How many of you actually hated studying & college, but loved the rest?

Shipbuilder
2nd August 2008, 19:47
This was prompted by "The Writing on the Wall." In 31 years, I managed well enough practically - I held the opnion that if it ever worked, I could make it work again provided I had the parts. I oft repeated this to captains over the year & my final reference (from a captain with whom I was friend & shipmate for many years)) when I left the sea in 1992 actually stated this as a fact. - but modern electronic theory was not only a mystery to me - I absolutely hated it & always went out of my way to avoid it. I curse the day when transistors were invented!
Bob

K urgess
2nd August 2008, 20:16
Never had a problem with the theories. Always retained enough to pass an exam if needed.
Found college a good rest from watches and responsibility. A time to meet other sparkies you never normally saw, have a good time and learn about some more kit.
In the other thread you said you walked out of Southampton, Bob. I wasn't impressed either and after a "fortuitous" car accident, some sick leave and another trip got sent to South Shields. A totally different atmosphere with more emphasis on practice rather than theory. "This is how it should work now let's go see if it actually does" being the philosophy.

Shipbuilder
2nd August 2008, 20:30
Can't resist pushing the Radio section onto 3,000!.
Anyaway - MED. I was supposed to go to Riversdale, but course was cancelled day before it started due to only three students (one of them myself) had been raised. Hated Southampton, especially as in lecture rooms I could look out each & every day at my beloved passenger ships lying alongside & it made me homesick. I never really had a chance at theory - failed 11+ & technical college entrance, didn't gain even an O level, never mind A level.
Loved repairing equipment, but was always hampered by having to go on watch or something just as I was getting to the root of the problem.
Still keep a full range of test equipment & it comes in very useful, but only have the "vaguest" idea of how transistors & ics work.
Wish I had been born a lot earlier really.
Bob

K urgess
2nd August 2008, 20:53
I've still got a house full of valve equipment and a cupboard full of valves.
I've also got boxes full of transistors and ICs from my computer engineering days.
Basically you don't need to know how they work just that they do what they're supposed to. I was never interested in how a computer did what it did just that it did it the way it was supposed to.
IC's are just multiple semiconductorised thermionic valves in a black box.
Transistors are just fancy low voltage triodes.

jaydeeare
2nd August 2008, 22:53
I was brought up on valve kit, transistors, well.... they did the job, but Integrated circuits were another thing all together!

I once went or an interview and was shown a huge circuit diagram of their latest piece of kit. It was simply a load of rectangles and squares with lines going in between them and number in the boxes and asked what such and such did. I asked for a Reference Book to see what the chip was. I was told in no uncertain terms that the chip was used all over, and he pointed to about half a dozen of them I hadn't heard of that chip before. A few minutes later, he pointed to another chip - same thing no reference and pointing to identical chips around the circuit. In desperation he pointed to a charging circuit and stated that the equipment could be used on mains or battery, so what was that circuit. I answered with a somewhat straight face (to this day, I don't know how) that it was to block the battery voltage going into the mains!
I'm still waiting to hear from them 20+ years on!

mikeg
3rd August 2008, 12:10
I've still got a house full of valve equipment and a cupboard full of valves.
I've also got boxes full of transistors and ICs from my computer engineering days.
Basically you don't need to know how they work just that they do what they're supposed to. I was never interested in how a computer did what it did just that it did it the way it was supposed to.
IC's are just multiple semiconductorised thermionic valves in a black box.
Transistors are just fancy low voltage triodes.

Emptied out one box of valves, these ones for audio only - no RF here nowadays I'm afraid.

Mike

Shipbuilder
3rd August 2008, 19:11
Marconi Sahib,
I agree with you as far as you don't need to know how they work to deal with them. But in the MED course (at Southampton), theory was "King" & we were expected to know how everything worked. When I was at Wray Castle in '59, I realised I was on my "last chance" & really applied myself to my studies - everything else came 2nd place. I had got it into my head that if I could get a 1st Class PMG, I could say goodbye to college for the rest of my life. Not so - B & C in 1967 said I had to get a radar cert or I couldn't remain in passenger ships. Result - passed first time. Later, in 1973, they said I had to get MED & then I would go in one of their modern "bulkers!" Didn't want to go in modern "bulkers" - so consequently not much incentive.
Although I would not wish you to get the wrong impression that I could have passed the MED if I wanted to - no it was completely beyond my comprehension!

What always amazed me though was the following. On the day of the exam for Part I MED, as soon as I got the paper in the exam room, I stuffed it in my pocket & walked out without even setting my name to the top of a blank sheet. Went straight down to the docks & said I wanted to go back to sea, or resign! Didn't exactly get my wish, had to relieve Electronics Inspector in Southampton for several months whilst he was in Bilbao looking after one of their newbuild "bulkers." At end of that time they did let me go back to sea (after a stint in Bilbao myself).

Really surprising thing though - A certificate (that I still have) eventually arrived in the post proclaiming that I had passed the First Module of the MED, Grade "C" Average!.


How could I have passed, or even failed, when I never even put pen to paper? It has always puzzled me.

Bob

K urgess
3rd August 2008, 19:15
Somebody probably worried that they'd lost your paper, Bob.
Ass covering maneouvre. [=P]

I've always been one to dive in feet first and figure out what I did wrong later.
It's not too often that I've ripped something apart before checking the mains switch is on. (Whaaa)

Nice clean looking valves there, Mike.
I may have a cupboard full of valves but that's not to say they're any good.
My valve tester needs rebuilding and I've never got the valve I need anyways. (Sad)

Kris

Shipbuilder
3rd August 2008, 19:45
Couple of years ago, I found three "R" Valves (Circa 1915) on a car boot sale for 10. Purchased them & found that all three filaments lit up like light bulbs when I applied LT. Further test showed that two were clapped out emmision wise, & third one worked, but was rather low on emmision. Put pictures of them on internet just for interest. A collector in USA offered me 150 for the three. Posted them immediately, Special Delivery & got my 150straight away via Paypal. Valves arrived safely following week - I always liked valves!

On same stall was a 1923 Burndept IV radio (without valves). Not really interested, but he persuaded me to buy it for 25 saying it was definitely worth that. Got it home - wife made me leave it outside overnight it was so grubby. Opened it up & found transformer o/c, choke o/c, capacitors miles off value. Lay in shed in bits for couple of months. After chance mention when talking to London auction rooms about my model ships that they sold regularly, they said why not send it to their vintage electronics section. Put it together again & sent it off at cost of another 25 quid - felt rather dejected, but hoped to make my money back.

Anyway - it sold for 2,400! Always did like valves!

Bob

K urgess
3rd August 2008, 20:23
Always hoped for such finds but never quite made it. (Sad)
Besides I have a tendency to hang on to such things if they come my way.

I note that ebay have some Marconi CV1069/ STV280/80/NSI stabilovolts for sale. Start price 99p and no bids yet.
I'm keeping my hands in my pockets. [=P]

Kris

Shipbuilder
3rd August 2008, 20:54
Here it is. I stuck four valves in it before sending it off. I had made a token effort to restore it, but after laboriously tracing circuit, came to conclusion that it would never have been up to much anyway, it seemed to be mainly switches & filament rheostats. The fils were so delicate in those days, they had to turn the rheosats down before switching on & work up to the four volts.
Bob

BobClay
3rd August 2008, 21:11
I did my MED at Southampton in 1975. I did the MRGC in parallel at the same time. I did that really because I was paying for it off my on back (although I did get a small grant off the council). I have to say I've always preferred solid state electronics cos it doesn't zap you with 900 volts (which an old valve transmitter did to me once).

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at college (Leith and Southampton), and at sea. I'm glad I went the route I did.

There's an old adage: Analogue electronics is easy to understand practically, but horrendous to understand theoretically (i.e. the mathematics). Digital electronics is the reverse because once you understand the binary system you are practically there theoretically. But the complexity of the circuits can be tortuous if you are fault finding. (hence the disappearance of the soldering iron and the 'throw another card in' technique).

K urgess
3rd August 2008, 21:19
A quick jolt makes the blood sing, Bob. (EEK)
Unfortunately I had to repair computer boards with the old soldering iron after "Throwing in another one". Had to keep the spares up to speed.

Ah! Bob (Shipbuilder) now I understand why you made so much on it. With something of that age performance is only part of the attraction. If someone had tried to persuade me to pay 25 for that I would've bitten his hand off. (*))

Kris

jaydeeare
3rd August 2008, 23:38
Bob, I was once told you're not classed as electronics engineer until you've had a good 'belt' and/or welded an AVO probe to a valve base! I've done both - and more besides - once inadvertently soldered an electrolytic cap the wrong way round. Found out when it blew up a few minutes after being switched on and spewed it's insides all over the unit!

BobClay
4th August 2008, 09:12
Ahhh those electrolytics. Lurking at the back of the cabinet like a great white shark. Especially those jam jar types. I've made my eyes water on a few of those b*****ds.

(especially those where the leak resistor had cracked through the heat and wasn't leaking anymore).

(EEK)

mikeg
4th August 2008, 11:05
Ahhh those electrolytics. Lurking at the back of the cabinet like a great white shark. Especially those jam jar types. I've made my eyes water on a few of those b*****ds.

(especially those where the leak resistor had cracked through the heat and wasn't leaking anymore).

(EEK)

Many years back (Smoke) as a holiday job I worked at Rediffusion converting 405 line TV's to 625. The engineers used to throw components from bench to bench, sometimes this would be a charged electrolytic (EEK).

Best laugh was when an engineer had been absent for a day. An empty cabinet of the TV he was converting had been left on his bench so they wired up the speaker (that was still in the cabinet) to the radio outlet connection on the bench with microscopically thin litz wire which were hidden by the cabinet joins. When he came back to work you should have seen him scratching his head trying to figure out how the speaker was playing without being connected...

Had many laughs there, a crazy crowd.

Mike

BA204259
4th August 2008, 11:20
Having studied carefully (very carefully) the circuit diagram of the failed exciter unit of a transmitter and bearing in mind the symptoms, I "knew" full well that there couldn't possibly be any HT of 800V on the anode cap of the 807. Just before I reached out to remove the anode cap I saw my old instructor telling me what would happen if you didn't stick the AVO on first. Right, 800V. (Safety switches? Had to be dis'd (natch) for this one). Guess what was going "half a crown - sixpence, half a crown - sixpence". Served me well later when I had to take the anode cap off an 813 with an EHT of 2,200V.

Experience beats theory, especially if you're none too bright in the first place.

jaydeeare
4th August 2008, 12:32
On the old Video Map cabinet, there was a CRT that used the standard 15Kv. When switched off, there was no leakeage resistor, so the 15Kv took a long long while to dissipate.

When I was instructing new lads straight out of training on this, I connected an EHT meter to the anode cap then powered up the unit. There it was, 15Kv. I then powered the unit down, and 15 Kv still there. After a few minutes of explanation, it got down to 14Kv. "Not very impressive is it?" I asked them. I then hit the cap with the earthing stick C-E-E-R-R-R-R-A-CK!!! That made them jump! I then told them in no uncertain terms to ALWAYS use the earthing stick when the unit was switched off. Thankfully the lesson was well learnt.

BA204259
4th August 2008, 12:55
...the earthing stick ....

Good point, but it wasn't until much later that I saw one provided and then only on much bigger transmitters. The normal practice was to use a hefty (hopefully well insulated) screwdriver twixt anode cap and chassis. Even if you knew what was about to happen and were prepared for it, it could still impress. (Half a crown - sixpence).

Ron Stringer
4th August 2008, 14:57
Ahhh those electrolytics. Lurking at the back of the cabinet like a great white shark. Especially those jam jar types. I've made my eyes water on a few of those b*****ds.

(especially those where the leak resistor had cracked through the heat and wasn't leaking anymore).

(EEK)

At Brook's Bar radio college in Manchester, the Emergency Radio Station Equipment (transmitter, receiver, autokey, etc.) operated from two banks of 24v DC batteries located in the basement of the building. These were charged from a 110v DC supply provided by a rotary motor-generator, also in the basement. The machine ran all day since, as well as charging the batteries, it also had to supply the rest of the Radio Room's mains-powered equipment which was, as on many British ships of the time, designed to operate only from 110v DC.

Amongst the mains-powered equipment was the Lodestone IV direction finder. To limit electrical noise being transferred from the ship's mains, the power supplies of this receiver were heavily decoupled and filtered, incorporating several large (for the time) electrolytic capacitors. For those readers not familiar with these devices, they are polarised (i.e. they have +ve and -ve terminals) and have to be connected appropriately across the electrical supply.

At the end of each day, the 24v batteries were disconnected from the charger and the rotary machine was switched off. Whoever came in first in the morning started up the motor and put the batteries on charge. It was important to isolate the batteries fom the charger when the machine was stopped, otherwise the batteries could discharge via the DC generator section of the machine.

One morning we had an early practical session in the radio room and were under instruction from the Principal Mr Woods (Woody). A somewhat flamboyant character, much-given to bow ties, he was in full flow when there was an enormous explosion from somewhere behind his back and the air turned milky white. Woody almost had a heart attack, whilst the rest of us sat stunned, unable to grasp what was going on. Apart from the sound of Woody gasping for breath there was absolute silence.

Slowly the air cleared and we could see that the benches and occupants of the room were covered in what appeared to be shredded, white, fluffy, tissue and silver foil. We could also see that every aperture of the Lodestone IV appeared to be stuffed with this fluff.

Later it became clear what had happened. The previous evening someone had simply pulled the mains switch to the motor-generator, stopping the machine but without bothering to disconnect the batteries. Overnight the batteries had discharged through the generator, reversing the polarity of the magnetic elements. When the machine had been started in the morning, its output polarity was reversed. Most of the equipment was unaffected, but the electrolytic capacitors in the Lodestone IV power supply filters in effect became short-circuits across the mains. I would never have believed that they could produce so much material or that they would explode so violently.

It took most of the day to clear up the mess and it was several days before the Lodestone IV was back in operation but Woody must have needed his brow (?) stroking by his secretary, Mrs Sparks, for some time longer.

G4UMW
4th August 2008, 15:09
Similar thing happened to me during the radar course at Lowestoft with an vertically-mounted electrolytic in the Decca 404. Loud bang, lots of silver foil and other debris. Then we noticed that the rubber end piece of the capacitor, complete with solder tags, had buried itself a considerable distance into the ceiling. If an unsuspecting student had been leaning over the chassis at that moment, the consequences don't bear thinking about. Small wonder that from then on, electrolytics were referred to as "confetti generators"!

BA204259
4th August 2008, 15:42
Another one to give me food for thought was one or two students I knew who liked to demonstrate the effects of RF on flesh by "executing" wasps and other unfortunate insects by holding them in a pair of insulated pliers and placing them close to the transmitter lead-out whilst holding the key down. See who could draw off the longest spark. Wonder what they did for thrills in later life?...:) :)

BobClay
5th August 2008, 00:41
Remember that old saying ?

"Volts jolts, but mills kills."

I suppose everyone gets into the bad habit of sliding down the rails on ships stairways.... I was certainly guilty of it. On one newly built chemical tanker I was on, they had plastic coated rails (luvvly to slide on), but the mounting brackets were steel and connected straight through to the steel bulkhead. So I slid down on my hands, getting up speed, and without realising it, building up a huge static charge until I came to the bottom and hit the bracket.
I tell you, I went back up those stairs in reverse quicker than I came down them. It cured me of that habit.(==D)

John Ringrose
5th August 2008, 09:27
You always were a crazy bugger Mr Clay - seems you have never changed !!!.

K urgess
5th August 2008, 11:44
Noticed that quite a bit on Bankboats, Bob.
Especially if wearing a nylon shirt.
Ouch! (Ouch)

jaydeeare
5th August 2008, 12:16
Bob, is it fair to say that you charged down the stairway?

BobClay
7th August 2008, 10:31
Hah.... that I did.

Although this is not really relevant, after I left the sea I did a year with BT on telephone maintenance. I did a lot of work in rural areas in north staffordshire (here there be hillbillys !) and one day I was humping a ladder and reel of wire across a field when I came to an electric cow fence.
It was a hot sunny day and I was in teashirt and shorts, and clearly in wazzeck mode. I decided to step over the wire without putting down the ladder and wire reel.
The wire touched a delicate part of the anatomy, and I'll swear I threw a three stage BT pole ladder about 20 metres. I dunno what that farmer had going through that wire, never mind cows, it would have dropped a Tyrannosaurus !
Ya'd think after all those electrolytics/transmitters/CRT's/static on stairways I'd have learned something. ..... maybe I was getting used to it. :sweat:

jaydeeare
7th August 2008, 12:35
A belter of a story, Bob (Jester)

BA204259
7th August 2008, 12:43
..... maybe I was getting used to it. :sweat:

Or maybe you enjoyed it.... shocking!! The atmosphere is electric waiting for the next revelation..(Jester)

John Ringrose
7th August 2008, 13:17
I did my MED and MRGC in parallel - both Bob Clay and I did it together - both paying our own way. It was hard graft but we both passed with flying colours and we also had a good time.

Probably both brainy beggers !!!. (I'd love to believe that) - studied hard but played hard at the right time.

----------------------------------------------------------

I could have done anything if I'd had the talent ! !!!

R651400
7th August 2008, 16:05
The bible for radio theory pre war and immediate post war was the 1938 Volumes 1 & 2 Admiralty Handbook of Wireless Telegraphy, so rare that Leith Nautical College had their students copy the entire two issues from their own admittedly copper plate written copies, in my case on Woolworths stationery.
One small slip of the biro on any equation like flux equals magneto motive force over reluctance and you were well and truly flucked.

hawkey01
7th August 2008, 17:56
Found all my old notes and a very large text book when we moved some years ago. I just cannot remember what I did with my other texts books. Probably sold them. They must be hidden in the loft. I digress. I learnt to my costs that you had to study very hard as I failed my first theory paper for my 2nd Class. It never happened again and studying became a way of life. I enjoyed the tech side of things ok but it was difficult to fix things with a 1/2 inch soldering iron and big hammer. Standard MIMCO tools.

Hawkey01

Shipbuilder
7th August 2008, 19:27
Getting the 1st Class PMG & radar certificate were the limit for me. It wasn't even a question of working hard & applying myself like they told me at Southampton. For first two and a half months of MED, after coming out of college, I went straight to the reference library & worked on until about 7pm each evening, but it was still absolutely & totally beyond me. After two months, I realised this, accepted it & consequently felt a lot better in myself. It really didn't do me any harm though & when in 1976, B & C announced they were getting out of shipping, I left, actively seeking a company that couldn't care less about my lack of an MED. Silver Line was great from that point of view, although I didn't like the cross-trades as it involved flying out & home. I have never been as uncomfortable at se as I have in aircraft on long-hauls - Liverool - Manila, Yokohama - Liverpool, etc.
My final 13 years were spent sailing from & returning to UK in a company that showed no signs of trying to send me for higher qualifications or anything like that. Despite that, we had the very latest of equipment including satcoms etc. Voyages were two months on, two months off. One ship company, with two R/Os. Whoever was on leave looked after ordering of new equipment etc & it really was the "perfect" R/O job for years & years. It was only when the new ship came in that I got fed up of it on account of the increased electronics. I was fairly happy with bridge & radio room, but added to that were computers, TVs, videos, fire alarms, servo watch systems etc etc. When the 30% pay cut came, that was the last straw - took the redundancy & left, but I am still in contact with the ex managing director even after thirty years that covered the demise of the company (but not the ship).

I still have a deep interest in obsolete practical electronics & have all my own test gear, but the theory is still "Double Dutch" to me.

Been making capacitors this afternoon as a bit of a break from ship model building. Anyway, I have found your replies very interesting - but I think I must be one of the thicker ones though as far as theory is concerned!

Bob

Mimcoman
7th August 2008, 22:26
I enjoyed college - after I figured out that it wasn't full of impenetrable maths, etc . (I did a Special cert first as I thought the 2nd and - gulp- 1st would be really difficult.) But the teaching and studying were really interesting; a far cry from school days, and I found the 2nd and 1st class courses not exactly plain sailing, but thoroughly enjoyable, which is at least half the battle, of course.

After I left with a 1st class, my younger brother did the MRGC, so I loaned him all my notes, textbooks, etc. He passed with flying colours ( and an MEC) but went and sold all my stuff - written notes as well - to a new student! I still feel somewhat aggrieved.

BobClay
9th August 2008, 08:20
Although it is a part of the title of this site, there are times when Nostalgia is not such a good thing. I was at Leith Nautical College from 1967 to 1970, (time was extended a bit after a motorcycle accident, I've had a bike of one sort or another from 1963 to present). A few years ago I re-visited Leith after all those years and was saddened. The college building had become an insurance office. Henry Robb's shipyard at the back (where you could watch a ship take shape over the termtime) was gone, just a bunch of bland modern buildings. Up in the city of Edinburgh, Rose Street was cafes and bistros...not the hard drinking end to end pint in every pub student challenge it had once been. I continued on up into the mountains ... at least they hadn't changed.

Ah well, 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, all things must pass.

R651400
9th August 2008, 08:52
Bob, I felt the same when I visited Ocean Terminal/Royal Yacht Brittania and passed along Commercial Street and saw the old college.
At Henry Robbs berth I was fortunate to watch MIMCo's technician installing the radio-rooms on Wilson's "Rollo", Currie's "Zeeland" and a Union Steam new build for NZ, all in the space of 15 months.
Bizarrely a some time ago I replied to a 2nd hand car advert here in France and the vendor turned out to be an ex LNC radio instructor. I didn't buy the car but had a great exchange of nostalgia.

rusty1946
21st August 2008, 14:58
I went to Glasgow Nautical College for my MRGC, those guys were dedicated to getting me passed all my exams, for which I am very grateful

rusty1946
21st August 2008, 15:00
Glad I am not the only one who got zapped by sliding down handrails bob

Bob Bush
26th August 2008, 11:55
I did my MED at Southampton in 1975. I did the MRGC in parallel at the same time. I did that really because I was paying for it off my on back (although I did get a small grant off the council). I have to say I've always preferred solid state electronics cos it doesn't zap you with 900 volts (which an old valve transmitter did to me once).

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at college (Leith and Southampton), and at sea. I'm glad I went the route I did.

There's an old adage: Analogue electronics is easy to understand practically, but horrendous to understand theoretically (i.e. the mathematics). Digital electronics is the reverse because once you understand the binary system you are practically there theoretically. But the complexity of the circuits can be tortuous if you are fault finding. (hence the disappearance of the soldering iron and the 'throw another card in' technique).

Gday Bob,
Did you ever sail with CP Ships, the name is familiar from there

Rgds Bob bush

BobClay
26th August 2008, 21:20
Yep. Was with CP Ships from 1976 to 1986, at which point I packed up going to sea.

(You know that old joke..... I used to go to sea, ... but I'm better now).

:sweat:

sparksatsea
26th August 2008, 23:46
Ahhh those electrolytics. Lurking at the back of the cabinet like a great white shark. Especially those jam jar types. I've made my eyes water on a few of those b*****ds.

(especially those where the leak resistor had cracked through the heat and wasn't leaking anymore).

(EEK)

Hi Bob,

Long time no see or hear.... yes I remember well the Marconi Arganaut VHF set, that had a humungous bloody electrolytic capacitor in its supply... had a few nasty belts off that barsteward..... hope all well.

Geoff Valentine