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from January 2017 Newsletter

Hello?

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,
Editor




from November 2016 Newsletter


Hello?

Crikey – is it Christmas already? Well, almost, but as there is no December issue of the Journal, this is the Christmas issue. So forget hobbies for a while and enjoy the company of friends and family – I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas!

By the way, if you are reading the paper edition of the Journal you won’t find Connecting Collections. It is in the on-line version only - a victim of the ever increasing cost of postage.

Finally, the National Body has a name! Assuming there is no problem registering it, the name is:

Sound & Telecommunications Association
Australasia

perhaps abbreviated to

STAA

The new name won’t be official until the National Body is registered and that requires a constitution to be written and approved and the application to be successful. Nevertheless, it is another step towards a more united collector body that retains the individu­ality of the original clubs. Things are looking good.

It’s been a bit wet and windy in South Australia; it’s also been a bit dark. The weather storms have sub­sided now and the political storms have begun – the question at the forefront is “how can a mere storm black out an entire state?” Well, that is a technical discussion in which only our politicians are qualified to participate but I would venture to suggest that crit­ical network infrastructure such as power requires an element of redundancy.

Another observation that seems to be below the collective event horizon concerns the robustness of our communications infrastructure. About three hours after the power went off most of the domestic backup power supplies (UPSs) had failed so ADSL and cable broadband ceased, leaving mobile data and mobile broadband for communications. After anoth­er hour, the mobile tower batteries started to fail. So, four hours after the power went off, not only was there no power, there was no Internet and no mobile phone communications. Just the plain old telephone was working – as long as it was just a plain old tele­phone that didn’t need mains power.

Before too much longer, the NBN will have replaced all the plain old telephone lines. The telephone ser­vice will be replaced by a VoIP (Internet) service that relies on batteries in the street cabinet and some­times additional batteries at the subscriber’s premis­es. Next time there is an extended power outage and the batteries go flat, the plain old telephone won’t work either.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the common battery telephone system was introduced, and with it, a certain security of communications. Now, over 100 years later, we have reverted to local battery opera­tion but this time the batteries don’t last a year – they last just four hours.

Jack O’Brien,
ATCS Editor.

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