The Sferics console was a huge box, built like a tank with a small round green cathode ray tube facing the operator above a central bench. This CRT (about 8-inch diameter) had a rotating bezel to move crosshairs over flashes on scope and bearing angles marked around the perimeter.
Like radar displays of that time, the Sferics had to be operated in a darkened room, due to the poor brilliance. The lightning flash was represented by a radial strobe on the screen. The display was surrounded by lots of adjustment knobs for sensitivity, orientation etc.
Before use the scope was first adjusted so a line was displayed across the screen in a direction of 45 degrees and not oval in shape.
A telephone hookup was established with two other stations. When the nominated control saw a flash, they called 'NOW'. Each station would then report the bearing of the flash on their screen over the conference 'phone. An operator at the forecasting area would plot the bearings for each call. They used a large map of Australia with magnets and nylon lines emanating from each station on the map. If the lines crossed within certain parameters, a fix would be confirmed. Using a latitude and longitude code, the fixes would confirm the storm area. Often the fixes occurred in a line and clearly showed frontal lines.
In the W.A. network Perth Airport was the controller, prior to Geraldton in the 1970's with Albany and Pt. Hedland. Also in WA the trouble was that most heavy activity was in the NW and the three stations were roughly aligned N/S which made the plotting difficult and sometimes the heavy NW flashes masked activity in other sectors. By contrast, inland fixes were usually spot on.
"The best little grapevine we ever had."
It was a great observation for met. chart diagnosis but was the only chat-line we had, so we could all find out the local gossip pre e-mail days.
The equipment was valve technology and was missed by the observers and forecasters when the observations ceased. The cost of the party line was possibly one reason the Sferics observations stopped.
In those days of limited technology it was a great aid to forecasters trying to work out storm areas etc. The g-pats system now is probably the replacement technology nowadays but for years apart from surface obs/aircraft reports and satellite pics, finding storms would have been a lot harder.
While he was resident Obs Radio at Perth Airport, Ralph Bullock gained notoriety for using the walking stick, issued for control of errant balloons, for remediation of a particularly persistent intermittent fault in the Sferics receiver.
Numerous Bureau observing staff - June 2001 (private communications)