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Presenting some of LIFE's ODDITIES and plenty of RANDOM JOTTINGS

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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

"WHAT A LARK" A story of Pre-war Pirate radio

I discovered this document while clearing out the house of a deceased radio amateur.

It presents an account of how one enthusiast started into the magic art of  WIRELESS.

For the provenance of this document, read the opening paragraph and the tail credits. 

 

      PIRATE RADIO BROADCASTING Pre WW2 - What a Lark! 

by P. (Ben) Bennett ZS1AAQ/G3HEH


The Author recounts his early interest in pre WW2 wireless and his adventures into 'Pirate Radio Broadcasting’. The story was transmitted, using CW, in instalments to George Holtum GW4SLZ to type and edit for submission to Radio Bygones for possible publication.

My earliest introduction to wireless

 The story I am about to tell is a product of the time during which it took place: it was a time when the magic of wireless captured the imagination of many a schoolboy, and I was one of them in the late 1920s. My Father bought me a second-hand crystal set complete with headphones from a stall in the Bromley, Kent market for the princely sum of three shillings and sixpence! It was in a flat polished wooden box and labelled Gecophone BBC, the headphones also had a BBC label. I can still remember the thrill when my Father connected it to his large outside aerial, it was really quite a loud signal, possibly because we were less than ten miles from the transmitter. It was this simple experience that was the spark that determined the course of my life

It was after this that I made an electrical buzzer, wound the coil on one of those old fashioned cotton reels, the core was an iron bolt, and with a couple of razor blades bolted together and a few pieces of Meccano which were all fixed to a piece of wood, it worked very well from a 2 volt accumulator.

My cousin, who was two years older, and lived next door, also made a buzzer and we ran twin flex between his bedroom and mine. Using two homemade Morse keys we used to send make believe messages to each other, neither of us knew the Morse Code, but I think that it impressed visiting aunts and uncles

Carbon microphones

 Through my cousin I learnt of a boy who had just made a microphone during his training to be a telephone technician, which he had brought home to show his parents. I managed to persuade the boy to bring the microphone to my home for me to see, and to demonstrate how it worked. He ran a long twin flex down the garden to which he connected his microphone, and a pair of headphones to the other end of the flex inside the house. We could hear the birds twittering and all the other everyday noises including a train passing by about four hundred yards away across the field. My immediate thoughts were that I must find out how to make one of these microphones. After the demonstration he took the microphone to pieces and explained how it worked. He said that the quality of the carbon granules was extremely important. He removed the diaphragm in order that I could see them they looked like polished black sugar. I inquired if he could obtain some granules for me. A few days later I had some in my possession, a small box of carbon granules, to me, this was a box of polished black magic

Change of QTH

Before I had time to make my microphone, my Father announced that we were to move to Herne Bay and live by the sea. He was going to be a garage proprietor. My brother and I were to be weekly boarders at a school five miles from Herne Bay. At first this restricted my wireless activities some what. I fixed up another aerial for my crystal set, and was surprised that the signals   were still quite strong. Next door to the garage was a sweet shop where the owner lived with his wife and their son who worked in London as an engineer for Standard Telephones and Cables. He had a workshop in a shed in the garden where he made wireless sets for friends. This was extremely fortunate as far as I was concerned. At the weekend I was introduced to their son, Len, who gave me enough parts to construct another crystal set, which did not take me long. "It was Just as good as my Gecophone. I learned the art of soldering in Len’s workshop, and he also got me started on electrical fundamentals, understanding circuit diagrams. It was 1933 and I was twelve years old, an ideal age to start.

Another move.

 In less than a year my Father decided to sell the garage and to become a landlord of a country pub halfway between Canterbury and Herne Bay. There were three other houses in the vicinity of the pub, but no children. Because of this isolation I decided to concentrate on my wireless and made my microphone. I still had enough carbon granules to make another which I did and fixed up a telephone to the house at the end of the garden. The old chap who lived in this house used to talk to me whenever he was at home.

At this time commercially manufactured sets were replacing the homemade ones. Living in the pub, I soon realised that some of the customers might have a homemade set that they no longer needed, and soon my bedroom looked like a second hand wireless shop! Most of the homemade sets were very badly constructed. I rewired some of them, and actually sold a few to friends. One day in the tuck shop at school, I asked the master about an old wireless set that had stood there ever since I became a pupil. Without hesitation he gave it to me and told me that one of the Brothers had made it about ten years previously and had returned to France shortly after he had made it. This set was another milestone in my wireless career: it was wired with square tinned copper wire; it had one valve and a basket coil. I always remember the slogan on this coil, it said, "What are the wild waves saying?" I took the set home with me and found that it worked very well.

By now I had made a one valve amplifier and I had positioned one of my microphones in the bar in order that I could hear what was going on there. One night after all the customers had gone, I was listening to my Mother and Father talking. The wireless was still switched on in the bar, and as I tuned in the one valve set from school I heard a loud heterodyne, and the BBC disappeared completely. The other wireless set could not do this. The following day after the morning session, my parents were sleeping. I switched on the one valve set and went into the bar, and was able to tune in a very strong carrier from my school set. When I ran my finger over the serrated aerial terminal I noticed that a ‘Zip’ type of noise could be heard. I reasoned that if I connected my microphone in series with the aerial that my voice would be audible on the wireless down in the bar. Now I had to enlist the help of my brother, who confirmed that my voice could be heard. I had reinvented the wheel! I got him to talk but it wa not very loud. Then I connected the microphone to the one valve amplifier in series with the aerial, but alas no carrier!. Now I wanted to broadcast, but how to do it?. I had a large red book it was by Terman, Radio Engineering. It contained circuit diagrams of high power broadcast transmitters. I picked a 1Kw audio circuit, which at the beginning looked similar to my one valve amplifier, but with a few more stages. Then I saw that the output of this audio amplifier, which was called a modulator was connected to the output of the RF input stage via a transformer described a modulation transformer, but not connected in serieswith the aerial, but in series with the HT supply to the RF amplifier. Now I knew where I had gone wrong!                                                                         

      Another move!    
 Disaster struck again! My Father decided that he had enough of being a publican, and advised us all that we were returning to Herne Bay once again. I had to pack up all my wireless equipment. It was another six months before I could resume experiments as where we were living was rented accommodation. Eventually we moved into a very nice house less than 400 yards from the Police Station. I unpacked everything again, and put up another aerial. The wireless that was in the Bar was now in the sitting room. The secondary of the output transformer on my now two valve amplifier was connected in series with the HT supply of the one valve set from school. I set the dial of the sitting room set on a clear frequency; I spoke into the microphone and it was unbelievable, success at last! Now I wondered how far it would transmit. About half a mile up the road there lived a girl and her mother and I decided to go and ask them if I could listen to their wireless. I had fixed the microphone on the sideboard of our house knowing that my parents would be home soon as the pubs closed at 2 pm. Before proceeding any further, I should mention that both my parents were town characters, and my Mother was invariably very abrasive towards my Father especially after a few drinks. At 2.15 I switched on everything and dashed up the road to the girl's house. Her Mother opened the door and said that I could listen to the wireless. I tuned in a strong signal , and was surprised to hear the sitting room clock ticking; mother and daughter were having a discussion about a dress they were making. I heard my parents arrive home, but they did not speak while preparing lunch. I could hear the sound of knives and forks on the plates, but not any speech. After about ten minutes my Mother got up from the table and said to my Father, "Ken, come and help me with the b............ washing up!" My Father replied that he was too tired, and was going to have a rest. My Mother shouted in colloquial English to the effect that he was a very ‘Indolent fellow’! My Father said, "Kit, don’t shout everybody will hear you!" My friend's mother came over to the wireless to listen and said, "Ben, that’s your parents on the wireless, what’s going on?" She laughed so much to hear a broadcast of my parents that she nearly fell off the arm of the chair she was sitting on. I dashed home on my bike as fast as I could go. The news soon got around that I could broadcast from my home that I became quite a celebrity among my friends.

New Transmitter

At a distance of 3 miles the signals were not very good. The aerial to the one valve set was connected to the grid circuit of the valve; signals were much improved when I transferred the aerial to the valve's anode. One day a chap who had left school and was studying electrical engineering in London said that he would like to talk to his girl friend who lived at the other end of the town. He mentioned that he had heard me talking on the wireless but it was very weak. He inquired what was necessary to make it more powerful. I explained about using battery valves etc., and said that I needed five or six hundred volts, and some big gun valves. Well, after a few days he visited the house and said that his father had given him ten pounds to spend. He drove me around the area visiting all the wireless shops, even as far as Chatham. We purchased a PX4 and a couple of PX25 second-hand, some 4 mfd capacitors, and a large Varley High Tension transformer - 500 volts 120 m/amps. Decided to make a completely new transmitter, and with the aid of another friend, we had it ready for testing in about three weeks. Using the same circuit as the one valve set but with the PX4 as the oscillator; fed from a 250 volt separate supply, this drove a single PX25 with 600 volts on the anode. By this time I had left school and was working in the local wireless shop from where I had managed to scrounge a few old parts including a milliammeter - 250 m/a in a brass case. The modulator was a single PX25 driven by an MH4. The modulation transformer was two loudspeaker transformers connected back to back, which worked very well.. Without the big red book, "Radio Engineering" by F. E. Terman none of this would have been possible. My friend’s ten pounds was going to enable me to put into practice what I had been reading about in this book for two years. Neutralising the PX25 worried me as I had never made such an adjustment before; but it did not prove a problem and the PX25 stage was quite stable and tuned up very well. I paid a lot of attention to shielding, and all the old aluminium panels I had came in very useful. At this stage I was wondering what to say to the fellow, who funded the project, should it not work! My doubts vanished when a large car headlamp bulb, which had a coil of about five turns of wire soldered to it, lit up brightly when coupled to the centre of the tank coil. The PX4 provided the necessary M.O's drive, and the PX25 P. A. valve drew 120 m/amps; the plate voltage was 500 therefore the input was 60 watts, and if the efficiency was at least 60 percent, then the output would have been close to 40 watts. Compared with the original transmitter with two H.T. batteries in series with an output of perhaps two to three watts this was a big improvement! Now I was sure that I would soon be on the air. From 1938, when this new transmitter was put into service, until the outbreak of war, I was never apprehended despite the fact that the police station was only 400yards up the road. A better aerial was erected; it was 40 feet high and 120 feet long - there were two wires spaced 4 feet apart with a single lead in. A five turn swinging link on the P.A. tank coil fed via a piece of twisted lighting flex (no coax in those days) for a link coil on a parallel tuned circuit. The aerial was tapped onto this coil at the position that maximum brilliance to a small car bulb in series with the aerial lead in. I can still remember that it would have been advantageous to have been blessed with three hands to adjust this lot! The single PX25 modulator did not produce enough power to fully modulate the carrier, it only had about 6 watts output and we needed at least 30 watts or more. I also made a small audio mixer which drove the modulator, it had a grams input and a microphone input so that I could feed from one to the other. The reproduction from a good mains wireless set was at least equal to the BBC as far as one could tell by listening to a record, but my carbon microphone left much to be desired.

"Big Broadcast of 1938"

A slight diversion for another story which leads up to the formation of a broadcast team.

One night I was in the ice cream parlour with the friend who was helping me make the new transmitter. Also there was a pretty girl who I had admired since I was twelve years old when she brought into the garage a two volt accumulator for charging, she lived in the next road. She was with a fellow who I did not know. After a while he came over and asked if I was Ben, who did the broadcasting. I confirmed that I was, and he said that his girlfriend could not find us on her wireless set. So I offered to show her where to find us when we left the ice cream parlour. Arriving at her house, I was introduced to her parents, and went into the sitting room and I switched on their  wireless set. I tuned across the Medium Wave band and suddenly there was a big carrier, and my Father started talking, he was obviously in a mellow mood. The girls started laughing! I made my excuses and rode off at full speed on my bike once again. I had no idea that my Father even knew how to switch it all on. Several days later he informed me that he had been heard very well by all his friends. It was now 1938, and I had just turned 17 years. It was at this time that Hollywood produced a film entitled, "The Big Broadcast of 1938". It was about small broadcasting stations in America. We all went to see it, and afterwards in the ice cream parlour we decided that we would organise our own "Big Broadcast of 1938"! Various members of the group were appointed to different jobs. For instance, one chap had a very good voice, therefore he was to be the station announcer. We even had a Walter Winchell type who prepared his spot very well with local news about our colleagues. One girl was a singer with a sixteen piece dance band run by the son of the local police inspector. The son's name was Basil and he assured me that it would be OK. He went on to say that he and other members of his band used to play in clubs where there was after hours drinking, and added that his father never knew! On the appointed Saturday he came with a bass player, a drummer and he played the piano, also the accordion. I can't remember every performance, but it all took place in our large sitting room - a studio complete with "on air" lights and everything else! My parents thought this was great fun. One act I well remember was a simulated fighter aircraft dog fight with the participants making the appropriate noises with their mouths; a morse key operated near the microphone produced Lewis machine gun sounds - shades of scenes in the film, "Hells Angels"! Who would have thought two of the actors in this mock battle were to lose their lives doing just that a couple of years later. We were on the air for two hours and it all went well. We had reports from a friend by telephone to say that good signals were received in Loughton, Essex with only an aerial round a picture rail = a distance of 53 miles, our best Dx report! In the ice cream parlour the next day we all got the wind up and the station was dismantled and various parts of the equipment were distributed 'in friends' houses.

WW2 and enlistment with RAF

 Six weeks passed and nothing happened therefore we reinstalled the station, but now decided we were only going to play records. Various members of our group would prepare a record programme and present it. One day I had to do a public address job for the shop where I worked. It was a garden fete, and of course I was requested to do all the announcements. Half way through the proceedings, a pretty girl came up to me and said, "I recognise your voice from the wireless, are you anybody famous?" After that I tried disguising my voice somewhat for all further announcements! The last broadcast took place 2 days after war was declared, just played records of Carrol Gibbons for an hour. The next day the station was dismantled and placed into big cardboard boxes, never to be used again. Shortly after that I joined the Royal Air Force and went into Radar at Bawsey Manor in Suffolk. After two months there I was posted overseas to the Middle East. When I returned 4 years later, I found that my parents had given all my wireless equipment away. My Father said, "Surely, You didn't want us to keep all that old junk!" I was really upset.

"What a lark!"

One might think that was the end of the story, but not quite. After the war I went into sound recording in London, and then overseas to join a new Television station in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In 1966 I was appointed Chief Engineer and was sent on a trip to England also to the USA for general simulation visiting the BBC /ATV and RCA. When in England I paid a short visit to my home town, Herne Bay. I was standing outside the Queens Hotel where my parents frequented for their favourite tipple, and I was thinking about times past there, when suddenly I heard a commanding voice behind me say, “Hello young Bennett, how are you these days?" It was the Chief Inspector of Police, now retired. We shook hands, and he said, I always remember you with your Sunday morning broadcasts", he paused, then said, "What a lark!”

Credits:

First published in Radio Bygones No 46 pages 27 to 30. HERE

Or visit Radio Bygones at their website: www.radiobygones.co.uk


 

Friday, 16 August 2013

John Clare (Peasant Poet of Northamptonshire)

Been a long time posting much new, but I have recently been on my travels again with a new partner, so to show her the delights of my home county NORTHAMPTONSHIRE I took in a few of our counties tourist spots.

"HELPSTON"

Home of the famous "peasant poet" (A few pictures)

The Village sign commissioned in 2000

The Memorial Inscription

The complete monument viewed from the cross roads

 

For further reading I recommend

HERE

Monday, 23 May 2011

Emigrating to Australia in the 1890's (A letter to his Mother)


Dear Mother An emigrant writes to his Mother

                                                 Bald Rock
                                           October 16th 1890

Dear Mother,
I trust these few lines will meet yourself, brothers and sisters in the enjoyment of the very best of health.

Dear Mother, as far as myself is concerned I am enjoying very good health, the last time I weighed on the scales I was twelve stone two pounds, I like this country very much.

Dear Mother, I am working with a farmer Mr Newton by name, he is an English man.  I am working about 4 miles from Mrs Ferris place and about sixty miles from a town called Sandhurst.

Dear Mother, Friends are all very well until you know them but in this country A Man’s pocket is his best friend.  Mrs Ferris told me that Tom was in New Zealand and now she tells me that he is in Africa, but I do not believe her, it appears to me that she do not want me to know where he is, she told me one thing one time and then told me another thing so I can not think she is telling me truth.

Dear Mother, the farms in this part of the country is very large, the houses are from one to two miles apart and there is not much fear of a person hurting himself coming down stairs as the houses are all but one storey high. The houses about here are all made of weather boards with iron roof and brick chimneys but in the towns they are different as there are some very good buildings as good as any buildings in the towns in England.
 
The farmer I am with had a brick chimney built the other day and he had to pay the brick layers three pounds for building it with regard to this place in the summer it is as hot as Albert said it was before breakfast so I leave you to guess what it was before dinner.

Dear Mother, this is a very good country for the working man this is the place to take the wrinkles out of a man’s belly, the food is very good, meat three times a day, there is as good sheep and bullocks out here as there is in England.

It will be a good place for you Mother to come when you retire and if you should think one place too hot you could go to another where you would find it cold enough, climate varies very much out here. The farmer kills all his own sheep up here, the butcher’s shop is just a pair of blocks and a tree to pull them up. When they kill a bullock one farmer takes one half and one the other. The harvest commences up here about the middle of November, there is plenty of game out here, the hares are nearly as bad as the rabbits, they shoot them and let them lay there as they would not take trouble to pick them up.

Dear Mother,  If I can I will send you a Possum’s skin rug soon that will make up for the one I lost, you will have to look out that it don’t get lost as the other one did as I will try to send you a good one.

Dear Sisters, I will send you them feathers as soon as I can save money enough to do so. I am expecting to knock out two pounds per week and my tucker at the harvest.
 
I would like to know how Charlie is getting on with his goats tell Percy I will send him some seeds I will try and send them by next Spring.

I hope Albert is getting on well at school for if a chap is a scholar he can make his way in the world, I hope Arthur is getting on better than I was for you but if I was home now I think I would have more sense as knocking about earns a man since a man gets six and seven pence per hour and tucker, I think I will try it at harvest, they work 14 hours a day, how would they like that in England?  Men can shear 160 sheep a day in this country.

Dear Mother, we were seven weeks coming out, we were seventeen days from the time we see one vessel or ship until we see another, nothing in between but sky and water. The jolly old ship rolled about fearfully nearly throwing us out of our bunks and the seas rolling mountains high when she would roll over one swell you would not think she would even come up again. She was shipping seas dreadful, I thought one night that I should never see Australia, we had a German doctor on board and he could speak not one word of the English language we had to get an interpreter, another German to explain to the doctor when we wanted anything from him and he was nearly as bad as the doctor at English.  She was fitted with electric lights but we only had it the first night leaving Antwerp and the night we got to Adelaide it was shut off all the other time we were on the voyage.

(disjointed afterthoughts)
(I have started to learn shearing and the boss said it was very good he said he could not do it half as well when he started)

When we were coming out we sighted the coast of India also the coast of Africa but she did not call at any of these places,the Mediterranean was nearly as rough as the Bay of Biscay in fact we had a rough voyage altogether, the sea was rough and the food rougher I broke some of my teeth trying to eat the hard biscuits. I have heard you say you would like to see a rough sea Mother, but if you were on board that vessel you would see it rough enough and no back door to get away from it.
 
So now Dear Mother I will conclude for this time with fondest love to you my Dear Mother, also my best love to my Brothers and Sisters.
From your loving Son
                                      Henry E Stewart.

Address your next letter in care of Robert Newton
                                     BALD ROCK  P.O
                                      Victoria,
                                     Australia.



The above is exactly as the original letter was penned, though I did add the odd comma some places, also some spelling corrections, the facts are as portrayed. Typical of an English emigrants experiences in the 1890’s it seems. Note specially the promise to send fur, feathers and seeds, try that today!

Penned by my Great Uncle Henry to his Mother,  Fanny Stewart in England . Fanny died at 80 years of age in 1918, Henry survived until 68 when he died in 1932 he was a prosperous land owner. He had four sisters and five brothers, a goodly size family for  that period, all survived well into 60’s except for Ernest who suffered infant mortality and died at 1 year.



Letter No 2



                                                                               Bald Rock
                                    November 24th 1890

Dear Mother,

I trust these few lines will meet yourself and my Brothers and Sisters in the enjoyment of the best of health.

As far as I am concerned I am in good health and getting on alright so far and intend to get on in the World if I can, believe me it will be no fault of mine if I don’t as I have a little more sense now than I had when I was in England. There is nothing to make a mans sense like knocking about.

Dear Mother, I am sending by same post as this letter, four feathers for my Sister’s hats, three white ones and one salmon coloured, I would have sent you one but there were no more in the store where I got them.

Dear Mother, I had a letter from Albert Owens about three weeks ago, he is still in the same place but he says he will go back to Sydney, when I saw him he did not look so well as he did when he was in England.

I forgot to tell you in my last letter that I saw Mr Knight’s brother in Adelaide when I landed, he is in a grocery shop working. I mean Mr Knight’s brother of the Railway Inn.

With regard to Tom Bennett  I was in the next township to where I am working last week and there is a man living there that knows Tom well and he told me that he was pretty well sure that Tom is in Sandhurst, he says that he was there a very short time ago and he thinks he is there yet.

Dear Mother, I wish to inform you that there is a plague of grasshoppers in this part of the colony at the present time, they are eating all the grass and everything in the gardens, they eat the leaves off the fruit trees and grape vines, they are a great pest they have wings out here and fly about.

The harvest is just starting out here, my employer has some of his oats cut, you will think it strange when I tell you that the farmers out here cut both wheat and oats for hay, there is no grass cut here for hay same as at home.

Dear Mother, I would like to know if any of my Brothers and Sisters are thinking of getting married yet, my word if some of my Sisters were out here with their good looks they would soon get husbands with plenty of money.

I am thinking of getting married myself very soon as I think I would be better married as there are some good chances before my eyes if I like to take them, there is some ladies I can get with plenty of money and land, so I think I will take one of them soon.

Dear Mother, I would advise you to give my Brothers a good trade of some sort as it do not matter what part of the World a man goes to he can get on well, tradesmen out here are dressed like gentlemen at home, so give my Brothers a trade it will be for their good.

My Dear Mother, I wish that I had sense enough when I was home to have learned a trade it is now that I would find the benefit of it.

Dear Mother, the young woman milk the cows in this part there was two young women in the yard helping me to milk last night. I have had three different employers since I came out here but this is the best man of the three.

My Dear Mother, give my best love to my Brothers and Sisters. Arthur, Percy, Charley and Albert. My Sisters Laura, Isabel,. Amy, Bertha tell them both you my Dear Mother and Brothers and Sisters are always in my thoughts, you are my last thoughts at night and my first thoughts in the morning.

Tell Bertha that I will send her a flower in my next letter or I will send some with the feathers now.

Dear Mother, I will send you that Possum skin as soon as ever I can I have not forgotten it.

I will conclude for this time Dear Mother with fond love to you Dear Mother, Brothers and Sisters trusting that this will meet you all in the enjoyment of the best of health.

                                  Henry E Stewart
Address as before care of Mr Robert Newton
                                  Bald Rock P.O
                                  Victoria,
                                  Australia. 


Sadly there are no more letters in the archive, we were lucky that these two got preserved due to the good organisation of one of my Great Aunts and her offspring. There is also scant record of the ship that carried my great Uncle to Adelaide from Southampton, via Antwerp, although there are passenger lists of many ships from 1820 up to about 1886, records from that year on and up to early 20th century seen to be missing, research reveals that during the wars in that period there were fewer actual voyages made, I always assumed that there were more pressing things to do in life, like signing up for war. Certainly many shipping records of voyages from Germany were destroyed in the 1914-1918 period.

These dated letters give little hint that the 1890's saw the begining of one of the worse depressions in Australia's history. 1890 saw the maritime strike (another reason why the shipping records of that period are sparse). This was followed by the strike of the sheep shearers in 1891 and the beginings of the problems in the banking industry that resulted in the collapse of a number of the smaller banks. 1892 lead into the Broken hill strike and later into the collapse of many companies, specially in the Victoria area. 1893 the depression spread internationally, triggering the Federal Bank collapses. By 1894 and with new regulations and law reforms, the worse of the crisis was over. So began the process of recovery.  Not the best of times for an unskilled emigrant trying to find his way in the "country of opportunity" . 




I have managed to find entries for one Henry Erwin Stewart in the early 20th century electoral roles for Victoria and I have a record of his death recorded for 1932, one year after the last recorded electoral roll..

If anyone comes across these entries, recognises any family names, has any information that might be relevant I would like to hear from them, please post a comment here.

Monday, 21 March 2011

OLD COMPUTERS that I have owned

.
Over the years I have owned or had in my care many of the early model computers, from simple, little more than calculators right up to full blown serious business computers.
I cannot guarantee this will be correct chronologically because many of them arrived here as repairs for other people
some of them stayed (I was hooked) it is these that I will describe in a little more detail.


 This was one of the first home constructed personal computers that used the popular Z80 processor chip.
It first appeared in 1978 as a very crude attempt at getting enthusiasts of the up and coming computer hobby to build their own. This was a pretty basic machine, but with advanced features that showed great promise for future developments. The basic model had just 1K (1024 bytes) of actually usable memory to store programs, a 48 character by 16 line monochrome screen that displayed on an ordinary domestic TV receiver by using a low power TV transmitter on the printed circuit board. It had it's own special keyboard that connected to the main computer board by a ribbon cable.
Program loading and recording was to a conventional cassette tape recorder this was very slow, prone to all kinds of problems with bad tapes and generally very unreliable, but it was a start, you could if you were lucky manage to save the program you has taken hours to type in byte by byte, and get it to work again without re-typing it all.

My first Nascom arrived by way of a friend that repaired these things for people that had taken on the project of building one themselves and not quiet got it right?

(There were quite a few of these)

There was a point where to get a badly built one going would cost more that making a new one, so the inevitable happened, we were left with the dead-ones!

(This was a challenge for me on a hobby basis)  


I had been studying logic design for a few years and attained a reasonable understanding of how to design a logic controller, so the step to repairing a faulty one was relatively simple, only problem was learning to think  differently about the solution and adopt the software idea instead of the previously well understood hardware one.


Fortunately the Nascom had a very comprehensive monitor program built in that did all the set up at "boot" time, provided the CPU was connected correctly to the RAM and ROM the rest of the hardware could be de-bugged with simple logic probes an oscilloscope and a test meter.


Most of the faults were due to bad soldering, too little,
too much,  so a visual inspection often revealed these faults. Then there were the chips in the wrong sockets, or sometimes in the right sockets but the wrong way around, these were easily detected both by visual and blistered finger methods (reversed power made them HOT, very).


In the end, many boards were repaired successfully and inevitably the odd unwanted one stayed...
I was HOOKED

Almost overnight I had turned from a logic engineer to a software engineer.  Taming the beast was quite a struggle at the beginning, to get any program loaded first off, one had to type in the Op-codes one by one so one needed to learn them and what they could do,  much manual and specification sheet reading was required.


To the newbie these things were quite daunting, so much to remember, but where to start?


Nascom 1 (picture from www.binarydinosaurs.co.uk/Museum/Nascom/)

All micro processors use registers to store instructions, these may be discrete registers, or they may be in RAM (external memory) the Z80 has the following registers.

Z80 REGISTERS
A  single 8 bit register for all arithmetic and logical work
F (Flag) register stored results of operations in A
B most significant byte of 16 bit pair BC
C least significant byte of 16 bit pair BC
D most significant byte of 16 bit pair DE
E least significant byte of 16 bit pair DE
H most significant byte of 16 bit pair HL
L least significant byte of 16 bit pair HL
IX first 16 bit Index pointer,  IY second 16 bit Index pointer
  I special 8 bit register used for INTERRUPT control
Finally two special function registers 
SP & PC
SP is the Stack Pointer, used to address an area of memory in the system memory map for use as a temporary store.
PC is the Program Counter, this is not directly addressable by the computer user,  it's value is controlled by the code in a program and follows the code position in a program, on an instruction by instruction basis, being set to Zero by a hardware Reset.   


Operations on registers
Direct:
8 bit (single byte) loads can be performed on 
all registers A-L with a 2 byte instruction
<register code><byte value>
16 bit (single word) loads can be performed on
Registers BC,DE, HL & SP
<register pair code><word low><word high>
and on IX or IY with <DD/FD><21><word low><word high>
All the instruction codes that apply to HL can be used on the Index pair IX & IY by adding the prefix byte DD or FD

Indirect:
8 bit (single byte) loads only apply to A register
in the 3 byte form <3A><word low><word high>
in this form the A register is loaded with the byte 
at the address in memory at <high><low>
8 bit (single byte) stores apply to A register only
in the 3 byte form <32><word low>word high>
in this form the A registers contents are placed
at the address in memory <high><low>


Here was one of the FIRST confusions for the beginner the addressing of the memory location or 16 bit value 
to be used is reversed from the conventional 
as written thinking.
16 bit (single word) loads apply to register HL (only)
in the form <2A><word low><word high>
16 bit (single word) stores apply to HL (only)
in the form <22><word low><word high> 
16 bit (single word) loads apply to BC, DE & SP in the 
four byte form <ED><reg LD code><word low><word high>

16 bit (single word) stores apply to BC, DE & SP in the 
four byte form <ED><reg STO code><word low><word high>
So the Program Counter (PC) will increment after each instruction by the length of that instruction 
(1,2,3 or 4 steps)
TBC