TV DXing in the UK: 1981 - 1994

Tim Anderson



INTRODUCTION

Circa 1966, I got interested in short wave radio at about the age of eleven when playing with my dad's old portable radio that covered LW, MW and SW, but with AM only. Soon got interested in the amateur bands and wanted a better radio. My first radio was the old HAC 1 valve super-heterodyne given to me at Christmas. It wasn't much good, but I soon found the ham who had built it had soldered the earth connection of the coil to antenna, and antenna to earth! Soon fixed that and I was off. Soon moved on the the National HRO with band spread coils, great fun and good for keeping the shack warm, open the lid and those 8 big valves soon got the room warm! I worked my way through various receivers over the years and then got caught up in the big 1977 craze for CB radio (we were all young and crazy once!).

In 1981 I was an HGV truck driver and had stopped for a break one day and needed something to read, there being no SWM or Practical Wireless in the shop I thought I would try Television Magazine. I was intrigued by the TV DX column written by Roger Bunney, in fact I had got the bug! I took myself off to Aerial Techniques (at the time Roger Bunney was one half of the company) and bought a Plustron TVR5D and some tunable RF preamps, then bought some antennas from a shop in Cheltenham and put them on the roof with a rotator. Then I sat back and got very bored, it was winter, hence no Es, and not much chance of tropo as I lived in a very deep valley near Stroud, Gloucestershire. But I stuck to it and when the Es season started I was hooked.

The first Es DX TV was in May 1982, with TVP1 Poland on R2. I still remember that first opening! First positively IDed F2 DX TV video was probably IRIB on channel E2 in 1987. Very first tropo was from that very narrow valley near Stroud, the valley opened out to the NW, towards Eire, RTE1 band 3 and RTE 2 on UHF. RTE was also my first colour reception. The first TEP video was probably from E3 NTA Nigeria.

Did very occasionally see band 3 TV via meteor scatter, but nothing IDed. I received TSS USSR once on R9 via Es, and had some African reception on E5, but never did pin down whether it was Tunisia or Libya. I have found an old photo of the E5 Es reception, an FuBK test card and the writing looks Arabic, but I am still trying to decipher it in Photoshop. In 1983 did have auroral reception in band 3 from NRK Norway, but the picture was too jittery (no surprise) to read the transmitter name.

Long haul Es would be E3 JTV Jordan, Suwahlih, and Amman. We did have multi-hop Es to the States, but with all the QRM from Europe, no video resolved but did hear several adverts for things in Dollars on 59.75 MHz A2 audio.

Band 2 radio FM and MW DX were never tried. However, the OIRT FM band was scanned as an early alert Es propagation indicator.

DX EQUIPMENT

Started with a Plustron TVR5D, and later added a second and added Philips G8 U800 IF selectivity modules to one to limit the IF bandwidth. Tried two of those Russian Vegas portable TVs that Aerial Techniques sold for a while. They were assembled in Russian prisons, they were cheap, but it showed. One had the scan coils glued to the neck of the CRT so that all pics and TCs had a 20 degree tilt on them and the other had about 1/4" of fold over on the bottom! So they went back pretty quickly! Kept an old Ferguson 14" system A 405 TV going until the end of that system. (That's another complete set of photos to do!). First colour set was a Redson, another great buy from Aerial Techniques. TVs varied a bit over the years, but generally it was the two Plustrons I mentioned, and a large multi-standard TV along with a Band 1,2,3 and UHF tuner Roger had built feeding IF filters and amps, also built by Roger, and up converted to ch 36 to a BW TV or the multi-standard TV. RF preamps for band 1,2 and 3 were tunable designs bought from Aerial Techniques. Band 1 and 3 notch filters bought from Television Magazine ads, but can't remember the company. I also had a great box of RF preamps that Roger had built, it included amps with gain control for all bands plus distribution amps. I did have a wonderful tunable mast head RF preamp for UHF bought from some German company, but eventually the GaAsFETs got melted in a nearby lightning strike and the company had gone out of business when I tried to get another one. TV coax was always the best I could afford, the cable with the braided shield and the copper wrap. The last multi-standard TV was the ART 21 from Loewe which I reviewed in SWM, still have the photos I did for the article.

Not long after that I moved to a flat further up the valley, higher but was only allowed very simple dipoles outside. Did very well in Es and some tropo. By this time I had added another Plustron and an old 405 lines TV. In those days before the 405/VHF service had ended we often received 405 signals as interference so I got the old set to see what could be done with it. Received a lot of tropo from around the UK and BBC1 Scotland via Es - from where I lived the Scottish TX was as far away as many German TXs. Also received the French 819 lines pics as a double picture with a little fiddling with the line hold. Got my amateur B licence about this time, G1JWR.

Moved down to Bexhill on the south coast in about 1986 and moved to Hastings in about 1987. Took my A licence and became G0GTF. The shack just filled up and up, the antennas grew and multiplied. I dabbled with all aspects of ham radio, including ATV, but the main interests were VHF and TV DX. Which could be a conflict at times, I remember, during a really good F2 opening trying to watch and photograph Australian TV video on A0 alternating with working my first VKs on 50 MHz, what a morning! When my daughter Ruth was born, it worked out better for me and the wife for her to work and me to be the house-husband - that meant more time for my hobby and the technical writing. Over the years I wrote technical articles for What Video, Short Wave Magazine and Television. In 1990, I was profiled along with Roger Bunney, Gary Smith, Keith Hamer, and Simon Hamer in a Weekend Sunday Telegraph Magazine article. I do have copies of the Weekend Telegraph magazine that I was featured in and still remember being interviewed and a photographer coming another day. What is really scary is that my daughter, Ruth, who in the photo is sitting on my lap, is now 27 and has two children of her own! Time flies.

Tim Anderson in Hastings, UK DX shack, circa 1982.

Ruth Anderson standing in the back garden, holding a 4-el low VHF DX TV Yagi.

I corresponded with Roger Bunney for quite a few years and bought quite a lot of his old TV DX gear when he had built, or bought something new. I was photographed by Eugene Trundle to be featured on the cover of Television Magazine, but never saw the finished cover as divorce got in the way! I got divorced in about 1994, left the house and didn't have anywhere to put all the gear. In all the moves since the divorce, I have lost all my TV DX logbooks! Some of the photos I have are dated on the back and I will know more when I get a Philips V2000 VCR to digitise my old tapes, a lot of the recordings are captioned and a lot of them can be dated from other family events, birthdays, etc that are on the same tapes. I am currently trying to source a functional Philips V2000 VCR as I have hours and hours of TVDX on videotape, especially F2 reception recorded on that old format. I really miss those days, the TV DX, not the marriage!

There was another DXer, a good friend, Dave Shirley who also lived in Hastings. We ran Screen Europe together, we had a monthly news letter, useful data sheets and a VHF/UHF database for PC and Amiga users. In the early days of my hobby I wrote to Ron Ham of Practical Wireless and met him once at The Chalk Pits Industrial Museum. He gave us a guided tour of their History of TV Museum. He was a great host and good guy, but I soon found his PW column too simplistic and started writing to Roger Bunney. Roger and I met up in Bexhill when he was working for TVS, they were recording Question Time in the De La Warr Pavilion and he took me round all their set-up and OB vans. No DX TV photos were exchanged. In 1990, Australian TV DXer Anthony Mann visited my Hastings home.

Attached photos include the DX shack in Hastings and some of the early aerials there. The left hand mast has two UHF Triax BB Grids, a 13 ele Triax band 3 and a 2 ele for R4, IC and R5. the right hand mast has the 70 cm, 2 M and home made WB 4 ele Band 1 beam. You can see in the second photo what the 1987 "hurricane" did to them, annoying as we had a great tropo the next evening! Over the years I added a better Band 1, other photos with daughter Ruth, several dipoles in the loft for Band 1, 49 Mhz verticals and a Scanmaster VHF/UHF vertical for the scanners, a 5/8 for 10M (amateur, not CB this time) and various dipoles for SW.

Tim Anderson's VHF/UHF DX TV array.

Home-made 4-el wideband low VHF DX TV Yagi.

Very few of us TV DXers had VHF scanners that could measure frequencies better than 5 kHz, let alone less than 1 KHz in those days, and the 1990s research that DXers like Ian Roberts did on precise video carrier measurement was still very new. Even though the Icom R7000 scanner was introduced in 1987, it was prohibitively expensive for virtually all DXers. Detailed frequency offset lists were rare and the Internet did not exist, Even the WRTH left a few things out - there was no band 1 listing in there for Iraq. I only proved my Iraq E2 reception many years later when I found a video on YouTube, taken in Iraq, that matched my photos! And I have never found out for sure what that SECAM N TX was in Vietnam, it really bugs me that we still don't know where and exactly what it was, somebody must know!

DX TV Photo Samples

My favourite DX TV photo was the TVE Spain colour electronic test card because it's pretty. I also like the old Telefunken TO5 TC from Austria because its so old-fashioned and evokes a by-gone age, a bit like steam engines - but that's another story. Another favourite recollection is seeing the very military man on TVP1 lecturing the population during the Soviet occupation of Poland in 1982.

TVE Spain electronic test card received in Hastings, UK via Es.

IRIB chE2 Iran received in Hastings, UK via F2.

46.17 MHz RTQ0 Australia video received in Hastings, UK via F2.

RTSH Albania IC video received in Hastings, UK via Es.

We TV DXers here on the south coast had the best and worst of things. There was always something to see here. French UHF TV could be seen at any time, the Netherlands could be seen most days on E4, Belgium E3 and Canal+ on band 3 was just a bloody nuisance! So what with the Hastings 1 kW TX pumping out four channels just down the road, six French channels just across the water, I sometimes wonder how we ever saw any DX during good tropo openings.

After the divorce, I stopped DX TV in 1993. No external antennas have been installed since. Since then have briefly dabbled in DTV DX. When I lived on the seafront in Bexhill a few years ago I used to prop a log-periodic antenna on a table on the balcony and watch some of the French TV. I don't think I would really have got into DTV DX, its too clinical, soulless, it doesn't have that magic of watching a blank screen and waiting for things to appear. Or doing things around the house and hearing the scanner start to warble with video carriers on IC or A0 for example. Also, no test cards! They had their own appeal and made identification easier.

LINKS

Tim Anderson's 1982 - 1993 DX TV Test Card, and Logo Photo Collection.


All intellectual property rights in the material and information on this webpage belongs to Tim Anderson, unless indicated otherwise. All text and photos copyright © 2015 Tim Anderson.

Webpage compiled by Todd Emslie, 25-4-2015.