Wright's Aerials
The CAI Trade Show 2004

The CAI trade show was held at the National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh, near Kenilworth, this week. It’s a brilliant venue. Much better than the ghastly hotel at Heathrow that they used to use. That place was right down in the bottom corner of the country – hardly convenient for most of us. Parking was always difficult and the traffic on the way in and out was appalling.

We had to go on the Thursday because of other commitments, and it wasn't ideal. For some reason the exhibitors always have a massive piss-up on the Wednesday night, so it was just a big room full of hangovers. Still they tried to smile, poor dears, and I noticed that the hair of the dog was much in use. Surreptitious – and later in the session rather less surreptitious – swigs were quite frequent. Richard Miller on the ACE stand had deep bags under his eyes and a glazed expression, and he could hardly keep upright. Nothing unusual there, then.

The 1080 line TVs on display mightily impressed me. The picture is out of this world. How 1080 lines can look three times better than 625 I don’t know, but it does (OK ‘they do’). I stood entranced looking at the screen. If we ever get HDTV in this country with decent programmes I’ll be first in the queue.
I loved the wall-mounted mirror in its gilt frame that was really a TV set.
I was pleased to find quite a few interesting new products. Antiference seem to have improved some of their range considerably, especially the amplifiers, although the new TC range of aerials is a bit of a disaster it seems to me. In order to comply with the CAI benchmarking the aerial must have a balun, so instead of simply giving it one they’ve fitted the full wave dipole as used on the XG range. This means the installer has one more operation to perform, since the new dipole can’t be pre-fitted to the boom. The TC aerials are now the same as those horrible things Anti used to sell to Tandy. They were always the mark of the amateur installer. I know we must all swear by the Holy Balun, but the fact is TCs, with their odd shaped halfwave dipole, have performed brilliantly for thirty years without major changes. If it ain’t bust don’t fix it, I think.

Two years ago I went to every aerial manufacturer at the show that didn’t sell a log periodic and suggested that they would start to lose market share if they didn’t start to sell logs. Most listened politely but the guys on the Antiference stall laughed in my face at this absurd idea. Now I see Anti is selling a log periodic. I’d been hoping for a log periodic from them with conventional elements and element fixings, but alas their product has the same wire elements as the Vision and Fracarro logs. These tend to come loose if they get knocked in the van, and they can’t be tightened up. The Antiference log has a version with an amplifier built inside the boom (yes, inside the boom). Time will tell if water will get in. Maybe the amp is encapsulated. I dunno. I might try a few of these, and I might also try the Blake log periodic. Their log looks pretty well made.

Of course Labgear were conspicuous by their absence. I spent a lot of time looking for replacements for the Labgear products we use, since Philex are unlikely to continue the full range. MTD (Martin Turner) had some interesting stuff at very good prices. They have satellite line amps that appear to be a replacement for the Labgear ones we’ve been using.

When I get back to work I must check exactly how much I’m paying for cable. It goes up and down like a whore’s drawers.

Hirschmann dishes still seem to be the best, although there are much cheaper ones that are nearly as good. Hmm. . .

At the very end of the show I was told that I had won the Antiference raffle. I had been trying to enter into the spirit of things all day and had been sipping cans of free beer. I was so astonished that when I went to collect my prize I absentmindedly put a half-consumed can into my trouser pocket, opened end down! Antiference tactfully ignored the spreading leakage (they must have thought I was really excited) and very kindly offered to help me carry my goodies back to the van. I waved them away. I heard my rather blurry voice say “Well thank you very much for all this, but I can manage quite easily. Quite easily. Thank you very very much, just watch. Just you watch. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for your marvelous generosity. What a lovely firm Antiference is! So very lovely! Thank you, thank you!” I was already fully laden with catalogues, info sheets, and freebies from the other stalls, as well as two beach towels from Antiference, but somehow I picked up the large electric coolbox full of beer and two big boxes of Antiference products.

I staggered out into the bright sunshine, and realized that I had come out of the back door. I looked round for an aerial to get my bearings but I couldn’t see either aerials or dishes, so I set off towards what I thought looked like the car park. After 200 yards and nearly as many stops to adjust my load I realized I was heading the wrong way, but figured that I could take a short cut behind some buildings. I found myself in the middle of some other function, with a lot of posh people looking at me with great curiosity. Three times I inadvertently shed my load, with papers, bath towels, and freebies scattering over the concrete. The coolbox came open and cans of Special Brew rolled away from me down the slight slope. As I chased them I started to swear loudly to myself the way that vagrants do, and I realized that I had a big wet patch down the front of my trousers, and Special Brew was actually leaking out of my left trouser leg and leaving a dribbly trail. Just like all the best vagrants I glowered in a mad way at the onlookers and their accusative stares and shouted “Wha’ th’ hell are you starin’ at? Haven’ you got nuttin’ better to do than bother an ol’ man?”

Hil spotted me as I weaved across the car park. She watched my slow progress with mounting incredulity and exasperation. Finally I got to the van, to be greeted with “Oh God, have you been spending money AGAIN! And you’ve been on the pop AGAIN haven’t you? What’s the point of coming all this way just to get pissed?”

“I’ll take your points in reverse order” I said with as much dignity as I could muster. “Firstly, what’s the point of coming all this way to NOT get pissed? Ha ha!” This fell on stony ground. “Yes, I have had a few drinks. It would be churlish to refuse. And no, I haven’t spent a cent. I WON all this!” Hil gave me a very sceptical look, then saw my trousers. Luckily the upside down can was still in my pocket so with much rolling of eyes heavenwards my explanation for the apparent alcoholic incontinence was accepted – just.

Thanks to the CAI for organizing such a splendid event, and apologies to the posh people.

Print this page © 2003-2012, Wrights Aerials Add to Favorites