GKA 1980's

R651400
20th March 2009, 01:48
Twenty years after my time (No R/T or RTTY) the only thing that has changed on the CW positions, apart from looking a bit weary, are the receivers!

http://www.qsl.net/g3zhi/portishead/portishead.htm

Ron Stringer
20th March 2009, 19:36
And at the time that the photo was taken, the two RTTY error-correcting equipments (Spector) in the picture were on free loan from Marconi Marine.

We provided them so that GKA could offer a manually-connected telex service in the UK for those London-based shipowners who were not prepared to route traffic through a 'foreign' coast station. Those owners would not purchase telex systems for their ships because ''there was no telex service at Portishead''. At that time Gothenburg/SAG was offering a fully-automated telex service and Scheveningen/PCH had 14 terminals providing a semi-automated service.

GKA was then updated and the plan was to provide 4 (I think, but the memory is dimming) telex positions and 100 CW positions. Nobody outside BT could imagine why anyone could imagine that there would ever be sufficient traffic to utilise 100 Morse positions at a time when other administrations (even that great seafaring country Switzerland) were replacing their HF Morse services at their coast stations by automated telex services, and when satcoms were being developed for ships. In the final scheme, the 100 CW positions were not implemented, a lesser number proved to be more than adequate.

Larry Bennett
23rd March 2009, 14:16
I reckon these photos were taken in early 1980, looking at the staff and the equipment. The consoles and receivers carried on until 1982/1983 when the 'new' station was opened, with new receivers, morse keys and a new 'open-plan' layout. The RT service was the first to transfer to the new building, followed by W/T (22 MHz initially, followed by the other bands later), and finally RTT, once the automated service had been tried and tested.

hawkey01
23rd March 2009, 17:07
larry,

are you having a day off?

Glad you have the info to hand. I have been racking my brains to think when all these changes happened. The chap in the first photo top left - I cannot think who he is - is it Steve Fells brother?

Neville - Hawkey01

Larry Bennett
23rd March 2009, 20:06
Thank goodness for lunch breaks!!

The chap you asked about is Bob Deakin who emigrated to NZ later in 1980, which helps to date the photos. The rest of the staff you should know - if not, please ask...

Cheers

Larry

Naytikos
25th March 2009, 08:04
The tone of the above posts bears out an impression I had of GKA around 1979-80, that they weren't really interested in SITOR and were secretly wishing those of us who had it would go away or use CW instead. So I did; began using OST who had an excellent fully automated service and was not exactly a busy station so there was never a problem making contact.

IanSpiden
25th March 2009, 18:05
P & O Bulk shipping had a couple of gas ships fitted with SITOR which I sailed on I think they were the Gazana and Gandara , I always found the biggest problem with Portishead Radio SITOR was that the Frequencies were always busy in the evenings , I dont know which ships were on there but they seemed to occupy them for up to an hour at a time , now we never really had very long messages to send so I would be on for 5 minutes at a time and that would be it , I have no idea who the ships or rigs were but they sure kept them occupied , must have been a lucrative source of revenue

Mimcoman
26th March 2009, 12:06
Once or twice a trip, on T&J's bulkers, there would be a long spares/stores telex to send. After a few mishaps, I was always in dread that someone would start calling over the top of my telex without listening first - happened quite a few times. While the ARQ system would usually handle this until the interloper went away, there were occasions when the connections would drop out and the overcaller would take over the circuit.

Because I was sending, by my standards, a long telex (20+ minutes if no interruptions and good propagation), I often wondered if someone had lost patience and deliberately overcalled.

Troppo
18th February 2010, 22:25
I sailed with Thrane and Thrane SITOR equipment - when paired with a Skanti TRP8000 series radio, they were a fantastic piece of kit.

I worked VIS on SITOR many times a day - an excellent service.

Graham P Powell
20th February 2010, 10:46
Final days of the old station. Even the switchboard was a relic. I can see Stuart Lund and "Bear Island" Smith in one photo. What about those crap RT receivers. Designed by the Post Office for point to point HF. Rubbish.
They certainly lashed out on better gear in the new place. There was certainly space for 100 cw points but only about 80 were fitted out. In the end another department was moved into the unused area. I can remember the battle to get new telegraph typewriters. The Union discovered those Olympia ones and the old Imperials were scrapped.
We ended up with Thrane and Thrane equipment which as Troppo says was excellent. Better than that Phillips Sitor with its tape memory. I had the impression they only got that in for the QE2's Daily Telegraph paper.
The computerised system changed everything. One or two of the guys were keyboard wizards i.e Eddie Grogan, John Lamb, Don Mcallister but even
they couldn't beat it!.
Those pictures actually show you what it was really like. Completely clapped out. Brown walls with all the fag smoke, cracked tops to the consoles. No canteen , one coffee machine and thanks only to the welfare club a small tuck shop. For all its faults , the guys were great and I loved working there
though the new station was a big improvement.

5TT
21st February 2010, 06:27
I've often wondered how I would have got on at GKA, I'd visited the station while still at college and recall it all looking a bit gloomy, but by the late '70s the GPO were taking r/os with no sea time and I was having trouble securing work afloat at the time with ticket time fast running out, so it was to be 6 months training at GKA and then either elect to stay there or go off to GKR. Then with about a week to go I got a call from Safmarine and a very short time after that I was junior r/o on one of their old reefers, and I stayed with them for the duration of my seagoing career.
Were there many "zero time" operators at GKA and did they tend to stay long?
= Adrian +

Mimcoman
21st February 2010, 09:02
(Can't say about GKA (I imagine there were) but there was one at GND who came into the BT straight from college. He was fine after the initial settling-in period. There were a few guys who had only a couple of deep-sea trips under their belts and at least one of the older operators (well he seemed old then - perhaps less young would be better nowadays) whose background was international cable stations.

Graham P Powell
21st February 2010, 09:53
Several came to GKA unable to get sea time but they became excellent operators and stayed till it closed. GKA was stifled ( like the telephone network) by being civil service. I remember one old boy telling me that he went there in 1936 from the Isle of Lewis because "it was the last place still using morse on the inland network". A lot of the GKA operators were ex Royal Signals including the boss at one stage. Several were ex RN but the majority MN who had come through the war. Great blokes to work with all of them.
One chap was an ex airline operator.
We even had one day a boy on work experience from the local school who was a radio amateur. Got him sending and receiving traffic!.
Just shows you how desperate we were for staff!.
Looking at those 1980's pictures I had forgotten how completely shambolic it had become. I remember getting some switches out of one of the tx selection boxes and they were stamped 1944. Typically British some how.
Run on a shoe string by the good will of the staff.

Larry Bennett
25th February 2010, 21:16
I was one of those who never made it to sea (cries of 'shame' all round). Not for want of trying but there just wasn't anything around in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Luckily a post came up at GKA - passed the interview and morse test and stayed with the place until closure. Like Graham said, a great bunch of guys and a real pleasure to work with them.

There was an initial stand-off between some of the old sea dogs and us who never made it to sea, but once we proved our operating skills were as good (and in some cases better) as the old-timers, we were readily accepted into the fold. Some of the more senior R/Os took us under their wing, which was much appreciated.

Nights were a great time for hearing some of the stories of old - many of the old boys were at sea during WW2 and it was fascinating to hear some of them go on (and on and on!) about it.

Not many of them left these days - but looking forward to seeing some familiar faces in April at our reunion - 10 years to the day the old place closed.

5TT
27th February 2010, 07:46
Larry,
I remember my GKA interview quite well, hoping above all that I didn't have to do a morse test, then being lead down into a basement room of a building somewhere in London and sat down in front of the very thing I didn't want to see, a morse key, and told to wait. I looked around this cold echoey room and saw a few pieces of marine radio kit on benches around the walls and wondered if this wasn't where they devised the faults for the Part II exam. I hadn't even seen a morse key in nearly two years let alone had any practice and was not very confident of a good result, however once we got started I thought it went well, but the response was "a bit slow but otherwise ok". I remember thinking, I'm glad he's going first because I've forgotten how fast I have to go, and I was sure I sent the same speed that he did, but anyway the important bit was that my morse status was conveyed as "good" to the next interviewer and I was mighty relieved !!
After establishing the GKR was my first choice after GKA training with the option to remain at GKA, their first choice incidentally, not mine, I'd asked for GNF and GIL as 2nd, one chap then took it upon himself to convince me how wonderful GKR was and that I was going to love it up there, and that he was even prepared to sell me his beach caster fishing rod at a good price, he reminded me 3 times about that fishing rod, I'll never forget it.
I must admit I'd really warmed to the idea though after giving it some thought (not the fishing rod, GKR) and was in two minds about what to do when Safmarine phoned a few days later (I'd applied to them about a year before and forgotten all about them).
Anyway, decision made, I was off to London again to Safmarine's offices in St Mary Axe, not too far away from the Post Office building as I recall, dreading another morse test, however what a different experience this was to be. The interview began "We're not ready for you yet, here's some money from petty cash, go around the corner and grab a couple of pints, we'll send somebody to fetch you", and then later it was just recording personal details, bank account etc followed by, "Can you be at Sheerness next Wednesday with passport and uniform?", no morse test or any other probing of my abilities, the red book was all they wanted to see!!
I've often wondered how different my life would have been had I not traded fishing off a beach in Scotland with a 2nd hand beach caster and the occasional haggis, for biltong (dried beef) and sumptuous deck braais (barbeques), I emigrated to SA during my stay with Safmarine and still live here in Capetown now ..

= Adrian +

Graham P Powell
27th February 2010, 09:43
I was working as a telephone engineer for the Post Office and getting nowhere fast. One weekend I saw the Post Office advert for R/O's in Wireless World
went home and got a letter in the post. The following Tuesday afternoon my telephone boss rang up. Told me that the radio dept had been on the phone and could I start at the end of the week. They were very short of staff at GKA.... I actually started a month later and only wanted to work at GKA.
Adrian, as you were Safmarine you may know my very good friend Charlie Ollis. He worked at GKA as well and I still keep in touch .

5TT
27th February 2010, 15:04
The name is familiar Graham but I never met him. I do recall an ex Safmarine chap at GKA who'd occasionally stay for a short chat after traffic, he usually mistook me for another R/O in the company, may have been him.
= Adrian +

Graham P Powell
28th February 2010, 09:33
That would be Charlie. He was with Safmarine for many years and ended up on those big container ships.

sparky1
2nd March 2010, 20:02
I reckon these photos were taken in early 1980, looking at the staff and the equipment. The consoles and receivers carried on until 1982/1983 when the 'new' station was opened, with new receivers, morse keys and a new 'open-plan' layout. The RT service was the first to transfer to the new building, followed by W/T (22 MHz initially, followed by the other bands later), and finally RTT, once the automated service had been tried and tested.
Thanks for the dishwasher Larry, you told me all about how many hours work they saved, all the time you were telling me this you were sending a qtc - Thanks

BobDixon
15th November 2010, 11:50
Another bit of video - mainly of the GBR 16kHz tx but also a bit at the end showing the current use of one of the GKA RT consoles

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unlg2gY2Zrs

Ron Stringer
15th November 2010, 12:25
I reckon these photos were taken in early 1980, looking at the staff and the equipment. The consoles and receivers carried on until 1982/1983 when the 'new' station was opened, with new receivers, morse keys and a new 'open-plan' layout. The RT service was the first to transfer to the new building, follow ed by W/T (22 MHz initially, followed by the other bands later), and finally RTT, once the automated service had been tried and tested.

However by 1983 the ComSat General marine satellite communication service for shipping had alread been running for 7 years, INMARSAT had been established and FGMDSS had been amended to include satcoms. What part of the Post Office had its head so firmly into the sand as to spend money on a 'new' Morse-based radio station? Since Goonhilly had been in operation for more than a decade, it wasn't as if satcoms was a secret in the Post Office.

Larry Bennett
15th November 2010, 12:35
Ron,

I suspect that the Post Office Maritime Radio Services Division (MRSD) had committed so much planning and investment in the new building that it would have cost more to abandon the project. I believe plans were laid for the 'new' station as far back as 1976 when it became clear that the current buildings could not cater for the expanding RTT and RT facilities. In 1976 there were only 2 RTT consoles and 2 RT consoles (the remaining RT consoles were located at Somerton, meaning a daily minibus drive from Highbridge for those listed for the RT duty).

Presumably it made better sense to combine all the facilities in one 'new' building featuring standard console designs which could be adapted for use as WT, RT or RTT operations - which is exactly what happened.

I don't think the Post Office had their head in the sand (much) - I am of the opinion that they were trying to provide a service complementary to Inmarsat/FGMDSS which would last another 20 years - which it very nearly did!

And then the BT accountants took over.......

Larry +

Ron Stringer
15th November 2010, 16:17
You could be right, Larry. I remember sitting in a bar with Jim Crook and Don Mulholland discussing the planned new station and expressing disbelief when they said that there would be 100 CW working points. They countered with statistics that proved that their CW traffic was increasing every year. Of course that ignored the fact that at every other major European HF coast station, CW facilities were being reduced and replaced with ARQ services - generally with automated connection.

As Alf Persson of SAG explained to me (in another bar, in another place) at Gothenburg Radio they could have as much money as they wished to expand automated services, but no increase in personnel (or replacements for retirees) was permitted.

The Swedish PTT had realised that it was not possible to pay Swedish wages to CW operators and still make money from the traffic, so decided to move everything to ARQ. They put in the equipment but kept CW operators on until they either found jobs elsewhere or retired. As CW operators left, they were not replaced, instead more automated ARQ facilities (Maritex) were brought into service.

So GKA's CW traffic growth was coming from other stations that were discouraging it in favour of ARQ. I don't know if the Post Office guys realised that and preferred to ignore it as politically too hot to handle or whether they really believed it, but matters developed and a rash of automated or semi-automated HF services quickly spread across Europe, leaving GKA with almost all the CW traffic. In the event the number of planned CW positions there was reduced (I think by 50%) when the new facility opened so the penny had started to drop.

Graham P Powell
15th November 2010, 18:46
When I went there in 1975, on several occasions I was told "it wouldn't last much longer". They had tremendous problems recruiting staff which was why there was so much overtime. One year they recruited heavily but people were getting better paid jobs at sea and by the end of the year the net gain in staff was neglible.
They had a "human factors study" and I was interviewed in the training school. One of the recommendations was the building of the new station and a staff canteen. Both were subsequently built. Ron is quite right. A lot of consoles were installed but not wired up another department moved into the vacant area. Ernie Croskell who was boss at one time was a very keen CW operator which is maybe one reason they kept it going for so long. If it was still a CW station I would be there now!.
regards
Graham Powell

R651400
16th November 2010, 05:31
I think the Post Office had it's head in the sand as far back as the sixties if not longer when they introduced a two tier structure RO1/RO2.
I think this was probably because they caved into union pressure and I have to admit the RO2 tier did open up coast stations to R/O's with PMG2 only.
The RO2 had an abysmal pay scale with dead man shoes promotion including ridiculous operating restrictions like being only allowed on the key at GKA on night duty or at coast stations during the H8 ships non two hourly operating time.
I left for pastures new within two years.

Graham P Powell
16th November 2010, 08:27
The two tier structure was fairly common in the Post Office with other grades. It had just finished at GKA when I started. It was one of the reasons why they could not retain staff. It still rankles with one or two and one road in Burnham is still known as RO1 alley!.

R651400
16th November 2010, 09:17
I think it probably rankles more that the new building site on the old Highbridge receiving station is called Mulholland Park!
From '56 having one's salary placed in my bank both MN and freelance I was bemused by the monthly (or was it weekly) delivery by postman to GND with archaic brown envelopes for the entire staff containing our salary in hard cash!!

R651400
16th November 2010, 09:50
I have only used Amtor (amateur) ARQ/FEC derived from Sitor.
Frankly I think it must be the worst throughput of any HF mode ever!
I wonder how many flag of convenience companies moved with the times to this gimmickry automation?
A mere guess, very few thus the reason why GKA morse traffic increased!

Ron Stringer
16th November 2010, 11:42
I have only used Amtor (amateur) ARQ/FEC derived from Sitor. Frankly I think it must be the worst throughput of any HF mode ever!
!

That may be true of the AMTOR system, I have never used it, but I can assure you that a professional service such as that offered by the Swedish Maritex system was virtually indistinguishable from a normal, shore side telex connection.

The coast station was fully automated, with directional yagis controlled (like the rest of the SITOR system) by dedicated DEC PDP-11 mini-computers.

When a call came in for your ship, the computerised store-and-forward system accepted the call and gave an answerback confirmation to the sender before closing the telex circuit.

The system then checked a database to see where you might be, connected a transmitter to the most suitable antennas and started calling you. Your station recognised the call and started up your transmitter so that it could respond - and you were away. The stored message was sent to you and after the usual exchange of answerbacks, the radio circuit was closed. No manual involvement at either your station or the coast station. Time 'on-line' (which is how telex calls were charged) was minimised to both parties.

To make a call you simply started up the telex machine and waited for the Maritex answerback before keying in the number of the telex subscriber that you wished to contact and sent your message. On completion, you checked the answerback again and shut down the teleprinter. That was it. Your message had been accepted by the store-and-forward system and would automatically be sent on to the subscriber's telex machine.

No operational difference for the ship, or for the shore subscriber, between that and an INMARSAT connection. The shore subscriber would not even be aware that they were sending or receiving from a ship. Assuming that the ship was in range, connection in both directions was virtually instantaneous. If the ship was out of range (or shut down in port) the message was held until contact was established (usual non-delivery notification arrangements applied).

In addition to the store-and-forward mode (the telex equivalent of today's email mailbox), there was also provision for end-to-end connection to provide conversational telex facilities but that did require operator intervention to by-pass the store-and-forward route.

Of course, within a decade it was overtaken by maritime satellite communications systems - firstly by Comsat-General's Marisat system and then by INMARSAT. But in its day it was an excellent communications mode for those countries where telex was in wide use (mainly outside North America).

Graham P Powell
16th November 2010, 15:33
We had nothing like that at GKA but that was typical of Post Office thinking.
We still had electro mechanical Strowger telephone exchanges when everybody else had crossbar or electronic. The manufacturers had us over a barrel. To go on making Strowger, they insisted on the installation contracts for TXE2 electronic exchanges which meant that every wire had to be checked by the Post Office. Been there , done that, bought the T shirt......
rgds
Graham Powell

david.hopcroft
16th November 2010, 19:19
We still had electro mechanical Strowger telephone exchanges when everybody else had crossbar or electronic. The manufacturers had us over a barrel. To go on making Strowger, they insisted on the installation contracts for TXE2 electronic exchanges which meant that every wire had to be checked by the Post Office. Been there , done that, bought the T shirt......
rgds
Graham Powell

During an 'upgrade refit' at GKZ, transmitter selection from different ops positions was achieved using a standard TXE2 matrix unit. It worked - which was about all that could be said of it !! Typical of the policy of choosing a good piece of kit and modifiying it to do something it was not designed for.........

Going back to an earlier RO1/RO2 thread, I have a recruiting poster from 1969 offering a pay scale 917-1149 per ANNUM, but after Jan 1 1970, 965-1215 even !! Us poor RO2's could hardly wait, though most, it must be said, had gone back to sea by then. One even sent us a TR at GKZ with a PS that he wouldn't be there on Monday..........!!

David
+

R651400
18th November 2010, 06:16
That may be true of the AMTOR system, I have never used it, but I can assure you that a professional service such as that offered by the Swedish Maritex system was virtually indistinguishable from a normal, shore side telex connection.
I don't think there was much if any difference between Amtor and Sitor certainly not in bit rate.
Amateur stations had to adjust their callsigns to four letters to conform to the Sitor selcall protocol.
If the medium for Swedish Maritex was Sitor and I have to admit it sounds very grand, where did it actually feature in the overall scheme of things
ie global communications by multi national shipping?
Making a comparison to morse my guess Sitor using ARQ error correction via hf radio over very long distances was not only time consuming but also very labour intensive.

Ron Stringer
18th November 2010, 10:33
Making a comparison to morse my guess Sitor using ARQ error correction via hf radio over very long distances was not only time consuming but also very labour intensive.

I think that if you read my post again you will see that the system operated automatically and there was no human intervention between the teleprinter on the ship and the teleprinter of the telex subscriber ashore. I don't understand how that could be described as labour intensive. Even at those stations where you had to access an operator to set up the call, the manual involvement was minimal and demanded less skill than required to handle CW traffic. The attraction for the shipowner was in the de-skilling and cost reduction benefits - it cost less to send messages by telex and, with the automated, self-tuning transmitter/receiver equipment then available, you could operate the station with a less skilled, lower paid person.

As far as I know, several thousand such installations were made, mainly aboard ships that were required to carry radio officers (i.e. over 1600 tons gross). There were fewer than 25,000 of such ships in the world in the 1970s so I would estimate that somewhere in the region of 20% of those ships were fitted. Very few of those were under the US or Canadian flags, presumably because 5-bit telex was not widely used at the time in North America - it was not invented there and they had their own 7/8-bit teleprinter network and services.

There were also marine installations aboard smaller vessels, oil-rigs and in remotely-sited (e.g. island) shore locations but those were relatively few compared to those on the larger ships. I have no idea how many systems were used in the fixed (point-to-point) service, where the system started.

Had satellite communications not advanced so rapidly, Sitor's life would have extended for a few years more but its limitations meant that it could not compete with a satellite service offering complete automation and guaranteed, round-the-clock propagation conditions not subject to significant geographical limitations.

HF Morse ruled for 8 decades as the first choice of the shipowner for exchanging messages between him and the Masters of his ships. However it had the disadvantage of needing the manual intervention of others to carry the messages. HF Sitor lasted only 1 or 2 decades but demonstrated that manual intervention was no longer necessary.

Maritime satcoms has managed a little over 3 decades so far but looks likely to outlast them all. From the end-user's point of view it is completely transparent, appearing identical in every way to the communications equipment used ashore. No training significant training or skills are required. The shipowner's dream.

Now all he has to do is get rid of the rest of those pesky seafarers and he will no longer need to exchange messages at all.

Naytikos
19th November 2010, 04:10
I have to agree and disagree with both R651400 and Ron.

Fully automated systems only really worked over what I would regard as fairly short ranges, say up to 3000 miles and under ideal propagation and QRM conditions. When it worked: great; but when it didn't then the human hand/ear had to get involved. As mentioned on another thread, I used OST in the Atlantic and also Indian Ocean to around 100 degs East in daylight, not so far in darkness.
Their system was not 'store & forward' but direct real-time terminal to terminal. In the shore to ship direction it only worked if the ship R/O monitored the station every hour or so and changed band as necessary.
In the ship to shore direction it was very very convenient as one could simply type in the country code and telex number required and, upon receiving the answer-back, hit 'send'.
This feature was particularly useful on one occasion when a wiper broke his leg while the ship was in the Lombok Passage and I needed to 'talk' to our office in the U.S. mid-West. The company president dictated to his telex operator and read my replies over her shoulder.

Getting back to the technicalities: The system would only tolerate a degree of phase-shift and, given the vagaries of HF propagation, one could often hear what sounded like a good clean signal, only to find it impossible to lock on to.
This was particularly noticeable on a dark path, when, while the lower ionospheric attenuation produced a strong signal, the multiple bounces each introduced a very slight phase-shift with the cumulative effect of making the circuit unuseable.

East of 100E, or thereabouts, I used 9VG. They were completely manual, but not very busy SITOR-wise and, once I had trained the U.S. office to forward their telexes to Singapore, were invariably helpful.

With apologies to ex GKA members, I have to say I never had much joy working that station on SITOR. As I have already said on another thread, I always got the impression GKA was only using the mode under protest.

One last comment: The ship where I had SITOR was liberian flag, american owned, greek managed and united nations crew. No other ship in the (small) fleet had the system, but I do recall an SAIT circular listing the ships where their SITOR gear was installed and they were mostly greek/liberian/bermudian registry, with a couple of french as well.

(Yes, I do realise that the gear was probably made by someone else and badged by SAIT. They ran a very good training course, though; lunch with wine in the executive dining room etc etc)!

Graham P Powell
19th November 2010, 08:34
The sitor was two positions in a small room at the end of one of the W/T wings.
The R/T was in a similar position at the end of the other wing. I got the impression that it had only been installed to enable the QE2 to get the Daily Telegraph paper. Eventually the telex department filled one wing on its own and was very busy. That was replaced by an electronic system.
At the end each position had W/T, RTT, and access to the SNF ( ships name file) and other data bases so that incoming traffic could be handled. I have a picture here of myself sat at one of the consoles with the Racal receiver, TX selection panel, three VDU's keyboard and morse key. Virtually all the work previously done in three wings could in effect be done from one point and it was always very busy. I think there must have be about 20 points similary wired up. The R/T was in a screened off section. The R/T co -ordinator who handled the incoming phone traffic was always very busy. Regarded by management as a "pressure point". Every transaction was monitored and printed out on fan fold paper so there was no slacking ( well, not in theory anyway!). Rgds
Graham Powell

R651400
19th November 2010, 09:31
I think that if you read my post again you will see that the system operated automatically and there was no human intervention between the teleprinter on the ship and the teleprinter of the telex subscriber ashore.
I don't understand how that could be described as labour intensive.

I think if you read all my posts the query throughout has been a) why Sitor as a choice and b) Sitor's operational value as a medium over long distance hf paths.
My reference to time and labour were, as you mentioned, Sitor intended for the non R/O scenario.
Any layman reading fully automated teleprinter to teleprinter could easily get the impression there was not the slightest hint of radio operating in between.
Sitor (Simplex telex over radio) is an error correction 100 baud multi frequency shift keying system recognised as being inherently inefficient in poor radio conditions
more so than two tone rtty (radio teletype) or single tone modes such as piccolo.
In it's guise as Amtor on the amateur bands it was short-lived.

BobDixon
19th November 2010, 11:47
Any layman reading fully automated teleprinter to teleprinter could easily get the impression there was not the slightest hint of radio operating in between.

Given the appropriate equipment at the ship-end, it was possible for the Maritex system to be fully automated in both directions. With an RX scanning the Maritex channels and an associated transmitter system which both selected the appropriate paired frequency and tuned the antenna, full automation could be achieved. The equipment for this was generally ITT/STC. The only human intervention was the typing of the message (or the ripping it off the teleprinter!).

I never experienced the use of SITOR equipment at long range - equally, I never had anyone telling me it didn't work at such range. I can only comment that I was always impressed by it's ability to maintain throughput under poor signal conditions on MF at GKR.

As to its speed of operation - it was fully compatible with the most-used shore-based teletype system of the time, i.e. Telex, and certainly fast enough for most manual real-time typists!

Troppo
19th November 2010, 14:27
As I said in an earlier post, I sailed with the Thrane and Thrane /Skanti TRP8000 series automated telex system.

Excellent.

The Skanti would be set to scan all of VIS' channels. If there was tfc for us, VIS would selcall, and the system would start up automatically.

It was fully auto in the ship-shore direction as well. Pre type the message, and just hit SEND after the answerback.

Telex has been replaced by email over radio systems now. Globe Wireless runs a big system.. They get over the propagation problem by having lots of stations...so you are always in range of one.

Larry Bennett
19th November 2010, 15:09
Globe Wireless runs a big system.. They get over the propagation problem by having lots of stations...so you are always in range of one.

I remember showing a Globe Wireless rep around GKA in the mid-1990s....they were looking for an HF station to cover the European area and naturally enough GKA would have proved the ideal option.

Unfortunately the great and good in BT at the time didn't appear to be much interested and the opportunity was lost. Similar to the time when British Airways wanted GKA to take over the 'Speedbird' HF aero comms network, and once again the chance to increase business was overlooked.

Wonder what would have happened if BT had taken the plunge...would the station have still been open today?

The UK NAVTEX stations were controlled from the GKA RTT section and those are still in operation.....there are still HF RTT stations operating in Europe.....Stockholm Radio still operates an aero HF service.......and Inmarsat is going from strength to strength with their Fleet Broadband terminals (not to mention VSAT and Iridium).

Food for thought.

Larry +

Graham P Powell
19th November 2010, 16:31
Hi Larry, We were also going to be the European station for China Ocean Shipping which would have been tremendous business but that came to nothing as well.
rgds
graham

R651400
19th November 2010, 17:10
As I said in an earlier post, I sailed with the Thrane and Thrane /Skanti TRP8000 series automated telex system.

Excellent.



Any chance you could quantify this TRP8000 excellence eg ship in mid-Pacific trying to communicate with GKA?

Ron Stringer
19th November 2010, 20:29
Any chance you could quantify this TRP8000 excellence eg ship in mid-Pacific trying to communicate with GKA?

Think you are asking the wrong question. GKA was never an automated radiotelex station, it was only ever manual. So no one with an automated service such as Maritex would consider calling GKA, they would use somewhere like Gothenburg or its sister station on the West Coast of the USA (I seem to remember it was in San Francisco but am open to correction on that).

I don't doubt that there were problems working HF radiotelex at times, just as there were problems working HF CW but the fact that you had no experience of the system doesn't mean that it didn't work. Shipowners were hardly reticent when communications did not meet their requirements - they would not pay premium prices for a system that did not deliver. I have bitter experience of that on my side. (Sad)

Troppo
20th November 2010, 08:59
Any chance you could quantify this TRP8000 excellence eg ship in mid-Pacific trying to communicate with GKA?

I used to work VIS from Japan on 16 MHz no problem....and that was with 250w..

Edit: That was with a quarter wave vertical, fed directly from the ATU, at the bottom of the whip.

We did an experiment once when I was a surveyor...transmitted field strength on 2182 for a W/T ship converted to GMDSS was down at least 10 dB when you fed the new vertical MF/HF antenna via the old W/T trunking.....so, all ATUs were mounted directly at the bottom of the whip from then on.

radioman1969
19th December 2010, 00:06
Nice to talk to GKA ops - you were by far the most efficient station I ever had the pleasure to QSO.

Do any of you know the whereabouts of a very old friend of mine whom I have lost touch with - John Hodgkinson - he was posted to GKA after GLV closed down.

He had some personal problems and remarried a lady called Dawn in the 1980's; I believe he went to work on the Admiralty List of Radio Signals, Vol 6, after GKA closed and that was the last time I spoke to him.

I would very much like to contact him again if any of you know of his whereabouts.
(My email address is - please PM with any info -
if Data Protection prohibits you giving me his details then you could pass my address on to him).

Many thanks
Ken
GD4RGR

hawkey01
19th December 2010, 10:48
Radioman1969,

John, I understand is alive and well and is a technician for some company or other. He is still somewhere around Somerset but I do not know exactly where. If Larry reads this he maybe able to give you some more info as he runs the GKA website. One other thing I have removed your email address as this is site policy and for your protection. I have amended your post to read please PM with any info.

Hawkey01

radioman1969
19th December 2010, 12:15
Radioman1969,

John, I understand is alive and well and is a technician for some company or other. He is still somewhere around Somerset but I do not know exactly where. If Larry reads this he maybe able to give you some more info as he runs the GKA website. One other thing I have removed your email address as this is site policy and for your protection. I have amended your post to read please PM with any info.

Hawkey01

Many thanks for your help and removal of email address (I have just joined the site but was unaware of that fact). I hope Larry reads this and can give me info on John.
Ken (GD4RGR)

Graham P Powell
23rd December 2010, 09:02
Just seen your posting about Happy Hodge. He married Dawn who actually lived just down the road from here. I have a vague feeling that she has not been too well.
I thought he had gone to work for our Silent Friends but perhaps it was the AY he went to. One of the guys was in one of the Burnham banks and John spoke to him from behind the counter.
He was a technician of some sort. I don't think he was at the reunion but I have a feeling he's still in Somerset somewhere.
rgds
Graham Powell

Larry Bennett
23rd December 2010, 09:17
Ken,

I have an email contact for John - I will PM it to you when I get home later. He is very much alive and kicking and lives in Taunton.

Larry +