About Cool 386.


The face behind this site!

Hello, and welcome to the site. My name is John Hunter, and I'm from the Blue Mountains in Australia. You may have seen me around the HRSA Sydney group, or attending Model T Ford activities. I've also written for the electronics magazine, "Silicon Chip" and the HRSA magazine, "Radio Waves", and some of you might know me from there. Perhaps you've even seen me out driving the 1926 Model T Ford.

Here are some other things about me, besides my interests in vintage electronic and mechanical technology.
Where does the name "Cool386" come from? Back in 2000 when I was establishing a new internet account, I was looking for a new user name. The computer I was setting up the account was a 386DX40. Hence the name. That computer is still working in 2022, with Windows For Workgroups 3.11. These days, very few sites will work properly on early Netscapes, largely because of the now standard https protocol. The 386 is now mainly used for file storage or running DOS programs, such as Protel Easytrax.

A Bit of Site History.
All the pages are written using Netscape Composer 4.8 which keeps things simple, fast, and Windows 3.1 compatible (still in 2022!).
I created the site in 2003, mainly because an aquaintance had suggested I do so, because an article I submitted to a magazine did not get published. I was rather disheartened because of the amount of work I had put into it, but having my own site would give me the freedom to publish whatever I wanted. As something of a technical writer, I enjoy writing articles that educate and help understand how things work. I'm a firm believer in distributing information. It makes for a better society when people are educated and think about things.
In those early days, photos were taken with a Sony Mavica FD75. The resolution is very poor by today's standard, being of VGA quality 640 x 480 pixels.

The site was intially hosted by Bigpond (an Australian ISP) who provided 10Mb. That amount of space seems incredibly small by today's standards. When you think about it, it was about seven floppy discs worth of files!
One of the concessions I had to make, was therefore to reduce the photo resolution even further, to make the best of what I had available. As you look through the site, you'll see these early low res photos in some of the older articles.

As a stop gap measure, as my space was being used up, I started hosting articles on the Geocities free hosting site, in addition to Bigpond. This worked fairly well until Bigpond terminated their web hosting in 2009.
So, I had to move the entire site to Tripod (another free host), where all seemed well for the next four years, until everything was deleted with no warning. I then changed my ISP to iinet, who provided 1Gb of space. This was a huge improvement, and with the aquisition of a Fuji Fine Pix A500 in 2010, I could at last improve the photo quality. Now I was using an 800 x 600 screen resolution for most photos. I could have increased this, but still with dial up internet (until May 2017), I compromised between resolution and download speed.

For some time I had been thinking of buying my own domain name. To do so would give me independence from ISP's, and solve the problem of constantly moving the site to new hosts, wondering when the next time something would happen. Well, it did. At the end of August 2020, iinet deleted the site. I purchased the cool386 domain name, and began the mammoth task of transferring something like 278 pages across. It took several days. There was also the learning curve of how to upload files, etc., which was more complex than simply using ftp and letting the host deal with all the finer details. The advantages of my own domain name are many. Now I have 10Gb with my host, and that allows me to include files for downloading, and of course even better photos. My standard now is 1024 x 768, and I'm using a Sony NEX-5N. Importantly, the domain name is here to stay, so where my site has been linked in forums, etc., the links will remain current.
The lesson here is, if you have a serious website, get a domain name and get it hosted independently. Free hosts and ISP's are good to begin with, but cannot be relied on for the long term.


Homepage shown in Netscape 2.0 operating under Windows For Workgroups 3.11. (Yes, that's an IBM XT next to it).

Articles are updated from time to time as required and time permits. The quality of circuit diagrams is largely because of lack of a drawing program which is as quick to use as is hand drawing them. One improvement I want to implement is a 'one click to email'. Anyone who has emailed me via the site knows the email address is presented as a jpg image. That is simply to prevent spam, since spam bots constantly search for xyz@xzyz.com in texts, gathering up email addresses to later fill with garbage.

The Blue Mountains.
My home since 1988. The Blue Mountains is part of the Great Dividing Range, to the west of Sydney. The settled area consists of two ridges, roughly running east to west. I live on the southern ridge, the most populated, for it was along here the first path was found to the Central West in 1813. Most of the population is centred around the railway line and highway which runs along this ridge, spanning most of the towns from Lapstone to Lithgow.
Surrounding these are numerous gorges and valleys. Most of the area is national park. To the south is the now flooded Burrogorang Valley which supplies Sydney with most of its water. Highest elevation is a little over 1000m.
On the western side of the mountains are the famous Jenolan Caves, and the town of Oberon, famed for forest industries and trout fishing.
Climate is quite variable, with the upper mountains towns, Wentworth Falls to Lithgow being cool, even in summer. A day or two of snow anytime from May to October is not unusual.
The mid mountains towns, where I live, are somewhat milder. In fact, despite the elevation 600~700m, it is warmer than parts of western Sydney. From Linden to Bullaburra, one can enjoy outdoor activities even in winter.
Further down, Lapstone to Springwood, the climate is not hugely different to parts of Sydney. One fortunate aspect of being in the mountains is lack of summer humidity.

The Blue Mountains is a famous tourist attraction. However, since WW2, only the upper mountains is now seen as a tourist destination. This is the area from Wentworth Falls to Mt Victoria, renowned for majestic valley views, quaint cafes and tearooms, and antique shops. Bushwalking is a major drawcard, with a lifetime of trails to explore. Mountain biking, abseiling and horse riding are also very popular.
Tourism is the major income for the mountains. Unless you work in tourism or hospitality, chances are you commute to Sydney for work.


Mountain Biking and Walking in the Blue Mountains.
I spend a lot of time out in the bush around the mid mountains towns, mostly mountain biking on the fire trails. Being away from the tourists, the mid mountains fire trails are fairly quiet, and on some of them you wouldn't be seen for days. The Blue Mountains is said to have some of the best mountain bike trails in Australia.


At Woodford with the 1996 Trek Y33.

Some of my favourite rides are:

Some of the walks I've done are: I also do walks with SCOG and another informal group, around the mountains and the Heathcote and Royal National Parks.


Beaches and Outdoor Areas.
I'm a very regular beach goer. Not surprisingly, this entails a lesser or greater degree of travel from the Blue Mountains for most places, although there are some nice pools out in the bush I like to visit.


Birdie Beach.



Clubs/Societies.


I have been a member of the Historical Radio Society of Australia since 1992, as part of the Sydney group. This is a highly recommended organisation if you are into vintage electronics. I attend the bi-monthly meetings at Winston Hills Public School. There is a technical talk followed by an auction, or alternatively a swap meet twice a year. If you like collecting vintage radios you will pay far less than ebay!


Since 2002, I have also been part of the Model T Ford Club of Australia. I attend the monthly meetings, and also the Sunday runs with some of the other members.
As I have full registration for my Model T, I don't actually need to be part of the club to drive my car, but it's a useful way to meet others to discuss and learn about the cars, as well as the fun of driving in a convoy of Model T's.



Repairs and Restorations.
Throughout the site I've described a lot of restorations of vintage radios and TV's. A few of these have been jobs for other people. I should point out that I actually don't go looking for such work. Here's why:

In some instances a lot of redesign and modification has to be done, because original parts are no longer available. For example, the volume control in this set https://www.cool386.com/picnic_awa/picnic_awa.html
Many hours were spent trying to find an equivalent which was not obtainable. The original control had to be dismantled and rebuilt using a part, that luckily, I did have. However, the rebuilt control now had a different value of resistance. The circuit then had to be modified to use this different value of resistance. A typical tradesperson in the present day charges about $100 an hour. I spent several eight hour days working on this set, recapping it, redesigning the circuit, and rebuilding the original control. Have you worked out the cost? Would you pay it?
Yet, if I was to charge what my time was actually worth, most people would think I was ripping them off. (I'd like to see them do a resto and redesign in less time...). So, in the end, I charge less than half, and lose out.
There was also a problem in this particular set, with the unusually sized NiCd cells it used. The owner was extremely lucky I did have some which fitted, with some modification, but those were the only ones I had, which have all gone now. That particular job was extremely stressful and anxiety inducing, and I have since turned down restoration requests for that model.

Once restored, we have the possibility that it breaks down a day or a week after it goes back to the owner. Not a good look is it? Immediately, I am seen as incompetent, having ripped off the owner to the tune of $350 or whatever. Short of replacing every single part with a new one, it is impossible to guarantee the restoration. The remaining 80 year old parts might keep going forever, or they might fail the next day. Who is going to pay for the time and parts it takes to rebuild a car radio or television from scratch, assuming all the original transformers and parts unique to that set are available? In practice, the likely components (paper condensers and carbon resistors) are replaced, since these are known to be problematic and are the cause of most problems. In the majority of instances of a vintage restoration, that's all that's needed, along with cleaning of switches and pots.
But, a transformer could go open circuit in a week...

Anyone who reads "The Serviceman" column in Electronics Australia/R&H, or Silicon Chip will have read about the customers who regard servicemen as out to rip them off, or regard them as incompetent if the set fails soon after.
"You fixed it yesterday, and now it's not working again!" (often with a totally unrelated fault - which the complaining customer conveniently overlooks).

Model T coils are something that often come my way. They're a tedious job, and one thing which Model T people have a reputation for, is wanting everything cheap.  And yes, I have had them fail after a restoration - not often, but it can happen. I was about to pull the plug on doing them up after one incident. A short time after the coils had been sent back to the owner, I received a call, which in a round about way, accused me of keeping his coils, while returning a defective, unrestored set. How this could have happened was a mystery, since I certainly didn't have his originals.
Eventually, it transpired that he had misplaced the returned coils, but had found another set in his workshop which he thought were the ones I was supposed to have repaired. He apoligised for his "senior moment", but it did feel as though my reputation had already been tarnished.

One repair for an amplifier power supply required a bit of a redesign, because it wasn't clear what one of the failed parts was. Again, I couldn't charge for the several days work it really took https://youtu.be/hMdYD7gMOPA

A car radio repair for the owner of a 1962 Rolls Royce, involved a repair to the power switch on the back of the volume control. It was a conventional switch pot, but with dimensions and a shaft which were not standard in Australia. The phenolic switch toggle had broken. All I could do was super glue it back together with a piece of plastic bracing. It worked, but I advised the owner that it was likely to fail eventually. Apparently it did about six months later, and I was accused of being incompetent.
The same individual also owned a 1985 Bentley. The bonnet light did not work. This fault was traced back to a multi-pin connector mounted on the firewall. Upon removing the plug, numerous connections were found to be severely corroded. Unfortunately, one or more broke when the plug was withdrawn, and other electrical functions in the engine bay, namely the ignition, no longer worked. Guess who got the blame now that the car wouldn't start? I wonder, who would have got the blame when the ignition finally failed, when the car was being driven miles from nowhere, had I not touched it?

It's not all negative of course. This job was a pleasure, and so was dealing with the owner https://www.cool386.com/tasma/tasma.html

I've reached the time in my life where I don't need to work for an income, or deal with the stress that could entail. Yes, I can probably make your vintage car radio or old television work again - but I can't guarantee it will stay working forever - or even into the next day. Good luck finding someone who can guarantee it!
 



Home