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Being fairy-stories told to the author as a young engineer
© Ray Cooper, 2005 (2nd revised edition, Jan 2006)

The Infamous Space-warp Incident

This is a tricky one to deal with, since it involves personalities.

It is necessary to be aware that, at this time there was something of a personality clash evident between the two senior administrative staff on site. They had no time for one another, and the usual communications between them seemed to amount to no more than an exchange of insults in the corridors. I shall refer to them, anonymously, as A and B.

You must also understand that, at the time, the station had been going through a bad patch in respect of equipment breakdowns. Scarcely a day had passed without a lengthy outage of some sort or another. On this day, there had been the usual sickening bang, followed by the alarm bell ringing. Usually, when the bell goes, the admin boys wisely left the shift to it. On this day, however, a minute or so after the first bang there was another, at which point both A and B, in different parts of the building, decided simultaneously that some managerial input was going to be needed. By the time they reached the transmitter hall, from different directions, the shift had localised the problem to the vision Modulated Amplifier (where else?), the doors of which were by now open.

Both taking command simultaneously, A piled into the front of the cubicle while B attacked it from the rear. A general exchange of strong language ensued, but in spite of all this the fault was eventually detected, and rectified. The cubicle doors were closed, everybody stood back, and the transmitter was repowered.

Success! No bangs, and everything powered up quite sweetly. There was just one fly in the ointment - there was hardly any RF output from the transmitter. Meter readings were scanned anxiously, but everything else appeared to be quite normal. There was just the faintest thickening of the trace on the RF envelope monitor, where there should have been a nice fat screen full.

Someone produced a slide-rule, and started doing a few quick calculations.

"Let's see now: A.C. power into the transmitter. um, 120 kW."

"And the RF output from the transmitter is. rather less than 500 watts. Oh dear."

It was at this point that A flipped his lid, and made an announcement that listeners thought was distinctly odd, and later passed into the annals of Historic Sutton Utterances:

"I always knew that this sort of thing was going to happen. There are just too many megacycles in too small a space."

- and began muttering to himself about possible distortions in the fabric of space and time.

"Somebody go and get me a long rope."

Well of course A's word was law, so somebody obliged, wondering perhaps if he was about to witness the first lynching in the station's history.

When the rope appeared, the transmitter was switched off, all the doors closed, the rope looped from handle to handle around the equipment, and knotted at its ends. A notice was affixed to the front of the machine, warning everybody off.

"Nobody is to touch this transmitter. I'm off to ring up London ."

He disappeared. And that was that. There were no more programmes from Sutton Coldfield that day.

The following morning, a procession of large black cars wound its way down the station drive. They stopped, and disgorged a collection of distinct Suits, plus a few nondescript hangers-on. They all filed into the building, and so into the transmitter hall.

The device was put through its paces, with results identical to those of the previous day. The Suits looked at one another. Nobody said very much.

At this point, a distinctly shabby character in a 'mac, who had been hanging about at the back of the crowd and to whom nobody had paid much attention, elbowed his way to the front, and murmuring, "Excuse me." started flicking through various meter readings. Then he turned and made a strange gesture at the man on the control desk. Evidently he desired the transmitter to be depowered. This being done, he opened the interlocks and disappeared round the back. There was a sound of a door being opened. There were various "humph" and "so" noises. Then his head popped back round the side of the unit.

"Anybody got a match?"

In silence one was produced. He disappeared again.

Followed a succession of scraping and grunting noises, then silence. After a while, the sound of the rear door being carefully closed. He reappeared.

"O.K. Power her up."

The transmitter sprang to life. A marvel - buckets of output power. The Saviour Mac explained just what had happened - to which, nobody said a word. All of the Suits filed out in silence. Moments later a procession of cars swept its way back up the drive, London bound. The incident was over.

To explain what had happened...

Person B, in the course of his ascent into the back of the cubicle, had made use of a convenient object as a step. That object was the output coupling capacitor, a substantial article, the central vanes of which were mounted on a glass rod for insulation. The rod had broken, and the vanes had dropped out and rolled unseen into some recess of the cubicle. Nobody had been given any opportunity to go in and have a good look round. Repositioning the vanes, and wedging them in position with a matchstick, restored the unit to its former glory.

Steps were taken, however, to prevent a recurrence. A few days later, either A or B (and I really can't remember which it was) suddenly found himself promoted to a new post, a good long way away from Sutton.

Shaving Seconds >
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