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back to article Wireless comms and the end of civilisation

Characters in the recent BBC remake of Survivors seem curiously ill-informed about how the UK's communications infrastructure would deal with the collapse of civilisation, so in an attempt to ensure Reg readers are better-equipped we present a wireless guide to the apocalypse. For those who too young to remember the original, …

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Boffin

come on

Even on star trek the communicators break down when it makes a better story.

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Boffin

Humans are critical, like it or not

"But these days our infrastructure is much more autonomous and robust, and extensive plans exist to keep things running even as the world falls apart around us."

You have got to be kidding. Once the power grid control systems fail, which "best case" will happen when the nuclear power plants do a week or so after the last humans show up for work at them, everything else will finally fail in a matter of days.

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Anonymous Coward

@ AC 17:16GMT

Huh? it's not a post nuclear holocaust drama. it's a post mega virus apocalypse dama

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I liked it ...

...so there. I enjoyed the original, when it was more believable and I was a lot younger. But I'm enjoying the remake too. I'm worried that they may soften the original ending, but there we are. I liked the use of the mobile phone as one of two threads showing the breakdown of civilised ideas and habits: Abbie kept hers on all the time, even when there was no signal (nor likelihood of one) until finally it ran out of power. We also watched her slowly hardening towards bodies: screaming the first time, gritting herself the second, and slowly speeding up in her search through the bodies in the school.

Suspension of disbelief is easy when the story works and the acting and scripts are good. Survivors has that, unlike (for example) CSI Miami being hit with a tsunami.

And the Reg article is just as entertaining: I'd like to have written it if only I'd known all that stuff. I certainly remember transistor radios on the go before Survivors, and I know of a thriving hobbyist world building things using valves even now, so you haven't got it all right but you did jolly well.

[@Richard not liking 'amateur': amateur means someone who loves what s/he's doing, and that's fine by me]

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Coat

Re: And the worst part

@AC

Dude... the show is about a pandemic virus not EMP - viruses don't fry circuitry.

..Oh and anyway, all that stuff about an EMP pulse from a nuclear weapon is mostly BS anyway.

Firstly if the device is off/unplugged it'll probably be fine. Secondly, nuclear EMP pulses don't spread that far from the point of detonation (10 miles?) unless they are detonated at significant altitude. "Significant" means upto 300Km, and "detonation" means your comms satellites at that orbit are toast anyway.

You'd need a fair number of ground nuclear detonations to cover the UK in EMP, and if that's the case - who gives a monkeys about your fridge and microwave not working - they're the least of your problems.

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Silver badge

Practice makes perfect

Every year (around the end of June) amateur radio has "field day" which practices emergency communications. In the USA it is a big deal and being that the setups are "in the field" it is a great party. It has been going on for MANY years (over 50) and most hams would be able to get something going.

Yes, all the broadcasters would be gone from 40Meters!!! The side benefit would be that Microsoft products wouldn't matter any more.

The original needs help as well.

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Rob
Coat

@ Lottie

"What about carrier pigeons? A wireless, mains free eddible WAN "

So *that's* why those Scandinavian students actually implemented the joke RFC about IP over Avian Carriers! (2549, iirc).

It's the one with *everything* in the pockets.

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Flame

Ethanol?

I would be fine, as would my friends... I have a little hobby that at the moment is for drinking, but since I can get up to 93% pure ethanol out of my still, I'd just tweak a diesel generator to run on ethanol (not too difficult). What's left over we'd drink while blasting old AC/DC in order to collect other like-minded survivors and scare away those who don't appreciate good music.

Anonymous because I have to watch out for the revenoors!!!

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Tom
Silver badge

emp

@Neil Stansbury.

A US high atmosphere bomb test took out the power 800 miles away. By accident.

You can easily generate 1000V/m at those distances so an uplugged telly lead can still kill the telly.

No-one worried about EMP until a russian pilot flew a foxbat into Japan. The US took it apart and laughed at the valves inside it and then sort of coughed and went quiet, sneaked back to their labs and started yelling fibre optics..

I doubt the power systems would hold up anyway - the US system has failed quite catastrophically when one power station overheats at the wrong time and dont talk about freezing rain. The grid system would give up as soon as two or three power stations went down in the UK. Its like the internet - its only resilient if everyone tries to play together and help each other. You could blow up 10 choice pylons in the UK and cause more damage than Fractional Reserve banking ever could.

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Radio Amateurs aren't 'just' about RAYNET

Even if RAYNET suffered the same attrition rate as the general population - not a safe assumption if other groups are as well-prepared as our local one - there are a lot of amateurs who aren't RAYNET members who have quite resilient installations and can operate off-grid for a considerable length of time.

Most of our rigs can operate from either mains or 12v supplies, so as long as it's possible to charge a car-battery 'somehow' then we will have communication worldwide available. There is no shortage of small wind-generators on boats and caravans that their dead owners would 'donate', in the event... they're perfectly suitable.

Best-placed would be the various contest groups who will have high-powered installations and their own portable generating capacity, as well as portable masts.

Some of our VHF and UHF repeaters are self-sustaining and off-grid - and they're designed to thrive on neglect - lack of maintainance for a couple of years won't matter one jot.

Even at 99% attrition, there are likely to be enough surviving amateurs nationally and worldwide to ensure 'strategic' communications are able to function at some level.

We know what to do and how to do it.

73s

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Anonymous Coward

AIRWAVE

AIRWAVE keeps being quoted as the answer to everything, all the emergency services will eventually be on it though they are many years behind schedule so fire and ambulance have only moved in a few areas.

The Royal Signals had the National Radio Communications System which were small trailers which could set up a frequency agile radio network which I believe would operate automatically once deployed. All the trailers are in a surplus store awaiting bids, not need because of AIRWAVE.

You report said that some AIRWAVE sites have diesel, in most areas ALL police, fire and ambulance radio sites had diesel backup. With a short range system like AIRWAVE, if only a third of sites are being diesel maintained then there will large rural areas with no coverage.

In Scotland the Scottish Office had a basic VHF network around the country. Closed down because of AIRWAVE. I suspect the emergency communication trucks, that you refer to, might just be the vans that can get temporary AIRWAVE coverage in an area or replace a site that is out of action.

The phrase ALL EGGS IN ONE BASKET repeatedly comes to mind when I think of AIRWAVE.

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Who wants to live?

Watching I am Legend was enough for me, I'd chuck myself off the nearest bridge, who gives a stuff about IT or comms systems.

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Flame

Good fiction vs. bad fiction

"Suspend disbelief. Stop thinking it is a documentary and realise it is fiction. If fiction had to make sense there would me no HHGTTG, Discworld or Shakespeare and the world would be a poorer place."

The difference between good fiction and bad fiction is that good fiction remains consistent with its own premises. Bad fiction does not.

Yes, the television show is fiction. Everyone knows that. However, critiquing the flaws in poor fiction is still a worthwhile pasttime; it beats staring vacantly at the tube and passively letting it wash over you. At least writing the critique is an active process.

Frankly, I've never understood the folks who just sit staring at the tube making fun fo the folks who do something; even doing something as trivial as writing about a TV show still beats just watching it.

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Gates Horns

Gates' Survivors

If this happened and the Gates' survived; how would they survive? I think that would be much more interesting than a lady who stares at her phone with no signal until it dies :p

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Food!

I too remember watching the original series in my younger days. The thing that struck me was how little they knew about growing food. If the early Pilgrims in the USA had the same problems, I'm not surprised they invented Thanksgiving!

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Coat

re: Steve Pettifer / amateur radio and power

It comes to mind that if 90% of the population no-longer need their car-batteries, thats a couple of weeks of power right there while some method of charging is cobbled together - built a little generator for A-level physics, know the theory, could scale it up with a little patience and what little wire-stock is still held at the local maplins (assuming I didn't have enough in stock here.)

It is a topic that Raynet does think about.

--... ...-- / -.. . / -- ----- - ..-. ....

P.S. for that matter, you don't need much power to communicate around the globe using morse...

mine's the one with the VX-7r in the pocket.

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good work but could do with some phone numbers :)

Personally i think this is a nice article, I was not aware of RayNet or the capabilities of our comms infrastructure. However, bar RayNet, as other people have pointed out, who on earth (literally) are you going to call. I'm not aware that Satellite (Iridium) or other technolgies have a broadcast facility so unless you know the telephone number of any survivors your fecked!!

Prehaps El Reg could publish some useful numbers for us to remember in case of such a disaster, 999 withstanding :)

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@ Eddie Edwards

"if you think BT's customer service is bad now, wait until they're all dead." How, precisely, would one tell the difference? Anyway, looks like I'm gonna have to update my Zombie Plan.

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a bit of fun

I loved the original 70's survivors though you are right that it tailed off after the first series. The new one is ok so far but I'm not impressed by their survival skills. I laughed at the Maplins comment as I said to my wife that's the first place I'd go (after securing some weapons of course) followed by a hospital pharmacy before nicking a 7.5 tonner, packing it full of food and heading for the hills.

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Coat

First things you'd do...

1. Get a BT Phone and Yellow pages phone book. This will list the places were the TA and DIY shops are.

2. Go to B+Q, get crowbars, torches, etc.

(Now's your excuse to get that 10 million candle powered torch you've always wanted)

3. Go to TA and Police HQ and get guns and bullet proof vests.

4. Go to Maplins and get walkie-talkies and GPS.

5. Get rechargeable batteries and recharge them via Car lighter socket.

6. Get to Chemists, Health Centres and pick up medicines incl. soap (soap is very important).

7. Pick up Clothes, it's going to be cold in Winter...

8. Raid libraries and colleges to get books on farming.

9. Get to the Secret Bunker up here in Scotland and on the way pick up food.

10. Sit out the first Winter as that'll kill off the first batch of idiots that survived.

11. Get yourself a farm and grow food and babies.

12. Then wait until all the Nuclear storage units and power plants finally degrade in 50-100 years time and release all their toxins throughout the UK and kills every last one of you all.

See the Ants will inherit he Earth...

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@good article

I can do you a good deal on a supercharger and extra fuel tanks - but the shotgun holder is a bit hard to come by...

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@Toby Mills

There are International emergency frequencies on most of the HF bands that Amateurs use, so anyone left would likely be monitoring those. These would give both inter-UK and International communications. There are a number of Amateur Satellites which again would offer Intercontinental coverage and dont necessarily require a lot of power to use. You would need a PC to predict passes though.

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