Overseas Telecommunications Veterans Association
NEWSLETTER – March 2011
Registered Address: 805/41 Meredith Street BANKSTOWN, 2200
ISSN 1322-1906 March 2011. Volume 12 Page 23
MRSC – The Message Relay Switching Centre at Paddington. 25
The Univac 418 Control Panel 26
FROM OUR PRESIDENT
Fellow Members of the OTVA,
Our next social event is fast approaching and I look forward to catching up with many of you. It will be held on Friday 25 March 2011 at 12 noon on the podium of the Level 1 Bistro of the NSW Bowlers’ Club located at 99 York Street, Sydney. The cost will be approximately $20 payable to the cashier. RSVP by Friday 18 March 2011 to firstname.lastname@example.org or call or SMS me on 0411 260 542
Your Web Master, Chris Bull, is still seeking your support in identifying ways in which to improve the quality of the services offered to members via the OTVA web site (http://www.otva.com). Please offer suggestions via an email to email@example.com and I will relay them to Chris for his consideration and feedback. If you have not already done so check out the BLOG site where there are a few interesting stories from our members. You can access the BLOG site via the Home page of the OTVA web site.
Your Newsletter Editor also seeks input from our membership on newsworthy articles that can be uploaded to the OTVA web site as well as for inclusion in the Newsletters. Don’t forget that there is a $50 award for the best article submitted for inclusion in each Newsletter.
Unfortunately Bernie White has advised that due to health considerations he will be unable to continue in the position of Treasurer within the OTVA Committee and, as such, the Executive of the OTVA will be seeking nominations from the OTVA membership for the position of Treasurer before the next AGM scheduled for Friday 17 June at the Bowlers’ Club commencing at 11 am. Full details will appear in the May issue of the Newsletter.
We, the membership of the OTVA Committee, recognise the significant contribution that Bernie White has provided to the membership of the OTVA and thank him for his dedication, expertise and hard work during his time as Treasurer. We wish Bernie and Evelyn well for their future.
Unfortunately we lost a few more of our fraternity since the last Newsletter. 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.
Have you checked out our website of late?
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’d like to sit down over a cuppa or an ale with your editor and tell stories – please call him on 0412 062 236
MRSC – The Message Relay Switching Centre at Paddington.
by Allan Mason
For those reading, that may have worked on the 4th floor at Paddington International Gateway; what was the boot address for the Univac 418-II Computer? The other night I woke up with the octal number in my head (see below for the answer). What a great technology opportunity it was to be part of the MRSC technical staff, initially as a trainee technician in late 1968, and up to 1980!
With a strong hobby interest in electronics and radio, in 1967 I was successful in gaining an OTC Technician-In-Training (TIT) position at the DCA Waverton Technical Training School. As a telecommunications career foundation, I have never looked back or been very far from international telecommunications; new job opportunities in computers and telecommunications have just found me. My interest in joining OTC over the PMG was the possibility of travel, it is ironic however, that the only locations that I worked were Paddington, Broadway and Martin Place in Sydney.
In 1980 the travel bug was biting and I left to join Computer Sciences of Australia (now CSC), followed by DEC (Digital), Compaq Computers and then AMP Financial Services. The OTC and DCA skills and knowledge have been put to good use over the years while performing various telecommunications engineering, consulting and management roles within the South Pacific and Asia for the above multi-national companies.
Now back to MRSC: There were two Univac Fastrand-II Mass Storage Drum units at Paddington. These were monster electromechanical devices to provide software and data storage (international telegram messages). These were the equivalent of the hard disk on your current day PC or laptop. The Fastrand Drum was certainly the most sensitive, difficult and challenging peripheral on the floor to align and repair. It was designed in the days of germanium transistor electronics was transitioning to silicon. Some basic specifications for those that may be interested; two highly polished drums each about 6ft long and 2ft diameter, counter-rotating at 880 rpm. Between the two drums was a boom with 64 flying read/write heads. The boom was moved between the 128 tracks with a large voice coil (just like a speaker voice coil), an analogue to digital servo loop and Gray Code positioning encoder. The heads were lowered and held in their flying position by compressed air. Apart from some unusual electronic faults with the track positioning and the voice coil drive, the Fastrand was very reliable until one of the flying heads crashed onto the chromed drum surface and “Hit Detector” would release the compressed air to minimise damage to the drum’s surface. Head hit events generally resulted in long outage times while the techs rolled up shirt sleeves to replace the damaged head, polish and clean the drum surface; the unit was then sealed up and left to purge while the paper filters removed air dust particles from the unit until it was time to attempt to fly the heads and run the diagnostic test routines. Worst case, this would take a several days of rotating shifts to restore the unit back to normal operation, while hoping that the other remaining Fastrand drum would not develop a fault for a total MRSC outage. The storage capacity of the Fastrand II Mass Storage Drum being large by the day, being only about 90Mb, quite small in today’s terms. Exhibit K1440 in the Power House Museum archive is the dual drum and boom assembly from a Fastrand II.
The boot address for the Univac 418-II was octal 007763 or binary 000 000 111 111 110 011 (after 30+ years, I can still feel my fingers dancing across the neon front panel buttons). The real time operating system fitted into first 4K words of memory. From memory, the two Paddington 418 II computers were expanded to 48K words of memory. The accompanying photo is a 4K by 18 bit core memory stack from the Univac 418-II computer.
At some other time, I will put fingers to the keyboard, to relate some experiences of the voluntary Pacific medical aid trips that I have been doing with my wife, Josette, since 2001. For those that operate HF radios as a hobby, I will be active on CW (Morse Code) and SSB as P29CW from February to September 2011 while working along the Fly River with Australian Doctors International.
(It comes as no surprise to your editor that Alan does his voluntary medical aid trips. I worked with Alan in the MRSC in 1974 and 1975 and found him to be a wonderful bloke. It was an eclectic crew – Allan, Dave Wickens, Trevor Weichardt, Greg Hammond, Peter Rexstraw, Gary Cairns, Peter Osbourne, Jake Koicuba and others I have forgotten, all led by Keith McCredden, with Tony Lowther and Brian Brennan doing the programming.
The Univac 418C Control Panel
By Bob Emanuel
The Univac 418 Control Panel consisted of rows and rows of neon lamp pushbuttons, each of which was a single bit in a 15 bit register, and lamps would flash every time the bit was set to a binary 1.
There was a recognisable cadence to the lamps flashing.
I was in the Control Room with Keith one morning and saw that cadence change and told him that we were about to crash. He was, quite rightly, sceptical but within seconds later that’s what happened. The Offline took over and we did a 7763 restart referred to by Allan, on the crashed machine.
There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that, just after Thursday Night shopping was introduced, staff on the MRSC evening shift could be seen to be letting balloons filled with hydrogen and with a lit fuse attached waft over Oxford Street and BANG! everyone on Oxford Street would look around to see what had happened. The hydrogen wasn’t made by ripping up Alfoil into little pieces, not placing them into a milk bottle and not pouring in some sodium hydroxide, not supplied by Ron, the plant engineer.
It had the locals puzzled for a few weeks, though!
New Treasurer Required
After many years of valued service, Bernie White is retiring from the position of Treasurer. We owe a lot to Bernie’s tenacity in keeping our finances afloat.
Would you like to be the next OTVA Treasurer?
The duties are as follows:-
- 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.
- Newsletter Mailout – Pay for printing of Newsletter. Assist Allan Hennessey with enveloping. Place receipts in envelopes. Tick off members on the Distribution List to ensure that they are financial and that they get a copy.
- Mark envelopes of non-financial members with a red marker pen. Take envelopes to the Post Office for bulk postage. Make up postage sheet and pay the postage.
- Banking – Our banking is presently done at the Bankstown Town Credit Union. We have two accounts – an interest paying Money Max account and our Money Manager working account.
- Direct Deposits – Some members send in their subscriptions via the bank-direct-deposit system. The payments show up in our monthly bank statements and the members paying that way must be sent a receipt.
- Internet Banking – is used to check for direct deposits, too.
- Investments – We have two deposits with the NAB, one maturing on the 28th of August and the other maturing on the 3rd of September.
If you would like to have a go at being OTVA’s Honorary Treasurer please contact President Peter Bull.
OVERSEAS TELECOMMUNICATIONS VETERANS WA
36th AGM – 23.11.2010
President Des Kinnersley opened the meeting at 13:03 p.m.
1. President Des welcomed WA Veterans Kevan Bourke, Ron Cocker, Jim Congdon, Keith Darwin, Tom McKnight, Jim Keenan, Leif Akslen, Bernd Wendpaap, Ian Briggs, Ted Wraight, Paul Crock, Joe Edgecombe, Don Charles, Bob Smallwood, Bill Kay, Kommer Springvloed, and Jack Olson.
2. Apologies for absence had been received from Derek Walker, Reg Jones, Kevin Hills, Barry O’Keefe, Bill Dunn, Ray Parkinson, Rod Pernich, Mark Roberts, Peter Forrester, Mike Cadd, Neil Smith and Les Bateman.
3. One minute’s silence was held for the following Veterans who passed away in the period since the last AGM – Fred James, RAF Taylor, Jim Rodda, Gordon Cupit, Kevin Huby, Charlie Shaw, Jim Anderson, Michael Saberton, Ron Fisher and Tom Swarbrick.
4. The Minutes of the 35th AGM were approved and signed as a true and correct record.
5. Correspondence: An email from ex Radio Officer, Graham Haverson, was read regarding the old OTC houses in Geraldton ( VIN ) and giving Graham’s regards to all Radio Officers.
6. Election of Office Bearers: President Des Kinnersley, Sec/Treasurer Kevan Bourke and committee members Jim Congdon, Kevin Hills and Reg Jones were re-elected unopposed.
7. Other business:
a. Discussion was held on possible venues and times for the next meeting if it is unable to be held at Gnangara. The general opinion was that things stay as they are for the time being but that those interested can adjourn to the Marmion Angling Club in the afternoon after the meeting. There are sufficient members of the OTVA who are also members of the Marmion Angling Club to sign in any non members.
a. Bernd Wendpaap asked if there are any ham radio operators in the OTVA that he can communicate with. Bernd now lives in Thailand.
8. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday the 22nd of November, 2011.
The meeting closed at 13:18 p.m.
Wyn Jones – 19th January 2011
From Trevor Thatcher – I was shocked and saddened to learn today that (Wife of the late Harold Jones – “Jonesie” of CRS) passed away yesterday, 19th January. This advice came from Laurel Liddemore (nee Jones), daughter of Wyn and Harold. This information may already be in the hands of the Vets, but I thought I would pass it on just in case it had not already been advised.
Walter (“Blue”) Easterling – 10th December 2010
Walter (Blue) Easterling died on Saturday 11 December at his home on the Gold Coast. Blue was a well known radio operator and had previously worked for AWA. He was my second cousin. I gather no details yet re funeral – when I know more I’ll pass them on. – David Neyle
This tribute from Deane Laws – Pre WW2 Blue (Walter actually) was employed as a bank teller in (I think) the Bank of NSW. He joined the air force and undertook radio training and served in Northern Australia. After the war he went back to the bank but decided he wanted to get into radio so studied and obtained his 1st class certificate and joined the Coastal Radio Service. He served at Sydneyradio, Thursday Island and Port Moresby then back to Sydney where he served the rest of his time, retiring around 1980 and moved to Burleigh Waters with his wife Eve. Eve died not long after they arrived.
In recent years Blue had been in poor health and about a week ago his next door neighbour realised that Blue had not cleared his mailbox and had not been seen so he entered the house and found Blue comatose on his bedroom floor. Called an ambulance and Blue was taken to John Flynn Hospital at Tugun. I visited him last Wednesday and found him very frail, both mentally and physically. Yesterday (Friday 10th Dec) he suffered a heart attack and died. His only close relative is a sister living in the Wollongong area. Blue was 87.
This tribute from Ted Bastow – Well, any of the older CRS members who are still with us will remember “Blue” arriving at VIS to go on watch on his old ex-army BSA motorbike with a RAAF kitbag hanging off his back. “Blue” was always humming some tune or other while he was on watch, and the tune was not always quite recognisable but was quite loud. On one watch he was humming away and if my memory serves me right it was Ray Johnson who said to him, “do you know the words to that song??”. “Blue” drew himself right up and with a look of scorn replied “There’s no words to Beethoven”.. One day I happened to mention to “Blue” that some of his workmates thought he was eccentric. “Blue”, in all sincerity replied to me “No Ted, I don’t think I’m eccentric”… He was a great bloke to work with and I’m sure that there’s a watch keepers spot for him where he is now.
From David Neyle – In December 1977 Blue passed an advertisement from a newspaper onto my grandfather (Blue’s uncle). The advertisement was calling for applications from young people wanting to become trainee telecommunications technical officers and he thought that it might suit a young bloke like me who had just finished his HSC. Pa passed that advertisement on, and it was a ‘sliding door’ moment in my life that I’ve never regretted. I think it was about the last year on my traineeship that I was posted out at La Perouse, and I was working in the technical maintenance room, when a larger-than-life bloke wandered in to talk to Brendan Quirk. I politely interrupted and said, “Excuse me, but if you are Walter Easterling, then we’re related”. Brendan broke up in hysterical laughter and keep calling him “Uncle Walter” for the rest of my time at La Perouse station. That was actually the last time I ever sighted Blue, although I was kept in touch with his movements by other members of the family. His sister, Diane Fleming, lived for quite some time in Moree through the 70s and 80s (her husband Doug owned the local Toyota dealership and a cotton farm) and she was perhaps known to OTC folks at the time without realising the connection back to Blue and OTC.
This tribute from Brian Woods – Blue was a character alright, but a good bloke. I worked with him, La Perouse, VIS, 1950. Those days, he had a tendency to become involved in Station duties outside those that were normal and expected. No big deal, but he had one wondering what on earth he was up to on occasions. At one stage, he decided he would like to join the Police Radio Branch, but failed the medical. Underweight the Police Dr. said! (Oh for those days when we were all underweight!). He then embarked on a weight gain programme, eating like a horse, but as I recall it didn’t get very far. He also had bouts of sleepless days when on night duty then unable stay awake days when on day duty and as a consequence took tablets to make him sleep on the one hand and then to stay awake on the other. He transferred to Thursday Island either late 1950 or early 1951. Didn’t see a lot of him after that, but did run into him every so often. He spent time Darwin and Port Moresby and other postings no doubt. He was also an Amateur, VK4BBL. Blue suffered a few sad events in his lifetime….The unexpected loss of his 3yo daughter following a tonsil operation then the loss of his wife, Eve, shortly after he retired and had moved to Burleigh Waters…Would have been about the mid 1980’s I think…He has a sister, but don’t know of any other relations. Think I’m correct in that he was an ex-airforce bloke, but coming to OTC from the Bank of NSW.
Michael SABERTON 24.12.1959 – 29.10.2010
From John Moore – Mike’s wife Jenny contacted me on Saturday to advise that Mike passed away peacefully on Friday. Mike had been battling Liver cancer and other health issues for some time and had received a liver transplant in August, which unfortunately was not successful. Mike leaves behind his wife Jenny, his young son Ryan aged 8, and an older daughter Ashley in her 20’s. For those who would like to attend his funeral service at 1:00pm on Wednesday I have attached the details from the SMH notices below. Mike joined Ericsson in 1999 and worked with myself on the 3 network build in 2002 and then as part of our Core Ops team from 2003 until 2009. Prior to his time in Ericsson he worked with OTC for many years (from 1977) and then transitioned to Telstra MobileNet when the two companies merged in the 90’s. He was aged 50.
From Brian Collath – Mike Saberton worked with me at Broadway AXE during the early 90’s when I was PTO there under John Vossen, and you (Bob), I think, at Paddo, just before the Alcatel venture. He then moved to Ericsson later on, and he called me and I sponsored his employment with Ericsson again after some medical problem he had that made him leave them. I had not heard much from him since that time but always very much respected his expertise in telephony, and especially his brains with Ericsson products, a real software guru. His latter expertise was on Mobiles. It is sad to hear of his passing this way, and with a young family such tragic news.
Jim Anderson – 24th October 2010
From Trevor Thatcher – I have just been advised by Des Woods of Kingscliff that our dear mate, Jim Anderson passed away this afternoon (Sunday 24th October). As advised earlier, Jim had been hospitalised for some weeks, but sad to say, he lost the battle. No doubt, funeral arrangements will follow. This information was given to Des Woods this afternoon, by telephone from Jim’s son, James. Sad news for us all.
From Bob Emanuel – I well remember Jimmy Ando as a CHOP – Chief Operator in the INTLX section at BWY when Telex was king. He was nature’s gentleman, never demanding, always giving and managing a difficult shift of Telex Operators. A very funny guy who missed very little. He will be missed.
I know you have them!
If you would like to contribute to the Vale section, feel free to send you tribute or stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you please send any contributions with NO formatting, please, in a Word Document left justified. I spend more time transcribing formatted documents rather than just doing a cut & paste because of differences in formatting.
Your stories, please folks!