OK, It’s a Rant Day!

by MD0MDI
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OK, It’s a Rant Day!

Having to box up all my old kit is proving to be a real nightmare, it is not just like you are selling an item because it is no longer used, I do not want to Sell anything!

I love my radio’s, so seeing an item being boxed up is painful, the actual placing of a radio into a box along with the necessary cables, manuals is like the end of an era.

A RUB Stack - One of Many

I admit that I am 100% a ‘Ham Radio Hoarder’, why does anyone need to own over 30 different Antenna Tuning Units, and about 15 Power Supply Units, Over 20 different Soldering Iron’s/Stations, especially as I always went to my Old Weller, I found the New Weller’s and the Hako’s were like Toys instead of Something perfect for the job, Some of my Soldering Iron are perfect for 1 task such as SMD work, I only used 3 Irons, certainly not 20, a lot were used once and not used again.

The problem for me here is that I know the items need to be passed on, but I just cannot do anything, I have restored radio’s and then I have A very large Drake 4-Line selection of some beautiful radio’s especially the Rob Sherwood Drake R-4C, this is a factory fitted Sherwood Modifications, it is not just all of the mods that were available for the Drake R-4C, but a full alignment by Rob Sherwood himself, this is rare, he did not do a lot of these, and when you look inside this radio and then look inside another that someone has installed the mods himself, it’s completely different, I have to try and find a good person to take over ownership of this and other items, and not let an idiot take over the gear.

A Room Full of Ham Radio Gears all Boxed Up and in a Mess, It is Going to Take Ages to go Through This!

I not only need to box up as many items as I can, but where something means a lot more to me than just a radio, I will need to type out and explain why this items means so much to me, this will most probably be of no interest to the buyers and thrown in the bin but at least I will of tried, it is all that I can do.

I started my electronics interest very early on, I attended college when colleges where actually teaching practical courses, and I was lucky to get a place at a college doing a 3 year course in electronic servicing (City and Guilds 224 Parts 1 to 3), after that I met a good guy that had his own business repairing household items such as TV’s, Video’s, and Computers, this was a real eye opener, he was very good and I learnt a lot of short cuts from him, I also learnt that some equipment was flashy but under the covers was a mess of cheap electronics, this stead me in a good way even though I say that most of my working career was in IT and sat in front of a computer, but my main hobby has always been Electronics and Radio.

Over the last 20 years though I have gone back in time, for many years Hams of a practical nature taught themselves how to build a radio, nowadays someone just buys a kit, and fits all the items into a PCB by following an instruction sheet, and nowadays a lot of Hams have become ‘Appliance Operators’.

I have done this myself many times, but the difference is I know who George Simon Ohm, Andre-Marie Ampere and Alessandro Volta were, how the made a history for us all and how they changed the whole world. When I started looking at the big pile of rust that was my very first restoration project someone that started to show me where I was going wrong and offered some good criticisms, he said that I should stop thinking like a modern day electronics person and start reading a few book from the early 1960’s which he suggested, the people that first built these radios would have learnt to do so by reading the same books, nowadays very few would understand how to build a power supply for a valve radio, let alone a radio itself, Nowadays we are spoilt with components that are quite exact, reading these old books and building stuff and enjoying playing with resistors, capacitors that take being 5% tolerant to a whole new level of inaccuracies, and all whilst this was happening I was being introduced to these beautiful devices called ‘vacuum tubes’, These were not just a total mystery as to how a glass tube filled with various shapes of metal would produce a voltage regulator, and then there is the voltages I was playing with, it was no longer 12 Volts but 400-600+ Volts and Transformers that weigh a ton, everything was new, well old actually, the fun times.

KW Vanguard Transmitter
A Fully Restored KW Vanguard going through Final Checks

Restoring old Radios gave me not just the insight of what people did back in the day, but I came to understand just how beautiful these old bits of kit were.

There are not too many things that are nicer for us Amateurs than the warm glow of a large valve linear

The nearest most amateurs get to Vacuum Tubes these days is when they purchase a linear which are capable of 1.5kW and they push it too it’s max as they do not know understand how to properly tune a linear, it seems to be a lost artform these days, I do not include all of us, but certainly a fairly large percentage.

I am sorry for ranting, but it brings me to my ever-growing list of equipment that I will offer for sale soon, I am afraid of something as beautiful as the Drake R-4C Sherwood ending up in the hands of someone that has more money than sense, who will have no idea how to properly operate and look after such an item.

I suppose I would have been happier if someone local would buy it, but the only people that I know, and can call friends are not really into old gear or like me are also going through hell at present. I have not bothered with the local club and I will not be reaching out to them, they have not been in touch with me for well over 10 years, and they certainly do not have a good word to say about me, the good days of the club died with Harry Blackburn (MD0HEB), There was a group of us that would offer to help with any and all event that were going on at the time, and it was not me that watched them crush a perfectly good Mast and Trailer to stop it being used by the more helpful club members back then. Sadly, now everyone is just interested in FT8, even very few do CW nowadays, HRD and Macro’s is the name of modern Ham Radio, and no one wants to listen to old hams who have some fascinating stories to listen to and learn from.

I care about this equipment, I have seen first hand just how bad equipment gets treated by so call qualified Ham Radio Operators over here, and on the other hand I do not just want items to be sold off cheap so that someone can put them on eBay and make more money for whoever bought the gear.

What I miss.

My early career was very far from a computer screen or a soldering iron, my first choice straight from school was a very lucky one, I went to work for a sail training organisation under two great people, Ken Howell’s was my direct boss and taught me much of what I know nowadays about yachting and looking after yachts, above him was a great person and the fairest person that I have ever known, the honorary organiser was Brigadier Bagnall, a man that once controlled a regiment was  a man that even just meeting him would demand utter respect even if you never knew him.

I remember one time we were crossing the channel in an old wooden ketch, 77ft in length and more of a submarine then a sailing yacht, we ended up being in the middle of the channel in a storm with a boat load of teenagers who had not even set foot on a yacht before, there was me and 1 kid along with the brigadier that was still active, the rest of the boat was laying on the deck, dying from seasickness, strapped to the deck and basically being dumped in the ocean on every other wave in the pitch dark of night with the brigadier having 12 sugars in his coffee, he was a monster, and I had a baptism of fire along with a great intro into a career I would grow to love and regret giving it up after a bad crossing.

After leaving the London Sailing Project I moved around a bit trying to work out what I wanted before getting back into sailing in a whole different level, I started delivering yacht and very much enjoying it, delivering a Maxi, across the pond, on your own is truly a great experience, dark nights under full sail in a pleasant sea with the last of the suns rays holding off the total darkness of a very black sky, the feeling of being alone on a 70+ft yacht and not having to worry about anything until you have to enter a yacht marine that you have not ever visited before, these days were actually good days, you just timed things right to the best of ability, arriving at the top or bottom of the tide would at least give you an hour of slack water to move what I would always call small into a position usually surrounded by much more expensive yachts just waiting to you scratched their paintwork, but a big yacht can move very gracefully and precisely, especially at a slow speed.

Just one last delivery in early February across the Bay of Biscay bringing a boat back to the UK from the Med, sore me radioing for help, frozen to the deck and not able to break free and in a lot of pain, I spent a lot of time recovering from frost bite and I made the decision I wanted a warmer job – I bloody idiot.

Even now dying from Cancer, I miss being alone at sea under sail more than anything else, I remember the good times, mind you with all the stupid regs and insurance hassles that are around today, I expect it would be a totally different life, I managed to deliver boats all over the place, I have done both capes and nearly a complete circumnavigation of the planet, in many separate parts, I never finished the pacific and it has been a regret to me ever since, Life’s regrets…

Those Jobs we Loved.

In IT I have enjoyed most of it, I left some jobs because the management of the company was run by total pricks, other because I was leaving the area, some jobs I never took advantage of Like when I basically had to demo Softimage|3D and |XSI, I should have put more effort into it. Cisco was the most rewarding, but the most enjoyable was my various jobs in VFX, I started off using LightWave 3D, then learnt Softimage and then Maya and Cinema 4D, this was so much fun, I loved working basically in 3D, less dickheads, fairly reasonable times to complete each job, the bigger the clients the better the jobs, there is nothing greater than sitting in front of the screen waiting for a render to complete or just waiting to see the first test render, in the early days a test render could take over an hour per frame, my last job at framestore I was seeing massive renders in just a few minutes

Working in VFX was just a really fun job, something that I really enjoyed more than anything at the time, you were always being pushed to give the client what they wanted in the timescale and for the budget, longs days, sleeping at work on settees, drinking Hi Caffeine Coffee to try and stay awake when needs, popping caffeine tablets  and not going home for days, you were basically pulling rabbits out of a hat, with little thanks, and ever shorter time restraints, but it was always challenge, and just to see what you had done on a Slide for a conference, or a TV Advert or in a snippet in a film.                                    

But out of all my jobs that I have done over the years, Sailing was just the best, On those days when you are sat in the cockpit reading a book, the yacht is laid over slightly and with all sails up, it is just drifting through the water at a steady pace, no land to be seen and not a care in the world, those were great times, and the opposite would be stuck at the wheel, with the yacht pretending to be a submarine, feeling the hull lifting clear of the water as you surfed up another wave, then to come down with a large bang that felt as though the yacht was being dropped from 100’s of feet until you caught up with the nest wave, I loved rough weather, it always felt as though it as a battle between you and Poseidon himself, This was why I preferred the larger craft, even the different between a 60ft and a 80ft yacht was felt, I could never understand seeing small 30ft yachts with flags from the UK in American Marinas, I always wanted to know I was safe and being bounced around in a small 30ft yacht is not what I would ever call fun.

Whatever the weather though, Sailing was not only challenging sometimes, but it was loved and missed more than anything.

Living on the Isle of Man is Great – Except…

When you are working and you just ignore just how pathetic the Government can be things are good, but this island is basically run by the funny handshake brigade who pass brown envelopes all over the place, you get to see just how gullible the Government can be over here, They make so many stupid decisions, like the Airship Company, The Space Ship Company that just had an old lump of Scrap Metal to show for itself, as well as some very weird decisions like to invest in Pinewood Studios who were basically making a loss, especially as their own investments in the animation studios was by the look of it miss managed from the start, it was a good Idea but it did not last long, and then you see totally backhanders such as Jacksons Car Dealership and the Motor Museum at Jurby, and you hear that Tesco’s get refused to build a bigger Store, not sure if that is true or not. Then there is the Good Old Steam Packet, often refunded to as the Steam Racket, The cost to cove over to the Island these days is a small fortune, and it goes up and down depending on the time of day or if there are any events happening on the Island such as the TT Rod Races, and this will only get worse as they have to cover the cost of another new boat, I wonder if this time they have finally bought a boat that can handle any weather and it will sail all year round, with other shipping around the UK they have set prices all year, and a set price for if it is a car, or a van irrelevant of what is on the inside of the van, over hear if they open up the van and look inside and see a box of crisps, then you will suddenly find that your ticket has been changed to Commercial and your crossing will be £1000+, I was chatting with someone this year who got stung by the Steam Packet for bringing his bike over in the back of his camper van for the TT week, he ended up paying over £1500 to come across to the island for just one week, and now there is no real entertainment along the prom now like there was back in 2004, Oh we still get Bushy’s Tent and the Fair, but There was some good old events back then when the prom was closed off, but now your basically stung to get here and as I was shown, it is costing him just £400 to get to Valencia for the MotoGP for 2 Weeks, with great nightlife. Also, they always lie and say that more bikes come to the Island each year, which is comical, they should not make it dearer to get to the island each year, but cheaper, more people would come here then , The Island is Beautiful, and sometimes  just well worth living here, but even this is getting ruined by some silly people, Installing new roundabouts called Roundalls that are not round and apparently not to be treated as roundabouts even though they are, they often ruin historic parts, such as Laxey Tram Station that used to be one of the last Victorian Tram stations in the British Isles, but then all the old featured were removed and they turned it into just another bland station, no longer something that was on the map for those Tram spotters to visit the island, there are so many silly mistakes that have ben done over here, thankfully they have not ruined a lot of the pretty areas – Yet.

So What Else Can I Whinge About?

Common Sense these days along with just let kids have fun seems to be broken, back when I was a Kid, I would jump of the end of a piers, go swimming in the sea, even with small sharks also swimming in the harbour, no one drowned, or got bitten or hurt in any way.

What is it with all the knife attacks these days, and then the stupidness of Policemen as well, when an angler on a pier gets arrested for having a filleting knife in his box which is termed as a dangerous tool, so what is he meant to use for cutting up bait, or filleting a fish to take home, and then you hear on the news just how shocking it is that anyone can buy knives for the kitchen or even work knives, and they want to bring in laws that means that it will be illegal to purchase any knife on-line unless you are a registered builder, kitchen worker, etc, don’t they know just how dumb this is! Yes knife crime these days is getting out of order and totally stupid, but if you need a knife for your own kitchen or work, maybe you are a handyman that just does the odd job, but you cannot get that knife that you need for a job, they were including Stanley knifes in this, they just seem to blow everything over the top and try to make is sound so wrong and stupid that anyone would need to purchase any type of knife, even though you know they use one to make their own dinners tonight, It is what I am calling  – We are All being Dumbed Down Like the Americans.

I have been trying to avoid saying anything on the next subject, but I suppose it needs saying. I suppose we all can remember , It Aint Half Hot Mum, Till Death Do Us Part, In Sickness and in Health, We are not allowed to even mention the Rowntree’s Golliwog’s which a lot of us collected as kids from the local Co-op Stores with our green shield stamps, and we would go home to watch the Black and White minstrels, we would not think that we were being racist, and back then we would have not heard of the term ‘Black Life Matters’, now will all that said I would honestly say that I am not racist, I like a lot of us now have many friends from Pakistan, India, the Philippines, African and Jamaica, and all that we no call some horrible slang names nowadays, some names that we would once laugh at when we watched Alf garnet, so am I racist, hell no, but as a white person who seems to now live in a world where I am the minority, Nowadays it is OK to shout out ‘Black Lives Matter’, but if I Shouted out ‘White Lives Matter’ I would be said to being Racist, but I am not, but what I have noticed recently is that the TV station s seem to have and totally flipped the situation, if Sky News are doing an interview with school kinds, they may ask 3 or 4 questions, all to people with coloured skins and maybe 1 or 0 questioned aim at a white ones, now we are seeing a lot of coloured presenters, and even the occasional journalist now is also coloured and now rarely white, it is not the fact that these people are getting airtime and a white person is not, it is he fact that it seems to have happened fairly fast, it just seems to be rammed down our faces now.

The Fun Life of Terminal Cancer

I was amazed at the speed of treatment when I was first diagnosed, you hear horror stories about waiting times throughout the UK, but it seems here on the Island we have a great team, with good phone numbers of some very high up people in the UK. My initial treatment was very good, the only thing that I would complain about is that they withheld a lot of information that I wish that I would have been told.

I should have been scanned at 6 months instead of waiting a whole year, things may have been a lot more promising for me then, so I am a little annoyed about that.

But to be told a year after that you are all clear, and then another year later and it has returned and it is now in such a spot that treatment is very limited, you are then offered a possible treatment that could maybe give me a year or more with a little hope, but then your treatment is turned down due to being allergic to paracetamol and thus just leaving me one hope which is a very minimal chance, the outcome for me is a bit grief, I was told that I will probably not get to see Christmas, with the standard treatment that I am going to get, there is a very small chance that it will work, giving me a very slight chance of getting another six months or more, I still will not get to finish a lot of things, I think I was turned down for the trial because I would not to fly to Liverpool every week for tests and scans, I think it was aimed at me to save me from a lot of costs, I am miffed, but I have to hope that the treatment that I am being offed is not a placebo or something just to make me cope a little better with whatever is going to happen, it is weird that you kind of find a space where everything feels normal, I know what is coming but it does not upset me much at present, I do have the odd day when I do find it hard to cope and small things set me off crying, these are thankfully rare, more often than not I can even have the odd laugh at what is coming, I am annoyed that I will not have a lot of time to do what I wish I could, and most days I am in pain, most nights I don’t sleep, when I am awake I get bad cramp in my legs, So I cannot even enjoy the time I have left, and on top of this I now have a big problem swallowing liquids, so the coffee I use to clear the slime from my mouth is now a problem to me.

So Am I Having Fun Yet?

Not Really, I just want to get back on the radio, I have dragged about 10% of all my stuff into the Workshop and now cannot move, every day I come into this room and do nothing but watch ‘Still Games’, it is surprising just how fast you can go through 9 seasons.

I am stuck at the moment, just too many items to go through, and I can often be found asleep in my chair having dosed off and I cannot remember what I was doing, so having fun – No.

Fun would be transmitting RTTY 100% manual, no macro’s or HRD, totally Old school Drake Transmitter with a Tono Keyboard and Interface, and then listening with a Drake Receiver and the same Tono Interface, Hard work but totally satisfying, doing it old school is really enjoyable.

When you look inside an old Valve Radio, you see a total mess, 100 years’ worth of grime, tobacco slime, cobwebs and dead spiders, one thing that is so good with all valve gear, it that they are basic, or at least most are when compared to their modern day equipment of a similar type, but they all look scary, sometimes looking at a schematic over complicates a lot of things, I find just starting at the mains plug and tracing the voltages from one component to the next, when you suddenly replace a few components and then this old bit of kit lights up, that is a good day to play radio. The extreme of this is stripping down a radio to just bits, sending the chassis off for plating, rebuilding the unit slowly with parts replaced as and when, seeing the front panel restored to it’s original look is always like remembering your first ever kiss (Lois, Never forgotten), and rewiring the old radio but with a lot more care than the production lines would have cared for in the old days, It may take a few years to fully restore some of these old radios, but, that day when you apply power for the first time, to see the valves light up and to hear the hiss of an old radio come back to life is always a great day, knowing that the radio should now outlive me is just perfect, doing this with every radio that I have decided to work on and then seeing it here ready to pass on to someone, that feeling you cannot beat.

These good days though are now very rare, I have lost so many things with Radiotherapy and the Drugs that I have been on, some days I can look at a very simple circuit board from a Heater for the Snake Tanks that I have around here and I cannot make sense of the circuit at all, you just look at it for ages, and it does not make sense, the brain is not engaged, then a few days later I can just pick it up, point out what is the obvious problem, and I can get it repaired, so my days are very much like a roller coaster at present, with a lot of them being down in the troth and very few up in the air. I have so many large items to repair and test, such as the Linear Amplifiers, but I know that if I am not on form, it would be just too easy to touch something that I shouldn’t without thinking straight, so at the moment, these items just have to wait till I have those rare good days, and when I have space.

Last Updated : 18th June 2023

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