I'm thinking of retiring

 Being self employed is a bit like being on a treadmill.
There are so many things needing to be done.
There's jobs of course. They're the main thing. Then there's trying to monitor my stock of spare parts, keeping track of invoices, both incoming and outgoing; sorting out purchase orders from customers, dealing with volumes of paperwork, handling incessant phone calls. Placing orders for parts, tracking orders from suppliers and complaining to UPS about missing deliveries (which is getting more frequent), answering emails and managing my computer.
As a sideline I build and repair computers and as another sideline I prepare family trees.
So, not too much time for my hobbies including managing my virtual radio museum.

For years and years I've been considering buying a spectrum analyser; nothing whatsoever to do with my business so I must be thinking of retirement?

I actually have one. It's a huge Hewlett Packard thing which probably cost more than a 3 bedroom semi when it was new. When I first got it I fiddled around and discovered it was faulty. I got hold of a manual and removed the covers. After peering at the innards for an hour so I gave up as it appeared to be in need of a plumber rather than an electronics engineer.
Ten years later I had some time to spare and was rearranging my workshop. I switched on the HP monster and, after looking at the handbook, discovered it wasn't faulty at all, I'd missed one of the connectors joining the two halves of the equipment.
Unfortunately the thing covers mainly microwave bands although its spec goes down to 0.01GHz, which works out at 10MHz, and my chief interests are the broadcast and HF amateur bands.

Above: The Hewlett Packard HP8551 original price > 3 bed semi

 Looking around for a new spectrum analyser I found the Atten range from China and I was prepared to buy their basic model until I discovered a tracking generator is a really useful adjunct.
Then I noticed a better Atten model which seemed to have a better spec. and has a tracking generator. It's still made by the same Chinese company and the identical model is actually badged by some rather well known companies (at a much higher price of course).

Above: AT6011 using a CRT and using invisible test leads and priced at typically $1325 (=£868.45 in April 2013)

 I was all set to order one until I found the UK price reflected the strength of the US dollar, so I began to make notes of the prices every week or so. Then I found the dollar suddenly began to get stronger and stronger and prices began to rise so I put the intended purchase on hold.
Some time later, when the dollar had strengthened and I didn't like shelling out the extra cash I noticed that a different type of spectrum analyser had appeared on Ebay. This used a flat screen display, unlike the CRT used by the usual type. Unfortunately the price of the latest model made by Rigol was much higher than the cheapest Atten models, however, when I considered the real difference (a nice sharp colour image), I completely went off the CRT models.
One of the hazards of shopping on the Internet is buying from an offshore supplier. Unless you understand about customs duty and VAT, not to mention "handling charges", you're going to get a big shock when the package arrives.
Imagine my surprise when I looked for a Rigol, not on Ebay, my usual hunting ground, but on the Internet generally. There was a UK supplier of the Rigol instrument at a price almost the same as the cheapest Chinese dealer on Ebay.
I rang them and placed an order for a DSA815-TG and it arrived "post free… as a result of my bargaining", two days later.

Above: DSA815-TG with a flat screen display typically priced at £1322 (note that one usually uses test leads and mains input to get a picture)

No real contest is there?

 Although some Chinese suppliers fiddle their customs declarations and insert words like "Gift", "Value $25" etc it's always a gamble. Twenty percent VAT on a piece of kit valued at £1,399 is £279.80, not to mention carriage, which can also attract 20% VAT and UPS red tape, often more than the "$25" value of the goods.
A real hazard for the bargain hunter.

Now, having purchased my new spectrum analyser, I'm all set to retire.
If it wasn't for those dratted customers that is…

PS. I was watching the BBC documentary on the last Mars mission and blow me NASA was using a DSA815 instead of an eyewateringly expensive spectrum analyser.

Oh no!... a deliveryman struggling up the drive with a huge crate. Must be a broken drive unit for a lift. Still, it'll help pay for the new acquisition...

Post Script

When I opened the crate I found an enormous drive unit for a lift. Why so big? Must be for a lift that takes a really heavy load?

There's a bit of paper inside the crate. That makes a change. Stuff usually arrives anonymously!

What does the note say... It's a drive unit from the Houses of Parliament. That explains the weighty load carried by the lift. All these free lunches and liquid refreshments.

And there's a note scribbled on the bottom. "Take your time they can use the stairs".


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