Updated 18 December 2010
I've been asked how I got into Ham Radio and about some of the old stations I used to run. Sooo... here is the story and a few shots of some of the stations.
The story will undoubtedly change as my memory recalls more details of the past.
Regrettably, I don't have photos of all the stations I've run over the years. The early ones being absent.
I was introduced to Amateur Radio ( Ham Radio ) as a Cub Scout. That would make it more than just a few years ago. Actually it would be quite a few plus a few more. I did learn the Morse code well enough to send a few words and earn the merit badge. The bug didn't really bite until I had started college.
One day while trying to study and fight terminal boredom at the same time in the CMU dorm, that bug bit hard enough to send me out searching for a Ham. I figured the best place to start would be the TV repair shops. The second one had a Ham working there. He was Tom Turner (W8IVX). Tom invited me out to see his station that evening.
When I arrived Tom was out in his shop working 75 meter CW and drinking coffee. He invited me in, but kept right on working the CW station at a speed where I couldn't even pick out individual letters. Tom was actually talking to me and the CW station at the same time.
I hung around until the wee hours, but finally had to get back so I could at least stay awake in class the next day. When I headed back I was carrying a nice looking Hallicrafters S40B receiver.
Naturally the first thing I did the next day was to set up the receiver and drop a wire out the window for an antenna. I did make it to class too. Of course I found out later the local oscillator in the receiver radiated enough to wipe out about half the stereos in the dorm.
I worked at memorizing the code (again) and studying the basic theory along with the rules and regulations. A couple weeks later I passed the Novice test with flying colors "I think".
The term ended in just a few weeks and I was back home on the farm just South of Breckenridge Michigan for the Summer.
My license (KN8ZKF) arrived just a few weeks after I got back home. Highest on "my" priority list was getting an operating station set up. Unfortunately my priorities were rearranged a bit when going to work was "suggested".
I ended up helping my dad farm 100 acres and I rented 80 acres on a nearby farm which I planted to Navy Beans and Corn. Near the end of Summer I was hired by a metal stamping plant and college was forgotten for the time being. I was also reaching the conclusion that there had to be a better way to make a living, or at least more to my liking. So I took a couple of correspondence courses ... One in electronics and the other in Industrial Instrumentation. That resulted in me finally getting hired in a new chemical plant startup.
At any rate, back to the Amateur Radio station.
A friend loaned me an old Navy crystal controlled transmitter that took same crystals used in most of the Novice rigs at that time. Along with the S40B the whole top of my dresser was solid radio station. So, I picked up some crystals for the Novice band, plugged in the proper buffer coils, tuned it up into a dummy load ( Light bulb ), then went on the air.
I don't remember the call of the station I worked, but I have his QSL card around here...some where. I still have all three. One from the station I worked and one each from the Official Observer and the FCC monitoring station. Unfortunately the latter two gave me better reports "on 40" than did the station I worked on 75, I sure am glad I didn't spend a lot of time on the air as I received their cards before making any more contacts.
It turns out, the old transmitter was designed to use a multiplier in the first stage and the buffer in the second. Being that I didn't have a manual, any test equipment, and didn't think to listen to the second harmonic, I hadn't caught that little detail. Unfortunately others did. Fortunately I only received a warning.
*That* was enough incentive to hunt for a more "modern" transmitter.
Welll... having some parts, tubes, and a couple of old TV chassis, I striped one of them but left the power supply. I built up a pair of 6L6's with a 6AG7 oscillator in the corner of the chassis next tot he power supply. It was big, heavy, and ugly but it worked. Then I came up with a Globe Scout. I don't remember where I purchased it, but "I think" it was used. It did work quite well and I made quite a few contacts. I managed to get one off e-bay recently that appears almost identical to the one I had including the chipped crystal socket.
One night I called CQ and was answered by K8DMG, John Grover over in Forrest Hill. Now Forrest Hill is all of 12 to 14 miles from where I lived, but it was also the meeting place for the Gratiot County Amateur Radio Association. John invited me to the next meeting which was going to take place in just a few days.
That helped me meet a good portion of the "local" hams at that meeting. Probably most are gone by now, but there are quite a few that I'll always remember. One of the items brought up was a Novice Class. Yours truly was elected to teach the code. Hey! I was up to nearly 10 WPM and they said I had a good sounding fist. That and I was probably about the only one spending much time on CW. Most operated converted, or home built rigs on 6 and 2 meters with the exception of John who hung out on 160. Nearly all of them operated SSB. Today that wouldn't be saying much, but back then there was very little SSB. Most operation was AM, or CW with a little Teletype (RTTY) thrown in.
I should mention that although I had a "good sounding fist" the code did not come to me easily. It didn't take all that long, but that was due to spending an hour or two a day on CW.
I put in some time and earned the Technician license which I never used and started working seriously for the General class.
In the mean time I replaced the old S40B with an RME 6900 receiver and the Globe Scout was replaced by a Viking Ranger that I built from a kit.
My cousin, Dan earned his ticket as WN8AFY. I remember he used to say he'd call CQ DX and hope for an answer from outside the township.
Dan and I drove to the FCC office in Grand Rapids where we both failed the CW miserably, (I said it didn't come easily) but after some real serious practice we went down to the Detroit office a bit over a month later. We both sailed through that time with the resulting calls being K8ZKF and WA8AFY. Shortly there after I replaced the Ranger with a Hallicrafters HT-37.
I should mention that the station sat on top of a dresser in my bedroom. The antennas were just a couple of dipoles mounted on a 30' mast made of pipe. I did build a 30' mast out of 2X4's out by the garden but, but it lasted only until the first good wind. The thing started oscillating. Apparently I had the central guys at the wrong point as the mast started looking thicker and thicker above and below that point. As I remember it looked to be almost 3 feet thick at the widest points before it shattered. The largest piece was only about 3 feet ong and that was where I had an extra 2X4 on each side of a splice.,
That fall I got married and Dan headed off to Michigan Tech. That meant Dan's ham radio operating was seriously curtailed, but I did occasionally talk to him when he could make it over to the college station at Michigan Tech. My wife never complained about the station so I managed to spend a bit of time operating CW and some SSB with an HT-37 and the RME6900. The station evolved into the Hallicrafters HT-44 and SX-117 pair which I used for almost 4 years. The next stage of evolution was a Kenwood TS-820S transceiver which I purchased just before we moved to Breckenridge. I had to purchase the digital readout as a kit and install it in the 820S The antennas were wire dipoles on 75 and 40 with a tribander mounted way up at 30 feet at the back of the garage.
License wise I moved up to the Advanced Class in the early 70's IIRC and made Extra down at the FCC office in Detroit March 28, 1978 (IIRC) on the next to last testing session they offered the ability to request a specific 1X2 call, ending up with the present K8RI. I remember I copied the first two minutes solid, but started to get behind, so I started abbreviating. As I had been running close to 40 wpm before going down, I finally laid the pencil down and started copying in my head. The only questions I missed were the ones where I was abbreviating. I found the written test to be fairly easy.
We built a nice ranch style home on the NW corner of the old family farm. I had lots of room for antennas and a 21 X 13 foot room in the insulated and heated basement. That station was in a continuous state of change. With the flat land and a very large yard I had 3 40 foot towers with a 5L KLM on 20, 6L KLM on 15 and a 7L Wilson on 10. I had a pair of phased 1/4 wave verticals on 40 that could be feed in phase or at 180 degrees. 75 and 160 were just drooping dipoles. they weren't high enough to be called Inverted V's.
Following the Kenwood 820S I purchased a Yaesu FT-101B which nearly electrocuted me due to an overly generous solder joint on the power connector (from the factory).
I ended up getting into Amateur Radio commercially for a while from the Breckenridge location. That was back in the days where you could make money selling and servicing ham equipment and you could sell just about all of the equipment you could haul to a swap.
Following are a few of the "Boat Anchor" set-ups. All bands could
operate simultaneously. I may have "misremembered" some of the designations.
These stations date from the mid to late 1970s. Unfortunately I don't have photos of all the station's incarnations, and none at all from the Midland location, or my Novice station back in Breckenridge..
Click photo for larger image.
Starting at the left side on top, KLM 2-meter/10 meter satellite transceiver, Experimental/prototype solid state Heathkit SB102 transceiver with remote VFO, Heathkit conduction cooled KW amplifier (SB-230 IIRC) with a Dentron SWR meter on top and another to the right. and finally the Collins 75A4 with matching speaker on top.
The next row, starting from the left, Drake C-line, Ten-Tec 544, Ten-Tec power supply, Ten-Tec Omni D, Dentron MLA-2500 on top of a Dentron MT-3000 antenna tuner, and the Collins KWS-1
Click on photo for larger image.
Left to right starting at the top: Kenwood 2-meter FM rig on a Ten-Tec power supply, Ten-Tec 545, remote VFO, and 160 meter transverter, Dentron DTR 2000 (8877), and Ten-Tec power supply.
One day when I powered up that DTR-2000 I was greeted by a very loud, "BANG!". When I took the cover off I found the can from one of the small electrolytic capacitors laying on the chassis. The top of the can was flattened and looked much like a 38 caliber wad cutter that had hit something solid. I replaced that cap and all was fine. I never had another problem with the amp. BTW back then I was purchasing new, Eimac 8877's for $305 USD each. Now those same tubes are over $1,200 with the Chinese versions running in the neighborhood of $600
Bottom Row, Collins KWM-2 with Power Supply, Ten-Tec Omni 5 hooked to the power supply above.
Click on photo for larger image.
Collins 75S-3B, 32S-3 with power supply. Dentron Peak reading SWR meter.
About this time I ended up getting single. The kids and I moved to Alma and I was reduced to just a small Kenwood TS 530 as I recall along with a trap vertical. I finally found the photo of this station along with my computer (an Ohio Scientific C2-8P) from back around 1980.
After a few years (1983 I think), I moved to Farwell. At Farwell, I had an Icom 745 with a Cushcraft ATB 34 on a 50 foot tower, but the base of the tower was 30 to 40 feet above the roof of the house. (Big hill to the East) I also had two 14 element KLM 2-meter antennas at 65 feet. Unfortunately I don't think there are any photos of the antennas in Breckenridge. There *may* be one or two of the system in Farwell.
Alma Station (Kenwood TS830, GLA-1000B, 7800, MFJ
The shots of the Alma and Farwell station are a bit of a step down from the old "multi-op" station in Breckenridge. OTOH notice that modern, state of the art", C64 computer at Farwell. I don't know if I have any photos of the antenna system at Farwell, but it was a 50 foot tower near the highest spot in the region. The only place higher being the big hill South of Cadillac. I had an ATB34 tribander at the top of the tower and a pair of 14L KLM, vertically polarized, 2-meter antennas about 12' above that. BTW that old Ohio Scientific C2-8P computer in Alma cost more than the two quad core AMDs I just finished and that's with wide screen monitors and gaming video cards combined. I don't think I have any photos showing the setup here with the Amiga 2000.
I moved to the current location and got married in 1984. I started out with the Icom 745 and the Cushcraft ATB-34 along with a couple of wire antennas on a 90 foot TV tower. After a number of years I sold the 745 and purchased an Icom 756 Pro. A year later I purchased a used Icom 751A from the Midland Amateur Radio club to use as a backup rig;
Incidentally, my wife became N8JBW who is fairly active on 2 FM. When we were both working it was our main means of communication. (This was well before cell phones)<:-)) It was also a lot safer to pick up the mike and call, rather than trying to dial a number while driving.
There are several incarnations of the Hallicrafters HT-32, SX-101, and HT-33s in various stages of restoration, or decomposition as the case may be out in the shop. I recently replaced the TV tower with a 97 foot ROHN 45G that I put up by hand. When ever I needed help one of my friends would come over and pull on the rope to the gin pole.
Click on photo for larger image
Click on photo for larger image.
The Office at the other end of the coax complete with sleeping cat
The last incarnation of the operating position in the Den. The Icom 751A moved to the shop and was then sold
|Note there is no longer room for the rotator control and Streak
And he's larger than the old Alpha 76 Amp.
The station is nothing like what I had in Breckenridge, nor do I have the room I had over there. (inside or outside). Here the station is in a 10 X 12 foot room that it shares with three computer systems and four book cases. I put up the tallest tower I could right in the center of the lot. ( www.rogerhalstead.com/tower.htm )
Since the above was written there have been major changes in the station... Several times. I'm getting ready to put new carpet in the den and repaint the walls which is going to be a major undertaking with all this "stuff" in here. Currently the equipment is all set up in the shop except for a Kenwood TM-D710. The control head sets between the two computer monitors here in the den. That part will be included at the end of this page...eventually.
With the Exception of the 756 Pro and a Kenwood TM-V7A most of the station equipment has been purchased used. Over the years with only a few exceptions I have purchased used equipment to get the most for my dollar. With the price of the old equipment now being what it is, I'd kinda like to have a few of those old boat anchors back <:-))...Like that 75A4 and KWS1 station, or the S-line, or the KWM-2, or the HT-33B I had in Breckenridge.
Not counting the contest style setup in Breckenridge, I don't think I could afford to recreate all my old stations even if I could find the equipment.I have picked up a bit of Hallicrafters equipment, an old Icom 751A, and a Henry 2K4 in need of some TLC. The problems with the Henry are not bad, the tubes are good, and the price was right. The only real things I've had to do to it have been drill and tap the Power Supply chassis to hold the huge Peter Dahl plate transformer, replace the bias diode module, and rebuild the directional coupler for the SWR and and relative forward power indication. It is on its way back together and I hope to have it running in a day or two. The Hallicrafters HT-33B amp has been rebuilt and I'm waiting to find the time to paint the cabinet. Although not all is hooked up most of the stuff on, and under, the bench works.
For those who worry about computers and radio stations, please note the computer tower case setting right beside the Henry 2K4 under the work bench. With 5 computers on CAT6 cable there is no interference on any of the HF bands nor have I noticed any on the 50 or 144 MHz bands.
I have moved the work bench about four feet to the left, brought one of the old office desks out of the basement and put it at the West end of the work bench. It now supports, or rather did (Left to right): Bottom row, SX-101, HT-32, and HT-33B (The cabinet has been repainted now). Second Row: Yaesu FT-897, SX100, HA-1 Keyer, and Globe Chief Deluxe. On top is the MFJ VersaTuner 989C, Yaesu FT9800 2-meter rig, and on top of the HA-1 is a Kenwood TM-V7A Duobander. I still have the 2K4 shown in the photo at left, but I'm going to have to do a bit of work to get it hooked up. I also want to set the system up to be able to use the big antenna system from the house or the shop. Coax feeds to the Hygain Patriot vertical, the colinear 144/440 vertical, and the stereo come in through the conduit just to the right of the clock. The cat-5e network cable goes out through the plate under the wall about 2 feet below the computer (Now in conduit).
The station moved on to the 756Pro, and old Alpha 76A, a pair of MFJ 897C tuners, a separate conduit bringing in 3 CAT6 network cables and telephone line. The 76A was replaced with a Tokyo Hy-Power HL-1.5Kfx solid state KW (800 on 6-meters) amp with auto band switching. I tried the little Yaesu 897D and the Icom 7000. Being used to full size rigs I'll put it nicely and say I disliked both of the little rigs. They'd be fine for mobile, but not something I'd care to use in a fixed station. As an evaluation, I do believe the 7000 has a much better receiver and noise blanker than the 897D as well as being more ruggedly constructed. OTOH I found the menu system in the 897D to be a *bit* more intuitive than the one in the 7000. With these t wo rigs it's a good idea/necessity to "take the manual with you". They have menus within menus within menus and the results depend on which way you go through the same menus. OTOH that, "soon-to-be-released", IC-9100 which is larger than the 7000 and covers all bands 160 through 440 looks like it's going to be a nice rig, but so do the Software Designed Rigs/Radios (SDRs) which are actually simpler to run if you don't start getting fancy with the configurations.
Early 2010: Icom 756 Pro, Alpha 76A, Tokyo Hy-Power HL-1.5Kfx, 2 MFJ 897C tuners
Present incarnation: Icom 756Pro, Emtron DX-2SP, Palstar AT5K and DL5K
As a bit of a recap; Cousin Dan was inactive for so long he lost his license when he didn't renew it in time. He did get his degree in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech, but specialized in low level computer programming. He worked all over the US, and at last count "I believe" he had started five corporations, four of which were still on the market (last I heard).
Dan and I kept in touch over the internet and his interest in Amateur Radio was rekindled a few years ago. Dan was living on a two masted schooner in Marina Del Rae at CHULA VISTA, CA. (Sand Diego) He was relicensed as KF6ZBA in 2001 and was in the process of trying to get his dad's old call (WA8CVV) when he passed away suddenly in the summer of 2002. His health had been poor for some time but it still came as a surprise.
Me? I quite work in 1987,
went to college full time, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science,
with minors in art and math. I started working on my Masters in CS (working on a
graduate assistantship), but was offered a good job half way through the first term.
I said "I will" even before I asked "how much?"
I took the job, worked 7 years and retired while out on the flight line at the
big fly-in at Oshkosh in 97. I've been loving retirement
ever since, but I do wish it paid a bit better. BTW, I'm a far better
artist/photographer than mathematician. <:-))
The photo on the right below shows the 1 1/4 inch emt conduit that holds one LMR 400 cable for the HF station, one LMR 400 cable for the VHF/UHF station, and the RG-6 to the FM broadcast receiver. The Conduit comes through the west wall near the center, runs horizontally to the south wall, goes up and over the 9 foot garage door, and on over to the HF station on the workbench. The conduit makes a drop to the broadcast FM receiver out of the box about 4 feet to the west of the main drop to the HF and VHF stations. Not shown in these photos is the second satellite TV receiver to the left of the station, or the complete reorganization of the station.
Click on photo for larger image.
Click on photo for larger image.
Compare this photo to the one above on the right.
NOTE: there are no links from the two images below.
|A 5 X 7 outdoor electrical box, 4 inches deep with a flip front and a 16" long 1 1/4" EMT conduit out the bottom for the coax input to the shop.
|The interior box mounded in line with the outside box showing the spot welded 2" rigid conduit as well as the interior ends of the 1/4-20 threaded rods and nuts.
The two boxes above are connected by a 2" rigid conduit, spot welded to the interior box and with conduit nuts at the outside box. The boxes are also held together with two 6" long 1/4-20 threaded rods with nuts up against the back of the boxes as well as inside. The nuts and rod ends can be seen in the right side of the interior box. The coax cables go through 1 1/4 emt conduit to the "Boat anchor station" shown above. The exterior box and 2" conduit are filled with expansion foam to keep the flying, biting, and stinging critters out.
Network on N side of garage and Tower feed box
Coax cables to tower on Left, Network from garage on Right
The left photo shows the NEMA box on the North side of the garage, The junction box at the base of the tower with conduits to the house and shop. The photo on the right shows the South side of the shop with the NEMA boxes with conduit to the tower on the left and garage on the right. There are currently 3 CAT6 cables and one telephone cable in the 2" conduit, but there will be an additional 3 to 5 runs of RG-6 added. The foam sealer around the conduit boxes for the network on each have not had the foam sealant behind them trimmed flush yet.
The 2K4 was sold early in the summer of 2009.
2010: I've started changing and upgrading the station again. The Henry 2002A 2-meter amp, Alpha 76A, and Hallicrafters HT33B are going up for sale, but now I have to thoroughly check them out. Naturally after using the 76A for years with no problems I blew out a tube while checking it out. I have 4 spare 3CX800A7's and 4 8295A's that need to be checked out before I get rid of the 2002A and 33B. I think each good 8295A is probably worth more than the whole HT33B.
18 April 2010: With the Help of KD8MRC doing the climbing while N8ERF and I served as gofers we took the tri-bander down. There was quite a bit of damage to the boom from having come loose and beating against "things" up there, so I'm rebuilding the center of the boom as well as the boom to mast clamp. This weekend we are going to try to get the rest of the antennas down and with luck even the masting. The new mast will be 2" DOM and the TB-3 thrust bearings will be replaced with 6" long sleeve bearings leaving the rotator to support the weight of the antenna system. I'm planning on moving the tribander to 50' of 25G on the West end of the shop and maybe replacing it with a log based on the May QST article later on. I'm going to install an M^2 40M3 (3L 40 meter shortened Yagi) at the top of the 45 G with the repaired 7L C33i 6-meter Yagi about 15' above it. I don't plan on putting the 144 and 440 arrays back up.
Well, I have made some changes. I purchased a used Force 12 C19 XR tribander for the 25G and am thinking about the WARC-7. I have two, 24' lengths of 2" OD Drawn Over Mandrel (DOM tubing with a 1/4" wall. I've welded end caps on both pieces and picked up the paint today. The next step is to get those two mast sections painted and the coupling ready to install. I also *finally* got started on the assembly of the 40M3-125. I've welded up a hinged base for the 25G, but it too needs painting. So, I'm gradually making it through the details before actually starting the 25G install or the antenna work on the 45G. Oh! I do need to replace the coax phasing line on the 7L 6-meter C3i as several have told me it makes a good fusible link when running the legal limit.
UPDATE 18 Dec, 2010
The base for the 25G has been finished, painted and planted. A tower bracket has been fabricated to bracket the 25G to the end of the shop. I have two sections of 25G attache4d to the base and the "bracket". The tower sets so two sides are aligned with the shop wall so the bracket holds two legs. This leaves the tower at a 60 degree angle so it tilts over to the NW and *misses* a large tree. I have two gin pole bases almost finished plus one pulley attachment for the top. The first step after completing the gin pole will be to add either two or three sections to the 25G. Then: The C19-XR is ready to install so as soon as get the additional sections on the 25G. I've also completely rebuilt a Ham IV that I'm going to *store* for a friend. I did pick up a Force 12 WARC 7 and had hoped to install it as well, but I'll be happy to get the tribander up.
The 2" DOM has had 4 coats of a good durable finish. and is ready to install as soon as I get that gin pole finished. I've also resurrected the Hy-Gain AV640 to mount on a 24 foot length of 2" 6061-T6 Aluminum tube with a 1/4" wall. I'm building brackets to attach to the NW guy anchor for the 45G. This will make raising and lowering the AV640 quick and easy.
UNFORTUNATELY the C19-XR, 7L C3i 6-meter Yagi, and the AV640 plus mast are covered with snow and resting on sawhorses in the back yard.
Photos on the way.
NOTE: since the previous entry the temperature and weather have deteriorated some what. The temp has gone from the 80's to highs in the teens, lows in single digits and there is presently about a half foot of snow on the ground.
Oh! I've made absolutely no progress on the 3L 40M3 40 meter yagi since the previous entry.
Only time will tell how this works out.