Tribute to peter smith G4JNU

Read by his son in law Peter at the funeral, a fascinating read.

Tribute

Peter was born in Reading, the only child of Eric and Winifred Smith, and lived all of his life in Caversham, attending Hemdean House, Caversham Primary and Wilson schools. His early years coincided with the second world war and Peter recalled vividly the occasion in which their Caversham home was hit by 2 incendiary bombs – one of very few houses in Reading to suffer damage in an air raid. Peter’s father was a machine workshop instructor with the REME at Arborfield and Peter was proud that, with a lathe and other machinery specially installed in the back bedroom of their modest home in Rectory Rd, both of his parents helped the war effort by manufacturing aircraft parts. It became clear only recently, that they were part of a clandestine network throughout the South of England that secretly built thousands of Spitfires hidden in garages, sheds and barns. The story is now told in the recently released film, Secret Spitfires which includes Peter recalling some of his wartime memories. He enjoyed being filmed, and the family will treasure the footage.

Peter’s lifelong friend, Tony Halford, recalls their pre-teen exploits, including making soap box go-carts and testing them out on the hill at Bugs Bottom. Sadly, Tony is unable to be here today – but he told us that as they moved into the teen years, Peter shared with him his interest in the wonders of electronics which in those days centred around the thermionic valve. They spent many happy hours in the shed at Peter’s parents’ house, constructing and modifying “Government Surplus” equipment, and it was during this time that Peter taught Tony the skill of soldering the correct way – a skill that Peter later taught to both his children and all of his grandchildren. On one memorable occasion Peter and Tony assembled a 3 valve audio amplifier, with an old loudspeaker frigged to act as a microphone, so that from the shed they could listen to the ticking of the hall clock. They also discovered that because of the wondrous sensitivity of their creation, they could listen to Peter’s parents’ conversations as well – all over the house – a scientific achievement which, as you can imagine, was not appreciated by Winnie and Eric!

Peter would say that his school career was undistinguished but it was here that he first met Ann, who was to become his lifelong companion and soulmate. He also gained the qualifications that he needed to start an electrical engineering apprenticeship working at Taplow Court for British Telecommunications Research. He loved his days there and told many apprentice prank stories – such as the time when he had the job of wiring up a circuit to test a very expensive prototype valve – the only one in the country. When ‘switch on’ time came, much to Peter’s horror, wisps of smoke started to rise from the wiring. On closer inspection, Peter found that someone had placed a resistor across the valve supply which blew a few seconds after switch-on – just to trick him. He and Ann also enjoyed the social aspects of Taplow such as the tennis courts, boating, rifle range and Christmas parties.

Peter then moved to work at the Rutherford labs at Harwell. He was never a lover of bureaucracy and recounted stories of his frustration with the Civil Service. Seeking promotion, he moved temporarily to Daresbury in Cheshire, but after a brief and unfulfilling soujourn there he returned to Rutherford where he gained his Chartered Engineer status. While at Rutherford he met his future business partner, and in 1968 they set up their own electronics company- CONTECH – where Mac was in charge of the drawing office and Peter the design. Colleagues, who became lifelong friends, recall not only a brilliant engineer but also a kind, calm and generous boss who was always happy to pitch in whatever the task.

Peter relished the freedom of having his own company and enjoyed working on many interesting projects – a key one being the design, development and production of equipment for TV audience monitoring, subsequently employed widely around the world until the advent of digital television.

To say that he was an engineer does not really do justice to his affinity for mechanical and electrical things. He had the wonderful ability to understand how things were supposed to work, even if not all the parts were there. He could picture whatever was missing – go to his workshop and make them. A talent that will be greatly missed by his family and friends. As an engineer, his passion was to unravel unnecessary complexity in favour of elegance and simplicity. He had a very similar approach to everyday life!

Outside work too, Peter was always busy. At 21, he and Ann married (Tony was his best man!). Peter built the first marital home by purchasing a caravan shell. He installed heating and lighting and built the fitted furniture inside. Just prior to the arrival of Wendy a year later, they moved in to live with Ann’s father and aunt while Peter planned his next project. This was to build the house in Kidmore Rd where they brought up their family and where he lived for the rest of his life. Peter familiarised himself with building regulations and taught himself the necessary skills such as bricklaying and plumbing. He broke ground on the build in 1960, aged, 23. Holding down a full-time job and only working evenings and weekends on the house, they completed it with virtually no outside help of any kind 2 years later and moved in in October 1962. 6 months later, the house was complete and following a couple of years R&R, Helen was born.

Family was always a priority and Wendy and Helen’s mum and dad had a very long and happy marriage, celebrating their Golden Wedding in 2008. Their mum suffered with ill health for a number of years and their dad became a kind and devoted carer for her until becoming a widower in 2009.

Both Wendy and Helen have lived nearby for the majority of their adult lives and so raised their families locally. Because of this Peter and Ann were able to be an integral part of their grandchildren’s lives. Grandpa was always there to join the celebrations, encourage first Andrew and Elizabeth and then Christopher, Thomas and Matthew with their projects and endeavours – helping to fix anything and everything that needed attention. In addition to all the usual family events, Grandpa continued the tradition he and Nana had started, hosting two highlights in the family calendar. In the spring, he spent considerable time hiding mini Easter eggs around his wonderful garden for the grandchildren to find. Over the years he took great delight in finding new places to challenge the hunters – a task that became increasingly difficult as the grandchildren are all now over 20. Bonfire night too, was always organised meticulously in the typical Peter fashion. Fairy lights and lanterns provided a magical setting for bonfires, fireworks and sausages and soup.

Peter and Ann relaxed by walking in the countryside and family holidays were usually taken in Scotland, the Lake District, Cornwall or Wales. In retirement, the Pembrokeshire coastal path became a real favourite for the pair with many holidays in St David’s – and also Switzerland. Once widowed, Peter sought new walking partners by joining the Sonning Common Health Walks where he rekindled old friendships and made new ones. These times became an important part of his week and he always told the family about them, including owning up when they had got lost!

Peter’s interest in wireless began during the war, when his father gave him a crystal set and from an early age he was often called upon to help to fix sets for neighbours and friends. He was a frequent visitor to Bill Good’s wireless shop around the corner in Church St and later spent many hours at the ‘Shop on the bridge’ in Kings Rd and Bob Iles’s shop in Southampton St. In the late 1970’s he found time to resurrect his interest in amateur radio and he became a member of the Radio Society of Great Britain taking on the A license G4JNU call sign in 1980. He was a very active member of the Reading Amateur Radio club where he made many friends through shared interests and enjoyed demonstrating his restorations of all kinds of vintage electrical and mechanical curiosities.

Following from his love of wireless he also became a member of the Narrow-bandwidth Television Association devoted to all aspects of early television. He was fascinated by the technology and spent many hours restoring original equipment, constructing replica mechanical television apparatus and learning about the origins of early television by recreating the experiments of its inventor and pioneer – John Logie Baird. He became one of the most knowledgeable people in the country on Baird and early mechanical television. He supported museums, groups and individuals with his masterful engineering skills and with his passion for early radio and television technology. Through his efforts many museums can now display original radio and television equipment working again and he has enabled working demonstrations of original equipment to be featured on several television programmes on the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky, including the BBC’s recreation in 2016 of the 1936 opening night of television.

We will treasure memories of a loving, kind- hearted and generous man who was always willing to help whatever the task. He always had a project on the go either restoring or building something, researching or making something work – whether it was a family, a house or a Baird televisor.

The BBC’s – and the world’s – first regular television service started on Monday the 2nd of November 1936. The song you are about to hear was performed in the opening show and captures something of the mystery and wonder that must have surrounded the new invention at that time

‘Magic Rays of Light sung by Adele Dixon


Memories of Peter, G4JNU

Peter G4JNU talking about his valve display 2017.
Peter in full flow at a RADARC meeting 2017 with his valve display.
Peter G4JNU at the McMichael Rally in 2008
McMichael Rally 2008
Peter G4JNU at RADARC's 70th.
Ever the creator, a demonstration for RADARC’s 70th year (2004). Some beautifully made equipment and some work in progress? Maybe someone can remember.
Peter's celebration of RADARC history at Reading Rugby Football club, 2014.
Peter’s consummately professional display celebrating our club’s history at RADARC’s 80th event (2014), Reading Rugby Football Club, Sonning.
Construction Contest 2013 - Peter presenting first prize to Jim G0LHZ
Construction Contest 2013 – Peter presenting first prize to Jim G0LHZ
Construction Contest 2014 - Peter presenting second prize to John G4RDC
Construction Contest 2014 – Peter presenting second prize to John G4RDC
RADARC AGM 2008
RADARC AGM 2008
Knowl Hill Steam Rally, early 1980s.
Knowl Hill Steam Rally, early 1980s. I can identify Peter, I think. Not sure who the supporting cast are! Health and Safety? Well it was the 80s….

Page to be updated as we get more photos and memories. If you have more to add or further information for the stories above, please use the contact forms via the Contact page.

meeting 10th Jan – Equipment + Alignment evening, Spectrum analyser Intro

Folks,

Happy RADARC New Year to you!

Next meeting is Thursday 10th January, Woodford Park, Woodley.

Eyes down 8pm.

This time it’s the club equipment that’s the star of the show with the new Rigol spectrum analyser and the Icom IC7300 transceiver “Top of the Bill”. However Ray G3SCZ will also give a short introduction to the spectrum analyser and what it’s capable of. Many thanks to Ray for that.

It will be less formal than ‘normal’ talk evenings. This is more a chance for you to play with stuff – and have a natter, of course.

Also note the “humble support acts” are very capable (antenna analysers etc.). If you haven’t used one and you enjoy messing with antennas do come along.

This is a great opportunity to see how test equipment can make your life much easier and what radio equipment we have that’s ready to use.

Bring along any filters you may need aligned, also attenuators and dummy loads to find out what they’re really doing, and antennas within reason. Alignment evenings reborn!

On show will be:

  • Icom IC7300 transceiver
  • Rigol Spectrum Analyser + tracking generator + VSWR attachment
  • MFJ259 + MFJ269 Antenna Analysers
  • FT100D HF Rig
  • Marconi radio test set (combination of sig gen + spec analyser iirc
    donated by Mick G8ZWN. Need to get to know this better.)
  • FL2100Z linear – even if we just admire the glassware on it. Needs bringing up on a variac.
  • FT757GT transceiver
  • Advantest 1GHz spectrum analyser

+more, will keep you updated.

This will also be a good opportunity to discuss what our next equipment purchase should be. One obvious thing I’d say is missing is a decent, modern (i.e. small, light, capable) RF signal generator. Others:

  • 10MHz GPS locked frequency source
  • Decent Frequency counter i.e. accurate and wide range.

Would be good to chat about what makes sense to purchase as a club and what not.

Tea, coffee, biscuits will be in plentiful supply – perhaps a bit
earlier than usual. But only for humans/our membership. A valve linear at full throttle drinking a cup of tea doesn’t bear thinking about! As ever, keep your meetings ideas coming. If you mentioned something to me before and I’ve not done anything about it, please nag me.

Season’s greetings all,

73

John
G4RDC

(Hopefully you can read this. I’m battling the new ‘wordpress’ interface as you may be able to tell.)

WSJT-X, FT8, MSK144

The current General Availability (GA) release is WSJT-X 2.0.0

The FT8 and MSK144 protocols have been enhanced in a way that is not backward compatible with older program versions. The new protocols become the world-wide standards starting on December 10, 2018, and all users should upgrade to WSJT-X 2.0 by January 1, 2019. After that date, only the new FT8 and MSK144 should be used on the air.

For FT8, WSJT-X 2.0.0 will decode the messages sent by earlier releases and respond with the corresponding older message format. However, for MSK144 (often used for meteor scatter), the payloads are incompatible and 2.0 will not decode messages sent from pre 2.0, and vice-versa.

See https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html for details and download.

For those of you that also use JTAlert with WSTJ-X, there is a later version 2.12.10. See https://hamapps.com/ for details and download.

New 4 metre web SDR IN South herts.

John G3VHH notes we have a new 4 metre web SDR available to us covering 69.492 – 71.028 MHz

http://81.111.70.181:8091

IP address may change so look at http://websdr.org/ for a definitive address. Text is “4 Meter WebSDR Located in south Hartfordshire UK using a RTL Dongle”. Antenna is a 4 metre quarter wave ground plane.

Many thanks to John and Steven M0XVT for making this available.

73

John G4RDC

Peter G4JNU, SK

With a very heavy heart, I must report that Peter G4JNU died peacefully on Sunday 23rd December.

Peter was held in the highest regard by everyone who knew him. Here are just a few of the tributes:

“As usual I had an amazing demo of a magnificent piece of early 30 line TV equipment he had been working on” – Vin, G4JTR

“Terribly sorry to hear about Peter” – Sean, 2E0ZIP

“Very sorry to hear the passing of Pete, we will miss him” – Michael M0MPM

“I also have very fond memories of Peter, G4JNU. He will be remembered for his re-creation of Baird’s mechanical scanning TV system and the transmission by amateur radio to the USA of these images from the Amberley Museum. He has always been a great experimenter and home constructor.” – Harry G3NGX

“What a shock. Such a nice man and regularly saw his car (registration G4JNU of course) parked here in the village, visiting family or out walking.” – Don G3XTT

“What a huge shame. Peter was a stalwart of the club for as long as I can remember. A true gentleman and a real engineer of a kind you so rarely meet. He will be greatly missed.” – Baz G8DOR

“I mourn the passing of a gentleman in every sense of the word. Peter had so much to teach us all. ” – Ray G3SCZ

“Truly a gentleman in every sense and an inspiration to me and many, many more.” – Dave M0PMZ

“I am truly devasted by this news. Pete was a rock at RADARC and had energy and helpfulness which few could match. RIP Peter, I shall miss you.” – Robin G4IWS

“Peter was a master engineer and always ready to lend a helping hand where needed. The equipment he built and demonstrated were an inspiration to us all. A loss to RADARC. RIP Peter.” – Jim G0LHZ

“He was normally an early starter at the rally helping out where ever he could always with a smile and then going on to the club table. At meeting he would busy himself with getting the room ready before chatting to all. I was astonished by his knowledge on mechanical TV and was able to help him with a presentation he was doing. He gave more than he took.” – Min G0JMS

“A very sad loss. I have many fond memories of Peter over the many years that I have known him. A great enthusiast for all thigs radio and mentor to newer members of RADARC. RIP Peter” – Andy M5ALG

“I never heard Peter complain or judge any one, he always came to the Club Meetings with warmth and a smile. Following on from Min’s comments may I add the tables for the sound and projector were always in place in ample time for the AV. set up . He braved the pull up/fall down finger crushing screen on many occasions! Peter was a regular for NFD set up and tear down and the McMichael junk sale tables , in mature years struggling valiantly with heavy boxes and boat anchors. In memory of a true gentleman. Sadly missed” – Graham G3XYX.

“I always remember the first time I entered a construction contest and thought I was in with a chance with my MSF clock… only to have Peter lift a large box off of his built-from-scratch replica of a Baird televisor which immediately dashed everybody else’s chances. His knowledge of original TV systems led to him making things for a BBC programme a few years ago if I recall correctly. Rest in Peace Peter. You will be sadly missed.” – Des, G8FIF

“A sad loss to the club and to amateur radio. Peter had a great depth of knowledge and experience, he was always willing to listen to the other persons point of view and was greatly respected by all.” – Dave G4BOO

I will close by noting Peter was awarded the Bingham Shield at the RADARC AGM for his tireless support for the club and in particular for sorting through and testing hundreds of valves which raised a considerable sum at the McMichael Rally. Most recently he gave a beautiful demonstration of his ‘Marconi Detector’ at Dr. Elizabeth Bruton’s talk in October.

He was thrilled to bits with the award – particularly as it had his name on it. Peter – it’s yours for that and so, so much more.

I consider it a privilege to have known Peter. Brilliant engineer, gentle soul.

The funeral service will be at St Andrews Church, Caversham Heights, on Friday 11th January at 2 pm followed by a wake at a local venue to be decided.

See https://www.standrewscaversham.org/ for details on St Andrews.

73

John G4RDC

Graeme G4XOF, SK

Graeme G4XOF lost his battle with cancer Monday 26th November 2018.

Here he is last June proudly showing me his mobile HF antenna, mobile mount and describing how it can be used very effectively as a base station antenna. Ever the enthusiast.

Some tributes:

Sad news and he will be missed with his upbeat attitude on the radio to everybody He made the most out of the time he was given – Min G0JMS.

Still a shock even though I knew about Graeme’s condition. He was such a pleasant and helpful person –  Mike G4CDF.

I heard him many times on the local repeaters during my journey to and from work, and his great personality and sense of humour always came bounding over the air waves, often making you laugh out loud. He will be missed. – Simon M0ZSU

Very sorry to hear about Graeme’s passing. A really nice chap to buy  a radio from. Honest and very thoughtful. A pleasure to do business with. – Harry G3NGX

In a multi-way QSO, late comers with the same name as established operators, would add a 02 ident to keep things simple for the life of net. I was always touched and humbled by Graeme 2 referring to me with respect for an old timer  as Graham 1 whatever the situation, eyeball or net. A font of shared knowledge at the informal Rugger Club gatherings. A help with e-bay bulk purchases saving time and trouble all round for the less adventurous net users . He was dynamic, pushing forward with technology , but always could take time out to explain something I did not grasp about new technology , a true gentleman . A great loss to amateur radio. – Graham, G3XYX.

I didn’t know Graeme well which makes this all the more difficult. I wanted to know him better. It feels like we’ve been friends forever which is a measure of Graeme’s warmth of spirit. We always had a laugh whenever we spoke either on air or in person. That said, Graeme knew his stuff. I affectionately knew him as XON/XOFF (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_flow_control). He visited me at home last June where we just talked for 20 minutes or so about 5MHz mobile contacts we’d had, the up-and-coming network radio technology and how he used his mobile HF antenna to great effect mobile and at home. We had a drink or two at Reading Rugby Football Club in Sonning during the summer and the last time I saw him was at the Flight Refuelling rally at Wimborne, Dorset in early August with a number of the RADARC crew where the weather was dreadful but he was chipper as ever.  Something to think about, that. A true radio man; one of a kind. I will miss him greatly.

The funeral is on Monday 10th December 3.15pm Reading Crematorium, South Chapel All Hallows Road, Reading, RG4 5LP.

John

G4RDC

meeting 22nd November: A brief history of RAF ASV radars 1940 to 2010 by Simon Watts G3XXH

All,

Next meeting (22nd November) Simon Watts G3XXH joins us to give us a brief history of RAF ASV radars from 1940 to 2010. (ASV = airborne surface vessel, radar for maritime patrol aircraft)

Venue: Woodford Park Leisure Centre, Woodley, RG5 4LY
Time: 8pm

The history of airborne radars developed in the UK for long range
maritime surveillance by the RAF spans from 1940, when ASV Mk. I entered service on Sunderland and Hudson aircraft, through to the 1980s, when the Searchwater radar entered service on the Nimrod MR2. This history came to an end in 2010 when the Nimrod MRA4 programme was cancelled and the Nimrod MR2 taken out of service. The early radars operated at VHF. Following the development of the high power magnetron, operation moved to S-band and then to X band. Searchwater was a complete departure from earlier radars, incorporating a TWT transmitter, modern signal and data
processing and computer control.

This talk will give an overview of the design and evolution of these
radars, the aircraft they were used in and the performance they
achieved, detecting ships and submarines.

Simon Watts G3XXH is Visiting Professor in the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at University College London and formerly deputy Scientific Director and Technical Fellow in Thales UK.

Whilst googling ‘ASV’ I found this interesting link:
https://uboat.net/allies/technical/uk_radars.htm

Min G0JMS also spotted “The Secret of Tuxedo Park” on PBS America talking about the development of radar by Wall Street tycoon Alfred Lee Loomis:

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/secret-tuxedo-park/

Thankyou to George M0GXB for making this meeting happen.

Refreshments afterwards as usual.

73

John
G4RDC

Website for the Reading And District Amateur Radio Club