Deep Joy of the Twiddly Dialode

I think I wrote up something about Stanley Unwin before, it may have vanished with Lycos blog sites or whatever. There is room for more for sure.

I checked the Biogifolds and whereas there is a mention of the fact that he was a Ham Radio user, little is said about that side of Stan.

I learned about his interest in Ham Radio, he was an SWL, (Short Wave Listener), via Jazz, Stan Liked Trad Jazz and would appear in the audience at local pubs to listen. He followed the antics, as did I of Horace M Smith Jazz Band.

He lived in East Haddon, just up the road from Northampton, as well as SWL he was a very good Electronics’ Engineer.
He had a very interesting life. He was a sound, wire, recordist for the BBC with General Pattons Army in WW2. With a keen interest in languages including German he was used as an interpreter, leading to some humorous stories.
He related his attempt at a command to some German POW’s to clean out the Latrines. Clean those b….y sh…y sh.. houses, or words to that effect.

He remembered General Patton who had a farming background and was known for being outspoken, commenting on the futility of a certain plan as being ‘like trying to fertilize a forty acre field with a fart’.

Later he was an Engineer with the BBC. I remember his d├ębut on Black and White TV. There was a period around tea time on BBC TV when there was a slot to fill in, Stan’s gobbledygook was known to the producer and one evening he appeared before a blackboard and easel, mortar board on his head, black cape and cane. He gave a talk with some mathematical formula, totally non understandable but somehow it should have been.

I was instantly hooked. The BBC were not so keen after a time, when Stan had engagements and made advertisements for ITV, Keggy Brewflade Beer is one I loved. He was called to the office and asked to choose his further careerer, you couldn’t be an engineer for Auntie Beeb and have conflicting interests.

I remember Stan’s story of a hectic drive to an appearance, the driver was almost at the studio they could see it but not get to it, they were running late, if they slipped down a one way street the wrong way they would be there. A policeman stopped them, Stan interceded over the drivers shoulder. “Scusely osciffer we haley from the far flung Atipodes of Hobartly Tansmanial, we are late for an engagely, importance extreme”.
“OK, carry on sir”.

Official Biogifolds talk of the early days, they don’t seem to mention Stan’s youth. He spent quite a bit of time in the local radio component shop, me too, his interest in language started early, a regular customer would get words wrong, asking for a 10Medohm resistor, this fascinated Stan. We too had some odd customers who caused quite some amusement.

He got a job at Plessey here is how:-

“I see from your letter that you know something of oscilloscopes. What would you use one for?” he [Dennis Moody, Test Design department] asked.
…There was some confusion in my explanation as the words jumbled out…
“Percentage modulakers on the output,” I began.

“Pardon?” asked Moody.

“Transmitter on the ‘Y’ with tone on the horizole modulating the carrier throom, left over right times 100%.” I was worried about conveying the information which I knew to be right and hoped at least I was getting the cardinal points in the right order.

“What about time bases?” he asked.

“Ah! Thyraton discharbs. Hellumercry vapours. Then there’s the puckle…” Moody’s manner was reassuring and this increased my confidence. Gradually I found a better grasp of the technical terms was coming and I was able to give him satisfaction. I must have done, because I got the job.

That is not a quote from my personal memory like all the rest of this blog, but I just had to include it.

Stan was approached by a friend in a studio refreshment area, would he mind if Doctor Jonathan Miller asked him a few questions. The conclusions from Dr Miller were that Unwinese was a true Language with all the correct structure of a true language not just gobbledygook.

I asked him to do a couple of talks for Northampton Radio Club, when you rang him he answered the phone with “who calls”. He would call me Lenny, “like the Comedian”, “no your the comedian Stan”. He did these talks for free and joined us for a pint at the pub after. A lady from behind the bar came over to our table one time, “excuse me” she said “are you Stanley Unwin”. “indeed I am having a tiltly elbow with my friends you know, oh yes”. As he didn’t like to drive at night I collected him and took him back home after. He was also happy to go visit G3OQJ (also Stan) a white stick Ham pal of mine and fan of Stan’s after a talk, and sample his home brew Ale.

At home Stan, now more than 70 years old, had an old Photocopier, the EHT drum power supply failed. He found he couldn’t get spares, so he built one of a totally different design and got it working again. I remember taking a look, I was a working age electronics engineer, I thought, I don’t know whether I would have tackled that.
That was the last time I met Stan, after a long evening of chat, beers and fellowship I left his home, there was only one thing that I could say as I shook his hand, “deep joy Stan, deep, deep joy.”

I put him forward and he was made an Honoury Life member of Northampton Radio Club. He was a great, normal guy with no side inherited from his fame.

Listen to Stan

WSPR on 4m could be So Useful

Well it didn’t take much to get a simple RX set up going on 4m. I dug out an old Yaesu FRV7700 converter which was once ‘struck’ well rendered inoperative, by lightening. It was presented to me as unrepairable, several had tried and failed to get it going. No one had looked at the right end of the circuit, I started in the same place, the front end, logical, yes but wrong. The output circuit at HF has a switching diode to swap between converter and HF antenna, this was open circuit. The converter is designed for use with Yaesu HF RX’s which provide AGC and Mute I had to deal with those inputs for general use as a converter, it performs well on 70MHz, a nice design feature is the Varactor Pre selector on VHF input and HF out.

Right Click – select View Image for full size.frv7700

I also dug out my home brew 70MHz dipole, mounted it vertical at about 5m AGL.70mhz-dipole

This has proved the path at low power levels to the north, G0MJI IO83ni – IO92ng = 180km and south to G6AVK JO01ho – IO92g = 127km.

‘Confused of Llarregub’, quoted the figures above saying they were ‘chat distances’ so why do it. Opposer’s can never see the point can they, these are reports from low power levels using simple omni antennas. They indicate 100% success at receiving every single station active on 70MHz WSPR in Europe at this time.

If there was more activity on 70MHz WSPR from say I, 9A, OM, OZ, OK, EA, CT, not to mention T70A, there would be no need to waste time ‘tuning up and down the band looking out for Sp-E openings – or more likely just watching the DX Cluster for openings’ or checking DX beacons, there would be a real time propagation indicator network.

Furthermore each participant has his own indicator of propagation which applies to his location, Sporadic E is selective. Note for CW / SSB DX chasing when the WSPR station sees that he is Spotting in a particular square he can instantly QSY, up the power from his low power beaconing, and call CQ despite not having cluster reports of other peoples success on the web to make use of. WSPR reports are often used for the DX opening reporting sites so unwittingly the opposer’s may well be using the WSPR system.

Gaining an Understanding of Tracey Emin Art Work

I have never managed to understand Art Works like the Tracey Emin Unmade Bed. Until today when I was discussing the Vintage Unmade Heathkit HW101 on offer for sale on e-bay.

Now I have it, dear Tracey is human after all, she is a Radio Ham, there was knock at her door, her bid on e-bay won, TNT arrived early and got her up.

That could now be my bed, it wouldn’t be made again until the HW101 was built and working.


Taking a look at Sporadic E Propagation on 28MHz

Today I am going to do an illiterate uneducated ramble about Es propagation, so bear with me, I don’t know what is coming. I will attempt to analyse 100’s of reports of my 300mW WSPR MEPT over 14 days.

Starting right now shows Es clouds over JP square with MUF’s of 28MHz (the GREEN squares), and my reports today since 03:44 UTC, the RED circle. I am sure VHFDX info won’t mind me making use of the maps and credit and thanks are offered.


Conventional wisdom says Es does not occur in the small hours, 03:44 is quite small to me, more about that later.

Es produced reports on 25.05.10 from 04:00 UTC from Italy, Spain and Portugal JN and IN square. At 12:40 UTC OY, Faroe Islands, IP square joined in. At 14:30 UTC DL, JN59/69 joined, followed at 16:40 UTC by OE, JN78. At 19:10 OZ, JO65 came in, at 20:50 LA, JO59, at 22:00 HB, JN47, at 22:30 PA, JO33. After 00:00 UTC the path to the South vanished the LA, JO59 path continued until 02:20 UTC. Throughout the ‘Small small Hours’ and returned at 05:00 to be joined by CT, IM57 at 05:40.

Conventional wisdom
says that Es clouds drift North and slightly West at some hundreds of km/Hour. The above results fit this pattern if the clouds are being formed or replenished continually in the South until around midnight. The map below is a follow on of today’s, there was no change in propagation. I have placed areas of Es above the regions in the order that the propagation occurred on 25.05.10, using the standard resistor colour code. The actual reflective cloud is more likely to be between my station and the receive station, however they are probably formed South of the RX location and drift North into the correct position for me to use.


The yellow cloud extending across France is a guess from me, I think that the lack of data from from France is likely due to the lack of reporters. I do sometimes get reports from there which do not reach the Database so I assume that at some times the necessary hight, location and density are reached. All results are of course dependent upon there being active stations. It is easy to picture the movement involved during 25.05.10.

Peter PA1SDB has produced a Movie showing around 24 hours of 28MHz Es centred on my QRSS frequency. He is 533km from me which is a distance likely to give reflections from different layers of the same Es cloud. See how quickly the propagation comes and goes, then, toward the end of the video, the multiple (thick) trace which may be due to reflections from different layers.

Conventional wisdom says that Es lasts from one to a few days then has periods of days of zero occurrence. There was Es on 13 out of 14 days in this study, it was sparse on 30.05.10, 31.05.10, 01.06.10 and 02.06.10, zero on 03.06.10.

Most days followed the same sort of pattern as that of 25.05.10. Propagation extended to 4X,KM72,3592km and UA3,KO85,2509km, double hop? on rare occasions, and some rare short skip inter G propagation. Until today which, as the first map shows, opened with propagation to Norway. The UK and near continent has had thunder storms recently, maybe these contributed to locally generated Es clouds or perhaps noctilucent clouds which themselves form North of 50 deg lat. By 11:14 propagation to EA was back. The following Es MUF map shows a centralised region of Es, reports were being received from 3 regions EA,LA and TF at this time. The 3 locations form a near equilateral triangle centred about my location.


Moving on to mid afternoon the propagation to the North has gone, for now at least. The two regions reporting are EA and I. The map shows an Es cloud, MUF 28 MHz, over East Central France, another roughly equilateral triangle joining me and the two reporting regions encloses the cloud.


The N3ZI General Coverage Receiver

I like to play with simple RX’s now and again, it is interesting to see what can be done. I now have several Softrock SDR’r and they really are impressive, both on sensitivity and cleanliness.
The N3ZI is a simple Superhet design with 2 SA612 Mixers, and no RF Amplifier stage. I have the dual band version which has a relay to switch the input filters. What would have been nice is for the relay to be activated by a LOW input then just a switch on the board pads provided would do the job. As it is I had to provide a +ve voltage on a small interface board to switch the relay. As a QRP minimalist, having a relay in a simple RX which gets quite warm bugs me. My complete QRPp TX’s don’t waste that much power as heat.


I fitted connectors to my board with no modification to the provided pads.


I decided to use an si570 with USB control for the VFO, interfacing for this is on the same small board. This gives me wonderful rapid QSY with Keyboard frequency entry and Mouse Wheel tuning down to 1Hz steps.
I had problems with the local pop station at first, the mast is in sight and even on some Ham Transceivers the RF noise is modulated with der duh der duh der duh der der from the nauseous music. Being a broad band RX with no input tuning other than the 2 BPF’s there is a great reliance on an ATU, preferably calibrated for each frequency band of interest, it is so easy to tune the ATU to the wrong noise peak and get bad results.

The Xtal filter gives a nice pass band, strong signals produce a lot of images and there is no AGC, which can scare the cat when you hit a strong signal, but it IS a simple RX. After getting used to the VFO injection frequencies involved I have had results on all bands from 136kHz to 29MHz, I have found no QRSS on 30m yet but the 9.996 MHz RWM Frequency Standard signal came in well, which is very handy for finding the second conversion oscillator frequency exactly.


30m was the most elusive band to find signals on at first but when I got things right and there was reasonable propagation I saw WSPR which unfortunately is inverted without moving the BFO Oscillator frequency, and PSK 31. This picture also shows the si570 interface and the Xtal filter response in the waterfall.


I am determined to see some QRSS on 30m with the RX so I will keep trying. I must admit that personally I prefer the Softrock SDR’s, they make a better simple receiver but this radio is fun.

I thought I would push my luck and tried the RX on 50MHz, I copied the GB3BAA Beacon in IO91ps 57km, 35Miles away using both a Vertical Co-linear antenna and my 5ele Horizontal Beam. The screen shot below is using the Beam.