Category: Radio

Dah-di-dah

This morning, I visited the National Radio Centre in Bletchley Park.

It was this: most excellent!

By chance, I’d happened to pick a day when an event to celebrate the breaking of the Enigma code was taking place.

An Amateur Radio station in Italy, was broadcasting messages in Morse code, that had been encrypted with the Enigma cipher and various stations around the world were trying to pick up these signals and decrypt them.   I – along with many others – watched with interest as the amateur radio operators received and decoded the Morse code, writing the 5-character blocks onto a replica form to that which was used in Bletchley Park during WW2.

This was then handed to another chap, who was giving a superb presentation on the workings of a genuine Enigma machine that sat on a table before him. His audience was enthralled as he decoded the message letter by letter.

Afterwards, I took a quick walk around the mansion house. It had changed a lot since I last visited it back in the eighties, when I worked for BT. Back then, we used it mainly for recreation, as I remember, but it has now been restored to it’s former glory.  The picture above shows one of the downstairs rooms which – when we used to go there and if memory serves me correctly – housed a pool table. It now – as you can see – gives an accurate depiction of what it would have looked like in the 1940s.

All too soon, my time ran out and I had to leave.

But I’ll go back again soon.

 

PS – still got that damned tune in my head!

It’s good to talk

My journey to work – as I’ve oft mentioned – is a horrible one and takes far longer than it damn well should.

Generally, to while away the time, I listen to podcasts.

But, a few weeks ago, I fitted a VHF/UHF radio transmitter in the car (that’s it in the picture above). This allows me to converse with other like-minded idiots as I travel.

And it’s amazing how much quicker the time flies when in conversation with someone.

I wish I’d done it years ago.

 

ShackBox

I’ve been busy over the weekend.

Doing the usual weekendy stuff: cutting the grass; cleaning the bathroom; fixing the stupidly-expensive cordless hoover… that sort of thing.

And also, building this little project from April’s Practical Wireless.

G0PJO’s wonderfully simple design was a joy to build… and cheap too!

I think total cost was about 22 quid and that gives me a highly accurate clock, along with Latitude and Longitude coordinates; temperature and air pressure readings and a Maidenhead Locator too! It will even show WAB squares… if I wanted it to, but I didn’t, so a quick tinker with the very well-documented code switched off that particular function.

If you are looking for a quick and simple – but worthwhile – project to get the soldering iron going, then I can heartily recommend this.

 

Gentleman Jim

I am in the process of building one of my electronic gizmos.

For this particular project, I need a transistor. But not just any old transistor… I’ve got plenty of those.  No, for this I needed a ZXTP2012ASTZ.

Yes, a ZXTP2012ASTZ.

As I’m sure you have realised, this transistor is a little bit out of the ordinary and, as such, none of my normal suppliers stocked it.

I eventually found it on Mouser. They’re a major supplier of electronic components, but I’ve never used them before.

I added the transistor to My Basket and clicked Checkout.

Mouser presented me with a price for my purchase: 59p.

Fifty-nine pence. That’s alright. But then they added another £12.00 for postage!

How the hell can something of that size warrant 12 quid postage?

For those of you not sure how big a transistor is, that it should justify 12 quid postage, I have included a picture… with a 5p coin for scale.

Turns out, Mouser have a standard 12 quid P&P added to any order under 33 pounds.

No matter what it is.

Ridiculous!

Obviously, I didn’t buy it.

But then, I mentioned this to a chap I talk to regularly on the radio.  Jim said that he often ordered stuff from Mouser and would be happy to add my transistor to his next order. What a top fellow!

I received an email from him yesterday, telling me it had arrived.

As he only lives ten miles from me, I took a drive over and we had a good ol’ chat over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

It was good to finally put a face to the voice I’ve spoken to, so many times over the past couple of years.

And he never even charged me for the transistor.

I Was First!

In readiness for the Christmas Quiz – which we have every year at the big family get-together – I wanted some Quiz Buzzers, to stop the arguments over who shouted first.

The ones I used last year – which I built many years ago, from a circuit in one of the electronics magazines – worked well, but there were too many wires spread across the tables and chairs,  between the push buttons and the control unit.  A Health & Safety nightmare!

And so this year, I looked around for a wireless version. They are bloody expensive to buy (300 quid and up, from what I could see), so a homebrew version would have to be the order of the day.

After a bit of searching on the internets, I found a wonderfully simple Arduino design from a German chap called Felix. I say ‘simple’ but of course, all the cleverness is in the software. 

His design only allowed for two buttons though and I wanted four.  I thought that I would be able to figure out how to add more, from his code, but my coding skills are rubbish and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it… it might as well have been in Greek!  So, I dropped him a line asking if he would be so kind as to amend his code to allow for more buzzers. 24 hours later, he’d done so. Splendid fellow!

I then added a little bit of simple code of my own, to allow the Master control unit to give an audio alert when any button had been pressed, as I found in testing that it was quite easy for a player to lock the other players out, by pressing his button and then just keeping it covered with his hand, so no-one could see (Harry, you little cheat!).

I won’t go into the circuit here, or the code, as that can all be downloaded from Felix’s GitHub Repository.  But, if you plan on building one, I’m happy to supply my extra bit of code for the audio alert – which I feel is a definite requirement.

The Arduino Nano boards were sourced from ebay, along with the NRF24L01 radio modules for a very reasonable price. The big buttons are 60mm ones from Arcade World and are very good quality. The Tupperware came from Sainsbury’s.  🙂

I’m pleased to say it all works wonderfully.

I just need to put a quiz together now!

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