Sunday, December 15, 2013

Big Wheel Antenna

Now Bolton is not the most festive place to shop at Christmas, but this year Bolton Council have pulled out all the stops. Reindeers, ice skating and now the BIG WHEEL!

Yesterday was very impessive with the lights and atmosphere, much better that previous years.
As I stood looking at this enormous structure it struck me that this would make a superb antenna for HF.

Imagine tuning up one of these!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis and myself at school a couple of weeks ago.

I'm not really a football fanatic, but I respect Kevin Davis for the hard work that he did as captain of Bolton Wanderers. A great player and captain!
Now Kevin is at Preston North End. It is a shame Bolton didn't offer him a training or managerial job and kept links with Bolton Wanderers. A great guy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Acorn Archimedes 3020

Photo of me with the latest computer at school in 1994
This was a strange time...the old Acorn BBC Computer was now not fit for purpose and replaced with the Acorn Archimedes series of computers. First came a the A3000 then various upgrades. They were amazing machines at the time and had in built digital storage...not a hard drive in sight! Programmes like 'My World' with the high reolution graphics and mouse controlled released schools into the the high tech world of Graphic User Interface (GUI) Amazing!
The Archimedes had a wasn't ready yet, so they brought out a later machine that looked like a PC but didn't work well.
At that stage I took a very bold decision in school to phase out the Archimedes machines and bring in the PCs. That was probably the best decision ever, even though others frowned at what I was doing. I took the school into the 21st century and had a networked PC system before most other schools in Bolton dared to venture. 
Specs for the Archimedes 3020
NAME Archimedes A3020
ORIGIN United Kingdom
YEAR 1992
KEYBOARD Full-stroke PC-102 style
CPU ARM 250 32 bit RISC
CO-PROCESSOR MEMC (memory), VIDC (Video and Sound), IOC (I/O)
RAM 2 MB (up to 4Mb possible with socketed zip ram chips)
Video ModesText Modes: 132 chars. x 32 lines maximum; Graphic Modes: 21 screen modes, including: 640×480 (256 colours), 640 x 512 (256 colours), 800×600 (16 colours), 896×352 (256 colours), 1280×960 (monochrome)
SOUND 8 voices
I/O PORTS Centronics, RS423, VGA, Network, 1 expansion slot
PRICE £749 with floppy, £899 with a 60Mb hard disk.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

SDR - Software Defined Radio

Last week I read an article in this months RADCOM by G0CHO about using a DVB-T stick as SDR to recieve all modes from VHF to Microwaves. I was fascinated by the article and also the free software to use with the stick. I have an old stick, but the chip is not suitable for SDR.
I decided to buy a new DVB-T RTL stick, so set about trying to find one on ebay. I was amazed to find a company called 'Cosycave' selling a new and fully tested DVB-T stick complete with leads and all the software required to receive SDR...and the cost?  £13.95!!!

I sent for the package and it arrived from Jersey the next day...too good to be true?

Definately not! The instructions that came with it on the disc is worth gold, very thorough, step by step instuctions on using the software and setting up the stick. Also includes SDR Sharp, an excellent and easy to use piece of software. After going through the initial set up the DVB-T stick worked straight away with SDR Sharp. I was amazed to be able to tune any frequency in all modes with just a tiny stick. Where are the tuned circuits, coils, variable capacitors? How could something so tiny receive everything from broadcast FM stations to Packet, Weather Satellites and Amateur Bands including 70cms and 23cms?

When I first got the stick receiving I listened to a local station on 2m and watched the spectrum waterfall for other stations. It seemed a bit insensitive, but then I realised that there is an RF gain control in SDR Sharp. When I found it I wound up the RF Gain and almost fell off my!
Now I am hooked on this SDR stuff, it has opened up a new dimension that I didn't know about. I thought SDR was expensive and even plug in sticks like the FunCube were not cheap. To think that you can buy the whole SDR set up for 13 quid is fantastic!

Now I am experimenting with weather satellites, with the pack you get software for decoding and displaying the weather pictures from the NOAA satellites. Today I built a 137Mhz Turnstyle Antenna which seems to work well.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Bolton Institute of Technology

Bolton Institute of Technology (BIT) was the new Higher Education college which later became Bolton Institute of Higher Education (BIHE)
This is where I met Kathleen at the Saturday Night rock concerts in 1973. I remember waiting outside for the doors to open. Inside was loud rock music and two groups. Kathleen started to go there before me and saw some big groups like 'Hawkwind' and 'Vinegar Joe' (Elkie Brooks) I saw groups like 'Judas Priest', 'Dr Feelgood' and lots of local rock groups. Youngers Tartan Ale, Newcastle Browns and Steak Butties...I used to live for Saturday night at BIT! Sweet!

This photo was posted on Facebook showing the stage and room that was used on Saturday Nights.

As well as the social side of BIT, I also went on an evening course there in the tower block to learn about BASIC computer programming. It was truly amazing looking back now. In the room were 'terminals' like typewriters and you built your programme without any VDU to see what you were doing, making sure that you didn't make any mistakes. The computer that served the terminals was a PDP11 Mini-Computer that sat in the corner with lights flashing and wires everywhere. When you saved your work it was a paper tape full of holes that you rolled up, took home and brought back again to put into the reader so that you can carry on. I wrote my first comuter programmes then (we call the apps now)

I really enjoyed that course, I learned a lot and still use it now that the new 'Computing Curriculum' has now been developed in schools. It is like going back in time!

Things have changes so much now, the tower block and a lot of the buildings have been changed. Now it is Bolton University along with a huge sports and leisure centre. Across the road is the new Bolton College and Sixth Form College. It is very impressive!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Trotters Pub

Back in the old analogue days when I met my wife Kathleen we went to BIT (Bolton Institute of Technology) on Saturday nights to watch rock groups and freak out to loud music and Newcastle Browns. On Sunday things were a quieter, we went to the Trotters pub on Bradshawgate in Bolton. The Trotters was a strange place named after the nickname for Bolton Wanderers football club and quite close to the football ground at Burnden Park.

Sunday night was disco night upstairs at the Trotters, we went there a lot just to have a quiet drink and chat. The best you got in the way of rock was 'Radar Love' which I danced to once! So why do I think this place is special? Well, this is the place where we decided to get engaged and later married!
Also across the road was Mike Dzubias shop where I bought a lot of my electronic components. Next to that was the Clarence Hotel which was the venue for the Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society in the 70's.

The Trotters shut down and knocked down... I don't know why that was...strange!

Sunday, November 03, 2013


Jack G8HIK and myself at the exhibition.

On Thursday I went into Bolton to look at the 'Preparing for Winter' exhibition. There were lots of things to see including the Emergency Services, Mountain Rescue, Gritters and RAYNET.
Only a couple of days earlier I was thinking to myself that I had not heard anything about RAYNET recently. I don't remember seeing anything in the magazine RadCom as well.

I had not been involved with RAYNET, but some of our club members from The Bolton and District Radio Society were active back in the 80's and 90's. I was surprised when I saw Jack G8HIK and Max looking after the RAYNET stands during the exhibition. It was nice to chat with them after such a long time!

Max and me with my grandaughter Melissa

Picture of Max around 1980 during a DF Hunt.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Draycott Street

Shortly after I was born my parents moved into a flat at Draycott Street on Halliwell Rd. I have a lot of vivid memories of this house. I remember the old record player in the corner with the green velvet around the record deck and the needles that had to be put into the arm head. We listened to my dads 78's.

In the other corner was our first television set, black and white! I loved to watch Popeye, Sparky the Battery Boy and Four Feather Falls. My bedroom had a fireplace and my Dad had a workshop in a small room upstairs, with a 'Wolf' drill that made a lot of noise and scared me. There was a shop joined on to the building and an old lady lived upstairs in the flats. Across the road was another shop that sold fishing stuff, I went there to buy some little fishing nets to play games like fishing in the mop bucket!

My Dad had a motorbike and sidecar, he would spend a lot of time in the yard tinkering with the motorbike, I remember riding in it with my Mum. When I was old enough, I went to Nursery school up the road at Wolfeden Street, on a Friday my Dad would buy me a Matchbox car from the shop on Halliwell Rd. Also just round the corner was my Aunt Gladys who lived on Halliwell Road. When I took this photo I felt strange because although everything has changed now, I can still see the old slate walls around the house and the motorbike. Happy memories!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bullough's TV Shops

Bullough's Radio and Television had their Head Office and service department on Manchester Rd in Bolton. When I was at college some of my friends were apprentices there. At the back was a 'dump' where they would throw away panels from old televisions and radios. It was a goldmine for components when I wanted to build something when I was about 13. I remember once carrying a huge bag of old panels and bits from there into town then crossing the Johnson St footbridge over the railway station. I got stopped by two 'big lads' who promptly beat me up for no reason at all, probably because I was helpless with my big bag of bits. I still carried them home on the bus even though I was bleeding after my encounter.

Later in the 70's Bullough's changed it's name to Rumbelows and then later still was taken over by Focus Ltd. Now all these television companies have gone. Only Curry's remain...
The Bullough's Head Office building still remains, but for other purposes!

Back in the 60's Bullough's was one of the major television rental stores in Bolton. The store was on Knowsley Street and it also had a great record shop inside the store where you could listen to music in one of the small sound booths. I used to like going there when I was young, even though I didn't have enough money to buy a single record which cost 7/6p at the time. If you were really lucky, the girl behind the counter would play a record for you, even if you were only 11 years old. (as long as the boss wasn't around) The record shop was featured in the film 'The Family Way' Hayley Mills as Jenny, worked in the shop and some scenes show the inside of shop as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Harlow Electronics

My first company car in 1975

In 1975 I was 21 and had just finished my apprenticeship in electronics, I decided to move on from my job at Telefusion. I got a job at a small company in Bolton called Harlow Electronics. The name 'Harlow' was derived from the companies original directors - Ken Harris and Kevin Ludlow. They had two shops, one on Halliwell Road in Bolton and the other on Market Street in Farnworth. Both shops sold and rented televisions, mainly Thorn televisions (Ferguson, HMV) Ken Harris later became service rep for Thorn based at Chetham Hill in Manchester. I met him a few times when I worked at Telefusion.

On the roof is a home made mag mount 1/4 wave for 144Mhz inside the car was my Pye Cambridge transceiver.

The job came with a company car, which was a green Ford Escort. At first I had a second hand car, but later was given a new one. It was great having my own car, I had only passed my driving test a few months before. The workshop was at the Farnworth shop. Most of the time I worked on field service repairing televisions in the home and also delivering and setting up new colour televisions.
I remember that my service manager was called Kevin, Aziz was the other engineer and the driver was (I think) called Dave.
I worked there for a year. At first I really enjoyed being out on the road in my car, but later I found it quite hard working with a small company. Prospects looked gloomy and didn't want to stay. In the end I returned to Telefusion and later TAM Techserve where I got a company car again. I guess I felt claustrophobic working at Harlow, not for me.

Some years after I left, Harlow set up as an electronics company in an old mill on Chorley Old Road. They did close circuit television systems. After a few years the company seemed to disappear in the turmoil of the electronics industry in the 80s and 90's.

Granny's Garden

When I was born my grandmother (who I called 'Mam') lived in this house. For a time I lived there in Aldersyde Street during my first months before moving to a flat in Draycott Street. I loved coming to this house when I was a bit older. I used to spend weekends her when I was little and remember watching television on Saturday nights. When I was 8 years old I caught two buses and went to my Mam's house one Sunday afternoon on my own without my Mum and Dad knowing. I can remember the shock on my Mam's face when she realised that I had come alone!

When I was 11 I wanted to go to Hayward School because it was so close to my Mam's house and I could go there before and after school. When I passed my 11+ tests I was able to go to Hayward Bilateral and got my dream to go this house every day and even dinner times for a cup of tea and a cake.
At the side of the house was a coal shed and a cupboard, in the cupboard there was a pile of car bits that my Dad put there. Later my Uncle Bill lived there and started to make a drive for his car, but never completed it. You can see the gap in the privet fence.
Just up the street was a radio amateur at number 19, his callsign was G3ITK and his name was Percy, he had a brilliant long wire antenna which stretched across to a house at the back.

This photo taken about 1968 with my Mam and Dad (Grandmother and Grandfather) along with my brother. The poles at the sides of the door have gone now, but I enjoyed climbing up them.

I have a lot of good memories of this house!

Friday, October 04, 2013

My shack in 1983

I found this old photo tonight of my shack around 1983. A lot of constructed equipment here...
My VHF / UHF Receiver  and 144Mhz transverter (which I still use) and my first SWR bridge. Above on the shelf is a nearly completed Z-Match (still use it) 432Mhz varacter tripler and power meter. On the right was my digital frequency counter which worked up to 450Mhz, my first digital project! It came second in a construction competition.

I borrowed it to someone and I can't remember who??? If you still have it will you let me have it back please!

My Yaesu FT101E of course and rotator controller. On the top shelf is a 12 volt power supply which I got cheap and added a meter. I later built a front panel and made into a variable power supply which still works well today.

The amazing thing is that I still use some of this equipment 30 years on!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tropo opening!

After all this time I still have it! I can still predict a tropo opening on 144mhz by watching the weather. High pressure over England and Europe 1024mb, warm temperature and mist and fog...all the ingredients for a good tropo opening on 144mhz, 432mhz and even 1296mhz.  I was right! Last night was quite incredible. Could here lots of stations from Europe on 144mhz, so decided to have a go with my Yaesu Ft817 with just 5 watts of rf.

A lot of the stations that could be heard were running high power, some with 700 watts and HUGE arrays of antennas. What chance would I have with my little 5 ele yagi?  Not bad really...

First I worked F6CTT in France (who I have worked before) in IN97HV, then HB9EOW in Switzerland JN37JC, followed by DK7CM/P in Germany JO40FF.
I am really pleased with flea power...a super Autumn opening!

In the past, Autumn tropo lifts were the best, usually around the first or second week in October as I recall from my old log books.
These kind of opening inspire me to do something, like more power or bigger and higher antennas. Running QRP (low power) makes everything a challenge, which I enjoy even if it does get a bit frustrating, When you get that reply back from the call and complete that QSO it is sooo satisfying!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Out of office!

The English is clear enough to lorry drivers - but the Welsh reads "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."
So go many times have you sent a e mail only to be replied by that awful 'out of office' standard message?
How many times have you seen 'after a hard day at the office...' on TV during adverts and other news items?

Well...get real people! Some facts...

Most people don't work in an office.

Nobody has a hard day at the office!

They are the most boring places on earth, I worked in one for a year and it drove me mad, kept looking at the clock and was bored out of my skull!

There are people that work at the coal face (or in my case, chalk face) and people that sit on their arses in front of a computer.

I have spent all my life on my feet working hard either in a workshop or a classroom. Why does the media assume that everybody works in an office?  Does it just sound good or do they really believe that most of Britain work in offices?

Try this...

After a hard day on the building site...

After a hard day working in a supermarket...

After a hard day working in a classroom...

After a hard day working on the bins...

Get real people!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Born in July!

An interesting article about the Royal baby who was born in July like me!

When I left school I was still 15 because my birthday is 25th July, I started working as an appentice on August 3rd so I was just 16!  I was always the youngest in the class right through both primary and secondary schools. I was still 15 when I took my GCE's and I didn't do well! I was a 'late learner' now I have a degree and lots of other qualifications, but it took time for me to achieve.
My son Paul had an even bigger disadvantage as his birthday is 27th August, if he had been born five days later he would have had an extra year of education. Like me, Paul was always the yougest in the class! They don't take account of that in SATs and GCSE's but do when tests are assessed and then weighted with cronological age, sometimes called the 'Standardised Score'.

Still, at least my birthday is in the middle of Summer!

Being born in July.

Summer babies face the so-called "birth-date effect", which means that children born in June, July and August are statistically likely to perform less well than their older classmates.

Summertime might be when the living is easy, but learning is more problematic.

This gap is still measurable all the way through primary and secondary school, GCSEs, A-levels and university admissions. There is no point at which these sunshine-month youngsters ever catch up with their older winterish peers.

A few years ago, Cambridge Assessment (an exam board rather than a namesake of the new baby) carried out a major overview and concluded that summer babies were "strongly disadvantaged" and that evidence of this age-related gap "stared out of qualifications data".

By the end of primary school the difference on average is 12%, a substantial difference in the data-obsessed measurement of primary school performance.

An analysis of more than half a million GCSE candidates found a consistent pattern of summer-birthday teenagers performing less well across all subjects.

A Freedom of Information request this year showed that the chance of going to Oxford or Cambridge was 30% higher for someone born in the autumn rather than July.

The difference is so stark that the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that summer-born children should get extra exam marks.
Mind the gap
But why should there be such a persistent difference?

The IFS suggested that it could be about a lack of confidence and they linked this to younger children being more likely to be unhappy at school.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nivivo 405 line camera

I found this interesting photo of the 405 line black and white video camera that I had back in the 70's. I always called mine a 'NEV' camera, but couldn't find any trace of it on the internet. It looks very similar with the Vidicon sensor, boards and connectors. I can also see a 'C' type lens the same as mine.

I used it during the days when I was experimenting with 405 line television on 70cm with amplitude modulation. It worked well, but later became a problem with intermittent faults. In the end I decided to rebuild the boards using modern transistors. I'm not sure if I built the boards on Veroboard or made printed circuit cicuits of my own...such a long time ago!
I also don't remember what I did with this camera. Gosh...I wish I had kept some of the old stuff!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sporadic E on 50Mhz

Well today was quite amazing, for the first time ever I was able to work some DX on 50Mhz through 'Sporadic E'. It is amazing listening to stations from the continent on 50Mhz, I have heard it once before, but didn't have a transmitter then.

Today I managed to work some stations using my Yaesu FT817 and 50Mhz halo. Only 5 Watts output from the FT817. The opening seemed to be mainly into JN square which includes France, Spain and Italy, but at it's peak today I could also hear HB9, Germany, Austria and Portugal.

Here are the stations I worked today:

EA3EVL  (JN00AR)  Spain

F6ITD   (JN03SN)  France

I2PJA  (JN45PB)  Italy

OE1WEU (Austria)

IW3INQ (JN65EU) Italy

It was quite tricky working these stations as QSB was very deep and variable, but it was great to experience Sporadic E conditions on 50Mhz for the first time.

What is Sporadic E?

Sporadic-E (also known as Es) propagation is probably familiar to many low-band operators as the summertime "short skip" on 10 meters. It is also responsible for most of the long-distance (600km and greater) contacts on the 6-meter band. Sporadic-E is a type of ionospheric E-layer reflection caused by small patches of unusually dense ionization. These sporadic E-layer "clouds" appear unpredictably, but they are most common during the daylight hours of late spring and summer. Sporadic-E events may last for just a few minutes to several hours; a given event usually affects only small areas of the country at any one time. During June and July, signals propagated by means of sporadic-E ionization may be heard on 50MHz for several hours a day on more than half the days. Sporadic-E is observed on 144 MHz less than a tenth as often as on 50MHz. Signals are often remarkably strong, allowing 50 and 144MHz stations running 10 watts, and often much less than that, to make contacts 1500 km and longer with relative ease.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Plessey SL600 Transceiver

Image of my transceiver along with my 144Mhz transmitter and Hallicrafters SX24 receiver.

Last week I read an interesting article in RADCOM about the SL600 series of chips back in the 1970's and 80's. The article concerned the SL641 or SL1641 VOGAD chip.
Back in the late 70's I built a complete SSB hybrid transceiver for 160m and 80m. It was based on the SL600 transceiver by G3ZVC. The SL600 chips were abundant at the time and I purchased mine from Birkett's. Most were 'untested', but all of them worked a treat and were very cheap! The SL600's came in metal TO5 cans and were supplied by Birkitts with data sheets. (Which I still have)
When I built my transceiver I remember making a PC board for the G3ZVC circuit, but I can't remember if I used it or made descrete boards??  I know that building this transceiver was the biggest construction project that I have ever made. I bought an XF-9B SSB filter and crystals which was the most expensive component and also a new Eddystone 898 dial for the front. (I just love the Eddystone 898 dial!) The transmitter used an EL84 valve in the PA giving about 20 watts PEP output on 160m and 80m. The MD108 diode mixer was a brilliant piece of kit, so easy to use and no tuning.

On reflection, this transceiver was pretty amazing, parts of it were my own designs or adapted from circuits in RADCOM or handbooks. Getting it working was frustrating and I had to re-build parts of it. The VFO caused some problems, as did the power supply which was built on-board the chassis. A lot of metalwork and construction, but the SL600's were great! If I remember right I used a couple of SL610's in the RF stage, but the front end was a bit 'deaf' with the SL610 and I ended up building a pre-selector to improve the reception.

My transceiver (left) with 144Mhz transmitter, SX24 receiver and (above) 432 Mhz tripler and transmitter.

What I don't understand is why I decided to take it all apart, I know I had lots of niggling problems, but the project was worthwhile. I think it was in 1980 when for the very first time I bought an HF transceiver - the Yaesu FT101E (which I still have) I took it apart to concentrate and make more room for my FT101E. What a silly thing to do...I would love to still have that transceiver now just to admire the work I put into it!  Also, why did I not take photos of it!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Yaesu FT817 stand

Now here is nifty little trick for anyone who has a Yaesu FT817 or other portable transciever. Last week I went into 'Poundworld' and spotted a fully adjustable folding stand for an iPad or tablet, so I bought one to support my Tab 2 tablet. Then I realised that this little stand fold up in different ways and is ideal for my Yeasu FT817. Great for a quid! 

Now I need another one for my Tab 2...

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Carry on blogging!

Last week I spent an afternoon at Heathfield Primary School where the children could showcase their blogs. At my school I introduced blogs about six years ago and we were a kind pioneer in using blogs in the classroom. At the time we used Blogger to set up some class blogs. The children loved it, but often didn't get the opportunity to blog independently. Later, the school's firewalls wouldn't let blogger through and things came to an abrupt end. Meanwhile, at Heathfield Primary School, David Mitchell who was Deputy Head at the time realised the impact of children blogging and the positive effect it has on their writing ability.

My school have also been blogging, this time using Wordpress, which, I must admit, is harder and not as user friendly as Blogger. Now all our classes have blogs and are using them.

Tonight I downloaded an app called Classdroid on my new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, this allows you to take a photo of a piece of work, grade it and upload it onto the class blog - amazing!

I also learned more about QR Codes and Tabs when using blogs.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Digital Pope

A bolt of lightning - surely not a message from above - was photographed striking the lightning rod on the top St Peter's Basilica,

OMG! The Pope has can that be? Popes don't just 'resign', its a bit like golfers who just grow old and loose their balls! 

Well, now it has happened what will the new Pope be like analogue or digital? 

Maybe we need a 'Digital Pope' who can bring the Catholic Church into the 21st Century... a scientist maybe?

This was interesting and fun to read today...take note Brian Cox!

To: The Vatican (HR Department)
Name: Dean Burnett
Date: 11-02-2013
Reference: Vacancy CCLXVI ('Pope')
CV: [Attached]

Dear Sir/Madam/Holy Ghost
I am very interested in applying for the recently announced vacancy for the position of pope. I am sure you've received many applications already, but I believe I would make an excellent candidate for the role as I could bring innovative new approaches and help increase diversity, which would have the effect of both motivating those involved in and enhancing the reputation of the organisation (i.e. The Catholic Church).

I have read the job description and although I admittedly do not meet all the specified essential criteria for the role (e.g. I do not regularly commune with God or any other unspecified deity) I feel that my strengths in other areas more than make up for my lack of direct experience.
Although I am not a practising member of the Catholic (or any other) Church, I am a qualified and enthusiastic scientist. I believe this makes me an ideal choice for the next pope, for a number of reasons. For example, I have had many jobs where it is compulsory to wear a white coat, and the wearing of long white garments appears to be the main duty of the pope. I also regularly lecture on the subject of neuroscience, so am extensively experienced at speaking in an unfamiliar language to rooms full of people who are struggling to stay awake, so it would be no trouble for me to offer Mass whenever required.

I am not a cardinal, but a recent check of my wallet reveals that I still have a membership cards for both GAME, Blockbuster Video and MVC, showing that I am clearly dedicated to declining institutions and have a robust if unrealistic belief in resurrection.
As an atheist scientist I cannot claim to be in regular contact with God per se, but I have regularly encountered professors with equivalent levels of power and influence who demand unquestioning obedience from those who serve them, so feel this has provided me with equivalent professional experience required for the position.
As a scientist pope, I could bring an element of rationalism and logic to the Catholic Church, which would better equip it to survive in more modern, enlightened times. I could provide numerous plausible-sounding theories as to the origins of the universe, life, evolution, human consciousness and any other area that the Church feels it should have influence over. Whereas most scientists require evidence and peer review before their theories can be accepted, my being the pope would mean I was infallible so I wouldn't have to go through this process; the simple act of me saying it would mean it is accepted by many as fact. This is a privilege enjoyed by only a few scientists, and one I definitely wouldn't abuse, scouts honour!

I have performed a number of miracles in recent years. For example, I have managed to sustain a career in science in present circumstances, despite having very few notable publications to my name and a disastrous history of high-profile embarrassments.
I have managed to remain in my post despite these numerous blunders, so I would be able to bring this experience to my duties as pope. I can also turn water into wine, which is viewed as more of a "classic" miracle. It takes some time as it involves me pouring the water onto grapevines before growing, picking, sorting, crushing, fermenting, maturing, bottling and selling. But overall, it's definitely water being turned into wine. With Science! (Unless that doesn't count as a miracle, in which case it's clearly magic).

I am not presently celibate, but as a teenager who was a big science fan with terrible acne, I am very familiar with the concept. I am also not a homosexual, as that would obviously exclude me from the role (NB. In the interests of transparency, I did once suck a penis, but I didn't inhale so it doesn't count). At the last count, I also have the required number of testicles to be pope (at least two). I also have experience with covering up crimes.

I believe these qualities and more make me an ideal candidate for the position, so I hope you will consider my application seriously. I realise the vacancy is somewhat above my pay grade, but I am looking for a higher paying position as I need money to provide for my family … I mean buy condoms … I mean jewels.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Vestrum fideliter

Dean Burnett

Sunday, February 03, 2013

BETT 2013

BETT 2013 has just finished. Each year in London there is a huge exhibition of Educational Technology...ICT for Schools. I have always avoided going to this monster 'sell, sell, sell' event and every year it gets bigger. OK...last year I got a free mug from 'Education City' from a friend who went. It was fun when I read this, comparing BETT with IKEA. I'm sure that if I went I would react in the same way!

"I don’t like IKEA. I’ll tell you why. It is because of what I call ‘IKEA Fear’. The symptoms of IKEA Fear are a mounting sense of disquiet that commences the minute I pass through the large revolving doors. This disquiet worsens progressively as I meander first through immaculate living rooms, on through offices, bedrooms and kitchens until it becomes something visceral within my chest and stomach, usually around the time I reach the carpet, curtains and cushions – urging me to run screaming from the building clutching at my hair.
I have contemplated this feeling and the possible reasons for it. I have a theory based upon nothing other than my own tenuous guesses. I think my problem may possibly be similar to conditions such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia, and here are a couple of exacerbating factors:
• There is a disorientating absence of any reference to the outside world. If you are lucky, you might glimpse a rectangle of far-off, semi-industrial car-park through a distant fire door (the location of which is noted in the event of a panic-induced exit in due course).
• There is a disturbing juxtaposing of comfy, soft, homely environments in which you can sit and imagine oneself in the bosom of family relaxing after or during a meal… until you look up and witness the horrific, industrial tangle of ducting and steel. I don’t mind telling you that this contrast messes with my head.

Now, on to the BETT Show 2013. This year, it relocated from Olympia to Excel- a move I welcomed initially as it certainly improved accessibility for me. This welcome feeling was short-lived. On arrival at Excel, I attempted to feel upbeat and optimistic but that familiar disquiet, the IKEA Fear, started to creep up on me. I apologise to those friends of mine whom I encountered on that first morning, my brow knitted and jaw slightly tensed. I put on a brave face and greeted you enthusiastically but I wasn’t quite myself. Walking the (seemingly) mile-long boulevards, snickets and ginnels of the exhibition space, my anxiety mounted until I had to make a swift exit. David Mitchell and Julia Skinner were fortunately on hand to scoop me up as I composed myself over some lunch with them.
I struggled throughout the two and a bit days at the show. My misery was mitigated only by the wonderful encounters I had with lovely people. The social, the teachmeet, the laughs and the learning mean that I won’t be boycotting in future. I will take the rough with the smooth.

I miss Olympia. I miss the quirkiness, the characterful architecture, the nooks and crannies, the expanse of sky spread out above. I also miss the opportunities for out-of-body elevations to the balcony for welcome, reorienting breathers during which one could see the layout, establish the landmarks or spot a friend to pursue.
Oh, and I didn’t even see anything especially exciting or innovative in those long corridors of anxiety. Next year, I will dedicate myself to establishing quick exit routes whilst also seeking out people – after all, it is them that make a visit to BETT worthwhile."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

FDK Multi Palm IV

Today I was playing about with a Multi Palm IV 70cm FM handheld. I have had this little rig in my possession for years now hidden in the attic along with lots of other 'junk' from the olden days.
This little handheld came out around 1979 and was ahead of it's time. I remember trying to build a transverter for 70cms then and it was difficult to build and tune up. The Multi Palm was small, very compact and stable. It was crystal controlled with a built in shift and tone burst for repeaters. Today I connected a 12v PSU and it worked fine. I could hear GB3CR repeater as good as my new Baofeng handheld.
Inside are a bank of small nicads, which don't seem to work any more. The rig gives an output power of 1 watt on 70cms.

I took the back off to remind myself of the analogue electronics inside, remember, there was nothing digital then. A lot of stuff packed into a small space! I wonder if you can still buy the packs of nicad batteries? Back in 1979 Birkett's would sell packs like this at some of the radio rallies dead cheap.

If you lift up the main board you will find the bank of six crystals which can be changed for the particular channels that you want. The ones fitted at the moment are: RB2, RB4, RB6, SU8, RB10, SU20.

Block Diagram of the FDK Multi Palm IV (Click to enlarge)

Circuit Diagram of the FDK Multi Palm IV (Click to enlarge)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


What is happening to the world of retail?

Soon there will be no stores at all left in our town centre, just pound shops, mobile phone shops, pawn shops and banks!

I remember the days of shopping in Bolton where you could spend all day there browsing round the shops. I loved the record shops! Bulloughs on Knowsley Street, the Co-op on Bridge Street and later Russells, Our Price, WH Smith and Andy's Records.
I find it hard to pay money for something that I cannot hold in my hand and 'keep'. Vinyl LPs with their covers are something that you saved up for and treasured, often reading the sleeves and looking at the pictures while you listened to them. CD's gave us quality without the crackles and scratches, but they sort of took away the feel of a Vinyl album.

Now it is digital, but lets stop here....MP3???  Where is the audio quality in that?
You pay for a digital download to listen on your computer or phone in audio quality on parr with Medium Wave Radio!  What has happened to the high quality Stereo Amps and Speakers?  How many people are listening to their digital downloads on Rotel Amps and Wharfdale Speakers?
People don't seem to have the time anymore for 'quality' listening, life is too fast, music on the go. We seem to be going back in time in the analogue world to the time when we listened to music on a 'record player' with a tinny speaker. In those days we strived for better 'quality' audio production. Now we have it we are going in reverse!

Technology has shot itself in the foot!

Now HMV the last remaining music store is poised to shut, soon CD's will be a thing of the past and we will be doomed to the digital downloads stored in the 'clouds' of digital technology.

Latest Blockbuster have joined the insolvency club!
Members now include: Woolworths, Game, Comet, Jessops, HMV, Blockbuster...I wonder who is next to join?