Tag Archives: amateur radio

How did I get into amateur radio? Part 1

ws19-4

Wireless Set No. 19

I won a scholarship to a posh school. I was very unhappy there, and one of the things which made me unhappy was that when we were around fifteen, we boys all had to join the cadet force. This was split into two main groups; RAF and Army. The RAF group got to play with gliders, so everyone wanted to do that. I was not one of the lucky ones chosen. I had to join the Army group.

Being in the cadet force meant that the school bullies usually got made sergeants, so that they actually had some authority as bullies.

The first year of the cadet force involved a lot of drilling and marching. Also, one stormy March evening we were dropped off in groups of about five all over the Essex countryside, and required to make our way in the dark to an army camp out in the marshes. We could have got lost, but by the middle of the night the clouds and blown away and the rain stopped, and one of our number could navigate by the stars. I could do that myself now, but I knew little of astronomy then. Incidentally, our navigator later became a radio amateur.

At the beginning of the second year in the Army cadet force, we could choose to specialise. Some sections still involved drilling, but the two “skive” sections were perceived as the Signals and the Bearer section, which involved First Aid and stretchers. I wanted to join Signals, but again was “unlucky”. I got Bearer Section. On the plus side, I learned CPR and how to bandage people’s wounds, and it was useful grounding with later refreshers at various work places. I might still be able to be useful if called upon, though I never have been required.

However, back to radio. I and a couple of other lads hung about the Signals hut. It was full of old Army radio equipment. I remember they mostly used a WS C12 to talk to other cadet force teachers and lads around the country. I was most impressed.

That is when I got the radio bug, and I and a couple of my friends each bought a Nineteen Set (Wireless Set No. 19). Mine cost £12 in around 1967. It was a fortune in pocket money.

So, I discovered Top Band AM. I had a huge amount of fun with my Nineteen Set, but more of that later.

Did you start in radio with gear from ancient times?

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Wood and Douglas and the 70 cm amplifier

Wood and Douglas ampA while back I bought a rig on eBay, but the seller had included this with a job lot of miscellaneous items.

In the box were three linear amplifiers. One was for 27 MHz which is of no interest to me and I will sell on. Another is one for 144 MHz. That is going to need a workaround as it was made for a specific transceiver way back, and I need to find a way to switch it as it has no RF sensing and I have no manual yet.

The third item was a Wood and Douglas amplifier for 432 MHz. It must date from the late seventies or early eighties. It is a solid piece of equipment. The seller said on eBay it was a maximum of 10 watts in for 30 watts out, but I have been reluctant to put it on dummy load to test it. I had no manual and there was nothing on the internet to help. It is a rare beastie.

Wood and Douglas was started by two radio amateurs in the late seventies to build and sell amplifiers, preamps and other amateur radio gear, but since has become a grown-up player. It has moved far beyond its original business.

On the off chance I sent an email via the website to ask if they had a manual or some instructions for this ancient amplifier. They emailed me back the next day with the instructions / spec which would have been sent out over thirty years ago when the amp was new.

This is absolutely brilliant customer service provided to someone who was not even a customer, but just someone asking a favour.

It is great credit to the company that they helped me out, so three cheers for Wood and Douglas. Thank you very much.

One more thing. The amp is a maximum 3 watts in for 30 out according to the manual, so it is just as well I did not try to overload it having relied on the seller. I am sure he had forgotten after not using it for many years. With any luck I have a usable amp for 70 cms.

Old friends

Having decided to resurrect my amateur radio activities, I have been daunted by the prices of equipment and gear for radio. Obviously I have been pleased to find that at least Baofeng is cheap cheap, albeit with limitations.

One can get a rig that covers all bands from 160m to 70cms apparently. I cannot aspire to that at the moment, and anyway how can one do all those bands justice? I will stick to those bands that interest me, I think.

Anyway, for 2 meters I have an old FT290R multi-mode (well, actually two working quite well). For 80 to 10 have my Trio TS130V with dual VFO, which has survived well thirty years of inactivity and is working fine.

I also have an old valve FT200 which may be 45 years old and is untested. I bought it in the early eighties, second-hand. My FT221R, a fine 2 meter multi-mode rig once, is also untested so far. Yes, I was mostly a Yaesu man.

I had really been worried about the cost of antennas though, in addition to the long wires I am planning. However, I recently had to clear our garage through force of circumstances, and apart from two G5RVs ready made-up, I have discovered two ten-element Tonna (F9FT) antennas for 144 MHz. One of them is in its original box, never opened. I cannot remember buying it over thirty years ago. I have a portable mast, too.

Then there is an intact 23 element Tonna yagi for (yes) 23cms plus the 1296 MHz transverter from 28 MHz, and the bonus, maybe 20 metres of LDF 450 Heliax cable which I used to feed the Tonna. It looks in good condition.

There are a couple of rotators although I am not optimistic they will be in working order. 😦

Of course having all this is one thing. Deciding what to put up, when and how is quite another. I think the long wires and/or a G5RV should come first as they are the easiest option. Then antennas for 2 meters upwards, with a nod to planning regs, because I am a higher frequency man by nature. Now where is the 70 cm yagi? Don’t say I will have to buy one.

New faces and skills

As part of my rehabilitation in amateur radio I attended the Skills Night presented by Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society at Danbury.

As one would expect, there were many Foundation and Intermediate License Holders for whom the “Skills” training is a very good idea. I found it helpful as of course the radio world has changed in my absence.

Once upon a time I was familiar with the OSCAR amateur satellites (this is tautology given that OSCAR stands for “Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio”). Stephen, M0SHQ, was very kind in giving me some minutes telling me about the latest developments, and showed me his impressive hand-held dual band 2m/70cm homemade yagi antenna, . He also demonstrated the OSCAR Android app on his phone. I have installed it on mine, and well, you never know, I might have a bash.

Charlie, M0PZT, was busy programming various handheld rigs, and was kind enough to “do” my second dual-band Baofeng as he did the first. Thanks, Charlie!

More experienced hams (more up-to-date than I) were scattered around the hall imparting their valuable knowledge. I enjoyed chatting with a number of the ladies and gentlemen present, and believe the attendance was over sixty in number.

Anyway, the Skills Night is a cracking idea, there was a lot going on which you can see via the link, and if you are in striking distance of Danbury, do go along to the next one.