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 1964 to 1975

QTH Guildford IO91RF
I was always interested in electrical things, perhaps I inherited it from my father, who built a very early broadcast receiver for his family in about 1929. He related how they were all stunned by hearing voices coming out of the "box"!  I started with a crystal set (of course!) and my father then bought me a HAC 2 valve short wave kit.  It was a regen design and I had to use headphones.  I recall building a valve audio amp from a design in Practical Wireless so I could drive a loudspeaker.  This was a success although it tended to pick up the police (who were using the 98-108MHz band). 
I well remember listening to the broadcast bands and hearing (for example) the Voice of America relay at Thessaloniki, Moscow Radio, Vatican radio and its interval signal, and RAI Italy with its evocative bird chirping interval signal.  [Mechanically generated canary - unless you know different!]
And of course the BBC World Service.  Hear more  interval signals at http://www.intervalsignals.net/
My parents encouraged me to join the Guildford ARS. The members there were very helpful and told me "you want to transmit, not just receive"!  

I remember taking the RAE on Friday 13 December 1963 with Phil, who became G3TCU. We had been close friends for a while having both joined the Guildford club, and we both passed despite the date!  I was licensed in April 1964 and started on 160m.  I made my first contact on 4m on 9 August 1964 (on AM). 
Some notable contacts on 4m from the past:-

CallDateMode/comments
ZB2VHF3 Jun 1968cw
TF3EA17 Jul 1971cw
DK1PZ7 Jul 1980cross-band 4m cw to10m ssb
OE8NTK11 Jul 1980cross-band 4m to10m, 2 way ssb


Shack in late 60sPart of the shack in about 1969 is shown here (photo from G3WBQ). Going left to right there's a 300v PSU (EZ81 rectifier), a valve converter for the 50MHz band, a homebrew 4m AM portable receiver sitting on top of an ex PMR set (BCC or Pye?), a 450v PSU, and a LM14 wavemeter with what looks like another PSU on top.

The lower photo shows my second 4m mixer-VFO rig and a National NC200 receiver (a relation of the HRO but with all the coils on a carriage that ran on rails inside).

On top of the log book is my first homebrew FET converter for 4m.





Shack at Guildford in colourBefore 1970  the rigs were crystal controlled, and the modes available were AM and CW.  QSOs were achieved by calling CQ and and tuning the band and then working cross-frequency. Everyone had crystals on different frequencies to avoid QRM.  I still have crystals for 70.26 and 70.65 - the band edge was 70.7 at that time. Here's a recording taken on 10 April 1966 of Philip G3NEO in Yorkshire calling CQ prior to working me (in Guildford) on cw and you can hear him use the "QHL" code, meaning tuning from the high end to the low end of the band. It's surprising that we managed to work anyone at all!  (Philip sadly passed away at the age of 95 on Thursday 29 June 2017.)

Other limitations at the time included a severe noise environment. Everyone complains about noise from wall warts, computers and the like now, but back then it was often car ignition interference (very little suppression),  boiler thermostats and plastic welding machines - and we had no noise blankers!
 
I was determined to overcome the limitation of crystal control and built two mixer-VFO rigs, both using valves. The first mixed a crystal oscillator on about 13.5MHz with a 4MHz VFO to give 17.5 which was then multiplied by 4 to get to 70MHz. Perhaps luckily, no-one got too bothered about spurious outputs, and I never measured them! My second rig used a 33.33MHz crystal doubled to 66.66 and mixed with a 3.4 to 4 MHz VFO. Once again I don't recall measuring the spectral purity but there were several stations nearby who could receive me at S9+40 and didn't complain.  Part of the explanation might be that the rig only ran about 10W out.  

My interest in propagation modes was partly triggered by the sporadic E and partly by the aurora.  Here's G3RLE in Yorkshire as heard in Guildford via the aurora on 1 November 1968, complete with plastic welding QRM in two places (a very rough sounding signal which swept through the band on a more or less regular basis).
On the same day here's GI3RXV calling CQ and ending with "TLM" - ie tuning low to middle of the band. And GI3HCG in Antrim working me in Guildford via the aurora.
We had some tropo contacts as well, and here's a snatch of GI3VPK/P in County Down on 19 July 1968 working G3WBQ in Surrey.

Here's an edited recording (4MB file) of Pat G3TEY (sadly now SK) operating the station of Roger G3OHH with an impressive AM signal from Mow Cop in Staffordshire (237km, 148miles).  The recording is of Pat talking to Brian G3THQ/M in Chinnor, as received at Guildford on the 3 ele yagi at 30ft.  The date is unknown but probably 1967-1969 period.  Received using a homebrew valve converter (E88CC rf, EF95 mixer, osc on 34MHz x2, IF 2-3MHz) into a National NC200 receiver.  Note the use of crystal controlled rigs and separate transmit and receive frequencies.  Thanks go to Roger and to Brian for permission to publish it here.

Those of you using various WSJT modes to work stations on meteor scatter at negative signal to noise ratios might be a bit envious of this - it's GB3GM in Scotland by MS and the "ping" lasts over a minute! Notice the rapid fading at 5-10Hz.  Talking of MS, here's G3SKR testing what I believe was his high speed cw system for meteor scatter working. And here it is slowed down to half speed.

Early on the band was only available to a few countries, notably Gibraltar, often heard by sporadic E.  Here's an early example of the ZB2VHF beacon using A1 keying but seemingly with a non-electronic keyer, judging by the slightly irregular length of the dots and dashes.

Peter G3PLX tells me "The ZB2VHF keyer was indeed mechanical. I helped G3JVL to build it during lunchtimes at Plessey West Leigh (Havant in Hampshire). It consisted of a clock motor driving a disk of printed-circuit board material around the edge of which were a series of holes detected by an opto-coupler made by removing the can from a BC107."

Later on the engineering improved and the mode was changed to F1 - zb2vhf.

The existence of sporadic E was very evident, because we were sharing the band with the east European FM broadcast band 65.8 to 74MHz.
Here are some early Es recordings:-

Sofia on 70.04 and 70.88 on 11 Jun 1971.  Likely location is Botev (KN22), the highest peak in Stara Planina, 60kW.  Language Bulgarian.  The programme is identified as Khorizont and Khristo Botev (the latter named after the Bulgarian poet, revolutionary and national hero).

Bucharest 2 ) on 70.04 and 71.2 at 1750utc on 11 Jun 1971.  Likely locations are Bucuresti (KN34) and Constanta (KN44), each 4kW.
Bucharest 3 )  Language Romanian. 

Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones with a commentary in Polish at 1700-1830utc on 24 May 1971 on 72MHz.  Likely location is Opole (JO80).
A rare example of the playing of western music on communist radio.  (The Sticky Fingers LP was issued on 23 April 1971.)

A news programme in Russian (probably the All Union Radio 1st programme) announcing a new formation of the Czech communist party after the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968.  (And you can hear the print-through of the time signal on my old reel to reel tape!)

and an announcement and a play on Polski Radio  in Polish.  It refers to Lucjan Kydrynski's (well known Polish radio personality) "Revue of the Songs" radio show and then starts with a radio play titled "Rash - or - Lafaindre Rasputin".

I am very grateful to Walter OE1WEB for identifying the languages and providing further information on the above OIRT broadcasts. Walter built the OE3XLB beacon on 50.058MHz in JN87.
Interval signals and announcements for many broadcast stations can be found at http://www.intervalsignals.net/

Further details on the Polish broadcasts have been kindly provided by Arthur EI7GMB - many thanks!
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Some more old recordings of European FM broadcasts heard on 4m:-

24 June 1968 - a Russian language program referring to the "Egyptian Gazette" (mp3, 2min, 713kB)
? July 1968 - a Spanish TV commercial (I think) on band 1 TV at 67.75MHz (mp3, 1min 13sec, 429kB)
? July 1968 - language unknown, maybe Spanish again, rather distorted due to large deviation, with the music of Smetana's Vltava as background (mp3, 1min 37sec, 570kB)
13 July 1968 - Arabic-sounding music on 70.86MHz (mp3, 1min 48sec, 848kB)
24 May 1971 - a longer recording of the commentary in Polish about "Brown Sugar" (mp3, 1min 34sec, 743kB).
 
EI7GMB provides further explanation:-

This is part of a programme called "My Tape Recorder", arranged to allow listeners to make direct recordings, hence the announcement "seven minutes, seventeen seconds"  This was very popular because only a small amount of western music was available on the market.  The announcer says:-
"It was the first track from a first side of a new album of The Rolling Stones. It was released a month ago and its called "Sticky Fingers" which means (title being translated to Polish by the program host) "Lepkie Paluchy". This is their first recording in a year and half, not counting a live recording of "Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!" which was recorded during a tour of the United States but not including actually any new songs. The current recording brings up 10 new tracks which were done at the band's own recording studio and released by their own-brand record company. While recording this album there were present 10 side musicians, amongst them soloists such well-recognized as guitarist Ray Coody, pianist Nicky Hopkins, and organist Billy Preston. Today I will present to the audience 5 tracks which I regard as the most essential ones, other ones you will be able to hear next Wednesday. (Here goes program title in Polish "Mój Magnetofon) "My Tape Recorder". And in very next moment the track called "Can't you hear me knocking?" which means (again being translated to Polish) "Czy nie slyszysz jak pukam?". Seven minutes, seventeen seconds."

?1971 - a longer version of the news programme in Russian (see above) (mp3, 1min 35sec, 555kB)
11 June 1971 - a longer version of the Bucharest 2 programme above in Romanian (NB 10 sec gap at about 24 sec into recording) (mp3, 5min 10sec, 1.8MB)
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There were also some peculiar noises to be heard, like this one on 70.200 on 24 June 1968. It's clear that the entire sequence is a set of polls by an interrogating transmitter and the responses from a number of different interrogated transceivers, each of which has its own random carrier frequency tolerance.  This was probably some kind of telemetry link, possibly similar to those still in use today for monitoring voltages, currents, water levels, gas flow rates, windspeeds, temperatures, etc.  [Thanks to Peter G3PLX for providing this analysis].   If you listen carefully you can also hear G3JHM calling ZB2BO. 
EI7GMB adds a recent note that he has heard exactly the same thing whilst at locator KO13nd around 26MHz about the end of April 2011, most likely from Russia.

You can find more recordings here.

1976 to 1983

QTH Fleet Hampshire IO91NG1982 RadCom write-up

By 1982 I had built a sideband transmitter using the digital third method - it got a nice mention in RadCom (Technical Topics) of June 1982, but was not exactly hifi!
Whilst at Fleet I started operating on 10, 6 and 4m participating in the 6/10m crossband activity with the USA and Canada.

Antenna system at Fleet











3 ele for 6m, 5 ele for 4m and quarter wave ground plane for 10m, erected 21 Sept 1980.

Shack at Fleet
Photo above shows the shack at Fleet with
(top, L to R) National NC200, third method transmitter, homebrew tunable IF.

(top shelf) 4m mixer VFO AM rig, various VHF converters.

(middle shelf) homebrew AM receiver, 4 channel audio mixer

(bottom shelf) LM14 wavemeter, valve linear for 4m.

(far right) Daphne's dress-making dummy!



1983 to 2006

QTH  Bookham Surrey  IO91TGHurricane-damaged antenna

At Bookham I took much more interest in 6m. The UK Six Metre Group had just been formed - I joined as member number 27.
It was a very exciting time exemplified by working Australia, Guam, Hong Kong and China.  I eventually reached DXCC by working Japan - a fitting number 100!

It all came to an abrupt halt on 25 January 1990 when a hurricane (well storm force wind anyway) left me with a radio-astronomy antenna.  The damaged antenna was a 5 ele MET for 6m, and was replaced by the M2 antenna shown below.





5 ele for 6m at Bookham6m and HF station
Bookham shack with (L-R) Acom 1000, IC730, IC575, homebrew keyer, laptop, Yaesu FRG8800.   Antenna is 5 ele M2 for 6m.

2006 to 2007

QTH  Bedchester Dorset  IO80VW
IO80VW qslThe move away from Surrey necessitated a change to the station and I was encouraged to return to 4m.  I decided that my previous homebrew transverter was not up to the task and so I built the OZ2M transverter and 25W PA described on the equipment page.  I then designed and built a 100W 4m PA using a D1018UK dual MOSFET device.  Not too much operating from here, but did manage a few nice QSOs on 4m and 6m by Es.






2007 to date

QTH  West Lydford Somerset  IO81QC
My interest in 4m continued and I built a 4m PA to the design on the 4m website by GI0GDP.  This proved to be very straightforward and is my current setup running 160W out.  More details on the equipment page.