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Directorate of Telecommunications
MADE Lived On

Joe Bell

I read with interest and some memories the M.A.D.E article on this web site. I worked in DTels Billinge Depot and Crewe Detachment, leaving same to join MSDS (Marconi Space & Defence Systems). I am unsure of the year and my records are presently with the MoD.

Upon joining MSDS, one of the developments which came my way, was to develop a map based Resource Availability System, capable of transmission and reception of data to emergency service vehicles.

To that end I travelled to the Marconi Research Establishment located at Great Baddow and was briefed on the MADE experiment, plus came away with the full M.A.D.E equipment. This was set up in a test vehicle and an analysis made, plus comparison to existing military data systems.

The MADE equipment was found sadly lacking in a number of areas ranging from current consumption (over 10 amps at idle mode), radio filter performance which did not suit data at all, plus the noisiest (electrical) printer in the world. An arching etch off printer in a radio data system ???

The mapping unit also lacked any real accuracy and suffered from having only one scale. The HQ side of the data link also had no map display and lacked any support for mission data overlay.

We learned from the MADE kit that development was needed in the following areas:-
  • Better Data Modem
  • A radio designed or modified to suit data transmission
  • Lower power consumption
  • Flexible message unit
  • Multi scale mapping system
  • Overlay graphics for Intel

The humble Pye Westminster was chosen for the test bed radio and the 10.7Mhz filter was re-designed to give a linear response particularly at the band edges. The modem in MADE was a simple TTL design with ramp counters used to “vote” on data integrity. The new modem used harmonically related tones and employed a micro-processor for data and interface timing, another weak spot which was identified.

The low power consumption was tackled by the use of Cmos chips whereas the original MADE equipment was TTL throughout.

I was multitasking at that time, also working on MoD projects, one of which took me to Philips at Eindhoven, Holland. I was shown a new disc based video player (note not recorder) which they had brought to market for video rentals, which they forecast to be big business. These market expectations were not met as most people wanted to record the programmes they would otherwise miss, rather than rent a disc to play. But I did note the excellent still frame pictures the player produced

This set a germ of an idea, and I had O.S. maps scanned by a step and repeat camera and turned into a series of photographs, no such thing at that time as file standards like JPG. The photos were then stamped onto a video disc, and yes I do mean stamped using a process known as the two P process within Philips. It was known as the two P process as no one could pronounce the chemicals name, but it had two Ps !

The map disc could then be “played” in still frame mode on the new Philips player which also had the capability of serial data control. An index of OS grids versus page number and map corners was built together with a place name gazetteer.

The video from the player was routed via a graphics inserter board which had a family of graphical shapes representing the status modes of mobile resources. The whole system was controlled by the latest in computing technology,  the DEC PDP 11.

The new modem performed well at 9600 baud over both A.M. and F.M. radio systems, and reception of a status message from the mobile placed a symbol into the correct “zone” no GPS then, and the colour of the symbol represented the readiness of the resource. The dispatch information, street name etc was manually input to the system and from the gazetteer the pin point location suitably noted in graphics.

The in car display solution was never developed and the dead reckoning navigator suffered from errors due to road slip until differential GPS came along.

The only photograph I have of the new system, which we named Video Overlay Resource Availability System or VORAS is below.  It  was incidentally an exhibition at the MET police.

Joe Bell
21st October 2009

Webmaster Note
Further information about MADE can be found in the Image Library.

Acknowledgement: Joe Bell for the article and photo

page updated: 17/08/23


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