NZ homeowners cannot work on live electrical wiring
The situation in New Zealand is not quite as you describe it in
the Publisher’s Letter in the November 2000 issue. Homeowners are certainly not
allowed to do work on a switchboard, for example. Homeowners can do the physical
work but cannot go anywhere near a live conductor and the work must be inspected
by an inspector (not just an electrician) before connection.
There are similar provisions with regard to repair of
appliances. The person undertaking the repair must own the appliance, it must be
used by the owner or a near-relative, only be used for private use and must be
disconnected from the supply while the repair is undertaken.
Certainly the situation in Australia seems to mirror what we
had until 10 years or so ago. I have no knowledge of the statistics about
accidents but the Energy Safety Service of the Ministry of Economic Development
in NZ is currently holding discussions about whether the licensing system is
working and whether it should be extended to the gas industry. See
Incidentally, all NZ Acts of Parliament are available for free
Don’t mess with 240V
So we should be able to do our own electrical work? I think
not. I grew up in New Zealand and did my apprenticeship in the electrical trade
there. That was over 40 years ago and if I ever learned anything, it was don’t
mess with 240 volts.
I live in Australia these days, and sometimes (often) I have
been known to connect this wire to that connector, replace a fuse, or replace a
GPO (General Power Outlet). OK, I no longer work in the trade, I do other
technical work but I do know what I’m doing, mostly.
Now think of the average housekeeper – who knows absolutely
nothing about electricity. Should he or she wire up their own home? And would
you let your son or daughter do it?
Would you turn them loose next Christmas in a high-powered car,
with no training, and no licence? Get real; even putting a 3-pin plug on a
toaster cord is hi-tech to the untrained householder. So, please leave
electrical work to the (hopefully) trained tradespeople who hold a licence for
Homeowners could not understand AS/NZS 3000
I read with alarm your editorial in the November 2000 issue.
Whilst I can appreciate some of the sentiments expressed therein, and they are
perfectly understandable for someone with no experience in the industry, I am
compelled to draw a number of serious matters to your attention.
Firstly, "no-one, in fact, has died in New Zealand due to
hazardous wiring created by a householder." I regard those statistics with a
healthy degree of scepticism. Did Mr Hoolhorst mention how many had been
seriously injured by DIY wiring? Or how many had been killed by wiring faults of
any type. What about fires caused by faulty wiring? Selective presentation of
statistical information, deliberately or otherwise, has enormous potential to
obscure the truth of the situation.
Secondly, in regard to AS/NZ 3000: yes, we do have the same
standard. But let me ask you this: how many ‘you-beaut’ DIY electricians even
know this standard exists, let alone are prepared to shell out for a copy of it.
And even supposing they did, could they really comprehend what a particular
clause actually means when they may not even know the correct terminology for
the items involved in the task they are attempting?
Thirdly, in more than 20 years of working in the electrical
industry, I have all too often encountered wiring in houses that was very
dangerous indeed; real fatalities waiting to happen.
Fourthly, some years ago, an acquaintance of mine who, before
going into business as an electrical contractor, had worked for many years as an
electrical installation inspector for what was then Sydney County Council, was
killed by faulty wiring under a house he was working on. If someone who has been
a professional identifier of defects in wiring can be killed by a wiring fault,
despite their clearly knowing all the dangers involved, can anyone seriously
suggest that anybody should be able to cut loose on their home wiring?
Sure, if you want to build or work on a plug-in project or
appliance, fine – just be very careful. But no-one should touch fixed wiring
unless they are qualified – and authorised to do so. I would be as comfortable
with the unqualified doing wiring in my house as they would be for me to do
their dental work with my pliers and screwdriver. The road to hell, as they say,
is paved with good intentions.
Vintage radio is part of our history
So your correspondent, Alfred Fischer, (SILICON CHIP, January, 2001) does not
like reading about the revival of corpses. Perhaps he would like to see all the
restored veteran and vintage cars interred and perhaps the Sydney Town Hall
reduced to rubble. Then the restored and operating steam locomotives should also
be cut up and destroyed, as were hundreds of their brothers.
The preservation of past technical equipment is a vital part of
our living history. The more than 1000 members of the Historical Radio Society
of Australia will become heroes in the future when the examples of their
restoration work may be the only reminder we have of a bygone age of electronic
technology. The Vintage Radio pages in SILICON CHIP each month are an impetus to others
to take up the art of restoration of old technical equipment.
To those of us who look forward each issue to what is displayed
in these pages, it becomes an incentive to continue buying the magazine. I
correspond with people all over the world who restore old electronic equipment.
There are societies in the United States which specialise in many varied aspects
of early electronics. Some are only concerned, for example, with the restoration
of 1920s radio receivers; now that is a Lazarus revival!
To those of us who appreciate the restoration of electronic
technology of a past age, there is little more rewarding pastime than to acquire
a filthy, non-operative domestic radio receiver and with loving care bring it
back to life. The end result, in almost showroom condition, becomes a vital part
of almost forgotten technology. And what a joy it is to hear it receive all the
still operating AM radio stations within range as it did when first
Restorers are not just weird people. We also appreciate modern
technology and many of us keep up to date with as many current electronic
developments as we are able. However, valve technology (like steam locomotives)
is a fascinating aspect of a remnant of a technology that is expanding probably
faster than any other aspect of science. Keep on with Vintage Radio and I can
only say I feel sorry for your correspondent.
More support for vintage radio
I thought that Mr Fischer’s letter was extremely arrogant on
the part of all the people who still take an active interest in Vintage
I would say that I am probably one of the youngest Vintage
Radio enthusiasts (15 years old) who enjoys reading your columns by Mr
Champness, which are very interesting and in-formative. I would be annoyed,
angry and sad to see such columns go.
Strong opinions on vintage radio
Alfred Fischer gave some pretty strong opinions against Vintage
Radio ("reviving corpses") and also stated his opposition to the Vintage Radio
column in the magazine. While I don’t agree with his comments, he is certainly
entitled to his views. What does concern me is the response from Silicon Chip .
. . "we like your attitude".
I don’t like SILICON CHIP’s attitude at all – I was surprised
to see your statement which denigrates the interest in vintage radio that is
held by thousands of people world wide and a great many people in Australia. The
statement also doesn’t seem to defend Mr Champness’ (and his predecessor’s)
ongoing contribution to the success of SILICON CHIP.
Vintage radio enthusiasts are of all ages (I’m 45) and come
from all walks of life. For example, I am a professional telecommunications
engineer, who deals with cutting edge technology on a daily basis and yet, the
revival of radio "corpses" gives me more pleasure than the modern stuff. To each
their own – that is what the multi-faceted hobby of electronics is all
I buy SILICON CHIP, sometimes for the modern day content, but more frequently for the
interesting vintage radio articles. That 5% of total content is enough to
justify the outlay of $6.60; any other content is a bonus. I am happy to skip
over some simple, beginner construction projects, which don’t interest me,
because there are other readers who want those articles. Similarly, I like to
read one article per month on vintage radio.
By all means, make your judgement of required content based on
reader surveys but may I suggest that you don’t first alienate a segment of your
readership by thoughtless remarks.
Finally, I endorse your position on not presenting new
construction articles on valve equipment – the line has to be drawn somewhere –
but that is only my view.
P. K., Sydney, NSW.
Vintage radio should be retained
With regard to Vintage Radio, Mr Fischer is quite entitled to
his viewpoint, however I suspect he is treading on more than just a few toes
when he chooses to denigrate valve technology and the history that accompanies
pre-solid state electronics.
I was fortunate enough to have been formally trained in both
valve and solid state electronics in the early seventies and can therefore
accept and appreciate both technologies. At most, there are only three or four
pages out of a hundred or so pages in SILICON CHIP that are dedicated to the restoration
and repair of valve radios and they can be easily skipped if they don’t happen
to appeal to the reader.
The most disturbing aspect, however, is your response to Mr
Fischer. It would appear that your magazine supports Mr Fischer’s comments to a
large degree when you state, "we like your attitude," in your response to his
You then go on to repeat your statement that SILICON CHIP "would never publish a
new design for a valve amplifier (regardless of how they might be revered by
some audiophiles)." Just for the record, I am not an "audiophile".
I find your attitude towards anything with valves rather
puzzling when you consider that there are some hundreds of collectors and
restorers of valve radios and equipment in Australia alone (they number in the
thousands worldwide), many of whom regularly access your publication for the
Vintage Radio section.
In closing, I feel that I speak for the majority of valve
enthusiasts who enjoy their monthly "dose" of Vintage Radio, when I say that
CHIP would be
much the poorer if this important part of the magazine was discontinued to
appease the readers who don’t happen to enjoy or understand what essentially was
the forerunner of everything else in your magazine.
Comment: we did not intend to denigrate vintage radio, nor do
we intend ditching the Vintage Radio column. There are lots of practical reasons
for not publishing a valve amplifier.