• EEVblog #142 – Electronics Magazine Memories

    Join Dave as he opens a mystery box of magazines from his archives, in search of his old Talking Electronics FM Bugs book.
    What will he find?, will it be one of his own projects?, and what were Australian Electronics Magazines like back in the 70’s and 80’s?
    100% pure nostalgia!

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      • Wonko The Sane

        I’m in my 40’s, in the UK.

        I have got several boxes of electronics magazines from the late 60 (Mainly Wireless World – from my dad, I can remember seeing a full page Add in the Wireless World or the 555 timer IC, and it included a schematic of what was in the 555.) – early 1970 – Practical Wireless and Practical Electronics and some ETI’s – then a gap of 5-10 years, then more ETI, Practical electronics…

        I still get electronic magazines these days – Elektor and Everyday Practical Electronics (Was Practical Electronics – merged with Everyday Electronics and ETI)

        I must re-read some again…

      • comox

        I was a loyal reader of “Radio Electronics” (US/Canada) throughout the ’80s…

      • John

        Dave have you been peeking in my bookcase !!, seriously you have far outdone my little collection which I still love to flick through now and then, (note not archived any further than my bookcase). Great stuff before the internet. Now do you remember the Super 80, might have to blow the dust of that one.
        Nice to see you find some space to keep those classics.

      • Eduardo Capocchi

        Great episode! I started off in the 1980’s with “Nova Eletronica” in Brazil. Still got a couple of issues with me. Most editions had price lists for components and instruments at the end, illustrated and with lots of technical info. The problem was keeping up with inflation, the price lists had to be re-typed and re-set. When I was half way through college (E.E.), I got the news that the magazine was going out of business and I would get a refund for the remainder of my subscription… Still waiting for that check, but would gladly re-subscribe. Great episode!

      • MaxMax

        I would have loved to have those project magazines when I got into electronics. I recon some of those projects, as old as they are, would still be fun to build today! Good stuff.

      • Ken

        Are there still publications like this?

      • Don’t forget Everyday Electronics. It was right up there with PE and ETI. Wow! I must be getting old to remember all that stuff. I also have a bunch of Newnes books, and so on as well. Sadly I’ve thrown many away over the years.


      • Heh. I almost got expelled from school thanks to the FM Bugs book.

        I’m in my mid-30s now, but back in 6th form a mate and I build one of the bugs from the ‘green’ magazine (etching our own board) and hid it in our teachers’ staff room.

        A crowd of us kids, pretty much the whole class, were sitting around the ordinary FM radio, our reciever, during a staff meeting. Our collective jaws dropped as we heard what the teachers really thought of us! One fat kid wanted to join the Navy — as ballast opined the English Master…

        Anyway, we got found out of course, and got in serious trouble. Suspended to start with, with rumblings of worse to come… 🙂

      • Talking Electronics magazines are great! I’ve got a TEC-1B gathering dust in the shed and can still remember Z80 hex opcodes – you didn’t think in terms of “LDA”, but “3E”.

        I built and sold FM bugs to all my friends, but I didn’t get much feedback so I’m not sure any of them ever actually used them for anything sinister. Made my sister pretty angry a few times when she had friends over, though.

        I should dig them up – I didn’t really understand how the bugs worked when I was ten years old despite the very clear explanations, so I think I’d get a lot more out of them today.

      • Colin Mitchell and Talking Electronics is still going strong. He has a website containing literally thousands of pages of advice, tutorials, circuits and so on – http://www.talkingelectronics.com/te_interactive_index.html. Pretty sure Colin will be in Karl von Moller’s doco about electronics in Australia.

      • DB

        Great stuff. I recently had to throw away a bunch of my old electronics and computer magazines and datasheets to make space. Some I had gotten as a teenager about thirty years ago. I kept a few choice ones. Made me a little sad to do it, but you can’t keep everything.

      • Piotr Michniewski

        lol, I was born in 1986…

      • firewalker

        Hello Dave!

        Could you give away more details for your project (schematics etc) that was published?

        There was a pc interface writen in B.A.S.I.C. for it?

      • Jeez Dave, how much pocket money did you get? Even doing odd jobs I never had anough money for that number of magazines a month.

        I don’t think Everyday Electronics was ever up there with ETI. They were always aimed very much at the new beginner and always seemed to be repeating the same “bath overflow monitor” or “pipe leak sensor” (exactly the same circuit) and articles on how to solder, whereas ETI projects always seemed much more advanced, like the Cortex computer or the vocoder.

        • No real pocket money, we were poor. I did odd jobs like collecting empty aluminium cans which were worth a fortune in those days.

      • Ondre

        Ohh, sweeeeeet!

        I found something about the FM Bugs online: http://www.talkingelectronics.com/te_interactive_index.html

        Is that the content of the magazines or did the magazines provide some additional information?
        From the descriptions on the website alone, I find it quite hard to understand how the circuits actually work.

        • Ondre, from memory the most comprehensive descriptions were reserved for the earliest designs. Most of the bugs had incremental improvements and only these differences were explained.

          I think the “FM Bug” project was the original, so try that one. “Spy Circuits” has a lot of information, too.

      • Robert

        Oh Dave
        I’ve got few years on you, but I grew up in Sydney and had (still have) an interest in electronics.
        I can remembr when phones had six digits BUT the first two digits were non numeric characters. That changed around the early the early 70s. Phones back in those days did have an alphanumeric overlay!
        The blog brought back memoroes for me. I built some of these projects and learnt about electronics . I eventually did become an electrical/electronics engineer.

        • Now that I come to think of it, 5-digit telephone numbers were still going in Sydney until the early 90s. Pretty sure Legion Taxis was 20531, and IBM’s switchboard was 20351.

      • huh

        Thanks Dave, this brought memories.
        Here’s a link most old farts will love:

        a lot of really old magazines from the early 1930’s to the 80’s. Most are Italian and a few in English or French. There are also some interesting links at the bottom of that page.
        These guys are doing a great service by keeping alive content that would otherwise be lost very quickly. If any of you can help by scanning old obscure magazines, please contact them.

      • Bill

        Im sure we all have good memories from this era, it was childhood for many of us, happy times !

        I had so much fun with just a few things in my desk, my wole life revolved around motors, cables.

        Remarcable episode, thanks !


      • Wilfred

        Nice one Dave.
        I have just gone through my collection of ETI and EA from the 80’s. What amazed me was how much has changed, and yet how much hasn’t. They were talking about a very fast train from Sydney to Melbourne, global warming (yes really)ETI Feb 1987, Sea level rising ETI Dec88, Shopping via computer over the telephone, no internet yet, Computer hacking.

        The article on the “Weather Catastrophe” finished thus:

        “The question though is, how long do we have before we trigger irreversible changes in the atmosphere? There’s a strong body of opinion that holds it’s already too late.”

        So nearly a quarter of a century has passed since then. I can recall I found a similar reference in a mid 70’s magazine but I couldn’t find it.

        Is there any hope?

        • I thought a new ice age was all the rage in the 70’s?

      • David

        In a book of memoirs by an Australian federal cop, he mentions the Feds raiding a house in Moorabbin and confiscating a computer because the owner was publishing bug building schematics. The Feds weren’t sure if it was illegal to publish this info so they raided him anyway to see what they could get.

        Sure sounds like it was Colin of Talking Electronics.

      • Thanks Dave! I’m a software developer learning electronics and even though I didn’t understand most of the stuff, I was having a blast watching this episode.

        This blog is truly your legacy and one of the best and most fun ways to learn about electonics.

      • Geoff

        Interesting blog, Dave.
        I worked for ETI from 82-85 and things sure were different then. We still taped up PCB artwork with Bishop Graphics pads and tapes and made 99% of all PCBs in-house. You could easily design a layout and make a PCB in one day. We even had an industrial-sized guillotine to trim the PCB to size. If the layout was tight we could tape it up double-size and use in-house photo gear to reduce it. CAD didn’t come to ETI until well after I left.

        I bought a Weller WTCPN soldering station back then and I am still using it today ! – The barrel (which is just a hollow tube) is pretty worn and will need replacing soon but the basic design is so good (it uses Curie-point alloys in base of the tip to maintain temp.) that it hasn’t missed a beat in over 25 years.

      • Tom

        Great blog, brings some nice memories back! I still have an unfinished “The Ant” FM bug that started life as a bonus PCB taped to one of Talking Electronics magazines, then I gathered most of components but since I could not find all what’s needed I put it away. Found it again about 2-3 years ago when moving a house and plan to finish it “soon”.

      • Bill

        So many good memories. Thanks, Dave.

        I think your session jumped over the first generation of microprocessors. They were tough to use, and so expensive, few hobby magazines covered them. Only Elektor, I think, initially. Of course, there was the famous Electronics Australia EDUC-8 from Jim Rowe which did it all the hard way, gate by gate.

        Then, rapidly, came the SC-MP (“Scamp”) from National, the F8 from Fairchild, the 2650 (Signetics), and the 6502 of Apple II fame, and…the list goes on. I recall nearly fainting when the distributor told me (as a teenager when I called up to ask) that the new 8080A micro from Intel was “only” $300 (in NZ). Took a few years for the prices to come down to the point where I could buy all of the bits. By then, I could get an 8051 for a fraction of the price, maybe $10. Amazing.

        Ah, the memories. Now we have data and designs from the Internet, and a powerful PIC or AVR for literally pocket change.

      • Michael K.

        Thank you for sharing all the memories!

        Born 1968 in germany I hold my first solder iron maybe around ’76 ;-).

        I start with electronic magazines that my father reads at home. He is also an electronic engineer. That was a paradise for me! He brings me a lot of parts at home to play around with. And tries to answer all my questions. In the days before internet that was really useful. In his job he remember and told me later from the first germanium transistor or the first LED. I had some samples in old boxes ;-).

        I remember magazines & books from AEG, Siemens, Valvo, Philips, Motorola,… and the “Elektronik” and “Elektor”.

        The oldest issue I found was Elektronik #1 from Jan. 1955.
        With articles like
        – “Der Transduktor im Vergleich zum gittergesteuerten Ionenrohr”
        – – (The transducer in comparison with the grid-gated ion tube)
        – “Fernmessung u. Fernregistrierung von P, U, I mit Metrawatt-Messwertumformer”
        – – (Telemetry and remote registration of W, V, A, Metrawatt-Transducer)
        – “Kreiszeitbasen bei Elektronenstrahl-Oszillografen”
        – – (Circle time bases with electron-beam oscilloscope)
        The latest “Electronik” issue here on my desk is from 2011-01-14 with NXP Cortex-M4, Touch-Panels, LEDs as lamps, PCI/104… What a life span for a magazine!

        My first computer was the Motorola education kit MEK6802-D5. I remember on the first weekend I had the problem that my old lab power-supply Philips PE1509 could only serve 400mA. That was not enough for that thing. I solved the problem with an 7.5V Accu. Hey – my first mobile computer! 😉 Btw. I use the Philips PE1509 until today without any problems!

        I also have to open some old boxes back from the ’80s. Some with magazines and some with projects & parts…. 😉


        PS: Now I am also an electronic engineer and I really love your podcast. Thanks

        • Ian Davies

          Hi Dave

          Great stuff. I lived up the road from Colin’s house and spent many days helping him put together kits, sort parts and etch boards after school. I went to school with one of his staff and talked for hours about the new projects that came up. I got a free copy of each mag hot off the press for my labour. So I’ve got most of them too, in TE binders in some cases !!
          Keep up the good work.
          PS Loved your tutorial on PCB layouts. Any chance of doing an update. I’m now using Altium and using mostly SMD parts so it’s a real challenge. Your vblog on boards was great.

      • I have those same bug books sitting on my bookshelf here. I also used to go through them over and over as a kid. In fact it was through them I got my first technical job when a teenager. Because of those books I went to the local hearing aid/amp manufacturer to ask about small mics. I can’t remember the details now but that somehow turned into an after school/holiday job there. That led to more jobs and being a part time electronics technician eventually paid my way through uni and I worked doing that on my OE to the UK as well. When I came back to NZ I went off into computers though so now electronics is just a hobby. That reminds me, I think I have a whole set of “The Home Computer Course” and “The Home Computer Advanced Course” from the early 80s in boxes at my parents place still too!

      • enyc

        It says copyright 2010! error! 2011 detected! error!

      • Worf

        Wow, I still have my stacks of Popular Electronics, Modern Electronics and Radio Electronics (North America) from the 80s. In the 90s I moved to Singapore and ended up with a pile of Australian mags as well – Silicon Chip and Electronics Australia – great fun.

        Still like Silicon Chip – and just discovered they do ship to North America now. Perhaps I should angle for access to the entire archive… SC was one of my favorite mags. (Are they still doing that ever great technician’s story thing? Favorite section).

      • I have many magazines, they are taking up too much space on my library shelves, so I decided to scan them, and save the pertinent information onto my hard drive. A lot of the projects are not valid any more, like the ZX81 and BBC projects. I have completed scans of Everyday electronics and am busy with ETI(UK).

        I use the projects from these magazines to produce various “gadgets” on demand. I dont inted selling this information although the copy right has expired after 15 years. I do have scans that are younger than 15 years, now I am wondering what sort of trouble I can get into if I forward a scanned artical to some one?

        The main intention here was to stimulate interest in electronics, as ETI for example has produced many interesting projects. The older mags are of particular interest as the devices are freely available here locally, this is not the case with the projects used in the new magazines.

        So who will do what to me?

        Cheers Trevor.

        • Individual copies are fine, no one will hassle you for that.

      • I have now scanned in just over 1500 articles from the various electronic magazines. I did have some missing issues, another guy said he had them, but when I approached him he just gave me a whole lot of excuses.

        Anyway apart from the missing sections of some projects, I now can get rid of the magazines themselves, they were just taking up a lot of space. The scanning machine was a HP flatbed scanner, and what makes this different from other scanners is the fact that you can choose the page size, and you can select B/W and the print stored looks like it came from a new book.
        One can trim the size as well to get rid of the fold in the middle. I had only one article that had to be scanned in color as the winding details of a coil were in different colors for clarity.

        What I am missing just on ETI is Dec1995, Jan1996 to Jun1996 then Jun1984. There wer some real interesting projects there, so if anyone wants to swop me for what I have, for what you have……
        Cheers Trevor

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