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  #1  
Old 3rd June 2010, 13:01
Mimcoman Mimcoman is offline  
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Old gear still in commercial use

I was clearing out the loft the other day and came across a suitcase last used when I was at sea. (I remember buying it in the Friendship Hotel in Shanghai.) Anyway, inside it, among other things, were equipment notes I'd made while at sea and I spent an hour or two wallowing in almost tearful nostalgia. At the end, a thought occurred. Does anyone know of old equipment still in commercial use? Is there an Oceanspan VIIe emgy txr stuck in a corner somewhere? Or a Conqueror HS or some such still in use? The most likely gear would be receivers or VHFs, I suppose. The lack of spares and the change in communications requirements would militate against this, not to mention the age and probable condition of such items. Any of SN's Radio Surveyors or shoreside repair techs know of anything? (I guess it's unlikely, seeing that the world has basically moved on from MF/HF to satellites.)

Mimcoman

Last edited by Mimcoman; 3rd June 2010 at 13:02.. Reason: amendment
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  #2  
Old 3rd June 2010, 13:58
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is offline  
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HMAS Diamantina, preserved at Brisbane Maritime Museum, has a Marconi radio station, pretty sure it's an Oceanspan of some sort. I believe they still use it for amateur purposes. I'll find out.

John T.
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  #3  
Old 7th June 2010, 11:40
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Fort Perch Rock has a radio room full of it.
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  #4  
Old 7th June 2010, 13:06
john richards john richards is offline
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Mincoman, Try the Radio Museum @Burwick,South Ronaldsay Orkney (If it`s still there!)Cheers John Richards.
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  #5  
Old 9th June 2010, 12:01
peterhemmermanexro peterhemmermanexro is offline  
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Ive got some!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mimcoman View Post
I was clearing out the loft the other day and came across a suitcase last used when I was at sea. (I remember buying it in the Friendship Hotel in Shanghai.) Anyway, inside it, among other things, were equipment notes I'd made while at sea and I spent an hour or two wallowing in almost tearful nostalgia. At the end, a thought occurred. Does anyone know of old equipment still in commercial use? Is there an Oceanspan VIIe emgy txr stuck in a corner somewhere? Or a Conqueror HS or some such still in use? The most likely gear would be receivers or VHFs, I suppose. The lack of spares and the change in communications requirements would militate against this, not to mention the age and probable condition of such items. Any of SN's Radio Surveyors or shoreside repair techs know of anything? (I guess it's unlikely, seeing that the world has basically moved on from MF/HF to satellites.)

Mimcoman
Some of the old stuff still comes up at amateur radio shows.
I have an Atalanta Receiver, a Lodestar 2 DF and a complete Clifford and Snell Lifeboat set as new. Dont ask me why, just stuff that got collected along the way. Oh and also a Mimco DF loop as a garden ornament and I think I have a Loran receiver and a Decca navigator somewhere.
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  #6  
Old 9th June 2010, 13:40
Bill Greig Bill Greig is offline  
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Bill,
we've got an old Marconi Survivor Lifeboat radio down in the Maggie Law Museum in Gourdon. I've also got an early EPIRB set aside here at work to put in the museum sometime.
Best regards
Bill
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  #7  
Old 11th June 2010, 14:42
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A good friend of mine has an Apollo, in working condition, with an antenna connected.

I sat in front of it the other day....about 15 years since I had sat in front of one.

What an awful receiver, in retrospect...compared with my amateur gear, it is archaic...but, hey, we were young, and knew no better...
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  #8  
Old 12th June 2010, 08:02
5TT 5TT is offline  
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It's true that the Apollo wasn't the best receiver around at the time, but it wasn't bad either and I'd love to get hold of one for the radio shack here.
It was the rx I sailed with the most and also the one we had at college, I've still got my circuit diagrams with various handwritten notes scrawled over them, however I was never disappointed when I walked in for the first time and saw an R408 planted there instead.
By contrast in terms of performance I do have a Redifon R551 here in regular use and it really does perform well, great filters even compared to the modern stuff, just a bit noisy tuning across the band with that mechanical counter clattering away. I know I paid too much for it but when I saw it I just had to have it.
Although I don't spend much time on ssb here, I've set up the agc on my FT-2000 to emulate the Apollo's "plateau hold" on ssb and find that under most conditions it's ideal set like that, I certainly appreciate that agc mode more now than I did back then.

= Adrian +
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  #9  
Old 12th June 2010, 14:29
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Oh the 408....now that was junk.....I sailed with one on Cape Hawke/GOXV....
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  #10  
Old 12th June 2010, 17:31
Mimcoman Mimcoman is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Greig View Post
Bill,
we've got an old Marconi Survivor Lifeboat radio down in the Maggie Law Museum in Gourdon. I've also got an early EPIRB set aside here at work to put in the museum sometime.
Best regards
Bill
Hi, Bill:

I'll have to nip down from Bervie, then, and have a looksee.

Mimcoman
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  #11  
Old 13th June 2010, 09:36
5TT 5TT is offline  
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Quote:
Oh the 408....now that was junk.....
I can't remember where, but some years ago I ran into a chap who was responsible for the design and testing of parts of the Apollo. He recalled that the Apollo had a long and difficult birth, and the competing product that they paid most attention to was the R408, they had one in the lab and pretty much disected the poor thing.
I found the R408 to be at least as sensitive as the Apollo but less noisy, and it wasn't much of a pain to have to recalibrate each time you changed bands, but for sure it wasn't mechanically very stable, when the ship started rolling/pitching the cw note could get quite musical :-)

= Adrian +
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  #12  
Old 13th June 2010, 11:19
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Ron Stringer Ron Stringer is offline
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Adrian,

Sorry but I believe that you have been the victim of the marine radio version of an urban myth. I don't know who your man was but the designer of the Apollo was Frank Barker, his assistant was Peter Pedlar. Both have been dead for more than 30 years. They also designed the Lodestar, Lodestar II and Lodestar 3 automatic radio direction finders.

Although the Apollo receiver design was completed by the time I went to work at Chelmsford in 1967, like all Marconi designs at that time it had been a long time in development - new products were typically 2 - 3 years late on the original programme. That being so, I believe that its design was fixed some years before the R408 came on the market - possibly before the R408 design was even commenced. The mechanical construction and electronic design of the two receivers was completely different.

The R408 took a traditional approach - moving a marker against an indicator (to the frequency that you required) tuned the receiver's local oscillator (L.O.) within the accuracy of the marker/indicator combination. Hence the need to recalibrate that combination every time you changed bands. If the L.O. drifted during a call, you had to depend on your ears to detect the change and make a correction.

The Apollo took a different approach. It was provided with an integral 'frequency counter', that monitored the L.O. generation arrangement and displayed the resultant tune frequency of the receiver. So whatever frequency the receiver was tuned to was displayed on the Nixie-tube display. So if the frequency drifted during a call, the display changed and it was immediately visible and the tune could be simply returned to its original setting.

As an SSB receiver the Apollo was far better, with lower noise levels and better stability both in respect of temperature changes and resistance to vibration. The major problem with the receiver was its internal packaging. Multiple boards meant lots of connectors and cabling. Everything was so difficult to access and replace that it was a nightmare for the serviceman. On the plus side, experience with the maintenance of the Apollo (and the Crusader transmitter) resulted in the MIMCo technical department being given a stronger influence on the practical user aspects of the later designs of equipment that were produced for us by MCSL.

Unfortunately, because of the late delivery referred to above, at the time that the design was fixed, the only affordable display device for the inbuilt frequency counter was Nixie-tubes. These complicated the power supply arrangements (they were not low-voltage solid state devices like the remainder of the electronics) and were less reliable at sea than later alternatives. By the time the receiver reached production, there were cheaper, more reliable, low-power displays on the market but to incorporate them would have involved even more delay so was not entertained.

An Apollo 2 was designed some time in the late 1970s (long after Frank Barker's death) which was both a better performer, more easily maintained and half the size (3U high instead of 6U) but it too was somewhat late and because of Marconi Group internal politics was to be made at a specific manufacturing unit. Unfortunately that unit could only produce marine equipment at a price equal to, or above, the market end-user prices. So Apollo 2 was abandoned with only 5 (as I recall) pre-production prototypes built.

That was the end of marine receiver development for what had been the Marine Development Group of MCSL. Instead MIMCo switched to another Marconi Group product, Eddystone Radio's EC958 range of receivers which was marketed as the Marconi Marine Nebula receiver,
One of the pre-production Apollo 2 prototypes was presented to the head of the Marine Development Group, Charles Burnham, on his retirement to use as part of his amateur station.
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Last edited by Ron Stringer; 13th June 2010 at 13:37..
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  #13  
Old 13th June 2010, 13:31
5TT 5TT is offline  
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Thanks Ron,

Perhaps I should have written
Quote:
I ran into a chap who CLAIMED was responsible for the design and testing of parts of the Apollo
:-)

= Adrian +
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  #14  
Old 13th June 2010, 13:50
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Any pics of the Apollo 2, Ron?

I stared at Apollo front panels for most of my sea time.

The Apollo, Sentinel, Conqueror, Lifeguard/AutokeyN and Salvor 3 combo was the standard Aussie ship fit in the 80's when I was at sea...

I also sailed with the last generation Conqueror with the LED freq display in Nivosa/VJNV, a Shell VLCC.
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  #15  
Old 13th June 2010, 14:31
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Ron Stringer Ron Stringer is offline
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Adrian,

Benchmarking equipment against competitors' products was normal industry practice and one of the uses it was put to by MIMCo was to judge the 'value for money' that we got from the Marine Development Group of MCSL. But it was not a 'copying exercise' (that would only ensure that you would always be behind the competition) but an attempt to satisfy yourself that your new product was better than (or, at the worst, as good as) competing products on the market. Everyody's publicity literature claimed that their product was the best and the spec sheets were often masterpieces of fiction. You would be amazed how far short some products were from their manufacturers' claimed performance when you subjected them to testing under type approval conditions. So competitors' products were routinely bought by MIMCo and free-issued to the development group as part of the development contract.

The development unit was part of MCSL (Marconi Communications Systems) and so was separate, both organisationally and financially, from MIMCo, so MIMCO placed a contract on MCSL to develop a particular product within certain price and performance limits, funded the development and evaluated the result. The theory was that if all went well, MIMCo would place then place a production order on another unit, MCSL's Marine Manufacturing Unit. In reality because everything took so long (development overruns, factory lead times), by the time the evaluation was done a production order had usually been placed and the scope for possible changes was very limited.

The only time I remember a competitor's product having any direct effect on the development of a new product from the Marine Development Group was during the development of the Challenger transmitter. And that was only an indirect connection.

For many years we (in MIMCo) had been trying to persuade Charles Burnham's design group to adopt ceramic tubes in the RF output stages of the transmitters. The transmitter designer, Roy Goode, was sympathetic to our views but he did as he was told. I know Charles had worked on the design of NT201 military transmitters but he (or his boss, James Watt) strongly resisted our arguments, stating that forced-air cooling of the PA stages was not an adequate technology and water-cooling was too expensive and unsuitable for merchant ship use. They continued to use natural ventilation and extract waste heat from the cabinet with a simple extractor fan. So the Conqueror, Commander and Commandant transmitters were all denied ceramic tubes.

By the time we got to the Challenger, I was determined that things would be different. So I persuaded our MD and he agreed we should buy an STT transmitter that used a ceramic tube PA stage (can't remember if it was an ST1200 or ST1400 - I think the latter). We demonstrated to Charles, by a series of environmental chamber tests, that it fully met the manufacturer's performance claims and remained within spec over the entire climatic range.

So the objectors had to back down and Challenger had forced-air cooled, ceramic tube PA stages (not the same as those in the STT transmitter) and in my opinion was the best transmitter that we ever took from MCSL. Sadly, it took so long to deliver that the market had moved on and MF/HF telegraphy transmitters and separate radio rooms were on their way out by the time it was available. So yet another excellent product bit the dust!
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Last edited by Ron Stringer; 13th June 2010 at 14:34..
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  #16  
Old 13th June 2010, 14:49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troppo View Post
Any pics of the Apollo 2, Ron?
Sorry Troppo, none at all. I don't even know where to look for one.

We had so many re-organisations and site changes over the years and at each one all sorts of stuff was dumped. The Marine Development Group was closed some time in the 1980s and I suppose their documentation was archived. (Whether it was transferred to the Oxford University's library site I don't know).

When the MIMCo. publicity department was closed around that time, their records were transferred to MCSL's equivalent but then that department was subsequently merged with other departments. What was kept and where, will never be known. This took place at least 10 years before I retired in 2002 and during that time we had no access to the earlier design and promotional documentation.

As I said, the Apollo 2 never went into production so there would not have been the usual brochure photos and the like but there were black/white shots of the equipment for reference use. Where they went I couldn't say.
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  #17  
Old 13th June 2010, 15:37
aleccrichton1982 aleccrichton1982 is offline  
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Hi Shipmate A Funny Story To Tell.i Also Have A Big Tartan Suitcase In The Loft.i Also Bought It At The Frienship Club.the Only Thing I Found Inside Was Some Labels From Shanghai Beer A Small World
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  #18  
Old 14th June 2010, 00:36
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Thanks Ron - very interesting.

My favourite piece of Marconi gear was the Lifeguard N.

Great rx. I used to use it for watchkeeping all the time - the BFO made it really useful.

The Salvor 3 and 4 were good as well - I used to use them for MF working when I was on the coast.
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  #19  
Old 16th June 2010, 16:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troppo View Post
Oh the 408....now that was junk.....I sailed with one on Cape Hawke/GOXV....

Strange, I sailed on a Cape Hawke (home port Glasgow) leaving her in '53
he call was MAHB -- different ship???

regards chas
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  #20  
Old 16th June 2010, 23:35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles henry View Post
Strange, I sailed on a Cape Hawke (home port Glasgow) leaving her in '53
he call was MAHB -- different ship???

regards chas

For sure, mate - I was in GOXV in the early 80's...
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  #21  
Old 18th June 2010, 10:50
Graham P Powell Graham P Powell is offline  
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Not exactly connected with this thread but at the GKA reunion a few weeks ago I got talking to a former colleague still working as an R/O on jack up platform in the N.Sea.
He told me that all the satcom gear failed for some reason and they had to revert to MF
radio working through Rogaland which still offers a service. Open to correction on this as 100+ R/O's all reminiscing made the room a bit noisy and my hearing isn't what it was!.
rgds Graham Powell
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  #22  
Old 19th June 2010, 04:12
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You would be hard pressed if that happened in the south pacific....there are enough stations for distress traffic, but stations offering QRJ's are few and far between these days...
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  #23  
Old 19th June 2010, 22:29
Mimcoman Mimcoman is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham P Powell View Post
Not exactly connected with this thread but at the GKA reunion a few weeks ago I got talking to a former colleague still working as an R/O on jack up platform in the N.Sea.
He told me that all the satcom gear failed for some reason and they had to revert to MF
radio working through Rogaland which still offers a service. Open to correction on this as 100+ R/O's all reminiscing made the room a bit noisy and my hearing isn't what it was!.
rgds Graham Powell
Hi, Graham:

Yup - LGQ still offers MF RT - and also still monitors 2182 kHz for calls. There's a particular fishing vessel that every week or so calls Rogaland on 2182 for a QRJ and is given a pair of frequencies (in kHz, not the ITU channel number!). Instant nostalgia every time.
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  #24  
Old 20th June 2010, 16:28
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I still believe that the trade - for want of a better word - is still there. LGQ obviously think so to. The chap Graham mentions is working in the Norwegian sector so obviously they think a back up is sensible. Also they still have a radio station! Only the powers made it all implode. To expensive, to this and that. Me Grumpy - no - just sad it all went away.

Hawkey01
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  #25  
Old 6th July 2010, 06:27
Naytikos Naytikos is offline  
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This seems like a good thread to take the opportunity to thank Ron for the behind the scenes and background details about MIMCo he produces from time to time.

I intend no offence, Ron, in saying that, having spent your entire career with the company, your point of view is naturally a bit slanted from time to time; nonetheless the insight into some of the abortions that we had to work with is very very interesting.
Please continue at every opportunity.
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