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 matter...you can programme channels from the keypad, but with repeaters and tones etc..it 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:

http://www.miklor.com/uv5r/

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

G8NVW


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

Serviscope


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 years...it 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!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society

 


From that picture of the "best Club stand" at the Bellevue Rally, from L to
R: Eric G4FSN, Roy G4GHE, Chris G4HYG, Chris G4AGJ and Alban G8NVW.. In the background you can see a photo of myself.

Last Monday I went onto topband to try to work Ross G6GVI using the old G8WY callsign. Also on the band was Bill G3XUM who still operates from his shed in Farnworth. It is a long time since I worked stations on 160m and my antenna is not really suited for this band. I could talk with Bill, but it was difficult and Ross couldn't hear me at all.
I have decided that it may be a good idea to put up a longwire again, it is the Radio Club Contest on the following Saturday, so it is a good time to try one.

After talking with Bill G3XUM, I then moved to 2m and had a long chat with Ross using G8WY. I was able to talk about the old Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society. Very nostagalic!
I have looked through my old photos to find some from the 70's and 80's some of which I have sent to Ross to put on the Bolton Wireless Club website.

 
 
Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society and Bury Radio Club joint venture on Rooley Moor for VHF NFD around 1971.

 
Chris G4AGJ operating G8WY during one of the contests with my Yaesu FT101E.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

G3ZQS

In the photo...standing: G4ADW, Jim G8CVO, George G3ZQS, Chris G8FDL, visitor.  Sitting: Steve (me) G4AQB, G3Y??, Bill G3XUM. Neil G3ZPL, Eli G3LVX, Jim G3SPB. this was from 1971. 
 
This was an exhibition staion organised by George at Moss Bank Park

After my last post about G8WY, it prompted me to think about George, G3ZQS. A search on Google brought some sad news. George died in April 2006, it is only now that I found out. I guess I have been out of touch for a long time. I was pleased to find some photos of George in his later years and also a video on You Tube where he talks about FISTS which is a society that promotes the use of morse on the amateur bands.

I met George before I got my amateur radio licence, the Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society was going through a bad patch around 1970 when the previous committee seemed to have fallen apart and nobody wanted to take the helm. At that time the club was based at The Red Lion pub at Four Lane Ends and needed a new venue. George became secretary of the club and I became assistant secretary (I was only 16 then!) George managed to find another venue in the centre of town at the Clarence Hotel on Bradshawgate. Meetings were held on the first Tuesday in the month and on the 3rd Tuesday was a 'noggin and natter night'. George always had a great sense of humour and put in a huge amount of work to get the club back on it's feet again! During this time lots of special event stations were organised and the club started to buy some equipment. The first of which was a 50 ft aluminium mast and 80m trapped dipole that travelled to all the events.


During this time, I was studying for my radio amateur exam. George was a master of the key! He tought me morse code and had a very easy method of teaching. He grouped the letters into sounds and rhythms. The first letters to learn were A,W,J  then B,D,N and so on... This is put onto tapes and I used the tapes to learn morse. To get my speed up to 20 WPM, George lent me some 78 records with groups of letters and also plain language. I passed my morse test in October 1971 and a week later received my licence. George was at my house when the envelope arrived, when I opened it George shouted "Come on then what is it?"  "G4AQB" I replied. "Ahhh...A Queer Begger ehh!"  said George with his razor sharp wit!



I remember when George bought himself a 'Minimitter' which was huge, he used this for high power CW contacts from his shed when he lived at Bromley Cross. He would sit on it to keep him warm while he worked stations all the world on CW with a broken hacksaw blade as a morse key!
George could send and receive morse like we speak. One weekend we went with the Bury Radio Club to Ashworth Valley for the NFD Contest, which of course is all morse. George was working at the Daily Express in Manchester at the time and didn't finish until midnight. He came straight over.I will never forget when George came into the tent with his slippers on and a crate of brown ales to keep him going through the night! It was truely amazing watching him operate at speeds of  50wpm with his feet up, cigarette in one hand and brown ale at his side.



The club moved premises again to the Recreation Club on St Georges Road, we erected an aerial which ran from the building next door to the roof of the recreation club. During this time George had managed to aquire the G8WY callsign and also persuaded Bolton Council to print some QSL cards for us. We waited months for these cards...when they finally a van turned up with boxes and boxes of QSL cards...over 10,000!  I still have some here!

Lots of memories, George was also very talented at graphic design, he designed QSL cards and had them printed. He also designed a wonderful poster that was put up in shops and public places to advertise the club. I still remember the one on the door of M Dzubias shop on Bradshawgate.

The last time I saw George was at the Bolton Rally at Silverwell St. where he had a stand to promote FISTS....a long time ago. George moved to Darwen and concentrated on the FISTS project, he rarely came on the air with AM or SSB.

George was a great guy, a sad loss to amateur radio.

Here is the You Tube video of George G3ZQS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0evhoeZF6ao

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

G8WY



I received an interesting e mail today from the Bolton Wireless Club...

Gents, we thought that you'd be interested to hear that thanks to the
persistence of Ian G0CTO and others, the old G8WY callsign is now back
on-air. :-)

It was first aired on Monday afternoon, on 160m (CW!), operated by Ian. We
then had a little Club net (on SSB), including Ian using G8WY and me
operating the G0BWC Club call.

We're hoping to have it on-air again for the Club net next Monday evening,
around 1968kHz on LSB - please join us if you can.

And if you have any "scrapbook" items from the B&DARS years, this would be a
good opportunity archive them digitally for posterity?

73 de Ross G6GVI


My reply...

Hi Ross and Bill

That is great news! It has been such a long time since Golf Eight Whisky
Yankee was heard on the bands, the callsign has a lot of history. I used it
a lot during contests and exhibition stations and I think Bill also used it
on HF with the KW2000A. A few weeks ago a photo appeared in the Bolton News
of myself, Bill and Neil G3ZPL in Bill's shack using the call to link with
our twin towns back in 1974.
I thought at the time about what had happened to the call and how it would
be great to have it back in Bolton. I think maybe you know the origin of the
callsign Ross from the old B&DARS days.
I remember when I was an SWL and George G3ZQS was secretary of the club, he
found out about the call from another amateur and set about making the call
active again. It took him a long time and like Ian, had to be very
persistent in getting hold of it.

You must get some QSL cards made Ross, I would love to have one on my wall.
I will listen on Monday evening!


 
 
Here is myself, Chris (G4AGJ) and Jack (G8HIK) back in about 1978 operating G8WY/P from Affetside.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Not any BaoFeng UV-5R Plus

I just bought one of these for my Christmas present... The amazing thing is that it is coming from M&S! Not any BaoFeng UV-5R Plus, but an M&S one! Fantastic!

Product Description

Features

* Dual-Band Display, Dual Freq. Display, Dual-Standby
* Output Power: 4 /1Watts
* 128 Channels 50 CTCSS and 104 DCS
* Built-in VOX Function
* 1750Hz Brust Tone
* FM Radio (65.0MHz-108.0MHz)
* LED Flashlight
* Large LCD Display
* Hight /Low RF Power Switchable
* 25KHz/12.5KHz Switchable
* Emergency Alert
* Low Battery Alert
* Battery Saver
* Time-out Timer
* Keypad Lock
* Monitor Channel
* Channel Step: 2.5/5/6.25/10/12.5/25KHz
* ROGER SET

General Specifications

·Frequency Range: 65-108MHz (FM Receive only); 136-174 MHz and 400-479.995 MHz(TX/RX)
·Channel No.: 128
·Frequency Stability: ±2.5ppm
·Antenna: High gain Dual-Band Antenna
·Antenna Impedance: 50 ohm
·Operating Voltage: DC 7.4V
·Mode of operation: Simple or semi-duplex
·Dimension (W x H x D): 100 x 52 x 32 mm
·Weight: 250g (including battery, antenna)

Transmitter Specifications

·Output power: 4W / 1W (Max 5W)
·Modulation Mode: 16kWbF3E / 11kWbF3E
·Maximum deviation: <5khz arrow="arrow" br="br" ide="ide" khz="khz">·Spurious Radiation: <7 br="br" microw="microw">·Adjacent Ch. power: <=-65dB(Wide) / <=-60dB(Narrow)
·Pre-emphasis characteristics: 6dB
·Current: <=1.6A(5W)
·CTCSS/DCS deviation: 0.5±0.1kHz(Wide) / 0.3±0.1kHz(Narrow)
·Intermediation sensitivity: 8-12mv
·Intermediation distortion: <10 br="br">
Package Including

· 1 x UV-5R (VHF136-174MHz / UHF 400-479.995MHz)
· 1 x 7.4V 1800mAh Li-ion Battery Pack
· 1 x Antenna 136-174/400-479.995Mhz
· 1 x Earphone Mic/Headset
· 1 x Belt Clip
· 1 x Hand Strap
· 1 x ENG / GER / FRA Manual
· 1 x adapter
· 1 x Desktop Charger (100V ~ 240V)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Morse Mars

Who thought Morse Code was dead and buried with all the digital technology?  Not so...NASA has included a message in Morse Code in the track of Curiosity the Mars rover, where as we speak, is leaving the message JPL permantly on the surface of Mars wherever it goes!

What a great idea!



It is fun to listen to Morse QSO's on the bands, this skill is not dead, but is an important way of communicating when all else fails. Last night I listened to the contest on 50Mhz and heard a few times when the QSO was difficult and reverted to sending the contest info in Morse...why not!
I still have my key, and I still know how to use it!
I am now waiting for a good Auroral opening, I have worked lots of stations before during Auroral activity using morse code, it sounds like a 'buzzsaw' during Auroral contacts.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Twin town link up

Couldn't believe it today when my Dad rang me to tell me that there was a photo of of me in newspaper from 1974. A photo of me with long hair!
I remember when this photo was taken, I went with Neil G3ZPL to Bills's house to set up a link between the Mayor of Paderborne in Germany, the Mayor of Le Mans in France and the Mayor of Bolton. The Bolton Evening News also came to take photos. It was a glorious Spring morning nad Neill picked me me up in his Hilman Imp car. We drove down St Peter's Way to Farnworth with all the widows open singing 'MaMa were all crazy now!' When we arrived at Bills house the photographer was there, but no Mayor!
In the end we went on 20 metres with Bills KW2000 and Linear and talked with Paderborne and Le Mans (our twin towns) on the radio. I remember that the link was quite poor and a lot of QRM and QSB.

Bolton was well populated with radio hams in 1974.
They were amateur broadcasters with 100ftpieces of wire strung over the rooftops as an aerial.
The previous Christmas about 20 of them - members of the Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society - had set up their own twin chatting arrangements with the french town of Le Mans.
It was all done from the home of Bill Moran (G3XUM) Each Sunday at about 9am the first call sign G8WY/A went out to make contact with the Le Mans signal - F8GE
Bill Moran, left, is pictured operating his transmitter with fellow members Neil Richardson and secretary Stephen Macdonald.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics at last!





Well, last night was amazing!
I watched the Olympic opening ceremony all the way through and it was incredible! The technology that went into the ceremony was mind blowing with the lights, projections and special effects. There must have been an army of technicians on site as the scene was transformed from an English countryside to the industrial revolution with the chimneys and how on earth did they forge the Olympic rings with the awesome special effects? As well as Mr Bean, we also saw the guy that invented the World Wide Web and this should be celebrated as it has changed the world...trouble is that I can't remember his name!
The music was chosen well and David Bowie played Heros as the Team GB came into the stadium at the end of the team procession...couldn't have chosen it better!

Well done Danny Boyle!  A true down to earth Radcliffe man with a great northern insiration. My wife Kathleen comes from Radcliffe and i'm sure he knows her family! The Olivers were well known in Radcliffe.

This is a once in a lifetime event that should be remembered!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I got a Raspberry Pi



I waited weeks, but here it is...my very own Raspberry Pi!

I'm not sure what to make of it yet, I haven't connected it and don't really know what to do with it yet. I just had to get one because it brings back memories of my first attempts in computer programming.

I remember going on a night school course at BIHE in Bolton to learn abot BASIC programming on a huge PDP11 computer with punch tape to save my work. Later, when I was doing my degree with the Open University, they sent me a computer to use for my course. It didn't have an operating system and used an 8080 CPU, I had to programme it in 'assembly' language and was fun to use.

Now when I got my Sinclair Spectrum I learned to programme in BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL and even Machine Code. I think my 'peak' was when I was able to write programmes in Machine Code to control an interface that controlled my Modem. I was able to auto-dial and auto answer communication on what is now the Internet.

It should be fun to use the Raspberry Pi!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Swedish Welcome!


On the day that the Olympic Torch left Bolton for its journey around the country our Swedish visitors arrived just too late to see the Olympic flame. It was 11.30am when I collected Birgitta, Linnea, Elsa and Malva from the train station in Bolton and took them to the Holiday Inn where they will stay.

When we arrived I noticed some vehicles with the Olympic colours and logos in the car park and people with the Olympic tracksuits. The hotel was being used for the team to stay overnight. We sat talking and welcoming our Swedish family when two people sitting next to us pulled out an Olympic torch! Gosh! brilliant! We all had our photos taken holding the torch...

What a wonderful welcome...Thank You!

Birgitta and her family came to visit us after we 'found' each other again on Facebook. I last met Birgitta 39 years ago in 1973 when we met on holiday in Eastbourne. We wrote to each other afterwards for many years. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Olympic Torch



Gosh! I never thought I would experience this...the Olympic Torch Relay coming to Bolton just before the london Olympics in 2012.
I watched the torches live on the tv feed as it made it's way from Lands End and now at last it has arrived here. The torch was due to arrive in Bolton Town Centre, but the roads leading to the town were mostly blocked, so we went to the bottom of Junction Road at Wigan Road as the flame made it's way from Westhoughton. The atmosphere was was fantastic and it was also a changover point for the torches. Steve Watson was getting ready to receive the flame.

Melissa was also here and she watched very excited!
This is a once in a life experience even for someone like Melissa...amazing!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sinclair Spectrum - 30 Years Old!


In 1982 after a lot of thought and constant mind changing I bought myself a Sinclair Spectrum 48k Computer. At the time I had looked at lots of other machines including the 'Oric', 'Dragon' and 'Lynx' computers, but was finally persuaded (rightly) by a friend to go for the Spectrum. The best thing I ever did! When I bought it Sinclair dropped the price of the 48k machine by £50 to £125....so off I went to W.H.Smiths to buy one. I even took some time off work expecting a huge queue, but no, only me. I asked the girl expecting that they had already sold out, but she smiled and went to get one. YES!!! I couldn't believe it...off I went to take it to work to try it out!

Now instead of writing more, this guy says it all, so I am quoting this from his blog... Thank you Michael Hanlon...you have said it all!

The Sinclair Spectrum - 30 today

"If there is something guaranteed to make a 47-year-old chap feel old, it is to be told that the first computer he ever got his hands on is 30 today. THIRTY! That’s how long ago Clive Sinclair released his groundbreaking ZX Spectrum home computer, a machine that was the future, once. And like millions I bought one, at the rather grand price of £125.

This was the bizarre false dawn of home computing, when a slew of standalone machines flooded the market, all mutually incompatible, incapable of being networked without some serious soldering and bought by people for the most part unaware of what to do with them. And nevertheless, we loved these strange gizmos which you plugged into the telly and required software to be downloaded via a cassette deck.
The Spectrum was far cleverer than most, and came in a natty black case that shrieked ‘Year 2000” and had a clever (and, crucially, cheap) rubberised one-piece keypad. It was the iPad of its day, well-made, hugely desirable and very stylish; I remember queues in the shops and fawning news items about this British marvel. This was a rare industrial success story at a time when unemployment was at a postwar high.
But what was it for? Playing games, that’s what. Yes you could buy a printer but I remember the results came on shiny four-inch-wide paper and no one pretended this was any kind of serious business machine. But at its heart lurked a fairly powerful processor (by the standards of the day) and a stripped-out operating system that allowed young and clever programmers too work wonders, creating innovative games with colour 3D graphics and wrestling every last pixel of resolution out of its primitive graphics hardware.

It is probably down to machines like the Spectrum, its predecessor the ZX81 and the Tangerine, an even more basic computer, that Britain led the world in the lucrative computer games industry (it is not widely appreciated that mega-successes such as ‘Grand Theft Auto’ are, despite their American ambience, as British as Wallace and Gromit. If you could program a machine like a Spectrum then you could program just about anything, and a whole generation of young programmers took full advantage.
Sadly I was not among their number. I had some friends who mastered the intricacies of machine code but my brain was just not up to it. I played other people’s games on my Spectrum for a year or so then the thing was packed away neatly in its box and forgotten. I have no idea what happened to it.
The early 1980s was an odd time in the computing age. The technology had advanced to the stage where machines that could fit on a table top were cheap enough to be sold to the public, yet there was no real computing architecture to support a true IT revolution. It was as though someone invented a car in a world where there there were no roads. You turn on an iPad and it’s all there – the all-powerful, all-singing Interweb, so intuitive now that five year olds have no problem. But turn on a Spectrum and you got a white screen – and a cursor. The fact that anyone managed to get the thing to play Space Invaders and the like was something of a miracle. I believe someone even managed to connect a Spectrum to the Internet once; the poor old thing must have had the shock of its life."

I can go one further than this...I did use my Spectrum on the primitive Internet and I also used machine code to programme it!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Topband Transmitter F.G.Rayer

In 1970 just before I got my Amateur Radio licence I built my very first transmitter. The circuit came from Short Wave Magazine and was produced by F.G. Rayer G3OGR. My first attempt was built on an aluminium chassis and my Dad made me a front panel out of mild steel. At the time Neil, G3ZPL had built the same circuit and it worked great! The circuit consisted of an EF91 valve in the VFO and another in the buffer. The Power Amplifier (PA) was a 5763 valve which could run about 15 watt input.

The AM modulator consisted of a 12AX7 (ECC83) and 6BW6 amplifier.


After spending weeks of painstaking drilling, filing and soldering I finally got the transmitter to work, but it had a problem. The VFO seemed to react with the PA. When I tuned the transmitter to the antenna the VFO would pick up spurious signals and shift up the band! Although I had an OA2 stabiliser valve this did not solve the problem. Maybe this was caused by the power supply dropping in voltage when the PA was taking more power.
Later I borrowed my transmitter to George G3ZQS and his antenna got hit by lightning which welded together the vains on the tuning capacitor! Not to mention the Power Supply which 'blew-up' - one of the smoothing capacitors exploded leaving a permanent dint in the roof!
When I got my licence I rebuilt the transmitter with a screened VFO in a separate aluminium box, and an aluminium front panel, this worked really well and was completely stable. The modulator used an ECC83 which had a high gain, I seem to remember using an ECC82 which had a lower gain, but same valve pin configueration.
F.G. Rayer produced loads of circuits and designs for transmitters and receievers in the 1960's and 70's. Almost every month had a design from this guy in Practical Wireless, Short Wave Magazine or Radio Communication. Most were variations of a theme and at the time he was the Enid Blyton of radio. I have to admire Francis G. Rayer, his designs were always well written and easy to follow. I recently found out that he also wrote science fiction books!
Thank you G3OGR!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

432Mhz HB9CV review

Having used an HB9CV antenna for 70Mhz for a while, I wondered how one of these for 432Mhz would perform while out portable up on the hills. Earlier this year I aquired a 4 element yagi for 144Mhz that is fine for portable use. This left me with a 144mhz HB9CV that I have had for years. I used it occasionally portable and before that used it vertically polarised on my mast at home.
So...what to do with my redundant 144Mhz HB9CV?
Out came my hacksaw along with some measurements and built my own little antenna for 70cms from an old 144Mhz HB9CV!
Looking at this little antenna made me think...will this really work? It tuned well on 432Mhz and during the last contest set it up on a small mast next to my car in the drive. I was quite surprised how I could hear stations that I could hear on my big yagi from the shack. I would have to wait a few weeks for the next contest to try it out proper.
Last night was the Tuesday night activity contest on 432Mhz, so I took my FT817 and HB9CV up to Winter Hill. Setting it up was easy with my window bracket and wooden base. I have to admit that I was amazed at the performance of this little antenna, I could hear stations as far away as the South Coast! I worked a few stations, but I wasn't really interested in the contest, just what I could hear and work long distance.
The HB9CV was remarkably sharp with a couple of side lobes on either side when listening to a distant station and the front to back seemed quite good. The VSWR reads about 1.5 to 1 which is good for a home built antenna!
The problem with 432Mhz antennas is that they are very sharp and we tend to have lots of elements. I used to have an 18 element parabeam, a fine antenna for fixed station and serious contest stuff, but you can miss an awful lot up there on the hills with a multi-element yagi!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

TV Times

This is so true!
In 1990 we had five channels and a huge CRT...now we have hundreds of channels a tv that you can carry under your arm!
Maybe it is time to curb all the crazy digital channels available now. I can't believe how many times I try to find a channel that has someting watchable on it. So much rubbish and OMG! how many commercials do we have to watch. I must admit that I simply don't watch television unless it has a good programme or film that I want to watch without the commercials!
When will it end!
Now, how about this...
Today my daughter had Sky installed in her house. She so pleased to have it at last! Fantastic efficiency from Sky, all documents arrived, engineer rang to confirm times, fully installed and working fine!
Then, the same day at teatime she gets a knock at the door...it's the Television Licencing Officer. "Your TV licence ran out 2 weeks ago" said the man. Then under caution proceeds to 'book' her for not having a licence. "I only had Sky fitted today" says my daughter. "Can you prove it?" he says while writing down what channel she is watching at the moment and whether he can see a digibox anywhere.
How crazy is this?
No gentle reminder, no letter through the post, no phone call or text message, but a 'baliff' at the door just 6 hours after having Sky installed. This is obviously because Sky informed the Television Licencing prior to installing and the Licencing Department seeing an opportunity to jump on a 'licence dodger' My daugher always pays her licence monthly and was up to date, but March was the end of the licencing year and they had not reminded her to renew her Direct Debit.
Technological efficiency at it's gutter level!
Why don't they go back to the old analogue days and find the real 'licence dodgers' with help from their 'TV Detector Vans'. It don't work with digital anyway!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Auriol Weather Station

For a long time I wanted a wireless weather station with outside wind and rain sensors. I have a 'simple' weather monitor from Maplin in my room that I was given as Christmas present. I looked at the price of the complete weather stations, but they are quite expensive, then I was told about the Auriol weather stations sold at Lidl before Christmas. Too late now! Would have to wait ages until Lidl get around to put some more into the stores.
After a search on the internet I came across one for sale brand new for £20, so I bought it! What a wonderful bit of kit this is! Has wind, pressure, rainfall, dew point, outside temperature and lots of other measurements. Using this I was able to predict the 144Mhz tropo opening a few nights ago! The Auriol weather station display is very clear and has a lovely black facia, different from all the boring grey facias on the expensive weather stations. The wireless signal transmits at around 434Mhz with a distance of about 50m. It works fine in my garden.



Gosh! How things have changed. Back in 1980 I had a huge wind speed and direction monitor made of solid brass on my shed roof. It came from my Uncle Bill, who worked at the Winter Hill Transmitting Station. High up on the mast was the weather monitoring equipment. The stuff I had was taken down from the mast after being hit by lightning. It still worked fine, but the analogue electronics that came with it was incredible!
I also made a wind speed monitor myself using some brass rods, plastic cups and an electric motor. It worked, but of course the wind speed on the meter was erratic and totally inaccurate.
Eventually, I gave away the equipment to a Secondary School so that they could develop it further.

Friday, March 16, 2012

144Mhz Tropo

Last night I worked EC1AJL on 2m, here are his antennas in Spain...dream on Steve!
At last! An opening on 2m!
Since putting up my new antennas conditions have been either flat or awful. Over the last few nights I have been watching the weather maps and monitoring the pressure on my new weather station. High pressure of 1036 sitting over the country for most of the week, but then starting to slowly move to the South East. This is the recipe for good conditions into Europe! I was really pleased with myself for remembering how to predict an opening like I used to do back in the 1970's and 80's.
On Wednesday I heard several French stations and some German and Danish stations, most too weak to work with my measly 5 watts, but then later in the evening two quite strong French stations F6BGR and F1UVN were heard and I managed to work them with no problem!
Last night, the opening moved more to the South West with some quite strong stations from Spain coming through. I managed to work two stations EC1AJL and EA1FDI on the North coast of Spain!
Gosh! This was amazing with just 5 watts and a 5 element! It is something like 15 years since I have worked Europe on 2m, and I can't remember if I worked any stations in Spain!
Now i'm writing QSL cards!

Friday, March 09, 2012

G4AQB/P back in the 80's

How things have moved on! In my last post my Yaesu FT-817 covers all bands from 1.8Mhz to 432Mhz, a shack-in-a-box! Now contrast this to the same location in the early 1980's.

Here is my Yaesu FT101E (which I still have!) along with a home made transverter by Chris G4AGJ and SWR /Power meter. When I look carefully at these photos I see other things from that time. Can you see a scruffy looking Mothercare Baby Box? That was my toolbox for many years when I did field service mending televisions. I always kept it in the car! My car was a White Ford Escort and in those days carpets wre unheard of, you had to put in your own! So I cut bits of carpet left over from my front room, you can see it under the equipment. Note the RSGB sticker on the windscreen and the HUGE power supply!

Now this photo is in the back of Chris, G4AGJ's car. Chris spent a lot of time building an HF Transceiver. It covered 1.8Mhz - 30Mhz and used Plessey SL1600 circuits. It was an amazing project with it's Eddystone 898 dial and professional looking front. This inspired me to build a copy myself, but just for 160m and 80m. Again, home made transverters and power supplies.
We had a lot of fun up on Matchmoor Lane (Winter Hill) I still do, it is so quiet and relaxing just listening to stations and working them in contests.
Now we have the Tuesday night contests when the VHF /UHF bands come to life and it is time to go out there and work portable!
A thought for tonight...
We have a huge Aurora at the moment and the pressure on my weather monitor is showing 1033, surely we should have good tropo conditions and also contacts through Aurora. I listen on the 144Mhz and 432Mhz bands and there is nothing! Back in the 80's we would be working stations all over Europe. How come?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

G4AQB/P

Last weekend was the 2m / 70cm contest. It started at 2.00pm for 24 hours.
It seemed like a good day, so I went out onto Winter Hill with my Yaesu FT-817. I took with me the Skyscan mag mount and an HB9CV for 2m. Although I didn't take part in the contest, is was fun listening to some of the stations. I was amazed at what I could hear on the little HB9CV antenna. I only worked a handful of stations, the best being M0BAO/P on the South Coast in IO80LX on 2m.
When I got home I decided to put together the 4 element yagi that I acquired so that I can use it next time and also modify the HB9CV to use on 70cm. This will give me some antennas to use during the Summer contests.
It was a shame to put the hacksaw to the HB9CV, I will try the 70cm version out during the next contest.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones

Sad news today about the death of Davy Jones.
The Monkees were one of my favourite bands back in 1967. I recorded their top twenty hits on my reel to reel tape recorder and learned all the words to the songs! Davy Jones' voice was very 'British' and he came from Manchester too.
I guess I shoud have stayed in bed,
My pillow wrapped around my head,
Instead of waking up to find,
A nightmare of a different kind,
She went away.
This just doesn't seem to be my day!
Rest in peace Davy!

Feb29th.net


What is Feb29.net?
"The aim of this project is simple – Stripped down blogging to its simplest form to record one special day in time across the globe. As soon as the first time zone enters Feb29th.net this blog will be open to posts. It’s simple, by filling out the form below, you will be creating a blog post on this blog."
What a great idea!
Today, to celebrate the leap year, I have been blogging with the children at school on our school blog and also on feb29th.net.
It is amazing to see the diverse ideas and comments on the site from younger children right through to adults across the world.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Skyscan Antenna Review


I bought one of these antennas last year originally to use as a loft antenna as a secondary one to use with my home made receiver. During Summer last year I put the mag mount antenna onto my car and went up Matchmoor Lane on Winter Hill to join in some of the Tuesday night contests.
I was amazed at the way this antenna performed! It works well on all the bands I tried which included 50Mhz, 144Mhz and even 432Mhz. It also seems fine to transmit on this antenna, even though I think it is meant for receiving when using a scanning receiver. I was quite impressed!
It is easy to use, but i'm not sure that I would use one of these for mobile operation as occasionally you need to tighten up the allen screws that hold on the vertical elements.
You can buy the discone version of this antenna instead of the mag mount.
Specs:
Compact scanner and receiver antenna with coverage of 25-1300MHz.
Suitable for static mobile use and can also be used as a discreet loft or indoor antenna when mounted on a metal ground plane.
The magnetic base has a protective rubber cover and the Skyscan Mk2 is supplied with approx 4m of cable and with a BNC plug fitted.The quad whip design gives improved reception over standard single whip receive aerials.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Airfix Space Shuttle



At last I have bought an Airfix Space Shuttle model kit!
OK...so there is no electronics or digital technology, just plastic, but I wanted one of these for Christmas, but couldn't find any in the shops and on e-bay they were few and far between usually going for more than the retail price. I think they produced the kit to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle. I spoke with the guy from the local model shop and he told me that Airfix only produced them over a short period of time and they are now becoming difficult to obtain.
I used to buy lots of model kits when I was very young, mainly airplanes. I would glue all the pieces together and paint them, then my Dad would hang them from the ceiling in my bedroom. This kit has lots of bits to stick together...it will probably take me weeks to complete it!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

My House



An aerial photo of my house when it was being built in 1962! You can see me house where the pen points.


Gosh! It is 35 years ago today since we moved into our house! It was a cold night on 7th February 1977 when I got the keys to the house. This was two months before Kathleen and I got married. Of course my first job was to establish a radio shack in the box room that I still use now and shortly after move my aerials from my family house onto our chimney. My house is in a good location for radio communication. Right at the top of a hill about 114 metres ASL with a clear take off to the South, West and East.



I remember that the house was draughty and had no central heating at the time, wooden windows and in February it was freezing!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Jaybeams

I found this old picture of my antennas as they were about 15 years ago. I bought the Jaybeam antennas in 1973 and first put them up on the chimney of my parents house , then moved them to my house. They were actually up and used for almost 30 years!
On the chimney is the rotator with 8 element beam for 144Mhz (Jaybeam), 18 element parabeam for 432Mhz (Jaybeam) and at the top is my home made 10 over 10 slot fed yagi for 1296Mhz. I worked stations in France and Switzerland on this little antenna with less than 1 watt, made out of copper plumbing pipes and connectors!


On the side of the house is a rotatable mast with a horizontal 70Mhz 2 element beam. (This was actually a cut down Band 1 television aerial) Above is a vertical 144Mhz HB9CV (Which I still use for portable) There is also a 432Mhz folded dipole for FM on 432Mhz, but you can't see it on the photo.


It was only when the rotator stopped working and I lost a couple of elements from the 8 element that I decided to take them down. At the time I had lost some interest in amateur radio, things were pretty boring on the bands and locally there was little interest. My equipment went into mothballs and I also got rid of most of my construction components...including my VALVES!


It was sad that I lost the plot and really thought that amateur radio was dead with coming of mobile phones and computers.


I cannot believe that I took my antennas down to the local recycling centre! How I miss the 18 element parabeam!
Now I have bought new antennas, but you can't beat the old Jaybeams! Built like a brick Sh** House! Every 5 years or so I took down the antennas and cleaned them with wire wool and coated everything in grease or vaseline. They always looked like new!