Ships Nostalgia banner

1 - 20 of 48 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
389 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Over the course of 25yrs or so of 'sparky-ing', I was privileged to witness what I feel were the peak, the best, of the years over which the profession was in existence. From the early years when the Oceanspan and the Siemens T10A were king, through the development of the big beasts, Crusader, Conqueror and so on, the introduction of telex, right through to the introduction of the Satellite systems. I also had the privilege of being involved in some of the earliest introductions of this equipment, first of which occurred in Teesport on 'Amoria/GCXU' in/around 1964, when a bunch of Marconi 'Whizz-Kids' descended on the vessel, took away my T10A (it was a Siemens/AEI station at the time) and installed a pre-production Crusader. Shell was in the habit of offering random ships as test bed facilities, great for me, a new toy to play with and the loudest shout on the ocean - if a little unreliable at times!
At that time the system seemed to be growing and developing, so when, I wonder, did the writing first appear on the wall, to indicate that 'The End Was Nigh.' It may have been as early as 1970 when a similar bunch of excited chaps arrived on 'Mangelia' to install an experimental creature called 'Lincompex' (Linked Compression Expansion), together with a breadboard rig (literally screwed down on a board) of the 'Selcall' (Sequential single frequency calling). This, they instructed, I was to use to carry out daily tests with Portishead – (at their convenience rather than mine as it turned out !). They were good enough to provide also a tame technical type whose brief was to instruct me sufficiently so that I didn’t break it and accompany us on a trip as far as Capetown. (Charming young chap, “Hello!” if he’s still around!) An interesting system, I don’t believe the Lincompex ever seriously got off the ground, though the selcall system became the call system for telex.
I believe that the first commercial Telex system on a UK ship may have been the one fitted to Drupa/GRVH, giving her a telex number that was something like 445500. Perhaps someone can confirm/correct, if List of Callsigns are available for the period? Similarly I think the first Satellite system was fitted to Genota (pics attached), when the inaugural commercial Inmarsat transmission was somewhat disfigured by my appalling typing ! I understand that QE2 also carried out pre-production, pre-commercial tests. Very shortly afterwards, tentative unmanned radio room tests were initiated (again with a breadboard rig) and from there, the rest was inevitable. Personally, I was more interested in the tech stuff than the basic watchkeeping, so having all this stuff to play with was great – at the time! 'Hoist by ones own Petard' springs to mind. Did anyone else have experience of the Lincompex or other early stuff ?
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,303 Posts
I went to sea in early 1961 & remained there until late 1992. On my first voyage, the mates tended to make a great thing of "sparks are not necessary & will be gone within the decade, flag communication is equally as efficient as radio communication - unnecessary personel etc." Apart from that, that were pretty obnoxious & left no stone unturned in making life miserable for me. Apart from Captain & mate who never (thank goodness) spoke more than a few words to me all the way to Aussie & back.

I loathed progress - I loved valves & I detested "whizz kids." I still became 2nd in large passenger ships, but walked out of the MED course in 1973 (Southampton) because not only was it beyond me, but I wasn't interested enough to make the effort to understand. Immediately I walked out (having thrown my career away according to Principal), I became relieving "Electronics Inspector" for same passenger ship company in Southampton. Didn't like it (although it was easy enough) & returned to sea - promoted again! Then had to leave when passenger ships were sold. Joined cross-trades company & got three new ships in a row & managed well enough - existing, but not happy. Then was invited to join "throwback" company where they never wanted me to go back to college, listened to what I had to say (treated me better than I have ever been treated before at sea). & provided me with HF telex, fax, satcoms, sat nav, embryo maritime e-mail, all the test equipment that I requested (without argument about cost)& all the trimmings - loved it & my lack of electronic education never held me back one bit. Remained happily with them until getting fed up (not their fault) after 31 years at sea. Now love messing about with model ships, radio valves etc. Today, I made my 3rd variable capacitor (two of them attached)- how about that - life well-spent because I never really believed "the writing on the wall!" I always believed in what I was doing & acted accordingly & I was NEVER "hoisted by my own petard!"
Bob

Bob
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
389 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Hi Shipbuilder Bob ! You make me jealous ! I have no-where like the skill to do that, there was a time when I could change a 16 legged bug in a double sided PCB without a second thought! Now? Now, it is said, I can't put a tractor through a barn door without a white stick! But being something of a historian, my interest is in trying to delineate the history of the profession I once loved, the profession I will always be at heart. Keep on with what you are doing !
Best for now ... Chas
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
Lincompex, ARQ,Picolo and other early systems on QE2

Hi ChasD

You asked whether anybody else had experience of Lincompex and early systems. The following may be of interest

I was involved with Lincomex. It was installed on the QE2 as new fitout and I was at the factory for training.
From memory it was not too very successful on the QE2. It was great when there was no QRM but the problems was that the data channel was carried within the normal speech passband and therefore subject to QRM from other ships. This would make the system useless when this happened.
Interesting the QE2 was issued with spare Lincompex units ! That is strange for non-essential equipment whilst other more essential equipment did not have spares !

I know that Lincompex was tested on ships prior to the QE2 but cannot remember if it was Brocklebank or Cunard ships or both.

As regards telex on ships. In 1969 QE2 was fitted with both an early version of ARQ telex and also the British embassy communications system Picolo.

The Picolo system was used to transmit the Daily Telegraph newspaper to the ship in the form of a punched tape to a siemens teleprinter. The receivers had to be very stable in frequency and phase. Each had a digital frequency sythesiser instead of using thelocal oscillator.The punched tape then went into the print shop . The newstories and headlines were sent seperately. Photographs,adverts and crosswords were placed on the ship prior to the voyage. I still have an example of one of these early newspapers dated May 26th 1969 with 8 sides. At the time I thought the newspaper a bit small. However it is a lot better than the newspapers currently on the QE2 or other cruise liners I have cruised on ! Mind you it need a lot of effort to produce a newspaper.

An alternative way of transmitting the newspaper was using the Plessey ARQ system. Again from memory there were problems with QRM. If it could not get perfect copy it came to a complete halt as it kept asking for repeats ! Under these conditions the Picolo was better. It is sometime better to have poor copy than no copy !

I think the Plessey ARQ may have also been used at times for normal teleprinter traffic instead of straight RTTY but I am not so sure about that.
We certainly had teleprinter links via HF to Portishead a lot of the time.

GPS. Perhaps it is not so widely know that in 1969 QE2 was fitted with a version of early satellite navigation. It was based on the Military "Transit" system using the military satellites. The equipment was very large. It used a PDP-11(I think 11) computer to an ITT teleprinter. Calculation of position took ages and required experience of using the equipment. I never got round to playing with it - I remember we often had experts on board trying to make the system work ! The system used a dual frequency antenna consisting of a large distinctive double helix. How different from the modern handheld gps !

There were other novels systems such as the notch antennas - but more of this another time as this post is too long already !

Roger
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
Lincompex was also installed at Stonehaven Radio for a time, but I was told that it was never very successful - not sure if it was problems with the gear or just not popular with the oil rigs/platforms. Anyway I never saw it used and it was dismantled shortly after I started at GND (in 1979).

The big earner at GND was the multi-channel narrow-band telex services, using Autospecs or Spectors, with 85Hz shift instead of the normal 170Hz. Twelve channels within a 2.7kHz bandwidth, so handled by a normal A3J transmitter. Each (Autospec) channel was around £1000 per month for a dedicated H24 link from a specific rig or platform to a specific onshore office. The Spector channels were about £1200, I think. Nice little earner until Inmarsat took over from the late 80s onward.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,695 Posts
Interesting the QE2 was issued with spare Lincompex units ! That is strange for non-essential equipment whilst other more essential equipment did not have spares !
Roger,

That was almost certainly because the operational Lincompex and the spares were being provided and installed absolutely free of charge to Cunard. Angus MacDonald was a past-master at persuading gullible sales and promotional people within the radio and electronics suppliers that having the latest 'gadget' aboard the QE2 would be of fabulous promotional value to their latest baby. MIMCo's management were always highly resistant to such blandishments (how many large passenger ships were there in the 1970s/1980s compared with the number of tankers, cargo ships and large trawlers?) and argued that the average shipowner would be more likely to think that something adopted by the QE2 would be 'over the top' for their vessels.

That changed when we 'gained' a sales manager from IMR who employed a UK Sales Manager ex-B & C. They spent a small fortune providing and fitting ARQ and remote-tuning transmitters on QE2. As far as could be discerned from the (very) cloudy sales statistics available at that time, the effect on sales was nil, although the customer-entertainment and technical-support-for-sales budgets were significantly elevated (Angus did like to dine well). As soon as they left the company, an invoice for the equipment was submitted (and quickly rejected) and the equipment was dismantled on the vessel's next return to Southampton. I don't believe MIMCO made any sales to other owners as a result of the free supply of equipment to QE2.

On visits made to the QE2 radio room and the transmitter room on the upper deck, I was amazed that the ship ever passed radio survey. Remote controls to the emergency transmitter were home-made and would not have seemed out of place in a Heath-Robinson drawing. The radio operating room was an ergonomic nightmare with equipment from every supplier under the sun popped into any space available, so that an item could be metres away from its associated receiver or control unit. Those R/Os (or radio assistants as they were later known) deserved every penny they got for working in those conditions.

I don't know what the R/Os thought of their company's unusual commercial practices concerning the provision of radio equipment but (outside the ranks of eager salesmen) I never met anyone in the marine electronics industry who believed the mantra that "as fitted on QE2" would be a sure-fire seller.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
QE2 fitout

Hi Ron

Thanks for the enlightening reply - very interesting.

It is time for bed here being midnight 50 !

I will comment more later. It might be worth putting comments on QE2 fitout under a more appropriate thread title to get more comments from later ROs as well.

All the best

Roger
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
Cunard/Brocks Policy on Fitting Out Ships

On visits made to the QE2 radio room and the transmitter room on the upper deck, I was amazed that the ship ever passed radio survey. Remote controls to the emergency transmitter were home-made and would not have seemed out of place in a Heath-Robinson drawing. The radio operating room was an ergonomic nightmare with equipment from every supplier under the sun popped into any space available, so that an item could be metres away from its associated receiver or control unit. Those R/Os (or radio assistants as they were later known) deserved every penny they got for working in those conditions.

I don't know what the R/Os thought of their company's unusual commercial practices concerning the provision of radio equipment but (outside the ranks of eager salesmen) I never met anyone in the marine electronics industry who believed the mantra that "as fitted on QE2" would be a sure-fire sell

As regards Angus's involvement in the QE2. I am not sure exactly when this was. I cannot even remember seeing him aboard during fitting out so you are probably refering to later. The radio room project was under the overall control of Colonel Hornsby - an Army man, which may account for some of the strange decisions about fitment - at least strange to an RO !

I know that the actual planning of the radio room fitment was IMRs. I can remember the technical person in charge but at the moment cannot remember the name. You would probably know.

I am not sure what you mean about MIMCO ARQ installed and removing remote-tuning transmitters on QE2. I assume this was much later and nothing to do with the STC 1430 1kw self tuning transmitters installed by IMR initially.

Cunard/Brock certainly had a mix and match policy of equipment on board many of its vessels unlike Marconi. They totally relied on the maintenance skills of the ROs to maintain the equipment. They always recruited staff with 1st Class PMG and Radio Maintenance Ticket and who had the skills to maintain equipment and were proud to do so. On ships other than QE2, shore radio and radar maintenace staff were only called in an extreme emergency - ROs were expected to do it themselves!

I do not know that ROs ever thought adversely about Cunard/Brocks commercial policy on the fitting of equipment. It was a way of life, you did not have to have standardisation, you learn to operate the new equipment and you learnt to fix it when it went wrong !

From MIMCOs point of view the policy made no sense - but MIMCOs had huge numbers of ships with their ROs and a huge network of service facilities that needed standardisation. Cunard/Brocks was a small player and only small numbers of ROs. They did not have the service facilities throughout the world. I suspect their commercial policy was to rely on quality ROs, pay them a little more and not have to pay huge overseas service bills ! In the provision of equipment they played off one supplier against another to get a low price. The result is often a radio room with a bit of this and a bit of that but it did not matter. They did not have everything standardised so that that the local serviceman in Bombay or wherever could fix it in a few hours ! I suspect the philosophy continued with the QE2.
Why was the QE2 not IMR employed ROs like the old QE. The answer was that the Cunard freighters went over to Cunard/Brocks ROs and the Captains liked the service they got. They had ROs who knew how to fix the radar and would do do so immediately. The Captains on the freighters were also the officers on the cruise ships and so word spread ! Anyhow thats the story I was told.

You have raised a number of issues about the QE2 and its problems in the radio room. I will put them on a new thread in Radio Room called "QE2 Radio Room"

All the best

Roger
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
176 Posts
Hi ChasD

GPS. Perhaps it is not so widely know that in 1969 QE2 was fitted with a version of early satellite navigation. It was based on the Military "Transit" system using the military satellites. The equipment was very large. It used a PDP-11(I think 11) computer to an ITT teleprinter. Calculation of position took ages and required experience of using the equipment. I never got round to playing with it - I remember we often had experts on board trying to make the system work ! The system used a dual frequency antenna consisting of a large distinctive double helix. How different from the modern handheld gps !
Roger
Cunard eventually gifted this unit to Southampton College where I remember seeing it gathering dust in 1984. It was the size of a filing cabinet with a very odd looking helical antenna about 30cm in diameter and half a metre in height.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,695 Posts
As regards Angus's involvement in the QE2. I am not sure exactly when this was. I cannot even remember seeing him aboard during fitting out so you are probably refering to later.

I am not sure what you mean about MIMCO ARQ installed and removing remote-tuning transmitters on QE2.
You are quite right about the dates; I was referring to the late 1970s/early-1980s. The MIMCo equipment was always 'additional' to the existing installations but I understand that by then a number of other changes had been made in the transmitter room. However the MF emergency transmitter arrangements were said to be original.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
From Vital Sparks
Cunard eventually gifted this unit to Southampton College where I remember seeing it gathering dust in 1984. It was the size of a filing cabinet with a very odd looking helical antenna about 30cm in diameter and half a metre in height.
That sound like the Sat Nav unit alright - I think it was Magnvox but not sure.

This forum is wonderful - you find out all sorts of thing you would never have found out !

Did the college ever getting it running again ?
Was the POP minicomputer and ITT teleprinter with it ? You needed the ITT teleprinter to load in the computation program into the PDP as well as for readout - no VDUs then !

I have started a thread "QE2 radio room" as these subjects are probably a bit off track for "the writing on the wall".

All the best - Roger
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
T&J Harrison fitted their bulkers with Redifon SRN-1 satnavs in the mid-70s. They were a box about 2ft x 3ft x 6in, used ferrite-ring memory boards, and the display used loads of festoon lamps that were forever burning out. The programming was done from a punched tape. The technician who installed it had a punched tape game involving landing a lunar lander on the moon; you had to calculate fuel usage etc by entering various parameters from the front panel. First computer game I ever saw.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,264 Posts
Lunar Lander games loosely based on the original software are still available for pda's mobiles etc with enhanced graphics. Quite a challenge juggling various functions such as orientation, fuel burn, altitude, velocity etc. plus dealing with the added computer malfunctions purposely written into the programme.
I know, sad innit?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
Challenge is right . I used the landing programme for test purposes (well, that's what I said) but never managed to get down safely.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
389 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
I believe that the first commercial Telex system on a UK ship may have been the one fitted to Drupa/GRVH, giving her a telex number that was something like 445500. Perhaps someone can confirm/correct, if List of Callsigns are available for the period?
Just for the historical record, I have now been able to confirm that 45500 was the Selcall number of the experimental rig on Mangelia. Drupa was 45501, being the first UK commercial fitting, and Darina 45502.

ChasD
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
389 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Hi ! These were the old SPECTOR installations, usually fired up by a SelCall and usually set to listen to a specific station (eg GKA) although they would operate to any suitable station. Ran through the main R/X and main T/X which it fired up automatically, though they could also monitor one - way broadcasts when necessary. ChasD
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,264 Posts
Just for the historical record, I have now been able to confirm that 45500 was the Selcall number of the experimental rig on Mangelia. Drupa was 45501, being the first UK commercial fitting, and Darina 45502.

ChasD
Any idea regarding their respective install dates Chas?

Mike
 
1 - 20 of 48 Posts
Top