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from March 2017 Newsletter


This month (February) we have lost another telephone great – Ron Kay from New Zealand passed away on the 3rd February 2017. Ron was a goldmine of information but I particularly liked to talk to him about the Rotary System and how the NZPO interfaced it to SxS in New Zealand. I spoke by telephone with Ron at length in mid-Jan­uary; he was on the ball - he pointed out a typo in a recent article I wrote. I’m very happy to have known you Ron; rest in peace.

There was a time when one played with a cat’s whisker and a crystal in order to create a rectifier (detector). As technology improved the cat’s whis­ker and crystal became a circuit module – a valve. Further modularisation produced integrated cir­cuits that implemented the complete IF stage and the complete AF stage. Still more modularisation saw a complete radio on a chip then a complete radio user interface on a chip. Now, of course, the broadcast radio is obsolete but there is a module that can implement an Internet radio and its user interface whilst at the same time, acting as a VoIP PABX and a personal computer. For example a Raspberry Pi running Linux. Something more for us to digest I suppose.

I hope you enjoy this month’s edition of the Jour­nal. If you have further information on anything within, please share it with me.

Jack O’Brien,

from January 2017 Newsletter


Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2017!

By the time you read this, the Journal will probably be late. What can I say? December is one of my bus­iest months and there is simply not enough time to go around. It would suit me much better to publish in even months rather than odd months. There are other issues related to the Journal that need to be worked through as well. The cost of printing and postage is getting to the point where it restricts the content of the Journal and it is time we started talking about electronic distribution. For the foreseeable future, there will be a requirement for some printed copies but we don’t all need printed copies. I certainly don’t – I have nowhere to store them and it is not easy to go through a pile of printed Journals in search of some illusive fact. Other organisations have different membership options – one that includes a printed and posted copy of their magazine and another, slightly cheaper, that includes an electronic copy of the magazine. These are some of the issues that the Committee will discuss this year. Do you have an opinion - or a suggestion? The Committee would like to hear from you.

Remember the old days? Those special electronics surplus stores, the component stores, the magazines with all manner of interesting projects, and amateur radio? Not much of that left now – the surplus stores are long gone, most of the component stores are gone, the magazines have gone bust and the aver­age age of an amateur radio operator is at least the average age of a telephone collector. Those were the days.

Were they? The situation now is vastly different from then but I don’t think we have ever had it better! Passive components can still be bought today but there is not much demand for discrete active compo­nents. In their place is an enormous supply of incred­ibly cheap micro-controllers and associated modules so that drones, robots and telephone exchanges can be made very easily and very quickly.

The Raspberry Pi is a small but powerful Linux computer with analogue and digital I/O that can be used for all manner of things – not just RasPBX and the Music Player discussed in this issue. Those who are keen can write their own software to take full advantage of the hardware. There are also cheap PIC boards that are fairly easy work with. The easiest to develop software for though, by far, are the Arduino boards. For all of these platforms, there are many very cheap add-on modules so that almost anything can be measured or controlled. Look at Internet sites like eBay and AliExpress; expansion modules start at $3.00.

So, in order to resurrect some of the old electro­mechanical telephone equipment and bring it back to life for us and our children to enjoy, think about using some of this new technology. And if you find that you are incompatible with this new technology, remember that your grandchildren probably aren’t – work with them. It’s the age of the IoT – the Internet of Telephones.

There is an article about David Slater’s Berevon Post Office in this issue. I would like to continue this se­ries by introducing other telecommunications, radio and associated museums. If you curate a museum or know of one, let me know as I would love to feature it.

Here’s to an excellent year!

Jack O’Brien,
ATCS Editor.

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