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Big Town

I got up early this morning. About 6am. Fed kitty, made tea, then got lost in a maze of TVTropes. I started looking up info on "Valerian", the weird film I watched last night, with Luc Besson's colourfully unique vision of life in space; and it just went from there. TV Tropes is a place that's far too easy to get lost in.

At twenty to nine, I got up, shaved, threw on some clothes, decided they weren't quite black enough, threw on some different clothes, and then was in the car for 9am.

And since I'm barely functional in the morning and with only one mug of tea in me, I went back inside to pick up the cooler, the shopping bags, and that little man-bag thing with my bank cards in it. Kind of important, all of that.

I was in Châteaubriant for about ten. An hour later than I had planned, but not a problem. I wasn't running to any particular schedule. The first stop was to go to the Leclerc supermarket.

Oh, speaking of supermarkets, I went to my local U earlier in the week and - noooooo! they have moved stuff around. And in ways that don't make sense. That sort of thing always upsets me, as I'm going to have to wander around and try to remember where stuff is now. Though, to be honest, I have a suspicion I'm going to spend half the time looking to see what they no longer stock. Reorganising is done for a reason, and if the previous organisation was good for numerous years, then what's changed?

Anyway, I got "the usual" in the supermarket, except I also picked up five tins of beans (I have a tray of beans, but one can't lack beans) and two packs of sage and onion stuffing for the cold season festival.

I didn't bother packing stuff. It's been ages since I've been and I've already had several times of passing through the beep-your-own without verification so they were surely going to check my shopping.

They didn't check my shopping. I handed the gizmo over, pointed out a reduction coupon, paid, and left. <shrug>


Afterwards, I went to Action and got something useful for the house.

Fire extinguisher
Where there's smoke...

It's a foam extinguisher, so for class A and B fires. That is to say, "pretty much any household fire that doesn't involve electricity". It came with a nifty little bracket, so two screws and it was affixed to the wooden surround of the kitchen door next to the Livebox.

I was looking for a 'thing' that could hold various rolls of kitchen product. You see, I have baking paper, cling film, and alu foil. On rolls. In boxes. They're just piled on the fridge.
I dunno, I'm surprised that nobody has thought of a little plastic thing to mount on the kitchen wall to hold the rolls, maybe with a little safety cutter to swish across to cut things to the desired size. Seems to me like the sort of thing Lakeland would have sold, but they don't appear to...


My next stop was the "vide grenier". Yes, I'm quite predictable, aren't I?

I got a teapot.

A teapot
A teapot.

Now, I'm not short of teapots (thanks mom!), but I rather liked the built-in tea ball which even came with a little cup to rest it in once the tea was strong enough. All in all, quite a pleasing tea pot and only €1.

A teapot
Needs a clean.

I also got some other things, details below.

After the vide grenier shop, off to Picard.

Yummy frozen things
Yummy frozen things!

The frozen things chez Picard came to only slightly more than a tricked out burger meal, and I have somewhat more faith in Picard not trying to kill me. You know, it's been a year and a half since I did "fast food", or ate out at all.


I came home and heated up the buddha bowl. No idea why it is called that, but whatever, it's full of goodness.
Lemon tinted brocolli? Oh, yes.
Basil pasta twirly things? Oh, yes.
Lentils? Oh, yes (even if they sometimes come with added volcano).
Soy beans? Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, yes! (spot my preference)
It even almost resembles the picture on the packet.

Ensuring my green credentials are up to date
Ensuring my green credentials are up to date.

Following that, I sat out for some vitamin D and wrote this on the Android portable balanced on my lap, whilst wearing sunglasses. So if there are any obvious typos, there's my excuse right there.

This evening? Oh, my. So many things to watch on Netflix, not enough years of life left...


Citizen CX-32N printing calculator

At the vide grenier place, besides a teapot, I picked up a printing calculator for €3.
Printing calculator
Printing calculator - Citizen CX-32N.

Not really sure what I'd do with this, but it was a cheap thing to play with, especially seeing as it came with six rolls of paper so I could play right away.

The first surprise was this.

Button cell pull tab
You're supposed to pull the little plastic tab!

I'm not sure what it wants to remember, but it looks as if the previous owner didn't even realise that there was a battery there or that the calculator had a persistent memory.
It's a regular CR2032 lithium cell, and it is outputting 3V so it's in good shape.
Four AA cells into the holder and...
They were all in the correct way around, but I've met gremlins before in my life, so I took out all the batteries and put them in again.
That did the trick.

Printing calculator
Printing 5138008.

It prints blue for positive numbers, and red for negative numbers.


And since this is Rick's blog, it would be remiss of me not to include these photos.

What's inside
What's inside.

There isn't really much to see as it's one little IC covered in black gunk. Perhaps the most surprising thing is the amount of parts that are hand soldered. That is to say everything that isn't surface mount. There are no sockets, all of the wires from the batteries and so on are soldered directly to the board.

As for this... no comment. I guess it says a lot about the sort of poorly paid labour that makes these devices that making this monstrosity was done instead of just sticking some sort of socket there and plugging in the printer unit.

What the heck?
What the heck?

If you aren't sure what you are looking at, the multicoloured wires come from the printer unit (top) to a tiny circuit board. The other side of this circuit board is the top part of a see-through ribbon cable that is about a centimetre long, and is connected to the main board. This is astonishing.

As for the printer unit, here it is.

Printer unit.
Printer unit.

It shakes when in use, so I'm just going to guess that there's a drive motor to turn everything, and some solenoids. There are three rubber print rolls - one with the red ink and two with the blue ink, so it'll need a way of selecting which roll to press to the paper. It also needs a way to feed the paper.
It doesn't necessarily need to move the print head if engaging to print something automatically advances the head, and feeding the paper returns it. I've not stripped this down to see how it works.


As I'm likely to want to remember, a quick explanation (mostly for me, but...).

Lots of switches
Lots of switches.

The #◆ key is for either printing the number with a '#' following, or printing the running total.
The * key will print the total and then clear it.
The = performs the calculations (does it affect the total?). The Coins/Local keys are for currency exchange. Need to use RATE to set the exchange rate.
To print the date, 2 2 . 0 9 . 2 0 2 3 ◆.

The left switch:

  • + for adding mode
  • 0,2,3 for fixed decimal point
  • F for full floating point
The middle switch:
  • 5/4 to round off (means round to nearest)
  • Down arrow to round down
The right switch:
  • Business for Cost/Sell/Margin functions (instead of Tax+/Tax-/Rate).
  • IC for printout of item count.
  • P for running printout.
  • ON for use without running printout.
  • OFF for making tea.


Socotel S63 - yes, another

The final find was...a Socotel S63.

God's sake, Rick, don't you have enough ancient telephones?

Oh, but this one is different. It has buttons. There were actually three of these present in the place. A dark grey one (€15), a faded red one (€20), and this one (€6). Obviously I got the cheaper one. ☺

Another old phone.
Yet another old phone, but with buttons!

It was made in September 1987 (so it is thirty six years old, and was made just before the famous not-hurricane that wrecked Michael Fish's credibility; and Never Gonna Give You Up was number one and nobody had any idea about the RickRoll meme that was to come) and it was deployed two years later in October 1989 (when BSkyB with it's squarials and D-MAC was supposed to have been operating; and Milli Vanilli hadn't yet crashed and burned).
Aside: it was pretty much expected that we'd ditch Saturday classes a little early so we could watch The Chart Show on ITV.

Plugging it into the Livebox revealed two things. The first was that it is a DTMF phone, so will happily work with the ADSL VoIP, and the second is that while it appears to still be using carbon microphones, this one works. If anything, it's a little too loud.

The little button at the lower right marked 'R' is a Rappel button. I have no manual for this phone, and there's a lot of gibberish on the internet (my favourite was "it's the launch nukes button"), so I dialled the answering service, then pressed it.
It just disconnects the line when pressed, so you could think of this as an "oops" button. Messed up a number? Hit "oops" rather than hanging up and picking up again. It doesn't redial the last number, the phone doesn't have any sort of memory, the keypad directly controls the tone generator.

Inside, the main phone circuit board is pretty much the same as usual, just slightly rearranged, but I've noticed the layout of stuff on the board changing from one issue to the next.
However, in place of the plastic box containing the rotary dial is something rather more complicated.

That's more complicated than a mechanical dial!
That's more complicated than a mechanical dial!

Let's look at the other side.

The dialler board
The dialler board.

The little chip on the left is an LM358 op-amp, probably for putting the tones on to the line.
The bigger chip on the right is a TCM5089 DTMF tone generator.
Hidden around the back is a CD4069 which is a logic gate, an octal invertor or something.
And attached to that massive heatsink is a TIP50 that converts whatever the phone line is throwing out into a nice IC-friendly 5V.
The crystal is a cheap 3.579545MHz can that is used as the timing for the tone generator, only being a tad eccentric it is marked in kilohertz. These are extremely common, it was the frequency of the NTSC colour burst (PALs was 4.43361875MHz). Fun fact! The Sega Master System used one of these to clock its Z80.

Timing crystal
Timing crystal.

Notable is a quirky way of adjusting the "volume" of the ringer, by moving one of the bells closer or further from the clapper. On the other hand, there's no easy way to disable the ringer, short of opening up the phone and disconnecting it.

Here's the schematic.

Telephone schematic.
Telephone schematic.



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Anon, 22nd September 2023, 22:06
Are you being serious about those baking paper/alu foil dispensers and the Rappel button? 
I mean, for the dispensers, just take a look on the web. They're all over the place. And the Rappel button? Used with office phone exchanges to transfer incoming calls.
JGH, 24th September 2023, 21:01
I have this weird thought of an English WW2 Resistance comedy would have a character who would say: "It is I, Tesco!"
Rob, 27th September 2023, 16:43
The squarials were from BSB (British Satellite Broadcasting) whilst Sky was still little more than an obscure cable channel with delusions of grandeur. BSB owned their satellites, whereas Sky quickly launched at almost the same time, using rented capacity on Astra.. As with the video wars, cheaper won out, and Sky merged (took over) BSB, with the new company renamed BSkyB. Given all the BSB channels were swiftly shut down, and the satellites sold off, it's obvious who wore the trousers in that marriage.
Rob, 27th September 2023, 16:46
Forgot to say, BSB was all digital (DMAC as you say) whilst Sky was old-school analogue. Pictures and features were far superior on BSB, but the boxes cost way more..

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