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  • FIRST POST
    • dosh37
    • By dosh37 12th Jul 17, 5:04 PM
    • 122Posts
    • 38Thanks
    dosh37
    Radio Controlled Clock MSF Time Signal
    • #1
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:04 PM
    Radio Controlled Clock MSF Time Signal 12th Jul 17 at 5:04 PM
    Maybe it's just me, but ever since the MSF time signal moved from Rugby to Cumbria, most of my radio controlled clocks have been next to useless.
    The worst offender is the 'London Clock' mantle clock in my living room. It often stops completely at 4pm. Sometimes it enters a mode in which the hands rotate continually at high speed until I disconnect the battery. On reconnection it will stop at 8:00 while waiting for a signal. Sometimes it will resync correctly, other times it will start working but display the wrong time.
    I have tried re-positioning the clock.
    I have tried replacing the battery.
    How hard is it in 2017 to manufacture a clock, synchronised to a time standard that works reliably?
    I hate technology that does not work!
Page 1
    • dosh37
    • By dosh37 12th Jul 17, 5:10 PM
    • 122 Posts
    • 38 Thanks
    dosh37
    • #2
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:10 PM
    • #2
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:10 PM
    Why are there no 'retro style' elegant looking mantle clocks that synchronise over the internet via WiFi?
    I'm not talking modern digital, but something retro.
    Radio controlled clocks (at least in the UK) clearly do not work.
    There is a marketing opportunity here for an entrepreneur.
    • Rodders53
    • By Rodders53 12th Jul 17, 5:31 PM
    • 411 Posts
    • 282 Thanks
    Rodders53
    • #3
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:31 PM
    • #3
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:31 PM
    My MSF clocks work fine with the signal from Anthorn.

    Local interference or incorrect positioning of the receive aerial is probably your issue. Try the clock elsewhere to get it synced? Sadly if the wall you place the clock on means the clock antenna is perpendicular to the direction of Anthorn it will not be able to pick up any signal!
    • dosh37
    • By dosh37 12th Jul 17, 5:41 PM
    • 122 Posts
    • 38 Thanks
    dosh37
    • #4
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:41 PM
    • #4
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:41 PM
    Been there. Done that.
    I have tried re-positioning and re-orienting the clock.
    It makes no difference.

    I have a first class BSc degree in Electronic Engineering. I worked for many years at Marconi Instruments, so I do understand a bit about RF propagation.

    The basic problem is that the cheap radio controlled clocks produced by the Chinese are unable to reliably receive and decode the 100uV/m signal from the MSF transmitter in the south of the UK. The technology is flawed.
    • dosh37
    • By dosh37 12th Jul 17, 5:47 PM
    • 122 Posts
    • 38 Thanks
    dosh37
    • #5
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:47 PM
    • #5
    • 12th Jul 17, 5:47 PM
    It seems crazy to me that in 2017 we are still using prehistoric 1940's longwave technology to transmit a time sync signal.
    Germany Calling, Germany Calling.
    • unforeseen
    • By unforeseen 12th Jul 17, 6:21 PM
    • 1,755 Posts
    • 2,199 Thanks
    unforeseen
    • #6
    • 12th Jul 17, 6:21 PM
    • #6
    • 12th Jul 17, 6:21 PM
    Well as you have a BSc then you should realise that one of the advantages of long wave is that it suffers less from line of sight than higher frequencies. In fact it will follow the curvature of the Earth for thousands of kilometres. That s why it is still used to talk to submarines because they only need a smallish aerial just breaking the surface to pick up the signal without having into to surface.
    • aerostar
    • By aerostar 12th Jul 17, 7:46 PM
    • 1,674 Posts
    • 884 Thanks
    aerostar
    • #7
    • 12th Jul 17, 7:46 PM
    • #7
    • 12th Jul 17, 7:46 PM
    The ferrite rod aerial used in the modules is very directional - best pick up is with it broadside on to Cumbria, end on to Cumbria virtually no signal.

    The aerial can be de-tuned if there is ferrous material close to it, the rods are tightly tuned to 60Khz +/- 10Hz if I remember correctly.

    Your Mantle clock problem is most likely to be that the module is failing, mechanically and/or electrically, and I would think mechanically is the most likely.

    When the transmitter was moved, there were reception problems, the transmitter is capable of running at higher power - but the cost to do this I believe was rejected.

    The makers of the modules changed the ferrite material and/or increased the length of the rod, which mostly solved reception problems but you needed to buy the newer clocks !

    Over the years I have had and still have a number of radio controlled clocks and watches , working quite happily.

    To check for outages and maintenance
    http://www.npl.co.uk/science-technology/time-frequency/products-and-services/time/msf-outages

    Other info

    http://www.npl.co.uk/science-technology/time-frequency/products-and-services/time/common-clock-problems

    http://www.npl.co.uk/science-technology/time-frequency/products-and-services/time/msf-radio-time-signal
    • Neil Jones
    • By Neil Jones 12th Jul 17, 7:47 PM
    • 820 Posts
    • 448 Thanks
    Neil Jones
    • #8
    • 12th Jul 17, 7:47 PM
    • #8
    • 12th Jul 17, 7:47 PM
    I don't have a problem with my clocks that sync to Cumbria.

    I also have a few clocks and what not from Lidl that manage to sync perfectly fine to some radio clock server somewhere in Germany, most likely Frankfurt's DCF-77 which has a range that wipes the floor with the NPL in Cumbria. the only caveat with these is every time you change the batteries they default to German and CET...

    As to adding Wi-Fi to clocks, it has already been done sort of, this one syncs through an app on your phone:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Travel-Automatically-through-Android-Compatible/dp/B01M00E0XI
    • virgo17
    • By virgo17 12th Jul 17, 8:34 PM
    • 663 Posts
    • 228 Thanks
    virgo17
    • #9
    • 12th Jul 17, 8:34 PM
    • #9
    • 12th Jul 17, 8:34 PM
    I have a first class BSc degree in Electronic Engineering. I worked for many years at Marconi Instruments, so I do understand a bit about RF propagation.

    The basic problem is that the cheap radio controlled clocks produced by the Chinese are unable to reliably receive and decode the 100uV/m signal from the MSF transmitter in the south of the UK. The technology is flawed.
    Originally posted by dosh37
    Electronic Engineering maybe, but not it seems in geography

    The MSF signal has been transmitted from Anthorn in Cumbria for several years now following relocation.

    But I do agree, the signal seems nowhere near as strong in most parts of the British Isles as it was previously.
    • Uxb
    • By Uxb 12th Jul 17, 8:46 PM
    • 924 Posts
    • 1,004 Thanks
    Uxb
    It has been for several years now that my kitchen clock has also exhibited exactly the same symptoms as the OP's.
    ...with the solution being exactly the same along with propping it up somewhere in the front of the house by a window facing north.
    Then it gets its act together and eventually syncs at the right time - rather than the wrong time -until the next time it throws a wobbly and whirs round continually at high speed.

    This is also in the South UK.
    Its just yet more sh*t UK infrastructure coupled with something being improved (in this case moved) which makes things worse
    So all pretty normal then.
    • kwikbreaks
    • By kwikbreaks 12th Jul 17, 9:15 PM
    • 8,839 Posts
    • 4,416 Thanks
    kwikbreaks
    My analogue radio controlled clock resets inself at 4:00pm every day. It starts to fast forward and eventually returns to normal running several minutes later.

    My complaint is that it's both a damned stupid way to make a minor correction and a damned stupid time to do it - why not 4:00am when it won't matter for 99% of the population.
    • virgo17
    • By virgo17 12th Jul 17, 9:17 PM
    • 663 Posts
    • 228 Thanks
    virgo17
    Its just yet more sh*t UK infrastructure coupled with something being improved (in this case moved) which makes things worse
    So all pretty normal then.
    Originally posted by Uxb
    I agree. I have a cheap radio clock (wx station) that was bought from Lidl in Spain and brought back to UK. It syncs perfectly with DCF-77 at Frankfurt. OTOH a similar UK purchased device frequently fails to sync with Anthorn in Cumbria.

    Both items are in the north west of the UK.
    • coffeehound
    • By coffeehound 12th Jul 17, 10:04 PM
    • 1,246 Posts
    • 2,131 Thanks
    coffeehound
    Both items are in the north west of the UK.
    Originally posted by virgo17
    I suppose the mountains could be blocking the Cumbria signal?

    Interesting to hear about the German signal as I have a clock bought from German company Tchibo (remember them?) in the UK at the turn of the century. Still going strong. I wonder if it is using the German mast too.
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