Resume - Neil Pickford - VK1NP

Neil Pickford - December 1999Neil Pickford is currently a Broadcast and Digital Media Technical Specialist in the Broadcast Infrastructure Technology Projects group at the Department of the Parliamentary Services, Parliament House Canberra.

Career Objectives, Personal Details, Origin, Education, Employment, Work Environment, Digital TV, Engineering Experience, Electronics & Microprocessors, Computers, Projects, Amateur Radio, Vehicle Qualifications, Scouting, Scuba
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Career Objectives


Neil was born in Tasmania and educated there until moving to Victoria for his 2nd year of university in 1982. Neil first started using computers for communication and programing in 1975 on the Tasmanian Department of Education PDP11 network.


Neil graduated from Swinburne Institute of Technology achieving a Degree with Distinction in Electrical/Electronic Engineering in 1985. He specialised in the fields of Electronics, Computing and Communications. As part of the Swinburne course Industrial Experience program he worked at the Communications Laboratory at Marland House (Melbourne, 1984) and joined the team at the Lab when it moved to Canberra in 1985. He continues to keep up to date by attending seminars and courses while keeping across the technical broad sheets in the Solar, Electronics, Communications, Broadcast and Computer technology fields.

Employment Summary

Working Environment

Neil has worked for more than 15 years on studies of various aspects of communication, television, satellite, radio, audio and video systems technology developments. He was responsible for the design and operation of the Laboratory Digital TV Studio which is based on Rec 601 equipment. His work has also encompassed subjective assessments of video codecs and video compression systems, objective assessments of prototype codecs and, trials of digital terrestrial TV transmission systems. He has been involved in producing video test sequences for the ITU-R and run live video conferences from the laboratory studio.

While working at Parliament House, Neil has upgraded and extended the life of the Digital Audio Transcription system out to 15 years as well as guiding the complete replacement of this system.

He has been brought in to troubleshoot and resolve serious design deficiencies in many large projects including the Pager system replacement where he engineered a “Dampening field” RF Exclusion zone around each of the chambers at APH.

After completing an extensive Video on Demand scoping study at APH, Neil spent 3 years architecting and implementing with Visionbytes the first Digital network based Media Monitoring System at APH. It records 12 TV and 6 Radio channels 24 hours by 7 days a week and automatically publishes selected programs to the Intranet for Members and Senators to watch.

Neil spent 4 years working on the replacement of the Chamber Local Audio Control Room systems, became the Technical Authority on the LAWO AG Network Audio system at APH. He documented and re-wrote the vendor supplied software to meet the business requirements of APH. He also trained APH support staff in the operation and maintenance of this critical system. All audio from the APH Chambers is controlled and transferred by the software Neil wrote and implemented.

Digital Television

During 1997, Neil undertook a comprehensive series of laboratory bench tests of candidate Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) modulation systems in the lead up to the selection of the Australian Digital Television Standard. He was involved in framing the Australian Digital Television Transmission standard and explaining the results of the Australian tests to Engineers in Australia, Brazil, Malaysia China, Thailand and the Philippines. His achievements in the Digital Television testing were recognised by the awarding of an Australia Day Achievement award in 1999 by DCITA. In October 1999 Neil presented a unit to final year engineering students at the University of Canberra (UoC) on Digital Television and continued to repeat that unit each year until the engineering degree at UoC ceased.

Engineering Experience

Neil is an experienced practical engineer with a very hands on nature, with a wide range of experience across the various engineering disciplines. He designed, built and maintained the Communications Lab's television studio area. At the laboratory he supervised the operation and maintenance of the Security, Fire, Access Control, Air conditioning and other building systems. He has been a Deputy Fire warden and Deputy OH&S officer. He undertook training in both these areas. Prior to working at the Communications Laboratory Neil had experience working in the Building Consulting Engineering field (Air Conditioning, Fire, Electrical and Standby Power) and the Paper Industry (Industrial Instrumentation and Control)

While working at APH Neil has used his wide engineering experience to contribute to the successful implementation of many projects. Although his role has not been specifically recognised as an Engineering role, he remains one of the only people actively using engineering training at APH.

Electronic and Microprocessor Systems

Many small interface and microprocessor PCBs have been designed and built by Neil at the laboratory and home. He has specialised in PIC single chip microprocessors. PICs have been implemented in serial data conversion and snooping, transmitter identification, usage tracking systems, Dallas One Wire iButton technology and controlling equipment. Neil's first electronic design for the laboratory was a Video Delay line which, in the main part, comprised a PCB with 121 chips. This device was used by the laboratory until it closed.

In recent times Neil has been working to automate systems in his home providing networked multimedia services for his family, remote automatic scheduling controls, monitoring of Solar systems and environmental monitoring.

Computer Systems

Neil is an experienced programmer in Basic, HP Basic, Z80 assembler, 16C series PICs, HP-VEE, HP-UX, Linux, Sun-OS, UNIX, Compilers, dBase, Excel 97-2007, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA Excel-97), Powerpoint 97-2003, Word 97-2007, Access 97-2003, Netscape 4.7, MapInfo (GIS), SmartImage, Protel 5, Cadence, HotDog 5, Sachwel BAS2000, NOS, DOS, Win 3.1, Win95, Win98, WinXP, WinVista, Apache Web server, SGML and HTML 4. He is experienced with using communication technologies such as V.21, V.23, V.22bis, TCP/IP, AX25, Ethernet, SLIP, PPP, NetROM, Laplink, SDI, AES-3, AES-11 MADI, RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, Rec 601 & 656, AMPS, GSM, Wireless LAN, LVDS and SDLC. He has passing experience with Pascal, Fortran, WinNT, Windows2000, VMX, USB, Banyan, C++, Perl, Awk, Samba, Java and Java script. Neil also maintains the laboratory Web pages, is a System Administrator on the various UNIX systems and runs a TCPIP network at home between NOS, Win98, WinXP and Linux machines.
His recent work at Parliament House has involved integrating SUN solaris 2.6 systems into a 2 node E250 and A1000 RAID cluster to handle the Digital Audio transcription requirements of Parliament House. He also has experience with configuring and maintaining RAID storage systems.


Neil has been involved in the planning and execution of a wide variety of field projects with the laboratory and at Parliament House, specialising in automated instrument control. This allowed remote control of field equipment (including Transmitters, Receivers, Data logging and Control systems) and laboratory test rigs. Significant field exercises include the Bass Strait propagation tests, Sydney MDS trials, Sydney FACTS DTTB field trial and DAB on air Tests (Sydney & Canberra). Neil has been involved with the verification of digital planning predictions produced by the CRC-COV software for both DAB (L-Band) and DVB-T (VHF) systems. He has been involved in the operation and maintenance of the laboratory's satellite tracking equipment including a 10 metre All band Scientific Atlanta Dish currently located at Canberra University.

Amateur Radio

Neil is an amateur radio operator (VK1NP) and an accredited examiner for the Wireless Institute of Australia. He has been involved with packet radio, AX25, NetROM and TCP/IP networking, operating a radio based network from home since 1988. He has coordinated the construction and replacement of the VHF & UHF amateur repeater facilities at the Mt Ginini site after they were stolen in 1995. This included the design and programming of a PIC based repeater controller from scratch. He has coordinated a technical group to encourage experimentation with radio hardware and run regular weekly Fox hunts (Radio Direction Finding) during summer. Through this interest in radio direction finding he has gained a significant appreciation of the real effects of multipath propagation at VHF. He has begun experimenting with GPS and APRS based tracking systems around the ACT region. He has used his GIS experience to register images of the ACT region for GPS tracking and established a number of Letterboxes and Geocaches.

Vehicle Qualifications

Neil Holds an ACT drivers licence for Light Truck which allows him to drive vehicles up to 13.5 Tonnes and carry up to 21 passengers. Neil has a full 12 points with no pending driving infringements. He has completed an advanced driving course where he learned how to control heavy vehicles in loss of control situations, Drove prime movers with semi-trailers up to 55 Tonnes and 4 Wheel Drive techniques. He drove the Laboratory UL1700 Unimog interstate on various field exercises. He has been trained in the operation of overhead work equipment including a MHP14 Cherry picker and holds a current EWP licence in the ACT and NSW. He is adept at operating a walkee-stacker forklift and elevated mobile work platforms.


Neil has had an active involvement with scouting since his youth and after leaving rovers in 1988 became a Rover Advisor (RA) to Bethungra Rover Crew in Canberra. Neil is warranted in the RA role and has been awarded a Silver Arrow head for his achievements in assisting young people in Scouting. After 21 years Bethungra Rovers ceased to be a Crew in 2006. Neil assists with Jamboree of the Air every October exposing Scouts and Guides to communication via Amateur Radio and the Internet. Neil was also a member of the BP Guild of Canberra, an organisation which provided service to the Scout and Guide Movements in and around the ACT, until it disbanded in 2004. Recently Neil has renewed his involvement with Scouting as a Joey parent with the Mt Rogers Scout Group in Charnwood.

Scuba Diving

Neil is the holder of a FAUI Scuba Diver certificate which allows him to use Scuba equipment to 30 metres during daylight hours.

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