A brief summary of my career is as follows:
1959 to 1960
Left Napier Boy's High School and started work with the NZBS (as it then was) as a technician in radio stations 2YZ/2ZC in Napier. Worked with Neville Chamberlain, Des Brittan, Keith Richardson and Shirley Anderson - amongst others. I was transferred to 2YA Wellington (38, The Terrace) a few months before the end of 1960.
1961 to 1963
First few weeks of 1961 I assisted in the installation of the first TV equipment in Waring-Taylor Street studios. In fact, John Bowers, Brian Cosnett and myself were the first technicians to arrive at the door of Waring-Taylor St. studios on the first working day of the first week of January 1961. The building was completely empty and we were instructed to be there early to meet the trucks carrying the wooden crates from the docks. I remember very clearly that the crates were marked 'Marconi, Chelmsford, England' on the side. John and I didn't have appropriate tools to prise the crates open so Brian (who was our leader) instructed us to buy a hammer, a jemmy and a nail-puller from McLean and Archibald (hardware store) in the town. While unloading the crates from the trucks, I lost my footing as I jumped on to the truck and badly grazed my left shin which then bled profusely for the rest of then day. I remember walking around with my left shoe soaked in blood. I went to Wellington Hospital in the evening and they sewed it up with some stitches. I still have the scar to this day.
After a few weeks, I was transferred to the Mt Victoria transmitter site to assist with the installation of the WNTV-1 TV transmitter. Once again, I was there when the trucks arrived from the docks and unloaded the crates. The installation was supervised by Sid Edwards from Head Office Engineering Section in Majoribanks St., Wellington. The transmitter was one half of a dual unit supplied by Marconi. The other half was sent off to be installed in Christchurch. Why the NZBS thought that they didn't need a standby unit in Wellington beats me but that's what they did. They never considered that it might break down and leave us with no back-up. That's exactly what happened and I was on duty at the time. During one evening, the vision side of the transmitter shut down and I couldn't get it to start up again. After fruitless attempts to restart it, and frantic phone calls from the studio asking how long we would be off-air, I had to tell them that there was a serious fault and that there would be no TV that evening. I told them all to go home. That didn't go down well! The NZBS chief engineer was on the phone immediately and I had to explain that we needed time to locate the fault. We stayed up all night and eventually found the fault - a transformer had developed an internal short. Fortunately, in those days, transmission from the studio didn't start until late afternoon so we had most of the the following day to find a replacement. We got back on the air the following day with a similar transformer borrowed from a amateur radio enthusiast, We operated for several days with the temporary transformer sitting on a chair outside the transmitter cabinet. This broke all the safety regulations of course! It took several days to have the original tranformer rewound. But all ended well.
Around about this time the first outside broadcast TV van arrived from the UK. It was supplied by PYE in the UK. We were all invited to have a look at the van which was parked in a shed on the wharf. The following morning after our visit the shed burnt down and the van was destroyed. I must be one of the few people in NZ who saw this van or even know about it.
1963 to 1965
In 1963 I was transferred to WNTV-1 studios to assist with the installation of a new continuity studio suite. The equipment was supplied by EMI. Once the equipment was up and running I was employed on routine maintenance.
During my time at WNTV-1 I was asked to help with problems which plagued the Wharite transmitter. Again, typical of the NZBC (as it became), everything was done on a shoestring budget. The sound and vision signals were obtained off-air from a repeater located near Masterton which, in turn, obtained its signals from WNTV-1 in Wellington. The power to the site varied a lot because it was at the end of a long line which also supplied the local farmers. Every time a farmer's wife switched on her oven or washing machine the transmitter output power dropped dramatically and sometimes automatically switched the transmitter off. In this case, somebody had to go up the mountain to switch it on again. Viewers in the Manawatu area complained bitterly about the reliability of the service and questions were asked in parliamant. Because of my transmitter experience, I was asked to visit the Wharite transmitter many times. One of the other problems was the fact that 'possoms used to climb all over the receiving aerials at night and this had a bad effect on the signal received from Masterton. Shining a torch on the aerials at night revealed a cluster of tiny eyes peering at you.
1965 to 1977
In 1965 I became bored with routine maintenance work (and going up and down mountains!) so I decided to travel to the UK to gain some overseas experience. Before my departure from NZ, I arranged employment with EMI at their factory in Hayes, Middlesex. My job at EMI was post-production testing of a whole range of broadcast equipment. I was only there for six months when I saw an advert for broadcast technicians at the BBC. I applied and was appointed as a VTR engineer at Television Centre at White City (Shepherds Bush) in London. Some of my shifts required me to work at the old Lime Grove studios. I worked for the BBC a total of three years and recorded many of the famous shows which eventually came to NZ.
During this time I got married to an English girl. We had our 50th wedding anniversary in July this year. I always wanted to return to NZ but had an ambition to travel overland by car. So in 1968 my wife and I set off in a Mk1 Cortina on our journey to NZ which took five months. We arrived in NZ in the first week of February 1969. I had a job with the NZBC waiting for me when I arrived. I worked at Head Office Engineering Section in Wellington in the TV Development Laboratory. During this time I studied for my NZ Certificate in Engineering at Wellington Polytechnic.
At some point during this period the NZBC had a visit from two EMI engineers who were on their way home ftom Australia where they were trying to sell an EMI 2001 four-tube plumbicon colour camera. The EMI 2001 was the Rolls-Royce of colour cameras and was the standard BBC studio camera. The EMI engineers did a presentation to some of the NZBC senior staff who were not particularly interested because no decision had been made on the introduction of colour TV to NZ. At the end of the presentation I understand that the Chief Engineer thanked the EMI engineers but said the NZBC wasn't in the market for colour TV cameras at that moment. A few days later the NZBC bought the camera and the associated equipment! I think EMI made the NZBC an offer it couldn't resist. Since I had colour TV experience at the BBC, I was given the job of demonstrating the camera to NZBC studio staff around the country. In addition, when it looked like the government were going to make a decision on which TV system to use, I demonstrated the camera to the prime minister and members of the NZ cabinet in Broadcasting House. Relda Hamilton did the presentation.
When I completed my NZCE studies the NZBC offered to sponsor me to study for a BE at Canterbury University. This was a great offer - particularly as I was in my early 30s. After completeing my degree I want back to HOES in Wellington. Can't remember doing very much there!
1978 to 1980
In 1978 (or thereabouts) I was transferred to the Avalon Studios and became assistant to the Planning Engineer. He was very keen to introduce Teletext to NZ and encouraged me to design a Teletext fixed-message generator which we eventually inserted on to the TV One network output. This was all done without a higher authority! Unbeknown to us, the Thorn TV factory in Auckland was producing TV sets for the Australian consumer market - Australia had already introduced Teletext at that time. The Thorn TV sets had in-built Teletext decoders. Not surprisingly they picked up our Teletext signal and made enquiries through TV One's Chief Engineer about the possible official introduction of Teletext in to NZ. Then the s**t hit the fan! The first reaction was to order me to take our generator off air. But then Thorn complained to the Chief Engineer that they had found it very useful for testing their TV sets. So I was asked to put it back on air again! Thorn very kindly loaned us one of their TV sets and I had it at home for several weeks. I can safely say I was the first person in NZ to view Teletext at home. A few weeks later the press got hold of the news that TV One were testing this new-fangled facility on air and then, unfortunately, the politicians got involved. Questions were asked in parliament! So I was asked to take it off again. That remained the status for a long time. I have added a screen shot (unfortunately in black and white) of our transmission.
1980 - 1981
In 1980 I was offered a teaching job at Wellington Polytechnic. The plan was that I would teach microprocessor technology. My Teletext generator design was based on a National Semiconductor Scamp microprocessor. I had become very interested in microprocessors at TV One and I thought this might be a way of building on my knowledge. Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way and I found myself teaching basic electronics - which was not what I was offered when I took the job. So I left and returned to the UK with my wife and family.
1981 - 1988
When I arrived in the UK I applied for a job with the Independent Broadcasting Authority. The IBA regulated the commercial radio and TV industry - both programme output and technical standards. They had a vacancy for a Senior Lecturer at their engineering training college in Devon. I remained there for six years, teaching a variety of subjects from FM local radio transmitter technology to microprocessor-based transmitter control systems.
In 1988 I was offered a job as Principal Engineer at Sony Broadcast and Professional (Europe) in Basingstoke. My specialist products were professional VTRs and I spent the 1990s travelling all over Europe, Middle East and Africa supporting all Sony VTR professional VTR formats. I travelled to the Sony factory in Japan many times and was fortunate to be closely associated with the introduction of the Digital Betacam and DVCAM.formats. I saw the first Digital Betacam machines roll off the assembly line at the factory. I was the prime specialist for those products until I retired in 2001 at the age of sixty - which was the compulsory retirement age at Sony.
Since retiremant, I have been self-employed as an independent Sony specialist - training and service but I'm now 76 and have had some health issues so I think it's time to give broadcast engineering a rest.
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