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Old 31st Oct 2017, 6:14 am   #81
Radio Wrangler
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

Snapping your legs together is exactly the wrong reaction when you've just dropped your soldering iron. A colleague tested this.

Another colleague went to scratch his ear while forgetting he was holding one.

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Old 31st Oct 2017, 4:00 pm   #82
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

Yes I think quite a few of us have made that mistake. I still burn myself on soldering irons. I haven't quite worked out they get very hot yet. Trying to judge how long you can hang on to a hot component/stand the burning sensation to be sure the solder has solidified before letting go is another common cause of injury in this house.
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 4:38 pm   #83
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

Snipped off resistor legs can be very painful if they get in the nether regions and pierce a testicle when you move a leg. It doesn't help as no matter which way you move it gets worse!

I am sure lady engineers have had the same problem too.
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 8:12 pm   #84
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

I think we've got the general idea now! Any more PMR memories?
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Old 2nd Nov 2017, 4:00 am   #85
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Station X View Post
It frequently happens to me. Put down a tool, then can't find it. It's generally right in front of me. Probably down to my assuming it's lost and searching a wide area rather than close by.
My own workshop is developing an increasing tendency to that.

Quote:
Of more concern is the fact that if I drop a small object on to the floor it goes right through it and disappears.
I found the answer to that one. Simply drop an identical object and see where it goes. Sometimes it follows the same path as the first.
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Old 4th Nov 2017, 10:51 pm   #86
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

To try and steer this thread back to the original subject, another little story about a simple human error and it's consequences. Way back when our low band VHF AM mainscheme was in operation (circa 1986), the supervisory system reported all three main transmitters had failed at a site near Coniston. It was in the height of summer and we trundled off to have a look to see what was going on. When we arrived at the site I opened the door to the rather small building housing the equipment only to be met with a wall of super-heated air. We had to leave the door open for quite a while before it was finally cool enough to enter safely. We investigated and found out what had happened. The building cooling fan stat and the heating stat had been reverse wired so that the heating stayed on max and the fan stayed off when the temperature rose. Result; cooked Pye F300AM main Tx's and everything else decidedly over ran. We never did find out who wired it.
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Old 5th Nov 2017, 4:03 pm   #87
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

That reminds me of another "fail" some years ago up in the hills of Scotland.

UHF microwave link over the hills backhauling from Aberdeen to 'Head office' in Edinburgh, for one of the larger North Sea oil-rig-service companies. Knowing there was a big risk of ice the UHF antennas all had 'diaphragms' fitted to the front of the dishes (which were the type that looked basically like a dustbin-on-its-side) and heaters.

Everything was fine until winter came. Then one night there was freezing rain and ice built up on the antennas.

So the de-icing heaters kicked in. These were supposed to be powered from a separate circuit on the +48V battery-and-generator-backed supply, but at one of the relay-sites someone-we-never-identified had wired them to the same supply as the radios.

Heaters up aloft kicked in, demanding a couple of hundred Watts; supply-management system detects overcurrent to the radio-gear (which normally only took an amp or so) and *ping* - everything shuts down, triggering a number of phonecalls involving 'distinctly maritime' turns-of-phrase whose precise meaning is probably known only to Aberdonians.

My 'local support guy' had to get up early and drive out to the site from his home in Banchory to see what had happened. Didn't take him long to track down the problem, and once everything was running again he spent the rest of the day working Scandinavians on 2M.
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Old 5th Nov 2017, 4:38 pm   #88
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Ah yes, aerial heaters. Don't know if they ever managed to overcome the windchill at Great Dunfell. I only wish they paid as much attention to actually heating the cabins the poor techs had to work in. Heating tape was used on the diesel tank and fuel lines for the generators, and sometimes heated sump plugs too. Once after a prolonged mains outage at Deadwater Fell, we eventually got to the site through the drifts only to find the room half full of snow. The snow had been fine and powdery, and had blown through one of the ventilation shafts for the generator, completely covering a standby PSU whose batteries had ran out probably a couple of days earlier. A bit of shovelling and a couple of hours later everything was rosy after a bit of help from the electric board guys. Another time, same site, I arrived to find a three inch layer of crystal clear ice on the steel door. I gave up trying to chip it off after seeing the lock was solid too.
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Old 5th Nov 2017, 6:46 pm   #89
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

Pye had a comm site at Fulletby, Lincolnshire wolds. Well, a wooden shed about the size of a garage, surrounded by nettles and accessed through a farm yard. It was rare that I had to visit, as it usually covered by other engineers. However, among other gear, there was a BT paging rack inside. The usual QRO 153MHzish gear in a cream rack. There was a telephone dial installed on a panel as well. Nearby as a jack socket. Underneath this a telephone handset, curly lead and jack plug. YES, plugging in, gave me dial tone and useage, as it seemed to be an un-metered engineering line. However, a year or two later the handset had disappeared. I think somebody cottoned on to the useage when BT were NOT on site! Good while it lasted though!
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Old 5th Nov 2017, 7:43 pm   #90
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I remember seeing those. The only thing we had was an EOW (engineers order wire) which was full duplex like a normal phone line and had a telephone handset which plugged in on a 1/4" stereo jack. The norm was to leave it unplugged unless you were on site. The equipment was Motorola Starpoint microwave link, and every site was linked up permanently on the EOW which used the bottom 4KHz slot on the baseband (the sub base band). The next two slots up were occupied by the supervisory, then the baseband started proper. Anyway, even when the handset was unplugged, you could hear the background cackle of the speaker from inside the equipment racks. All this was pretty standard stuff on analogue microwave in the 'eighties and 'nineties. On occasion, the noise must have attracted the attention of "visitors from other companies" to the site and sometimes they would plug in the handset out of curiosity which used to make an unmistakable pop at the other end. As we happened to have a microwave link directly behind the workshop as part of the network we had a speaker monitoring the EOW all the time, just in case one of our lot wanted to contact us from a site. The visitors obviously weren't expecting this and we used to yell at them to stop mucking about with our gear. That was usually followed by silence then another pop when they pulled the handset plug out pronto.
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Old 5th Nov 2017, 8:41 pm   #91
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

Speaking of bad weather, one of my competitors had equipment a site at a place called "Hunters stones" in Yorkshire. High and lonely, it saw its fair slice of inclement weather.

In the very-early-1980s there was a bad winter, and much ice accretion on the tower. One of the workers sent out there on a maintenance visit beat a hasty retreat after his van took a foot-long icicle through the roof!
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Old 5th Nov 2017, 8:59 pm   #92
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Ice blocks falling from towers was a problem particularly if the weather was beginning to warm up during the day. At one site the only option to get to the cabin was underneath the mast. At times it was a bit risky. You just had to take a chance. Definitely time for the hard hat. Of course even a small piece of ice used to sound massive if it fell onto the metal cabin roof when you were inside. One site had all the antennas mounted on a gantry at the base of a radome. The ice that formed on the radome (it wasn't supposed to) fell right onto them on it's way down and used to cause damage. You also had to watch out for roosting starlings on the towers. The favourite trick was to time it exactly so your workmate was underneath and then belt one of the metal legs with a spanner before running away at high speed. Result, all the birds taking off in panic and depositing you know what at the same time.
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Old 6th Nov 2017, 7:37 pm   #93
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

Alan, you and I have been the same places, just not at the same time.
Tell me what you know about Sedbergh.....look into the eyes

Then how about Round Meadows and the sound bowl?
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Old 7th Nov 2017, 7:44 pm   #94
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Sounds like it Jon. The site at Sedbergh belonged to the IBA? in those days. We just shared the mast. It was just off the M6 at the Kendal/Sedbergh junction. I actually had equipment there to look after for two different jobs. Firstly around 85-89 on VHF AM schemes then from 89-93 on the Ambulance county wide VHF FM high band voice and data system. So I knew the site over a few years all in all. It was actually my nearest site at one time as the workshop was based in Sedbergh then, and my main patch was Cumbria. Round Meadows was over in Northumberland, but we didn't do that one. Our kit was just up the road at the IBA TV transmitter at Catton, or Allendale as we called it.
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Last edited by Biggles; 7th Nov 2017 at 7:47 pm. Reason: extra info
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 9:31 am   #95
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

The day i went to Sedbergh was the day it was infested with a billion flies so I wondered if that was a common occurrence.
It took an hour with the door open before anyone would go in. I was reminded of it by an earlier post.
You are right it was IBA.

I once had to climb the mast at Round Meadows. What an odd experience.
The reason I called it the sound bowl was because at a certain height all you could hear was your own puffing and blowing reflected from the ground. Very peculiar!
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 4:22 pm   #96
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There was a site up in north Northumberland which we had a microwave link repeater on. Now it is fairly normal to get a few flies in the cabin due to the warmth in the winter, but at this particular site there were thousands. Of course the act of putting the fluorescent lights on when you went in woke them up and for the rest of the day you were crunching them underfoot or worse still they used to drop onto your head from the ceiling. There was a little site over in west Cumbria which had a notorious pong all the year round. I don't know what was underneath but it absolutely stank. On the plus side, there was one place where if you were quiet for a while, lizards used to come out and run around outside. Oh and the platforms on towers were much favoured by large birds to build nests on, particularly ones near the coast.
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Old 15th Nov 2017, 6:48 pm   #97
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

Seeing a post just now about POTS line current reminded me of back in the 80s when a large customer (Geest) who had an IBM 3750 private telephone exchange system, capable of 100 lines and 1000 extensions I believe. Pye had installed a tele-radio connect system to the PC1 controller so that internal phones could manually be connected to mobiles. The manual bit was due to the fussy licensing of pmr systems back then. This was not usually a problem as the company exchange had one supervisor and at least 2 operators at the console throughout the day. However, as time went on, sometimes busy periods or tea breaks meant that although the "phoned in" request for a connection was dealt with promptly, the "disconnect" at the end of the call (which was manual, a press release of a button on the controller a few feet away) was sometimes forgotten. This resulted in the clear-down tone being transmitted over the air for sometimes several minutes.
As a field engineer and this was one of my big 5 customers locally, I came to the rescue. I unofficially modded the PC1 controller. The connect switch button was modified from latching to momentary action by removing a spring I think. This was then used to fire a thyristor when momentarily pressed so as to hold a relay (in place of the switch contacts) thus making the connection.
Upon the call terminating, the clear down tone ( around 800Hz) was detected by a 567 pll tone detector on veroboard. This was used to produce a negative going pulse to unlatch the thyristor.
All the years I attended this customer, it never once gave a problem.
However, had the DTI (in those days) known of this unofficial mod they would have had a fit!
Rob
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Old 15th Nov 2017, 7:24 pm   #98
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Default Re: Memories and other stories from Pye etc PMR engineers.

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However, had the DTI (in those days) known of this unofficial mod they would have had a fit!
Rob
Reminds me of a fudge I did on a late-1980s Pye MX290-based 5-tone system: 'officially' it was not allowed but I fudged together a setup so I could strobe-through all our tone-combos to issue an 'answerback' poll. The idea being to see which of the mobiles were in-signal-range using the auto-response, and then wait to see how long each of them acknowledged [by a human pressing the 'ACK' button on the radio] to being polled.

I had a then-novel "IBM PC" to drive this, feeding a wirewrapped tone generator fed from the PC's 8-bit-parallel 'centronics' printer-port. 5 pins to define the tones-to-send, one pin to key the transmitter.

It worked well as a way to keep the 'field fleet' on their toes; alas I'd forgotten that some of them working in rural/forestry tasks had their radios set up to sound the horns on their vans when 'pinged'.

And due to a mistake the system once did its polling at something like 02:00z.

Not good if your van's parked outside your house.
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Old 15th Nov 2017, 11:50 pm   #99
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I can imagine the potential road-rage situations that could crop up if someone had the remote-car-horn thing enabled and was called while driving. Some of our sets had this function which I think consisted of a trailing wire from the radio which went to ground when the radio was called. There was also a hard wired transmit sequence triggered when an input lead was grounded. I think this was for an emergency button arrangement in the vehicle, or possibly to connect to a security alarm. On fixed mobiles this was connected to the building intruder alarm, to alert control of a security breach. It's strange but I could decode mentally the sound of my particular 5-tone EEA callsign sequence when it was called but before the radio alerted. We used to test each other when it was slack in the workshop to see who could decode the tone sequences. Another game to pass the time was to guess the frequency of a single tone sent from a test set.
Alan.
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