It cannot have escaped your notice (can it?) that we are in the middle of a minor revolution in the form taken by modern R/C equipment. The advent of the microprocessor in a small and cheap enough (this is cheap?) form has led to its inclusion in those little black boxes that we all play with. This is not only true of R/C gear, of course, since the same process is taking place in just about everything - radio, TV, stereo, etc.
The 'black box' concept originated in popular fiction quite some time ago and it is interesting, but inconclusive, to ponder whether the average receiver or servo might have been some other colour if it had not already been coined.
Whether you go along with the trend (you may have little choice before long), or approve of it depends on your own particular interests, aptitude and - dare I say it - age! Those who are already into computing tend to see the advantages immediately and have little difficulty in adapting their thought processes accordingly. On the other hand, if you already have problems with a digital watch you are in for a hard time. The old joke about getting the youngest member of the family to do it for you will take on new relevance.
Much of the equipment concerned is of foreign origin and may have documentation which is of little help. One problem here is that the situation is currently very competitive and the equipments specification is constantly changing. The cost and manpower involved in keeping the instructions up to date can be prohibitive in the country of origin. A very minor market like the UK stands no chance. Where English instructions do exist, they may well have been produced for the American market. Apart from the obvious differences between the two variations on what is allegedly the same language, the American version of the equipment is frequently different anyway.
While all of the equipment currently appearing has roughly the same facilities, every manufacturer has his own way of going about accessing them and adjusting them to suit the individual model or flyer. Identical features are given different names by different producers which just makes the poor old modeller even more confused. This is probably the best argument around for staying with one make of gear for all your modelling requirements.
Well, you say, why don't the magazines tackle the situation, with articles on just how to get the best from a specific outfit? Unless you are the owner of a similar outfit, it hardly makes good reading does it? It many cases, it would take the whole magazine to do justice to the subject and there is very little that can be done in the space of a standard length article.
Someone here at Argus has already suggested the production of a book on the subject. Here again the situation is the same. When there are many sets of equipment to be covered - all different - and it may take most of the book to do one of them justice, the task is hopeless. Where do you draw the line in this when there are many more sets available, worldwide, than are seen in the UK. Any comprehensive survey would be out of date long before the manuscript reached the printer.
The real answer, of course, lies in education. But just how do you educate someone into a whole new field of thought with so few conventions. Those with the right kind of thought processes will have no real difficulty in educating themselves anyway - they are the lucky ones.
OK, where is all this leading us? It seems to this writer that the market is beginning to outstrip its customers. There is a certain amount of status involved in possessing the latest all-singing-all-dancing equipment and there will always be people who will go out and buy it. The fact that they never will understand it, or get the best out of it, is probably not too important if they have the money to throw around.
The real enthusiast who actually needs some of the facilities available will usually have no real difficulty in learning to use the equipment once he has solved the main problem of affording it. The problem here is that after scraping together the money for the set that has most of what he wanted, he is likely to find that another set which has exactly what he wanted appears shortly afterwards!
While all of this is going on, your average club flyer will look at the situation, decide that he cannot keep up with it and continue to use his 'old faithful' gear which should probably have been scrapped years ago - and who can blame him? If he shoots down someone using the new 'supergear' - well, it can't be much good, can it?
A Mr.Hugh Fairhead has written about the recent item where someone introduced a transmitter into close proximity with a helicopter which had its engine running. He seems to have interpreted this as being against operation on adjacent channels. It seems incredible that he should have missed the point by so wide a mark.
To introduce another transmitter into close proximity with any model whatever the frequency is liable to cause interference. If that model is a fixed wing model and the engine is running, it could cause a momentary hazard. If the model is a helicopter, it could be expensive - or lethal!
The fact that the transmitters involved in the incident concerned were on adjacent channels merely increased the risk slightly. Another point is that the transmitter concerned is a modified 27MHz set which does not have type approval and could be considered a hazard to any other operator.
On the subject of adjacent channel operation, the BMFA recommended frequency plan is arranged such that normal operation will be on alternate channels. When the 35MHz frequencies first appeared, many clubs had long discussions on whether to go 'odds or evens'. There are few clubs of my knowledge that allow indiscriminate use of all the frequencies. Anyone with any knowledge of radio characteristics would be appalled at the behaviour of some individuals who are blissful in their ignorance.
Look at it this way Mr Fairhead - why load the dice against you? After all you would not dream of flying without a proper pegboard system, for instance, would you?
Did you hear about the modeller whose R/C model crashed because the elevator fell off? The model was undamaged , but the elevator could not be found.
A new club member, who he had not seen before, offered him a piece of balsa which could be used as a replacement. This was sewn in position using a needle and thread provided by another member.
On the next flight, the makeshift device fell off and the model was completely wrecked.
The moral: never take lifts from strangers!
TV commentary on a very wet INDY-CART race: "We are now racing under Brail conditions!"