About Silicon Chip Magazine

Silicon Chip is Australia's only electronics magazine, and is primarily directed to professionals, trades people and enthusiasts in the electronics, electrical, computer and related fields.

Each issue of Silicon Chip contains features such as:

  • Projects to build: do it yourself to save money, to learn new skills or simply for the fun of it!
  • Serviceman's Log: Actual cases, often unusual, from the bench our intrepid serviceman. Also includes servicing stories submitted by readers.
  • Vintage Radio: bringing back to life the discards of previous generations.
  • Technical features: in-depth stories about the latest technologies and gadgets. Contains technical information that many other publications ignore or gloss over.
  • Product Showcase: new products & services available from various Australian suppliers.
  • Computer Features: solving problems, tips and tricks or new equipment to try.
  • Mailbag/Ask Silicon Chip: letters from our readers (ie, you!) and our answers to tricky questions we receive.
  • . . . and much more packed into every issue.

Online

siliconchip.com.au gives you access to the full content of each issue of Silicon Chip magazine online. You can subscribe online for immediate access to a single issue, a whole year's worth or the entire Silicon Chip archive!

Once you create an account you can purchase access to online issues of the magazine (just click the link alongside the preview). You can preview any issues you haven't purchased, to get an idea of what is in them.

When you purchase access to an online issue it's yours forever just like the print version. You can log in and view the issues you have purchased any time you like.

In Print

The print version of Silicon Chip is produced and printed in Australia by Silicon Chip Publications Pty Ltd.

It is published monthly on the last Wednesday of the month prior to the cover date and is available in Australia from newsagents or by subscription direct from the publishers.

Project Information

Silicon Chip publishes projects intended for the home constructor and hobbyist to build for their own use.

Most projects are developed by Silicon Chip, although some are contributed by readers.

Each Silicon Chip design is carefully checked and tested and readers with the appropriate construction skills should be able to duplicate the design and have it work in the same or similar manner to the prototype.

However, there are sometimes differences in components and tolerances which make some kits operate slightly differently. Silicon Chip cannot be held responsible for any variations in operation between the prototype and those built by readers, nor can the magazine or personnel be held responsible for operation of the project and any consequences therefrom.

Staff

Leo Simpson, B.Bus., FAICD Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

Formerly : Managing Editor, ESN Technical Magazines; Editor, Electronics Australia

He may be the Publisher etc but the staff refer to Leo Simpson as “Der Fuhrer” which probably means either that they're terror-stricken or not frightened at all.

Leo Simpson has been involved in electronics companies since 1963 which is so far back in the mists of time that most of the companies that were big at that time are now only a dim memory - most of them are no longer in business. Leo got his start at the Ducon Condenser Co in Villawood and went on to work at the EMI factory at Homebush. (Well, we did say that nobody could remember them...)

From there he went on to spend many years at the then-leading magazine “Electronics Australia”, rising to become Managing Editor in 1986, and also being responsible for magazines such as “Your Computer”, “ETI” and “Sonics” at Federal Publishing Company.

Over the years Leo has been instrumental in the development of many fine hifi amplifiers, including the legendary Playmaster Twin 25 and Twin 40s, the Playmaster 60-60 and other very popular kit amplifiers which were made in their thousands. Leo was for many years the resident hifi equipment reviewer at “Electronics Australia” and it used to be said that he could spit on an amplifier and could tell how good it was by the steam rising from the heatsinks...

Leo founded Silicon Chip in 1987 and it has gone on to become the leading Electronics magazine in this country and it is widely regarded by publishers in Europe and the USA. Silicon Chip is probably the most prolific producer of DIY kit designs in the world, being one of the few technical publishers with engineers on staff and with their own laboratory, including state-of-the-art hifi test equipment such as the Audio Precision test set...

Greg Swain, B.Sc (Hons) Production Manager and Sub-Editor

Formerly : Editor, Electronics Australia

Greg is 2-IC to Leo Simpson and has worked with him since 1973. Greg started life as a Geophysicist (he did have a childhood but we'll gloss over that). After finding life as a Geophysicist unattractive, Greg found his niche at “Electronics Australia” and worked there for many years, rising to the post of Editor in 1986. Greg joined Leo Simpson in 1987, to co-found Silicon Chip.

Over the years Greg has done a great deal in managing the enormous changes from our original production on IBM PCs using Wordstar and embedded typesetting commands through to today's complete desktop production using Pagemaker, Photoshop, CorelDraw etc which goes to CTP (computer to plate) at our printers (HannanPrint).

Greg has the reputation for being a nit-picker since he is so thorough but without him Silicon Chip wouldn't be maintained at quite the high standard it is.

Greg hails from Quirindi originally and like many country boys he favours driving over walking. We reckon that he would park his Commodore (he's a confirmed Holden man) right next to his desk if he could. Trouble is, his desk is upstairs...

John Clarke, B.E. (Elec) Project Designer and Technical Writer

Formerly : Project Designer and Technical Writer, Electronics Australia

John Clarke has worked with other members of the Silicon Chip team for over 20 years, starting with “Electronics Australia” in 1979. When Leo Simpson and Greg Swain left to start Silicon Chip in 1987, their first choice - and first acceptance - was John Clarke. In fact, John designed two of the projects in the very first issue of the magazine.

John holds a bachelor of engineering (BE) in Electronics. But unlike many of his co-graduates, he's much more practical than theoretical. While lacking nothing whatsoever in the theory side, some of the mechanical devices John has created border on pure genius!

Like many engineers, John is a little on the introspective side. In fact, he is so quiet, he is called “Rowdy” in the Silicon Chip office. Actually, he is so quiet he found the noise of the city too much so he moved his family to the Moonbi Ranges (somewhere near Tamworth, we believe but none of us have been there to check).

Of course, while the rest of us are so noisy, John beavers away and produces a truly prodigious number of original and quite brilliant circuits every year. A devoted family man, John has four children, is a keen environmentalist and has a very dry sense of humour.

Jim Rowe B.A B.Sc (Technology) VK2ZLO Technical Writer

As a kid, Jim started playing with electronics by pulling old valve radios apart and using the parts to make amplifiers -- most of which oscillated, he admits. So he decided to learn more, so he could build one that DIDN'T oscillate! That led to a lifelong interest in the subject, as both a hobby and a job.

Leaving school in 1957, he joined AWA's then huge Ashfield plant as a radio engineering trainee, and started part-time tech/uni study as well. But months of greasing parts in the press shop and then degreasing them again in the plating shop turned him off a bit, so he left and joined the Uni of NSW as a lab assistant to pay the bills while he kept studying.

Then a junior technical writer and project developer's job became available at “Radio, TV & Hobbies” magazine. He applied and was accepted, starting work there in January 1960.

So began a long career in electronics writing, editing and project development. When RTV&H was renamed “Electronics Australia” in 1965, he became its editor -- and continued in that job until late 1979. Then he had what he describes as a 'midlife crisis' and left to join Dick Smith Electronics as a kind of technical 'guru'. That didn't work out too well though, and when he tried getting back into magazine work as Managing Editor of 'Electronics Today' magazine, that didn't last long either. Especially as that publisher soon bought EA as well, and he had to try calming down an understandably cheesed-off Leo Simpson, Greg Swain, John Clarke and co!

Jim says he 'wandered around in the wilderness' for a while, working briefly at the ill-fated Microbee Computers. But then when Leo and Co left EA in 1987 to start Silicon Chip, he was invited back to try keeping EA afloat. That led to another 12-year stint as EA's Editor, until 1999 when he was 'encouraged' to leave and become a contributor, because the publisher was planning major changes to the magazine, changes which meant a technical guru Editor would be like a fish out of water..

Jim describes himself as 'a GP in electronics, knowing a little about lots of things but not much about anything'. But over the years he has designed a wide range of DIY electronic equipment and has a special interest in test instruments. He has also written or co-written five books, many hundreds of technical articles and product reviews.

How is it that Leo was prepared to let him contribute to Silicon Chip, when he had been “the enemy” for so many years? Perhaps it's because both former editors of EA have found a common interest - their ever-increasing lack of tonsorial splendour. . . And perhaps it's because Jim's is, well, a little more advanced, Leo believes everyone will stop reminding him of it? Fat chance, we say...

Ross Tester VK2KRT Graphic Designer, Copywriter, Photographer, Technical Writer and Webmaster

Formerly: Production Manager, Electronics Australia; Advertising Manager, Dick Smith Electronics; Principal, Writech Pty Ltd

It's amazing how careers run parallel in this game - and how you should never burn your bridges with people because you're sure to come across them later on.

Another country boy (he grew up in Cowra), Ross escaped to the big city where his first job after leaving school was as a trainee draftsman at the then “bible” of Aussie technology, Electronics Australia, working alongside people such as Leo Simpson, Greg Swain, John Clarke, Jim Rowe, Phil Watson, Bob Flynn . . . people who he would “run into” almost thirty years later at Silicon Chip.

In the six or so years at EA, he trained not only as a draftsman but also as a copywriter/journalist, photographer, eventually becoming Production Manager. He also did a couple of years of electronics at TAFE (hated it!) and sat for (and somehow passed) his amateur radio license.

He was “poached” by a young bloke called Dick Smith who had just set up an electronics parts shop and wanted someone to help him with advertising. Thirteen years and three children later, Ross realised the time had come to take control of his own destiny and he left to start a technical copywriting, advertising and printing services business.

Move forward another few years and, while the business had been quite successful, another phone call - this time from Leo Simpson. (Now where have we heard that name before?) “Can you work for me for a few days a month” he asked. Ross quickly found out the few days a month was about 31, less time off for good behaviour. (Hasn't had a day off yet).

That was about two years ago (gad, was it really 1996?). His roles at Silicon Chip are many including writer (features and projects), sub-editor, graphic artist, advertising copywriter and creative director, designer, photographer, reviewer, webmaster . . .

Outside Silicon Chip, what little time is left is very much taken up with his involvement with Surf Lifesaving, particularly the "Nippers" or junior surf lifesavers.

His other chief claim to fame is arguably the most untidy office in the world. They say a clean desk is the sign of an organised mind. He says a clean desk is the sign of someone with too much time on their hands, so they clean their desk...

Now, where did he put that desk?

Ann Morris, Reader Services and Office Manager

More than a decade ago, when being interviewed for a vacancy at Silicon Chip, Ann was asked why she wanted the job. “I need an interesting occupation to help pay the bills”. We're not too sure whether it proved so interesting she had to stay . . . or was it that the bills kept on coming?

Ann came to Silicon Chip with a CV that reads like the first board of the Stock Exchange. She had been secretary to chief executives in a variety of companies, here and overseas. Now after a break to have a family, she was ready to get back into it. She still wonders whether it might not have been better to stay at home and have more kids... but then again, she had plenty of “kids” to look after at Silicon Chip.

As office manager, Ann keeps the rest of the team on the straight and narrow — how she tolerates all the rest of us no-one knows. Always cheerful, we've never seen her flustered or grumpy, although there was one time when a rude customer did upset her but we won't mention that...

As well as ensuring the Silicon Chip ship runs smoothly, Ann also manages all of the Silicon Chip reader services. There's all the new subscriptions, renewals, alterations (wouldn't believe how many subscribers change addresses each year!) back issues and book sales, reprint services, internet services... it's enough to keep most people going full time but Ann fits it all into a six-hour day. (That's why if you call the Silicon Chip office after 3pm you won't get the dulcet, cultured English tones of AJ - you'll get one of the other lot!)

Did we say English? Well, she might have grown up at good old Clacton-on-Sea but our Ann's a dinky di Aussie, born in Melbourne in 19XX (come on, you didn't expect us to reveal a lady's age, now did you?)

Dave Thompson — The Serviceman

...

Rodney Champness VK3UG Technical Writer — Specialising in Vintage Radio

Rodney has a regular column in Silicon Chip delving into all aspects of sourcing and restoring vintage radios and televisions. This column is very popular with readers and has spawned a mini industry in its own right.

When not in the back of a vintage radio (or writing about it) Rodney is a transmitter operator/technician at Radio Australia, looking after seven 100kW transmitters and their ancillary equipment. He holds a Broadcast Operator's Certificate of Proficiency, a 1st Class Commercial Operator's Certificate of Proficiency, a General Operator's Certificate of Proficiency and a PMG Senior Radio Technician's Certificate. He also has tertiary qualifications in b&w TV, digital logic and microprocessor fundamentals.

He has more than thirty years experience in the industry including a year as radio supervisor with the Australian Antarctic Expedition on Macquarie Island.

Brendan J Akhurst (BJA) Cartoonist Extraordinaire

Brendan spent his early years as a child. Down on the farm. In the 1960s he became the first B.J. Akhurst in history to develop an adult appearance.

One day he decided he didn't want to go to school, so he went to Woolies instead and got a job in the fruit and veges section. That lasted less than a week before Woolies decided his future was anywhere but Woolies. Next job was an apprentice marine engineer with the then great RW Miller. He claims that he had nothing to do with the demise of that company.

Then one day the Police made the mistake of parking their recruitment van outside the Police Boys Club just as young Akhurst was leaving. Their second mistake was signing him up. He was under the minimum weight to join so they said they'd let him in as a cadet. Their third mistake was when they gave him the wrong form and found he was signed up as a probationary cop.

Despite their best efforts, the Police never quite managed to get Brendan's weight up to “spec”. The diving instructor insisted on calling him Mr Biaffra. Still, he made it through training and became one of NSW Finest.

In 1978 he resigned from the Police “to do silly drawings” - becoming an illustrator and cartoonist for a variety of newspapers, magazines and books. He says he took on that job because there were no entry requirements. Since then, BJ Akhurst has become one of the most widely-published cartoonists in Australia, with about 40 different cartoon strips to date. His first strip, “Normie”, was based on the one-hit-wonder, the Newcastle Song. And he's the only cartoonist who has ever managed to turn an advertising icon - Louie da Fly - into a paid cartoon strip.

He's also the author of Australia's best selling accredited distance learning cartoon and illustration course.

Which brings us to Silicon Chip: BJ Akhurst is (ir)responsible for the always zany, often offbeat and usually irreverent cartoons featured in the magazine's most popular column, “Serviceman' Slog” (oops, that should be Serviceman's Log). The magazine often receives letters complimenting our cartoonist on his style, his humour and his ability to approach complex technical subjects in a - shall we say different, but brilliant, way.

One writer even complimented him for his in-depth knowledge of electronics and service. The truth is, he is absolutely clueless when it comes to things technical! But hey, why let mere detail get in the way of an outstanding cartoon?

Brendan lives and works in the beautiful Southern Tablelands, a couple of hours south of Sydney (he's known to breakfast regularly at Burradoo). He's given birth three times (a feat even he acknowledges is unusual for a man) and believes God is very creative.