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NZ homeowners cannot work on live electrical wiring

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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 from

Malcolm Moore,
Wellington, NZ.

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 such work.

Euan Miller,
via email.

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.

Geoff Hahn,
via email.

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 manufactured.

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.

Jim Lowe,
Heatherbrae, NSW.

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 Radio.

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.

Cris Koch,
via email.

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 about.

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 observations.

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 SILICON 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.

Ron Pond,
Bunbury, WA.

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.

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