As anyone who knows me will be only too aware, I’m something of an avid (read: obsessive) collector of vintage computing equipment. Some time ago, I was given the task of helping a widow out with a loft full of gear, which included several boxes of floppy disks and a rather nifty Dragon 64 in third-party dual-floppy housing which had belonged to her late husband. Since then, I’ve been gradually sorting through the collection to see what should be preserved for posterity and what should be recycled and came across something which should not only be preserved but shared.
First, some background: Des Critchlow, born 1940, was a man whose two passions were amateur radio and computing. Having upgraded from the Dragon 64 to an IBM Compatible, Des began keeping notes and logs on floppy disks both in service of his personal life and the radio network – RAYNET – to which he belonged. The following story is extracted from one of those disks, and something which I believe Des would have wanted to find a wider audience. The text has been corrected for typographical errors, but is otherwise duplicated intact.
Fact is often stranger than fiction.
Quite a few years ago when yours truly used an FT101EX a friend of mine, who we will call Rimmer, said can you do me a favour. He explained his son, a devout C.B.er on SSB was hoping to acquire a new rig for “DXing” with, and could I please test it out as it covered Ham bands as well as 27 MHz.
As I agreed, a date/time was suggested a few day later, and he duly arrived one evening. The rig turned out to be same as mine – an FT101EX modified to cover 27 MHz as well as all the Ham bands. After a few quick checks into a dummy load an antenna test was done. The set proved quite good and as at that time I was running a dipole on 20 metres I set out to get a report with it.
Tuning to a quite spot on 20 meters I was about to give a call, but I heard a weak and watery signal. The signal was a French maritime mobile asking for help from anyone who knew about engines or a fitter. By a stroke of luck the young man with me was a heavy goods fitter, and said he would help. We questioned the French station and gathered that his starter motor was sticking in, and so he could not get more than a few revs before horrible noises came from the engine. My young friend was most excited and insisted this was going to be dead easy. He said “tell him to shove it into second gear and rock it a bit and it should clear the problem.”
My friend could not understand why I just rolled about laughing. I said “don’t you understand you don’t tell anyone to rock a boat!!!” It took several minutes before an alternative method of clearing the problem was sent to the poor Frenchman. Which was, by the way, to belt the starter casing with a hammer. Lord knows who was listening, but they would have creased themselves if that message had been sent.