked at the main warehouse for Trident Stores then and I saw the way that the market was changing. The Managing Director of Trident, Angus Gosman, got together with the Managing Director of Comet at the time to try to stop price fixing by manufacturers on Japanese goods. Of course the manufactures deny that this happens, but we all know it's true.

For years I worked in parallel with Comet at Telefusion and TAM Techserve because they ran very similar businesses and services, but the in the 80's and 90's things changed again. Telefusion was taken over by Visionhire and closed down all the cash and carry electrical stores of Telefusion, which was then called 'Connect'. Comet continued, but then they became the victim of Woolworths. The stores survived and carried on with the cash and carry stores until today.

They tried hard, but how can you compete these days with on-line shopping and no orange shirts following you around. In the end Comet got it wrong, there will be others that will follow soon...just watch! 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Roamer 7

The photos are similar to my Roamer 7. This one is the Roamer 8, the difference being the tone control which mine didn't have.

My first ever radio was a Christmas present in 1968. This was supplied as a kit, from a place called Radio Exchange that advertised in Practical Wireless. My Dad sent for it quite late for Christmas, the company sent it almost immediately and we received it nicely packed.
The Roamer 7 was a TRF type receiver with unmarked transistors and built on connecting blocks. I remember that the instructions were very clear to follow, but when it was complete it looked like a 'rat's nest' of wires. I also had to wind all the coils for the different bands on paper formers. It was a great project at the time as I was only 14 years old and was still getting hang of soldering. I would have struggled if this was a printed cicuit board.

A bit of a rat's nest inside with the connecting blocks and wiring.

It was this radio that introduced me to 'Topband', one of the bands was called 'Trawler Band' which was in fact 160m. I could listen to G3XCI, G3JJM with just the telescopic aerial. Later I put up a longwire antenna and plugged it into the car aerial socket. The radio was very sensitive with it being a TRF you could turn up the sensitivity.

The Roamer 7 was also good on the Short Wave bands and I used it a lot to listen to pop music on some of the foreign stations.
Although this is the circuit of the Roamer 6, it identical to the Roamer 7 apart from an extra band. The circuit is interesing in that it seems to be upside down. The positive rail is usually at the top.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

QSL Cards

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that in the early 70's George G3ZQS managed to get Bolton Council to print some QSL cards for the Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society. In fact, over 10,000 of them were delivered! I still have some today, but of course the photos on the cards are out of date. The cards were used a lot for special event stations where Bolton could be put on the map. I also used them myself and had a stamp made so that I could put my callsign on reverse of the cards.

The photos on the cards were taken sometime around 1970 and it is interesting looking at the photos and how Bolton has changed over the years...not a single pound or pawn shop in sight! The fountains used to be opposite the Town Hall then and the old lamps were there along with the flower beds. The 'Redifusion' Clock without any hands (I don't ever remember that clock with hands) The big Co-operative building before it became a crazy mess of mobile phone shops, coffee shops and sports shops.

Monday, December 03, 2012

G8WY Nostalgic Net

Just finished on Topband tonight for the Bolton Wireless Club Nostalgic Net!

Stations included G8WY the old Bolton Radio Society callsign operated by Chris G4HYG. Other stations Jack, G8HIK, Tom, G8NTY, Ross operating G0BWC, Dave, G4JLG, Ian, G0CTO.
Gosh, I can't believe the amount of QRM on that band. Tonight I had an S9 noise level and was struggling to hear the stations.  I did try topband a few weeks ago with Ross G6GVI and Bill G3XUM with my G5RV antenna, but it was difficult to work them. At the weekend I put up another long-wire and fed it into the shack with coax. This antenna seems to work well apart from the noise, when listening to the 1963 net yesterday I could hear John, G3EGC quite well for the first time.

I can't believe how equipment has changed over the
years. A quick walk through my shack reveals an old Cossor oscilloscope that
I bought from the Bolton Club junk sale and next to it an old crystal
calibrator. My receiver was a Hallicrafters SX24, the built in S meter
didn't work, hence the large round meter sitting on top. I can also see my first attempt at a 144Mhz converter in a rough looking aluminium box. To the right is
part of my topband transmitter. On the shelf is my first 2m transmitter,
QQVO-310 in the PA. Brick outhouse and concrete floor complete with leaky
roof. Them were the days!