ISSN 1322-1906 June 2011. Volume 12 Page 31
President’s Message – 32
PNG Adventures – 33
The History Of Masers – 34
Dodgy Practices- Telco Vendors – 36
VALE – Ian Reed – 38
2011 NSW AGM and June Reunion
WHEN: Friday 17th June 2011
WHERE: 2nd Floor the NSW Bowlers Club
TIME: 11 am Sharp.
RSVP to email@example.com or call/SMS 0411 260 542 by Friday 3 rd June
Also indicate if you will join us for lunch on Level 1. Interstate Vets are more than welcome.
Victorian 54th AGM in 2011
Wednesday 15th June 2011 at 12noon at Legacy House, 2nd floor, 293 Swanston Street Melbourne.
R.S.V.P. to Robert Hall 03 95116969. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark these in your diary now!
The OTVA Newsletter REWARDS Program
OTVA will pay a reward of $50 to members whose contribution to the Newsletter is judged by the Committee to be the best contribution. Alan Mason won last edition’s award.
From Our President
Our NSW AGM will be held on Friday 17 June at 11am on Level 2 of the NSW Bowlers’ Club located at 99 York Street, Sydney. The AGM will be followed by lunch in the Bistro on Level 1 the cost of which will be approximately $25 payable to the cashier. RSVP by Friday 3 June 2011 to email@example.com or SMS me on 0411 260 542 so that we can firm up the table booking. I look forward to catching up with you there.
Your Web Master, Chris Bull, continues to review options to improve the quality of the services offered to members via the OTVA web site (http://www.otva.com). I am sure that you all agree that the OTVA web site is operating very well although we, the members of the OTVA, do not maximise it’s benefits to us. We collectively have many memories and stories from our past experiences in OTC which will be lost forever if we do not seize this opportunity to preserve them for future generations. OTC was a great organisation but once we are gone so too goes the great history of the people and events which made OTC what it was. Use the BLOG pages to recall those stories and memories for yourself and your peers of that era in Australian communications history. Your entry may then trigger others to comment thereby preserving the memory of OTC for the future. You can access the BLOG site via the Home page of the OTVA web site. If your story is picked up by the Newsletter Editor and is selected as the ‘best article’ for that month, you may even win $50 for your efforts.
Your Newsletter Editor, Bob Emanuel, also seeks input from our membership on newsworthy articles that can be included in the Newsletter. Bob has advised that he does not have much content for upcoming Newsletters and, if that is still the case by the time that we go to print, your Executive may be forced to reduce the number of Newsletters to only 2 each year due to lack of suitable content. Don’t forget that there is a $50 award for the best article submitted for inclusion in each Newsletter.
Our long serving Treasurer, Bernie White has decided to hang up his calculator and retire from the position on which he served for about 12 years. We are indebted to Bernie for his loyalty and dedication to the tasks and on behalf of all members take this opportunity to thank him for the way he has supported our association over such a long period. We will be seeking nominations from the OTVA membership for the position of Treasurer at the AGM. Your Executive has reviewed the duties performed by the outgoing Treasurer to prune them to a minimal level as a means of assisting the new Treasurer to ‘ease’ into the role. Obviously the OTVA cannot continue to exist without a Treasurer.
Your Executive needs to be able to communicate with its membership and to enable effective communication we need your current email addresses. It is very time consuming and costly to distribute via Australia Post pamphlets, letters, newsletters, etc. Please take a few seconds the next time that you are checking your email or browsing the Internet to drop me an email via firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t have to include any message details if you don’t want to. I will simply check your email against the one that we have on file for you and in that way the Executive can maintain a current list of valid email addresses for its membership. The Executive will maintain the confidentiality and security of your email address and will not issue it to anyone without your express permission.
Your Executive also seeks the support of its membership to find someone with audio visual (AV) expertise who can either be co-opted into the Committee for a short period or who can offer instruction and/or advice to myself or other members of the team. Your Executive is considering using YouTube (or similar) to distribute videos of historical significance or communicate video messages to our membership. This may also benefit those members who cannot travel to the Bowlers Club to attend our regular social functions, AGM and Christmas get-together.
We are also building an album of photos of people that we can then use with stories, etc. to jog people’s memories by associating a name with a face.
Unfortunately several more of our ex-OTC brothers and/or their partners have departed this life since I last addressed you. I extend my sincere condolences to their many friends and family who are saddened by their passing but are gladdened by the fullness of their rich and long lives.
May They Rest In Peace.
With extra articles, more colour photos and more information than we can publish in this Newsletter. Have your recollections, stories and reminiscences recorded online for posterity. If you would like to contribute to the oral history of telecommunications, please contact Bob Emanuel on 0412 062 236. Content will be uploaded to our website.
Main Duties – Collect cash, make out receipts, compile financial information for the Committee and the AGM.
Financial Statements – Make out statements of income and expenditure and compile balance sheets for the committee and AGM. These must be audited
When possible attend committee meetings.
By Allan Mason
(Allan told us in the last Newsletter that he and his wife Josette spend some months each year in Papua New Guinea, Allan providing comms for Josette’s medical patrols -here is their latest update from the very west of PNG)
We are leaving camp Wakali in Middle Fly tomorrow and heading back to Kiunga, only today to run a clinic at the local village and then a few days R&R next week! This patrol has been quite tiring, probably because it a bit longer than usual, although we have enjoyed the home comforts, like flush loo’s, hot showers and good meals, and great logistics supplying our requests. It will be nice to get back to our home base in Kiunga and get P29CW on air again.
Originally we had planned another patrol straight away, but have decided it’s too much and we are going to be in Kiunga for about 3 weeks. We will probably be bored by then, especially as the hospital no longer has an anaesthetist or any doctors, so Josette can’t do any surgery. However Josette will probably have to spend quite a bit of time there looking after their patients and helping the nursing staff with their problems.
We were planned to leave on Wednesday but there is only one flight this week, on Monday. We were booked on that, but today the camp manager said there is a helicopter going to Kiunga tomorrow so he has us planned to go on that instead. It will be a bit more interesting than the small plane, as they don’t fly so high and you can see more, although the country we will fly over is very flat and uniformly lots of jungle with a lot of water lying around.
We are very isolated down here, even more so than in Kiunga. Anything could be happening in the world and we would have no idea. We occasionally hear news on Radio Australia, but it’s often not very clear. In Kiunga one of the sister’s houses has satellite TV, as has the men’s house, so we occasionally go and watch the news. We saw some of the footage from the tsunami in Japan. Also the men’s house gets the national PNG newspapers so there is a bit of international news in them. Of course when in Kiunga we talk on the radio to friends in Sydney, and occasional have a Skype conversation with some of you, so that’s nice. We don’t have any mobile reception here either, and the satellite phone here is blocked to outgoing calls!
The weather for the past few days has been quite dry, but also cloudy so it has not been too hot. Today is very bright and sunny, so could end up very warm. At least we don’t have to spend 4 hours in a small banana boat today, and get fried!! We are only working in the village next door, about 5 minutes walk from camp. It will probably rain again soon, and then the mud will come back. After rain, it gets more humid and sweaty.
We have put in a request for some large prawns to be caught tonight. The very large prawns live in the floating grass in the lakes and river. They will be delivered by a one legged man in a dugout canoe in the morning at the camp waterfront.
The big Chinook chopper is interesting to watch lifting heavy equipment and full shipping containers. There are only 7 of these in commercial operation around the globe and three of those are working in PNG.
The rig starts drilling today for about 30 days and the camp staff have high expectations for gas and hopefully oil. This is the third well in the area, a dry well was sunk in the 1950s, another in the 1990s that produced a water and some gas and, they think they will be lucky this time due the improved seismic data.
Allan and Josette
(Kiunga is a port town on the Fly River in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, just upstream from the D’Albertis Junction with the Ok Tedi River. It is the southernmost terminus of the Kiunga-Tabubil Highway. Local industry rests on a cornerstone of freight and haulage, particularly from the Ok Tedi Mine and provisioning for the much larger town of Tabubil. Rubber has been an emerging industry more recently, with a processing/manufacturing plant being built in town) – Wikipedia.
The History of Masers
By Cyril Vahtrick
Since I was responsible for the original installation of the first Ceduna Earth Station, I was very interested to read your information about the astronomical research being conducted at that facility. As you noted, the location of the original Earth Station at Ceduna was dictated by the need to access one of the Intelsat satellites located over the Indian Ocean in a position which provided coverage to the most westerly location at the UK Earth Station at Goonhilly Downs. This meant that the terrestrial distance covered by the satellite link was very close to the maximum for one satellite link. As I recall it, the original Indian Ocean Satellite was located at 62.5 degrees East longitude. To span this distance, each of the antenna angles was not too far from the 5 degree elevation angle recommended as the operational minimum by Intelsat.
Since most of the telecommunications traffic handled by Ceduna was relayed on to the Eastern States by Telecom at our cost, OTC sought to locate the principal overseas traffic stream at as far east as practicable to minimize the Telecom landline costs to the Eastern States. Eventually, significant reduction in the internal landline costs in Australia led to the re-location of satellite earth stations to Western Australia. This eventually led to Ceduna becoming redundant.
Apart from that little bit of history, the main point of my writing is to talk about Masers.
Back in the late 1950’s, proponents of the “Big Bang” theory of the origin of the universe postulated that some of the residual energy from the original radiations should have come down to microwave frequencies. As a result, radio astronomers set out to see if they could detect any such radiations.
An immediate problem was that the expected energy from these radiations as received on earth would be infinitesimal. Then a fortuitous situation arose. The successful launch of Sputnik in 1959, quickly produced a flood of experiments on the use of satellites to relay communications across oceans. The microwave frequencies then envisaged as being the best vehicle led to a common interest with the astronomers.
When the communications entities in USA and Europe decided to spend significant money in developing high gain microwave antennas, they joined forces with the astronomers in the search of a super sensitive receiver amplifier to detect the very low level satellite signals which were originally expected.
The AT&T Company in USA built a gigantic horn antenna with a 30 metre aperture in the remote outback of the North Eastern State of Maine. To minimize man-made electrical noise, this was located far from any residential or industrial activity.
The UK Post Office built a 30 metre aperture traditional parabolic antenna at Goonhilly Downs in Cornwall. France and Germany also built antennas.
The USA launched the Telstar satellites which were the first successful experimental satellites to provide communications across the Atlantic. Other experimental satellites followed in other areas.
There was an interesting device which was the principal ingredient in all the original earth stations. It was quickly recognized that the minute microwave signals being received would prove difficult to distinguish above the electronic noise generated just by electrons in molecules vibrating at ambient temperatures. To deal with this issue, the astronomers had come up with a device which operated at the temperature of liquid hydrogen (-266 degrees C), very close to absolute zero (-273 degrees C). This reduced the equipment electronic noise to a very small minimum.
The device which the astronomers had come up with used quantum theory to arrange the dislodgement of electrons from one orbit in a ruby crystal to an outer orbit, thus generating a release of radiation energy at a particular microwave frequency. The device was called by the acronym MASER – Microwave Amplification by the Stimulation of Emitted Radiation.
Masers were used, (with synthetic rubies) on all the original experimental satellite earth stations in USA, UK, France and Germany.
While liquid hydrogen could be readily produced, its use in cooling the Masers was far from practical, so by the time the first operational global communications satellite earth stations were commissioned (Carnarvon was one of these), an alternative low noise receiver had been developed. Carnarvon used a parametric amplifier which had to be cooled by liquid nitrogen which, at -196 degrees Celsius, was continuously produced by a cryogenic system. This was a new technology which OTC technicians had to come to terms with.
As satellite technology developed, with such things as high power spot beams, the requirement of ultimate performance from earth station receivers was gradually reduced so that, these days, international television relays can be achieved by relatively simple transportable systems.
I have an interesting final word on masers. In 1961 there was a top level British Commonwealth Telecommunications conference in Kuala Lumpur to put the final stamp on the SEACOM cable project. Some 150 delegates from Commonwealth countries attended and the conference lasted a couple of weeks.
The Institution of Engineers in Kuala Lumpur invited an eminent research scientist from the British Post Office to address them on technological developments in telecommunications. He talked about the future development of satellite communications and, during question time, he was asked what he thought about Lasers, which researchers had developed for amplification of light frequencies. His response was that “Lasers were a solution in search of a problem!” How true!
(Many thanks for this Cyril. Does anyone have anything to add?)
Dodgy Telco Practices – The Vendor
(This is a collection of stories from more than a dozen telco personnel based in every region of the world over the past 20 years. This story is one of Bob E’s from his days in Malaysia. These stories will fall into 3 groups – Telco Fraud, Dodgy Practices and Downright Deception).
By Bob Emanuel
Vendors can indulge in some very dodgy practices. Least Quality Software is a case in point – all telco vendors stress how excellent are their quality controls in writing software for their telephone exchanges – however, those in Telephony Operations and Engineering groups in the early 1990’s know well the value of such assertions.
So I was well armed when I headed off to help set up Time Telekom Sdn Bhd in Malaysia, the Optus of that country, as Switching Operations Manager. The main telephone switch was the NEAX 61ev, manufactured by the Japanese company NEC and provided by its local vendor Pernec.
These were solid, dependable local and trunk (STD) switches housed in two airtight and well air-conditioned shipping containers. Their switching database was a joy to populate and manipulate and their Man-Machine Interface (MMI) was excellent.
Good stuff, said I in the Pernec lab as we tested our database in lab conditions as the real network was being rolled out around Malaysia. Pernec’s engineers were all well trained, reliable and customer friendly.
Customer connections were connected to Remote Line Units, (RLU’s), scattered around the country connected back to the main switch centres in the capital cities of each state. The local loop was a minus 48 volt DC loop; there was little ISDN in the country at the time.
NEC had repeatedly assured Time Telekom that these switches had been deployed in South America and were reliable.
Come the great day and our first customers go live – we had more calls coming into our switches from misdialled numbers from other networks than we did for legitimate numbers – but the network proved reliable.
Our first monsoon season struck some months later and all hell broke loose!
Lightning strikes within a kilometre of one of the RLU’s would send that RLU into lah-lah land and it would have to be manually reset. The vendor blamed our earthing systems, but we had a couple of strong local loop engineers from the UK and the USA who swore black and blue that the earthing systems were bullet proof – and most were.
We ended up forming flying squads on their little motor scooters who were despatched to RLU sites prior to a storm hitting to do the manual resets whilst also forming a group together of our best techs and engineers to examine all earthing systems – and we found that unauthorised connections had been made to our earthing systems by building managers who knew a good earth when they saw one – that led to earth current loops and all manner of problems. The building manager issue alone took us a year to sort out properly.
There was a suspected element of sabotage, too, when a week after we had made an RLU site bulletproof, it would revert to its former, faulty, configuration – physical wires were reconfigured.
Having finally made all RLU earthing systems bulletproof, which also meant making all of the main building earths bullet proof wherever we had an RLU site – that cost us a pretty penny, too – we were still having problems with lightning strikes shooting our RLU’s into lah-lah land.
The telecommunications equipment life cycle is long and complex, or is supposed to be. After the initial market research, the design and prototyping in vendor labs, comes the customer rollout phase, in four parts –
- customer testing in the labs,
- an alpha trial where a few customers are connected to the new equipment in a very controlled manner and closely monitored,
- the beta trial where many customers are connected but still in a very controlled and closely monitored manner and
- the full release as an operational model with only Operations and Maintenance monitoring.
Pernec could not resolve the problem. They were as perplexed as we were in Time. Then it struck me – our NEAX61ev switches were an alpha trial model, and the rest of the company agreed!
The internet was new then, but take-up in Malaysia and the product offering was far more advanced than in Australia. I researched what I could and found that whereas the NEAX61 switch had been deployed successfully around the world, the NEAX61ev switch had only ever been deployed in Malaysia, in our company.
I approached the Pernec MD, with the full support of my CEO/COO, and suggested to him that we send a letter to him thanking him for all the work that Pernec had done for us in resolving this matter, but that it seemed to me Time Telekom was the alpha trial site for these switches, and that perhaps he could suggest that NEC should send some of their engineers down to Malaysia to fix it. He sent that letter off to NEC in Tokyo.
Ten days later, their Senior Vice- President of Switching Products is bowing and formally apologising to me and my colleagues in a very formal meeting at Pernec HQ. He admitted that Time Telekom was the alpha trial site and apologised profusely – it was done because of the timelines imposed by Time.
The Pernec MD and I found it difficult to control our laughter, but we did, thanked him for his apology, wished he and his team well in resolving the issues and broke up into helpless laughter in his office afterwards.
NEC had ten of their Japanese design engineers and ten of the Pernec engineers as their understudies go around the country, fixing each and every fault, turning Time Telekom into a full release network in a matter of weeks.
Had they been upfront in the first place, I don’t think I would have been involved in one of the funniest incidents in my professional life. Proof that dodgy practices don’t pay!
Ian Kenneth Reed – 17.6.1943 – 21.4.2011
From Robert Hall
Ian commenced with O.T.C. (A) on the 12.1.1959 as a Traffic Assistant Grade 1. In the M.O.R. then located at 167 Queen Street Melbourne. Ian’s commencing salary at that time was 360 pounds per annum and his education standard on leaving school was the Technical School Intermediate Certificate. Ian was living in East Ringwood and would have travelled by train to Flinders Street Station. Late in 1960 O.T.C. moved to 382 Lonsdale Street where Ian progressed through the ranks to I.T.O./S.I.T.O. then transferred to the Commercial/Marketing Branch in Melbourne.
Whilst in OTC’s Commercial branch Ian had the opportunity to advance his career and early in the 1970’s Ian & Janet & family moved to O.T.C. Sydney for 2 to 3 years (a big step in those days), then came back to Melbourne as a Senior Commercial officer.
During the following years Ian’s long experience and knowledge of International Telecommunications, saw him travel extensively Interstate & overseas on business trips and acquire a business degree at University.
Ian’s remaining years in OTC, were as a senior sales executive in OTC Sales & Marketing in charge of key OTC corporate accounts. Along with other work colleagues Ian was transferred to Telstra International Sales until he retired in early 2000’s
Back in the early 1960’s Ian met and married Janet who worked with my wife Judith and myself in OTC Melbourne accounts branch on the 4th floor. We attended each other’s weddings and Judith and I stayed with Ian & Janet with our families for a week at their home in Sydney in the mid 70’s.
Ian was a member of the OTVA and served for a number of years as an Honorary Auditor. In the 60/70’s Ian was active in a number of OTC sporting events organised by the OTC Sports and Social Club, and attended a several Wagga weekends.
Ian was very much admired by his work colleagues for his long experience and knowledge of the Telecommunications market. He was a smart business thinker, very aware of commercial issues and customers, even tempered and rarely rattled by the daily pressures of work life.
He treated everyone with respect, from senior managers to junior support staff with the same dignity and amiable style he was renowned for. Over the years Ian remained in contact with work colleagues from his former years in OTC right up until his retirement and was always open to sharing a beer or two at his favourite watering hole.
I am very proud to say I was a good friend and work colleague of Ian and our deepest sympathy to Janet, Andrew, Christopher & Elizabeth. He will be deeply missed by us all.