The following information should be of particular interest to the significant number of my readers who are Radio Amateurs, but it should also be interesting to a general audience with any affinity with technology - or so I hope. This is the story of a important, specialist electronic component supplier that for many years was based in a small industrial unit in Pier Road, Erith, opposite the spiral entrance to the old multi storey car park that used to be above the hideous brutalist concrete shopping centre. Thanks to local resident, regular reader and occasional contributor Miles, who brought this bit of local history to my attention some years ago. The company was called Quartslab, and it imported, manufactured and sold quartz oscillator crystals for the communications industry. A crystal oscillator is an electronic oscillator circuit that uses the mechanical resonance of a vibrating crystal of piezoelectric material to create an electrical signal with a precise frequency. This frequency is often used to keep track of time, as in quartz wristwatches, to provide a stable clock signal for digital integrated circuits, and to stabilise frequencies for radio transmitters and receivers. The most common type of piezoelectric resonator used is the quartz crystal, so oscillator circuits incorporating them became known as crystal oscillators. You can read more about crystal oscillators by clicking here. Quartslab became the largest supplier of crystal oscillators for use in electronic devices. Their story started in the 1970's. Quartslab founder Dave Court, G3SDL received a significant quantity of commercial land mobile radio equipment for conversion to the 144 MHz amateur radio band. Finding a supplier of the necessary crystals at a reasonable price proved rather difficult. This was in the pre-Internet age but nevertheless a new quartz crystal factory in Singapore with good prices and a reasonable delivery time was identified and the crystals duly arrived. During a discussion with Dave Collings, G8EOK the idea of importing crystals for commercial mobile radio equipment on popular 144 MHz channels was discussed and Quartslab's predecessor company C and C Electronics was born. This enterprise was started with £200 capital and operated from rental accommodation in South East London. C and C expanded rapidly, and moved into the supply of crystals for professional as well as hobby radio applications and imported quartz crystal from suppliers in Canada, Denmark, India and Japan as well as Singapore. In 1978 the two Dave Cs decided to form a limited company and QSL or Quartslab Marketing Limited was established. In 1979 a change of address was triggered when the two QSL directors embarked on married life. This was the period when Quartslab traded from PO Box 73, Summit House. In the early 1980s Dave Court resigned his position as Director of Quartslab Marketing Ltd, due to increasing responsibilities in his full time occupation. Thus the most successful period of Quartslab’s existence commenced with the company trading from Pier Road in Erith under the sole stewardship of Dave Collings (now G4YIB). Quartslab went from strength to strength and started to manufacture small quantities of crystals itself to meet the demand for very fast delivery times. A good friend of mine, Bob Mersh G8JNZ who unfortunately died of spinal cancer in May 2003, was very close to the two Daves, and also told me that Quartslab manufactured the transmitter crystals for a large number of London's AM and FM broadcast band pirate radio stations - something that they understandably kept quiet about. The situation carried on in much the same way for two decades and into the 21st century. At Christmas 2006, the two Daves met again; the conversation turned to crystals and the next phase of the story was decided. Dave Court (now EI3IO) had started a telecommunications consultancy, Connogue Limited as well as a number of other initiatives, following his career in radio communications and had settled in Ireland after living in Denmark during the 1990s. It was agreed that Quartslab should move to Ireland and become part of the Connogue group of companies. In 2009 some major changes took place in respect of Dave Court’s business activities, which involved a move to Bahrain. Luckily another Dave (G4AKY) agreed to take over the reins of one of the British Isles’ most successful crystal companies and QuartSLab then returned to South East England, where it started over 35 years ago. This changed last year, when Quartslab was finally wound up and all of its business interests were sold to Klove Electronics in Belgium. The Quartslab industrial unit in Pier Road was located where the currently empty units at 66 - 68 Pier Road are - right next to the Energie Gym. The old industrial units were demolished during the redevelopment of Erith Riverside Shopping Centre.
Another radio related article - but this one from a markedly different angle. Classic FM have just celebrated their 30th anniversary.The idea for a national, commercial FM network devoted to classical music originated with the management at GWR group, an entrepreneurial group of UK commercial radio stations. It had been operating a trial programme on its AM frequencies in Wiltshire and Bristol, testing audience reaction to a regular drive-time programme of popular classical music. It proved successful, and the company's CEO, Ralph Bernard, and programme director, Michael Bukht, drew up the plans for a national station. Meanwhile, Brian Brolly, formerly the CEO of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, had a similar idea in 1990. After failing to raise sufficient funds for the project, Brolly's consortium was approached by the GWR Group, and the two merged. The UK Government had decided to award several new national radio licences, and invited tenders. Brolly had brought the idea to Rick Senat, the long-serving head of business affairs in London for Warner Bros. and current owner of Hammer Films. Initially rejected by Warner Bros., Senat showed the project to the President of Time Warner International Broadcasting, Tom McGrath, a former classical musician and conductor. Time Warner agreed to back the project, but was prohibited under then current UK law from owning more than a 25% interest. GWR created a business plan which was supported by its major shareholder, DMGT, publishers of the Daily Mail. An internal dispute over ownership of the licence was resolved, and the consortium was completed after Time Warner agreed to back GWR's plans for the station. As time was running out to raise the £6m needed to launch the station, the GWR investment team spent two days presenting to and finally persuading private investor Sir Peter Michael to back the plan with a 30% investment. The founding shareholder group that launched Classic FM was Sir Peter Michael and Time Warner (each with over 30%), GWR (17%), DMGT (5%) and several other smaller shareholders. The Radio Authority had granted an exemption so that Time Warner could hold more than 25%, provided a UK citizen/corporation was larger in the shareholding group. The station launched at 06:00 on Monday 7 September 1992, after two months of test transmissions using a recording of birdsong. Nick Bailey presented the first programme, and Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel was the first piece to be played. Other launch presenters included Henry Kelly, Susannah Simons and Petroc Trelawny. The station rejected the "Radio 3" style of presentation, and took inspiration from New York City's WNYC and the now-defunct WGMS in Washington, D.C., with their more populist mix of talk, light classical music, new artists and crossover classical records. Global, the UK's largest radio station ownership group, now owns the station. Classic FM has broadcast from its current studios, on the second floor of 30 Leicester Square in central London, since March 2006. The first programme to be broadcast live from there was Mark Griffiths' programme on Sunday 26 March 2006. In April and May 2017, High Score, the first series on UK radio dedicated to video game music, was first broadcast on Classic FM. According to the station's website, it became "the most popular programme on 'Listen Again' in Classic FM’s 25-year history". It was presented by composer Jessica Curry.
The image above – click on it for a larger version- shows an email message that is not a spoof or some kind of attempt at humour. It is a genuine scam email sent to millions of people. I received a copy from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association which has been circulating the message to warn people of its malicious intent. The message itself would be laughable, as it is so badly written and full of typos. Unfortunately, some rather gullible people would take it as face value. I am publishing it here as a public service and a warning.
Now a piece from guest contributor, local publican and former railway professional Nick Hair of The Kentish Belle micro pub adjacent to Bexleyheath station. Nick writes:- "The Kent rail franchise is arguably one of the finest examples of the failure of privatisation. From Connex, who were stripped of the rights to run trains when they quite rightly couldn’t make such a complex mixture of services work (and you could say it still doesn’t with conflicting priorities evident in recent weeks), to the government-run Southeastern, to the new company that has somehow existed since before the 2009 timetable and the opening of the High-Speed railway. Train drivers pay, opinion of which is entirely personal to each reader, is lagging heavily behind due to the nature of the failed refranchising since circa 2015, where government interventions have prevented effective pay rises. Drivers on Southeastern are routinely around £10,000 per annum behind peers such as at MTR Crossrail, Thameslink, and other mainline London operators such as LNER or Avanti West Coast. This means the Southeastern area becomes a “training school” and then they move on. Rolling stock strategy has also failed, and whilst some praise the work of the late James Brokenshire to get new Class 707 trains onto the network, the reality is it is another different type of train requiring yet more spares, and it increases costs. Class 465 trains, the oldest on the routes, are tired, and need to be replaced. Maintaining them is increasingly difficult, and the infrastructure itself is underfunded. Landslides at Barnehurst, problems at Lewisham, regular signal failures and more are symptoms of this problem. And this week, it came as a surprise that service changes originally suggested in the 2017 invitation to tender finally arrived, even though they should have happened in May of this year were it not for Covid. The obvious problem with what has been put into the new timetable is, if nothing else, that the Government, now fully in charge of decision making, has decided to persist with service cuts. The service that would have been provided would have been entirely acceptable had it been operated in full, but it will not. This means poor service gaps, difficulty in obtaining connections, and the continuation of trains that are a risk to the punctuality of others, especially in the rush hour. Services from Victoria to Lewisham, which will stay half-hourly to Dartford via Bexleyheath, should have been every 15 minutes. These trains would have gone to Hayes and Dartford via Sidcup half-hourly apiece, meaning that whilst some through journeys would be cut, the increase in service would have been a good trade-off, with Lewisham now entirely disabled accessible. Indeed, other changes and the need to ‘swap’ at London Bridge to get to your desired terminus, would be easy as the new London Bridge station is a triumph. What should have been given to the Greenwich line, as an example, was eight trains an hour (a ten-minutely service via Greenwich, and a half-hourly overlay via Blackheath) from Cannon Street or Thameslink stations. This would have been entirely tolerable, as the supply of services at a Metro ‘turn up and go’ frequency and changing at London Bridge for Charing Cross would work for local people west of Woolwich as many others would already have made the change to Crossrail for the City and West End due to its better frequency and speed if they live east of Charlton. The Bexleyheath line would have been offered a quarter-hourly Charing Cross service all day, meaning four trains per hour, as well as a further six trains per hour at peak times to Cannon Street. What is left of the new timetable is a half-hourly service at off-peak times to Victoria, and another half-hourly service to Cannon Street. This is the worst of both worlds, as the Victoria service takes longer, does not serve key markets and, most importantly, reduces the London Bridge frequency for connections. It is not good enough, but this is how the Department for Transport has elected to proceed. Moving to the Sidcup line, and the quarter-hourly all-day Charing Cross services, with the half-hourly Victoria trains, would have been perfectly good for local needs. Peak time overlays of a further four trains an hour to either of Cannon Street or Charing Cross would have satisfied further demands. Obviously changes to passenger habits means that the peak timetable could be amended, to have a few less services in any given hour (trains are only carrying about 70% of ‘old’ demand each day and that’s on only some days a week, with Monday and Friday obviously quieter for the work from home brigade), but off-peak trains are busier than ever, especially on weekends. The leisure market is being left uncatered for, and it’s making people turn away from trains. This piece was not designed to offer an opinion, but to bring to attention how these changes came about, as the Government’s Department for Transport had chosen this service plan (e.g., no trains to Charing Cross from the Woolwich line) all the way back in 2017. What they have not done, however, is effectively put the timetable together in such a way that the lesser services to help with service cuts and money saving is suitable or desirable to local, commuter and leisure needs. Some other key removals are the ‘Rounder’ train from the Sidcup line and Woolwich line, meaning no chance for people in Bexley and Crayford to take a viable route to the Royal Docks, Isle of Dogs, City, or perhaps even Heathrow Airport through Abbey Wood; and a wider failure in the network to provide frequencies on the High- Speed routes, Maidstone East line, or the Hastings and Paddock Wood line. Local needs on the Medway Valley route between Strood, Maidstone West and Tonbridge have been cut entirely as services only run to Paddock Wood, meaning a change needed to get to Tonbridge and the rest of the network. Simply, the timetable is not good enough and, whilst it will be robust due to the less trains operating and more ‘breathing space’ for the service to recover when disturbed by incidents, it cannot be allowed to continue. The services are now ‘baked in’ until at least May 2023, but the appetite for rewriting will most definitely not exist. We are stuck with what we have been given for a long time, at least. I hope to see positive changes, and strongly suggest that people write to their MPs (especially pertinent if it is a Conservative one as it is a Conservative government that has appointed a Secretary of State for Transport with the power to command changes from the rail operator), but also take the time to not express their disdain with Southeastern staff as their company was not responsible. They are only enacting the demands given to them by Westminster". A fascinating insight from Nick.