Thursday, 29 August 2013

Hi all.

The purpose of this blog is to share some of my activities and ideas on amateur radio and related areas, including home theatre.

Currently, my main radio interests are Software-Defined Radios (SDR), smart/active antenna and computers in radio in general; more on that later.

First, my journey around radio, electronics and computers; my path to my current interests.

My interested in electronics and audio started in my early teens, playing with valve radios and loud speakers. However, the main kick-start was when my father, Wattie Wollin, bought me the September 1969 issue of electronics Australia. Dad was interested in radio and gave me some books on "wireless" dating from the mid-1930s when he was a lad. While very capable, his isolation from education, the 1930s depression and WWII lead him into a meat industry trade at 13 and away from radio.

I first became interested in amateur radio when at Echuca High School in the early 1970s and obtained my limited certificate and first call sign, VK2ZXI; 2 because I lived in Moama in New South Wales, across the Murray River from Echuca. I used to ride my bike interstate to school!

I worked closely with George Loft, VK3AGM, learning a lot about radio, along with bee-keeping, general engineering (fitting and turning, welding etc.), truck mechanics and life in general. George was a bee-keeper, like his father, but one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. George designed and built radios including digital gear, built his own metal lathe and designed and built specialist bee-keeping equipment. George did buy an FT-101 about when they first came out; I still remember it sitting between the two of us in the truck while moving bees at night.

My only radio was a converted taxi radio on 2m simplex; all valve plus one transistor in the receiver pre-amp; I still have it. I helped George build a 40 foot tower with a hand-driven rotator for me. I used a string around the gear and a piece of elastic on the wall of my shack to give a linear direction indicator. I built a 10 or so element Yagi to go on top; it all worked wonderfully well, reliably working within a 50-odd mile radius. (I use imperial units here deliberately as metric didn't officially start in Australia until the mid-1970s).

I initially wanted to study communications engineering at university, but at the last moment changed to agricultural engineering at the University of Melbourne, not wanting to make my hobby my job; a decision I have never regretted. I did agricultural engineering, together with some of the electrical engineering subjects to third year.

I drifted out of amateur radio while at university, living away from home (my station) and not interested in, or able to afford, commercially-built radios.

I started work with the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in 1978, by chance, in their research unit. I developed an interest in computing, something that was of little interest while at university; developing a simulation of the Murray River and the effects of salinity interventions. Simultaneously, I started using instrumentation to measure ground water and soil permeability. So, in the end, I combined my interest in electronics with my job.

An interest in research lead me a year later to the Horticultural Research Institute, Knoxfield, in Melbourne's outer suburbs to a greenfield job in engineering in post-harvest horticulture. Again, computers and instrumentation was the focus, with a program for the economic optimization of export packaging and transport of fruit (Burroughs mainframe), and a computer simulation and controller for controlled-atmosphere fruit storage (Data General Nova and a CP-M micro-computer). I completed a Masters degree at Melbourne across the agricultural and electrical engineering departments (on the storage-controller and simulation), and a Graduate Diploma in Digital Computers (analogue computers were still around then) at RMIT.

Enough for now, to be continued...