Updates and news for the website or RIG
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2017 NOAA Conference announced
Dave Cawley reports:
A New Era for NOAA Environmental Satellites :
2017 NOAA Satellite Conference : July 17-20 2017
Timestep stop selling professional HRPT systems
Dave Cawley reports:
Timestep have now stopped selling their
professional HRPT system using the Quorum Receiver
this is truly the end of an era as Timestep was a protégé of RIG
right from the very beginning. Timestep are truly grateful for
all the help RIG and it's members gave them.
20/04/2015 updated 18/11/2015
2015 NOAA Conference summary report
Dave Cawley reports:
to see the summary of the 2015 NOAA Conference. I represented RIG and PIU's (Private
Individual Users). Steve Padar was there to help me. We
look forward to the 2017 conference !
2013 NOAA Conference summary report
here to see the summary of the 2013 NOAA Conference, the RIG
presentation is on page 7
RIG Shop permanently closed
Dave Cawley reports:
It is with great regret that I report that
the RIG shop closed today. RIG always concentrated on direct
reception from the weather satellites and the very last APT series
were due to finish in 2012, but are still just about working.
Coupled with the inability of NOAA and Eumetsat to provide an easily
receivable series of satellites, we have decided not to continue to
supply APT equipment.
Men in a shed hobbies have diminished as
the modern family is more family oriented. Almost all of the
big radio rallies have closed, Dayton in the USA survives and
once had 35,000 people attending, but now has about 1/3rd of that.
UK rallies have faired significantly worse.
I remember at an Elvestone Castle rally; in it's
peak in the 1990's, it attracted 12,000 people, where rig took
over £4,000 on one day for weather satellites kits and parts, we ruled the
world as did NOAA APT !
NOAA and Rig, the golden years
Dave Cawley reports:
Click here to see a long running list of what RIG and
Dave Cawley is/was up to!
21/04/13 and 10/02/2014
NOAA 2013 Satellite Conference
Dave Cawley reports:
Henry Neale and Dave Cawley of RIG
were awarded a certificate of appreciation for 29 years of service
to the Direct Reception weather satellite community. RIG's
presentation can be seen by
(this is very big file). Steve Padar (below left) drove
us everywhere, thanks Steve !
Click here to see the
presentation from NOAA to Dave Cawley, Henry's is identical but with
his name on it !
After our presentation, we were inundated with NOAA and other people
who wanted to congratulate RIG on their efforts. Some said
they were inspired by RIG. Others said what a great
international job we had done. We were all humbled beyond
belief. Click here to see RIG's input
over the years.
NOAA 2013 Satellite Conference
Dave Cawley reports:
Probably for the last time RIG will attend the
NOAA Satellite Conference for Direct Readout : April 8-12, 2013.
We have a 20 minute presentation on the Tuesday at 2:55 session
click here to see the agenda.
Henry Neal and Dave Cawley will be representing RIG. If anyone has
an questions to ask, just let us know.
Wayne Winston NOAA R.I.P.
Dave Cawley reports:
The following has been resourced and complied
from the web:
Wayne Winston passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 at home of acute
leukaemia after a courageous year-long battle with myelofibrosis.
Wayne was born on March 17, 1943 in Chicago Illinois in the Rogers
park area, the only child of Glenn and Elsie (Skozko) Winston. He
attended Stewart and Stone
elementary schools, and graduated from Senn High School. Wayne went
to the Pennsylvania State University ( PSU ) gaining a degree in
Meteorology. Wayne is survived by his wife Lee Winston-Wright of
Monticello and his step-mother Adelaide Gredys Winston of San
Wayne worked as a meteorologist in the U. S. Navy, commercial
television in Iowa, Bechtel Corporation in Alaska, Central Weather
Service and NOAA.
Before retiring to Monticello, Wayne worked for NOAA (NESDIS) in the
Washington, DC area from 1981 until his retirement in 2003. He was a
meteorologist on "A.M. Weather" broadcasting from Owings Mills, Md.
from March 1986 to February 1995. When the program ended, he
remained with NOAA managing their satellite information branch for
the environmental satellite program .
Wayne's hobbies included photography, international travel,
politics, investing in the stock market and was known as the go-to
guy for any computer questions.
Dave Cawley reports: Wayne will be remembered by many RIG members
and was the co-author of a number of books published by NOAA, some
of which may be on your own bookshelf. Wayne was always ready to
answer searching questions from amateurs and Private Individual
Users and actively participated on the forums. In 2000 I was the
Moderator for the Dayton Hamfest Weather Satellite Forum. With my
tongue in cheek I asked Wayne if he would attend, and he did! Nearly
29,000 people attended the Hamfest and although there were many other
attractions the Weather Satellite Forum was packed, there really
wasn't any standing room
John Beanland G3BVU R.I.P.
Dave Cawley reports:
I'm very sorry to report that John passed away
last year (2012). John ran Spectrum International who sold crystal filters,
antennas and weather satellite equipment. John was a
talented engineer living with his wife Dorothy in Welwyn in 1963, the time of the Beatles.
Engineers in the UK were as now, poorly paid and John found himself
part of "the brain drain". It was a time when the
Jet Age really hadn't taken off and everyone had
holidays in the UK. Foreign travel was only for the rich and
elite. Nevertheless John started to work in America.
Remember in those days there were no pop-up toasters and a Microwave
Oven was a thing of science fiction. After a while he
nonchalantly telephoned Dorothy, you had to book a transatlantic call with the
operator then. John called from a conference in New York and asked Dorothy to simply sell the house and
contents and move out for a new life in America; most women would
have fainted, but Dorothy did as she was asked. She took the
new car back to the dealer and arranged a sea passage to take 600
pounds of luggage and three children under the age of seven! A remarkable
feat for anyone, and especially for a woman in those days.
They set up home in West Acton,
Massachusetts designing and building a "forever" home that is still
the family home. John had a big workshop downstairs and
in the garage was the Cadillac that John bought new for Dorothy.
John drove a big Suburban with a rather large diesel engine, this
towed their trailer that they used for holidays and rallies.
From my memory it had all services, a microwave, air-con and things
that you would never see in the UK.
John sold Microwave Modules WXSAT gear including
the 1691MHz WEFAX fire-element antenna (anyone got a photo?)
Whilst I was visiting John DuBois in 1991 to get the HPRT design tied up, John D
took me to see John B. We had a long chat but John B dismissed
our PROscan receiver because it had an F connector! A year
later he was on the phone and the rest is history!
John and I did many Dayton Hamfests together, where in the
90s there were often a dozen plus stands selling weather satellite
equipment. We even had our own WXSAT hotel the Holiday Inn where in
the evenings we had a big room to show and tell. In those days
there were 36,000 visitors and a flea-market or car-boot-sale of
5,000 pitches. We would often meet up with Steve Padar; we had
such great times. Steve and I ran the weather satellite forums
at Dayton and we often had high ranking people from NOAA to help us.
John and Dorothy had been to almost 30 Daytons, missing only one due
to illness, but by 2001 it was all over.
"Men in a shed hobbies" were on their way out and with the rise of
the internet, weather satellites and Dayton were no more for us. John
continued to sell our systems right up to the time of his passing.
A good friend of his once said that he would love to sell a weather
satellite system on the day he died, well it was almost like that.
John was married to Dorothy for over 57 years having courted her for
over 2 years before. They have 3 children
and 3 grandchildren.
John wrote to me mid 2011, it was never meant
for publication, but now is the right time:
We've begun to slowly close Spectrum. We will
probably formally terminate at the end of 2012. That will be
40 years since we started, almost a lifetime. I purchased
Spectrum from PA0AFN, who was working in another division at
MITRE. We met via the Radio Club. Henry was a "professional
salesman"; he could sell refrigerators to Eskimos! However his
enthusiasm got him into technical trouble and he asked me to
help him solve his dilemma. This I did. It was the start of an
Henry was importing Shilling's HF SSB (build your own
transceiver) kits and also complete 2M FM Transceivers from another
company in Germany. He also had established a close association with
and was importing their crystal filters for sale to other
"builders". When the "Shilling HF board" sales began to fall
off, Henry decided to move up to VHF and tied in with Richard
Porter, of Microwave Modules fame. Porter also steered Henry
to J-Beam for an associated 2-metre antennae. At this time I
was working on a NATO Project and during a 2-week trip to
European sites, I managed to get a couple of days extension to visit
home in England. I met Porter and also Mike Wilkins (J-Beam) and
established solid relationships.
The following year, for reasons best known to him, Henry decided to
return to Holland and gave me "first refusal" of purchasing Spectrum
at very attractive terms. I accepted. By the mid 90s, Dorothy
and I had "grown" Spectrum to a solid business. For example we were
importing via air-freight, J-Beam's 2M, 70cm and 900MHz antennae at
£10K per delivery. We had to rent a storage area to hold them! When
Porter got into financial trouble at the time of the first Gulf war,
and MM went belly up, John Dubois introduced you (Timestep) to us. The rest is
RIG will read a small tribute to John at the
2013 NOAA Satellite Conference ("NSC-2013"), if anyone
wants to add anything, please let us know. (c) Dave Cawley :
This happened and the PowerPoint presentation with a tribute to John
remains in the archives of NOAA.
In the beginning
Henry Neale reports:
A long time ago, things were a considerably
different from those we have today! - No PC's no laser/bubblejet
printers, no software. We weren't back to flint axes but we did have
severe limitations in what was available and possible. I, personally
have had too many hobbies throughout my life. I started off with
amateur television. This then led to ordinary ham radio and my
involvement with contest working on the VHF/UHF bands. I also got
married which as you all know does impede any rapid progress along
life's difficult path. I built an 108 feet tower from raw materials.
It was erected, - it did help having a cousin who drives a crane!
This was up for several years and a fair bit of amateur radio work
achieved, when it was involved indirectly with a car leaving the
road outside my property and going through one of the guy ropes. It
broke one of them - (1/2" galvanised steel rope) and slipped the
second one about 9 feet along its surplus length! The broken one
twanged around the next set of guys at 90 degrees to the first set,
going over top of them! It didn't make the same elevation on the
next set but went underneath this set - finishing nearly doing a 270
degree rotation - must have been quite a sight if it had been in
daylight! After the damage the tower had to be lowered even though
it was still safe, to repair the damage. I won’t bore you with any
more of that part of the story except to say that it still hasn't
Before this all happened I had been
investigating how low down I could receive signals from the horizon
or even possibly below. To do this I had been monitoring an early
Oscar (amateur radio satellite). This transmitted on alternative
days either 144mhz or 432mhz. I was listening on the 144mhz
frequency because the receivers were more sensitive on that
frequency. The alternative day system gave me a good indication of
how good my site was. It was soon realised that I hadn't got any
mountain ranges in the way and could hear right down to the horizon
and with the demise of the 100 foot tower, elevation didn’t give me
any advantages – just increased feeder loss. When the satellite is
line of sight you are getting all there is - so who needs elevation!
The only problem was that the satellite only gave me readings from
exactly the same locations – within a little - the orbit didn't
precesses to give me any intermediate times.
The view to the North in Britain, and starting
from the right side. The overhead descending pass comes in about
030° and passes overhead goes out via the west coast of Africa. A
later intermediate descending pass comes in from a similar
direction, goes to the North of the UK and passes out in the
mid-Atlantic. Then follows a very low pass that comes in somewhere
about 040° and goes out about 320°. As the day progresses an
intermediate ascending pass comes in over say the Caspian Sea, then
passes near Moscow out to the North of Finland disappearing out at
about 330°. The last pass indicated is an overhead ascending pass
that comes in about 155° from the Sahara, Italy, UK and out about
I then discovered that the satellites were launched at the same time
as a weather satellite or something else that was paying the launch
costs. To avoid having to change the thrust from the launch rocket,
it was easier to bring the payload up to a designated figure by
adding ballast weights. It wasn't long before the amateur radio
fraternity had words in the right places offering to supply some of
the ballast in the form of equipment .
To get more accuracy in my study I started using the signals on the
137mhz band to extend my investigations. As you all know, it doesn't
take long to be hooked and if I could get the right equipment I too
could be watching instead of listening to these perpetual motion
objects. It wasn't easy - listening was easy but decoding was
different. The orbit dynamics were not too difficult for me to get
my few brain cells around - I had obtained an "O" level GCE at maths
and with the advent of VAT I had used a calculator. This all started
to come together and I got the hang of the Doppler effect and how
far it moved frequency. The decoding was the only bit I was failing
I consulted one of my knowledgeable peers and decided that there
were some ex-military/navy gear that might help. The system used a
moist paper and when a current was drawn through it - it changed
colour! The mechanics were difficult to obtain, but were available
occasionally. The drive electronics were a different story - I would
have to make my own! A system of oscillators/driver/output circuits
was cobbled together using the latest technology - ICs! The
oscillator wasn't difficult but the remainder was untrodden ground.
I used a JK flip/flop initially - the only problem was that I didn't
know that when it started it took 2 clock pulses to get going. In
that first few milliseconds the 2 outputs could be both on at the
same time! I also found out that the output transistors were also
known as the fastest fuses on 3 legs! The circuit used a
complementary pair of npn/pnp switching transistors in each leg of
the split winding motor - hence both transistors were drawing a
considerable amount of current from the PSU at the same time -
usually the pnp one gave up first and I was then repairing that
channel yet again. I eventually sorted it out by applying the output
voltages after the clock pulses had started up!
I now had a motor that, with the correct pulses and the correct
timing, would go around at the correct speed - (96 lpm in those
days) and I could then concentrate on the video amplifiers - a much
more civilised part of the world - wrong! The rotation was the wrong
way around. - the image would be a mirror image - no problem - just
reverse the connection to one of the windings - if only it was that
simple! The helix was being rotated the wrong way. It was mounted on
small leaf spring type material and was OK when rotating the
designed way. If anything got caught when going the wrong way -
disaster - the whole lot finished in a tangled mesh nearly as
quickly as the 3 legged fuses! With a very careful use of fine
sandpaper I managed to get it to work for a short time. It was then
that the system let me down again - through my own fault. The system
of moist paper changing colour when a current is drawn through it
was in fact an electrolytic action and the very fine smooth
stainless steel wire was slowly being etched away!
I eventually gave up on this system and had to resort to the
indignity of a small mirror glued to the side of the mechanics and
view the image in that! The UK wasn't very big in the first place -
about 0.75" from Lands End to John O'Groats but it was a picture!
After several more months I found out that a remote acquaintance had
a Muirhead 649 type machine that was laying idle! - Well it wasn't
for long! A good chat-up line and I had borrowed it for one of those
short periods that lasts longer than most would have tolerated! I
found a source of the moist paper at a reasonable price and bought
about 100 x 100 foot rolls - I was getting through about 15 feet a
day in those early days - it must have been about 1977. I eventually
used up most of the paper and anyway the acquaintance wanted his
machine back - after 2+ years! I was left displayless and nothing
but the sound pervading the shack for many a month!
After a while, I was elated to read in the German VHF/UHF magazine
an article by UM3UMV Matz Vidar about a solid state framestore for
weather satellite images. I knew the capabilities of a framestore
because I had assisted in a demonstration (provided the monitor) of
a slow scan framestore at Aston University, Birmingham a few years
earlier. This was exactly what was needed. The components were
perhaps not too difficult to source but the PCB was a different
story. I had been in contact with Les Currington, Rev. James Brown
and Dr Gerry Kennedy and had found out that there were several more
than just us few doing this sort of activity. Phil Seaford was
another contact and he had acquired some PCBs for this project. I
soon had a set in my clammy hands and had it populated very quickly.
I didn't dare to switch it on and pleaded with Les Currington to do
the honour of getting it going for me! My construction techniques
were more akin to a blacksmith than a surgeon! However, Les worked
wonders and there it was clocking its images in and out with
remarkable regularity. All the credit really does go to Les! This
was getting serious stuff now. There were a lot of RIGleys about in
those days but RIG didn't exist! There wasn't any other answer to
it, but to form a group. Consultation with Les, Gerry and Phil were
encouraging but only Henry seemed keen to put his neck on the line!
I could produce a few 19" pictures taken early in the morning -
display them on a backdrop and have a table, with a book, where
interested hams and other members of the public could leave their
names and addresses. When a open meeting to form a group was called,
we would notify them of details. I attended several Rallies during
the following months and when the winter came and the rallies dried
up it came to a make or break time and I had to come up with
something. James had let me have an image of a very good clear day
over the UK and this was a good starting point. I had an old
photocopier but it was of the early type that didn't copy photos
very well. It produced good copy of text but images were just about
unrecognisable - it reproduced edges not blocks - so wasn't much
use. However another acquaintance had a sophisticated copier in his
works office and would copy for me just the front cover of what I
called the "Invitation". My machine would copy the other 7 sides or
so of A4, so the job could be done. Content - started with the cover
picture + "Invitation" then inside the front page (A5) to an open
meeting about whether we could form a small group of like minded
enthusiasts. Reports from different sources as to the current status
and also a list of those who had shown an interest in the
"Interested" book followed. It took a while to get this all done and
then if you have a heap of booklets, they don't do any good if they
stay in a heap! They had to be stuffed into envelopes - the cheapest
ones that I could lay my hands on! Addresses - I had been very
fortunate in meeting Des Watson in these very early days and he
typed the addresses into his system and produced them on a strip of
paper that had to be sellotaped onto the envelopes. These together
with about £30 of 2nd class stamps completed the job. Without Des
(who became our first "Membership Secretary") and several others
that I have forgotten to mention - forming RIG would have been too
much - even for Henry!
Gerry had come to the Rally at Sandown Park to support us and on the
way he had the idea to call the group - RIG - Remote Imaging Group!
Well the initial meeting was far better supported than any of us
could have expected - about 50 present and so RIG was born on the
23rd of March 1985! The first official Newsletter (with a
circulation of about 286) was posted a few weeks later.
In the early days the then current hot equipment was a frame store,
originally developed by Matz Vidar? UM3UMV. His article in the
German magazine “VHF COMUNICATIONS” was an instant success. The PCBs
for this frame store became available and many were built, and many
cursed the fact that the holes were not plated through causing you
to remove several components to restore the desired connections. If
only they had had plated through holes a lot of the disappointment
when it was powered up and didn’t work would have been avoided.
The next development was the PCSATIII from Timestep – expensive at
the time but never the less another giant leap forward. RIG needed
to get on board but hadn’t any suitable equipment to demonstrate it
at rallies, to enhance its selling potential. I had a cannibalised
IBM PC in bits but when assembled it did start to work after a
fashion. Its FAT was corrupted but that was soon rectified by Norton
Disk Doctor. It had a HDD of 20megs and was soon showing good signs.
It only had a 512kb memory and that needed to be increased to 640
before PCSATIII would work. Again that was quickly remedied and it
then worked with PCSATIII. This was shortly before the RSGB Rally at
Woburn and a small petrol generator was requisitioned to provide us
with power. On the day the system didn’t work as the degaussing
circuit on the monitor pulled the generator down too far and we were
at a standstill! However a neighbouring stand had a more powerful
generator and we swapped over for the Rally as they were not using
much power and took pity on us. I believe that we were receiving
live APT pictures then and a great deal of interest was shown in
We were then attending about 3 rallies per year and our expertise
and experience developed to quite an high level and many units of
PCSATIII were sold giving RIG a very useful income. Subsequent to
PCSATIII came a more sophisticated version called PROSATII. This had
many refinements that upgraded us to a more professional setup.
Whilst we were at another radio rally there was another stand with
wx software and Dave Cawley told us to drop the price of PROSATII to
£100 and this really did make wx receiving an increasingly
interesting hobby. About this time the Geostationary satellites were
becoming more popular with their 24 hour coverage. Dartcom were then
producing a downconvertor that could be mounted near the aerial and
fed the 137 mhz signal back to the rally stand via sometimes very
long lengths of coax. 1m dishes are not easy to stow on a small car
and Henry then scaled to 1700mhz the Quad Loop Yagi. This needed
testing but was giving us a good signal/noise system and could
easily be used for demonstrations, enhancing the sales of all of
RIG’s products and giving us an even more increased income.
RIG was invited to attend many rallies and the number increased
every year. The RIG LNA had started to be sold and my time involved
on RIG work increased considerably. At one committee meeting I asked
for help with the rallies as they were then up to about 14 per year,
but none was forthcoming and the opposite was the committees
response. Why go to the rallies – we can do all the selling via
mail! The belief in spontaneous sales was discredited and the
committee decided not to sell at rallies. This contravened all my
experiences, but I had to go along with their decision with the
exception of the already advertised rally at Longleat. The RIG work
load/farm work load and increasing domestic problems resulted at the
next AGM of Henry not being re-elected as Chairman. I continued as
committee member for several meetings but things continued to take a
path that I personally thought not to be in RIGs interest and
eventually I ceased to attend committee meeting and watched from the
The new chairman/committee continued for a few years but eventually
even the chairman didn’t attend the AGM! There were problems. At the
AGM held at South Minns, Henry was elected to chair that meeting and
was then elected as Chairman. The following committee meetings were
not – may I say constructive and often resulted in very heated
debates about entirely irrelevant items and proved to be very tense.
It was very obvious from the start, that things were afoot but the
main committee was kept in the dark. It had been advertised in a RIG
journal that the next AGM was to be held, which just happened to
coincide with arrangements that had been made by others. Our AGM
went ahead but there weren’t many attendees. A committee was formed
and a few meetings were held. During this time the committee‘s
opinion was that we should register as a limited company and Remote
Imaging Global was registered at Companies House. Our numbers were
depleted and only Dave Cawley and myself were left as really active
members. Only two of us meant that we had to retract most activities
but keep the RIG Shop active. There wasn’t any articles coming in –
so nothing to publish. We had funds and I took the decision that
Dave should attend the NOAA conferences to gather information and
also represent our members. Dave gave papers at these conferences
with a possible result of something for our members, but that hasn’t
developed to a stage where we can publicise it yet.
In the mean time several wx equipment companies including Timestep
have ceased to supply equipment – so the future is not exactly rosy.
Our position has been that in the event of any type of disasters the
local infrastructure collapses and any input from the amateur
fraternity is welcomed as they have the resources to regain some
sort of minimum to give time for the infrastructure to be restored.
This restoration may take from days to weeks or even months for
things to begin their normal functioning. APT only needed an
antennae, a simple rx and a laptop to get some semblance of the
basics systems working again. We are now left with having to resort
to dishes, LNBs, EKUs – just what someone with major difficulties on
their hands really needs! Without power an Amateur would soon have
their car charging their laptop battery and any other equipment.
Even possibly mains voltage as simple 12v to mains invertors are
economically and readily available. The adrenaline starts to flow
and wonders soon happen – especially if it is simple.
So – where is RIG now? I have had to care for my mother who had
Alzheimers and needed 24/7 care. I could escape for short periods –
while I had carers in to look after her. She didn’t quite make her
95th birthday and died in May this year. I am only just catching up
on all the jobs that were shelved, or the urgent ones when someone
tried to purloin the van, for example. They got in the drivers door,
but it wouldn’t start – so they pushed it towards the road – but the
brakes were binding on, making it very difficult to push. To escape,
without leaving any evidence behind, they burnt the van out whilst
it was near to our house! I am now trying to getting some sort of
normality back! Dave has kept the show running by looking after the
RIG shop and going to the NOAA conferences. Our hobby has changed
significantly. Shortly there will be no satellites transmitting APT,
so make hay whist the sun shines now! Meteosat is not now available
to us – only the regurgitated offerings on 10ghz. NOAA have said
that there is not the ability to include the polar satellite HRPT
signal as it was and that we will have to use another system. A lot
of these images/data can now be downloaded from the internet –
anybody can do that! It isn’t at the forefront of techniques like it
used to be. That funny noise is a picture! Things have changed –
what was cutting edge technology anybody can do.
We have to shake ourselves down and take a fresh look at things and
look for a niche that isn’t being filled/developed. There will be
some and hopefully RIG will be there to fill it. Timestep that was
one of our suppliers has now ceased all lines in wx type equipment.
He has now gone into the high end audio market – so make certain
that you keep your cheque books well hidden if you are considering
any purchases in that area! You have not heard the last of RIG but
we are looking for the right time and place before we restart. What
was once the done thing often comes around again several years
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Ed Murashie reports:
I just got back from vacation. I took my two boys, Brian 18 Nathan
17, to Washington DC to celebrate my oldest son graduating from high
school. We got to see the 4th of July from DC Mall and the many
sights DC has to offer. To get there we got a connecting flight in
Dallas and every time I fly though Dallas I can't help but think of
our weather satellite interest and Jeff Wallach, Dallas Remote
Imaging Group, who lives in Dallas and John Williams who use to but
is no longer with us and is in the middle of the attached photo. I
am to the left and TS Kelso is to the right of John in the photo.
The photo was taken along side the road at the Red Roof Inn where we
all stayed during one of the times you moderated the weather
satellite talk at Dayton. Ah what fond memories.
You sure were at the forefront of the hobby and devoted a lot of
time and energy which we all appreciated and you will be missed. It
truly is sad to see the hobby pretty much ending with GTI and now
you moving on to other interests. I wish you and Jill the best in
your future endeavors. As for me I still dabble in the hobby and am
looking forward to the launch of NPP in October and the challenges
that it will bring to try and receive it's signal. It still is not
the same though with only data appearing across the across the
screen unaccompanied with the tick tock sound of APT or WEFAX. We
sure got to see and hear our hobby in all it's grandeur! I still
manage to have a little fun. In recent years I saw my first GOES
launch, I saw the GOES rocket from top to bottom, I have talked at
recent launches and am helping to organize a talk for the NPP
launch. I even spent an hour looking over the TIROS II engineering
model at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on this last trip (see
attached photo). So I guess I am not ready to let go yet.
Well say hi to Jill and enjoy your adventure in vinyl reproductions
and we still hope to hear from you from time to time!
Timestep to close for weather satellites
Dave Cawley from Timestep reports:
It was in 1984 that Henry Neal wrote in Wireless World about his
interest in weather satellites and I naively telephoned him. Our
popular Two Metre monitor receiver was soon modified and was first
reviewed in an early RIG magazine, it was literally the size of 5
biros taped together! At the same time Peter Clapisson wrote in the
BBC Computer magazine about a program he had written to decode
weather satellites on the BBC Computer. Peter, Brenda and I visited
him in Hull. The screen resolution was so bad that it was more of a
cartoon than a picture. We launched a product based on it and sold
100's We teamed up with Griffin & George, then the oldest and
biggest schools' scientific equipment suppliers.
We made a 1691MHz dipole soldered to a BNC socket and put it in the
side of a 1.8M dish pointing at Intelsat (way off beam), and using a
Microwave Modules converter we could just receive Meteosat. Dave
Allen produced our first feed and Meteosat downconverter. We used
portable 3 foot dishes from DH Satellite.
Later Mike Treadaway wrote a program for the Nimbus PC and the
resolution was good, this sold 100's too. Dick Boardman wrote two
programs to run on the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, these were the
first low cost animation systems in the world, they didn't sell well
Dave Cutts turned up with some properly designed Frame Store PCB's
and with the help of Dave Holmes we produced the World's first
proper colour frame store, it sold very well for a long time, you
still see them on eBay!
The big breakthrough was employing Peter Arnold in July 1989. I took
him straight from Cambridge University and he stayed with us for 11
golden years. Within days Pete had images on the new IBM PS2 with
VGA graphics, this was a total revelation as for the first time we
had something almost the equal of anything in the world.
Dave Cutts designed the PROscan receiver PCB in mid 1989 and 26
years later this receiver has not had a single change. A young
engineer Nigel designed the logic for me, he went on to start his
own business and became a millionaire and bought the very last
Lamborghini Countach with the registration number (licence plate) N1
GEL. Nigel swapped the logic design for a VCXO design I did for him,
we both did well from the swap, him more than me though!
In 1990 I visited John DuBois who with the help of Ed Murashi
developed an affordable HRPT system. John generously gave me some
floppy discs that held circuits, code and PCB layouts. A few weeks
later we took an HRPT pass, it failed, we telephoned John and 90
minutes later we got our first image. The rest is history, and Pete
used the philosophy to make PDUS in 1991. NOAA said that we were
producing more HRPT systems than anyone.
The golden years were upon us, we dominated the world of weather
satellites. Whilst visiting John in 1990 he took me to see John
Beanland who was selling the UK Microwave Modules system, that
ironically was unknown in the UK, to this day I have never seen the
"electric fire" Meteosat antenna. John rejected our PROscan because
it used an F socket for the RF input, however a year later was on
the phone to buy a box full! We started to go to the Dayton Hamfest
were there were 35,000 visitors. It was at the Holiday Inn in Dayton
that I saw Steve Padar who walked past, I was in awe, however it
turned out Steve was too! Steve has been one of those rare life-long
friends (like most here) who travelled from the USA to be at my
wedding to Jill.
In 1991 my greatest hero, the inventor of the communications
satellite and author of the seminal film 2001, Arthur C Clarke
telephoned our office and invited me to Sri Lanka to visit him. Dave
Cutts and I went with a GMS system, the word on the street was a 6
foot dish was essential, we got good images with signal to spare, on
a 3 foot dish. For a couple of days we had the use of Arthur's long
wheelbase Mercedes with the university flag pole on the bonnet
(hood). Arthur changed my
life when I was 13 and this was possibly the best experience ever.
He told us that 2001 was compulsory viewing for all NASA astronauts
and Neil Armstrong had given him a piece of moon rock, Dave and I
touched it, wow...........
RIG went from strength to strength, JESUG, Weather Satellite Report,
Weather Satellite Inc, Monitoring Times and Short Wave Magazine all covered weather
satellites. At Dayton every year, there were about a dozen vendors
with something Weather Satellite related on their stand. I organised
and ran two residential conferences for RIG with 100+ attendance
from many countries of the world. We attended many Super Yacht shows
where colour coordinated Bell Jetranger helicopters were as
important as a stainless QFH!
The whole 90's were great, like Britannia, we ruled the World. Pete
came up with endless software that shocked the World, Peter & Brenda
worked all hours to make stuff and Dave designed more PCBs than you
could throw a stick at. We were on national TV often, we had a 10
year exhibition in the London Science Museum. Timestep also did a
huge amount of design and manufacturing for British Telecom Research
and the Inmarsat Corporation, there was no stopping us, or was
But then Eumetsat threatened to encrypt the data, the mere threat
almost halted sales in their track. BT started to falter and the
Internet grew stronger with on line data and images. Then the WMO
decided to change the transmissions from easily received data, to
Viterbi and Reed Solomon that was/is virtually impossible to make
cheaply. In a couple of years everything went wrong, badly wrong, it
was time to stop. Pete left but is still working for the same
company and still consults to us. In the next short decade several
abortive attempts were made and we sold a few dozen APT systems to
the world's navies. Rick and Allen from Quorum helped us with a few
professional HRPT systems. The end was in sight.
I did several lectures at the NOAA Conferences: 2000 - "WEFAX
Private Individual User Community" Silver Spring, Maryland (WEFAX/EMWIN
User's Workshop): 2004 - "The Rise and Fall of Amateur Direct
Reception of Weather Satellites" (NOAA conference in Miami): 2008 -
"Private Individual Users of Weather Satellites" (NOAA conference in
Miami : 2011 - "Real Time Access for Private Individual Users of
Weather Satellites" (NOAA conference in Miami). These went down
well. Thanks to RIG for sponsoring me and to Steve for buying nearly
all of the food and drink!
Now 27 years after it all started, it's time to start closing down.
Timestep from today will no longer sell any weather satellite
products directly to the amateur community and will only sell
professional systems until the very small stocks run out, and at an
A great big thank you to everyone featured here, and those not
mentioned too! So it's a happy ending in a sad sort of way! Thanks
guys you have been great!
( for more about what Dave did for the weather satellite community
click here )
RIG Shop Closed!