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The legacy of Watford Electronics Ltd.

This article is a tribute to Watford Electronics’ journey from its humble beginnings to greatness. A download of the Watford 1978 catalogue is available along with some contemporary advertisements by this well-respected brand, which became known as during its heyday.

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Stripboard/ Veroboard and layout software

Veroboard was invented in Britain by post-war aircraft industry engineers working for Vero Precision Engineering Limited and a patent (No. 883,870) was filed in 1959 - nearly sixty years ago!

It is a copper-clad insulated board (SRBP) that is milled to create strips of copper that are then punched with a regular matrix, usually 0.1" between centres. Strips can be broken using a spot face cutter or twist drill, or parallel strips can be linked with jumper wires.

Historically, bulky circuits were prototyped and wired up on wooden panels like breadboards, and the name 'breadboarding' has stuck ever since. Veroboard has been a masterpiece of design that has brought the world the ability to build and experiment with electronic circuits, and as a prototyping medium it's never been bettered. The biggest piece of Veroboard I ever bought as a hobbyist must have been about 18" long, and needless to say it arrived in the post smashed up!

  • There is more about Veroboard on Wikipedia.
  • Generic stripboard is explained on Wikipedia here.
  • You can download all my constructional projects from the 1970's onwards here. Many of them were built on Veroboard originally.

Ambyr Stripboard Magic

A popular (in its time) stripboard/ Veroboard layout program for Windows, 1990's era Stripboard Magic was developed in Britain by Ambyr Ltd. but disappeared without trace after a brief spell of success, selling as boxed software in Maplin stores too. Although it has been abandoned, copies of it spring up all over the web.

It ran in Windows XP but proved problematic in Windows 7+, the commonest problem being an error on installation Setup is unable to find installation languages in setup.lid file. Error105.

Stripboard Magic in Windows 7 Pro/ 64 bit [click to see]You can search and download Stripboard Magic 1.0 from various places around the web (not here!).  After unzipping the program into a folder, instead of using the program's front-end installer, a solution is to open the DATA1.CAB file with a software tool like Jared Breland's Universal Extractor which will extract the cabinet file, so try extracting that to a sub-folder. In there you will find the executable for Stripboard Magic. Double-click the .exe and it should run, and see how far you get. I took a screenshot (left) to prove it installed OK.

Also try LochMaster (literally, Hole Master) from Germany's Abacom. As always, all such material is downloaded and used entirely at your risk, not mine.


Library of constructional projects and reprints - Alan Winstanley

Here is a full list of my constructional projects since the 1970's (Mains Delay Switch, April 1978) to the last one (Windicator, July 1995) with links to PDF reprints. The background design and prototype notes can be found separately, in the individual parts of my online 'Interviews' elsewhere on this web site.

EE Mains Delay Switch  April 78

Auto Nightlight  July 78

Fuse Checker  Oct 78

Water Level Alert  Dec 78

Time Delay Indicator  Feb 79

Darkroom Timer  July 79

Uniboards 1 Opto Alarm Nov 79

Uniboards 2 Burglar Alarm  Dec 79

Uniboards 3 9V PSU   Jan 80

Mains On-Off Timer  Jan 80

Uniboards 4 Touch Switch  Mar 80

Gas Sentinel  Apr 80

Uniboards 5 Audio Tone Generator  May 80

Uniboards 6 Voltage Converter  Jun 80

Uniboards 7 Dusk-Dawn Relay  Oct 80

Soil Moisture Monitor  Nov 80

Xmas Lights Flasher  Dec 80

IC Uniboards 1 No Entry Indicator  Dec 80

IC Uniboards 2 Ice Alarm  Jan 81

IC Uniboards 3 6-7½-9V PSU  Feb 81

Bench Power Supply  Mar 81

IC Uniboards 4 Mini Siren  Mar 81

Pressure Mat Trigger Alarm  Nov 81

Siren Module  Jan 82

In-car PSU  Apr 82

Security Vari-Light  Dec 82

Opto Repeater  Jan 83

4 Channel Gas & Smoke Sentinel  Jan 84

Washer Fluid [Car] Monitor  Aug 84

Mains Monitor  Feb 85

Continuity Test Unit  Jul 85

Drill Control Unit  Aug 85

Door Chime  Jun 87

Door Sentinel  May 88

Power Controller [Phase Control type]  Sep 88

Auto Nightlight  Dec 91

Auto Garage Light  Mar 92

UV Exposure Timer Jul 92

Washer [car, fluid] Monitor  Sep 92

Pond Heater Thermostat   Jan 94

Power Controller [Burst Firing]  Nov 94

Multipurpose Thermostat  Mar 95

Windicator  Jul 95

Interview Part 8: Here comes the future

In the final part I explain how the world-wide web grabbed my attention, but not before I had completed two more Teach-In series, helped bring the PhizzyB computer to our readership and written the story of electricity generation in "From Pipelines To Pylons". I rounded off with a 50 Years Golden Anniversary celebration of the magazine I have worked for since 1976.

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Interview Part 7: At the surgery

It's onwards with the Teach-In Micro Lab Ingenuity Unlimited, Circuit Surgery, Ohm Sweet Ohm and introducing EPE's feline friend, Piddles the Cat in the penultimate instalment of my potted history.

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Interview Part 6: A labour of love

Updated on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 6:04PM by Registered CommenterAlan W

Updated on Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 10:42AM by Registered CommenterAlan W

Updated on Friday, September 8, 2017 at 12:42AM by Registered CommenterAlan W

The next part (nearly there now!) of my potted history picks up the story from the early 1990s when I put project developments on the back burner and headed over to the Teach-In series instead, co-authoring Teach-In 93 with the Mini Lab and Micro Lab, designed by Keith Dye and Geoff MacDonald.

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New! Introduction to Gas Soldering Irons

Introduction to Gas Soldering Irons on Amazon (Kindle)Apart from traditional electric ‘pencil’ soldering irons, a wide choice of portable, butane-powered irons is now sold on popular websites at some very appealing prices. Gas soldering irons can be pretty handy tools for tackling quick electronic repairs on the spot or handling  odd-jobs in the field.

My new book entitled ‘Introduction to Gas Soldering Irons’ has now been published.  It outlines the operation of both simpler, torch-type irons and also catalytic soldering irons, explaining the merits of each type and also highlighting some oft-misunderstood facts about the butane gas (or is it a liquid?) that powers them. Some important usage and handling considerations are included too, helped by a plentiful supply of color photographs.

The book is intended to fill in the missing gaps in typical instructions and help beginners in choosing and using their own gas soldering iron. In Part Two of the book, a small selection of commercial gas soldering irons is reviewed which will help would-be users to check out the essential features of a gas soldering iron before they decide to rush out and buy one.

These handy-dandy gadgets could be just the thing to enhance a typical tech’s toolkit, so why not check out this useful guide to learn everything you need to know about gas-powered soldering irons. It’s available for download on your local Amazon site under ASIN: B00J4Y3NSY.


Readers' prototypes

Following the intermittent appearance of my ‘potted history’, regular reader and friend of EPE Thomas Stratford got in touch to say that he’d built a couple of my legacy projects!

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