Well what I remember distorted by time.
How I got interested in radio …
I started out in radio like all kids, discovering electricity by first poking a knife and a fork into a 240V power point, blowing a big chunk out of the knife. The incident made the wall black, miraculously I didn’t die. Im assume this got me interested in electricity.
Curiosity got me taking apart my parents stuff, I dismantled a new camera to bits behind the couch in secret. I took anything apart especially if it had electronics inside. I liked to chop the component out and collect them in jars because they looked good. Too bad about the thing I destroyed, this happened before I went to school. One day I even removed all the fuses from family car because they looked good for my collection. I’m sure my parents weren’t impressed and I didn’t lose any more lives in the punishment.
Our family always listened to AM radio, so I have fond memories of the music of the early 70’s But my nonno had a special radio. He showed me what strange things it could receive. It was shortwave radio on a national R-220J. Each time we visited I want to listen. The crazy sounds, songs and foreign voices There was a strange noise that sounded like a woodpecker and morse code puffing sounds. Nonno said it was a woodpecker hitting a tree over seas, I believed him. This was so magical.
walkie talkies and wire
From 7 I had a few toy walkie talkies of all sorts. the most rememorises was the one with a bright orange morse code key on it. We use to play with these quite often in our cubby houses or when riding our bikes. I use to talk to the kid next door on them. On day we touched the antenna on the metal fence and this made the signals louder, what? Next tried a wire and it did the same but not as good. We taped a wire to a stick and even louder. Strapping a bamboo stick to our dragster bikes with wire wrapped around it now, rode down the street and could talk!! Now we could hear other people talking on our channel with the bigger antennas. Well these radio were broad and could receive all the channels at the same time. One day by accident we listened to a conversation between two people talking about how a 1/2 wave or 2.65m x2 of wire wound around a stick made a tuned helical whip antenna. Oh my lets try this.
We gave it a go by cutting up an old extension cord for wire and did some measurements. got some bamboo and wound the wire. This gave the radios on our bikes a range nearly 4 blocks 400m. We were excited, pity about the extension cord we chopped up. The stuff we could hear now was amazing, station hundreds of km away and a few American we through. How is this possible with more wire? There was this funny Donald duck voice’s we could hear that freaked us out, was it Aliens?
I used my mums Mum’s Philips cassette shortwave radio to listen to 5KA and night in bed. But this radio has short wave on it as nonno’s radio had. My friend had a similar radio with a meter one it. We use to listen every weekend to a station from the United Arab Emirates, it was on 21MHz and really strong. Radio Australian was another good radio station. Then the time signals, VNG Lyndhurst Victoria Australia on 4.5, 7.5 and 12MHz, I could say the announcement of my heart. Then WWV, WWVH 2.5, 5, 10, 15MHz I would drive my parents mad having this going on for hours. At night I could hear this Donald Duck voices again, Aliens? You could sort of work out what they were saying. By accident we found out that if you placed another radio next to the other, you could decipher the signals, it was really touchy to get the voice to sound right. Oh my god this is amazing, its black magic. We did this by chance when we were comparing my friends radio with my mums. Basically we where hearing the local oscillator 455KHz above the the tuned frequency. We didn’t not know this at the time.
Astronomy and the microcomputer.
For quite a while in the first few years in high school I really got into astronomy and computer programming in basic. My first computer was a Dick Smith Wizard that I swapped for my AM CB, I progress through the years at home to a VZ200 then Amstrad, 646, 6128. My most favourite computer was the BBC Microcomputer B in high school. We could never afford this. I have one today though. I spent every night typing in programs from library books on the Wizzard. I had no way of saving my programs, so the next night I would type then in again. I lived and breathed computers and really got good at programming. I got so good that our computer teacher asked me to write lessons for our classes as school. I wrote a few adventure programs, a word processor, a data base and a sheep dog trial scoring data base. Sort of blows me away what I did when I look back at the code print outs I still have. Apparently my school grades weren’t good enough to get into programming.
Thanks for killing the dream!
Astronomy was so much fun, my friend and I made a few telescopes and even started making an observatory platform in his back yard. I’m not sure what we were thinking but I’m sure were were thinking of making a massive reflector telescope. I made a few of my own refractor telescopes in primary school. At 8 I got a taco refractor 60mm telescope for a present. The astronomy magazines in the library always showed newtonian telescopes, we just had to have one. So we sort of made one using a shaving mirror, it sort of worked. Using a normal mirror has problem’s the reflecting surface is behind the glass, this gives a double images on of the silver coating and one off the front glass surface. My friend and put our money together and purchased from Kmart a catadioptric reflector telescope 76mm diameter. This telescope just blew us away. But we still dreamed for bigger.
The CB Days
In Year 8 high school I had a friend called Graham. He told me about his dads CB radio adventures. This was the first time I I knew someone personally that used CB radio.
He described about talking to other people over incredible range. This was mind blowing to me at the time being able to talk such long distances. I started to hint to mum and dad for months about this CB thing and how it would be great to have. I was basically told no way. I started to save my pocket money to purchase a Realistic 27MHz 3 channel 1watt walkie talkie.
This had channel 11 and channel 14 installed, I would add 8 truckies channel, Using our bamboo sticks and wire wound around it I could take to people around the city. I talked to my parents about how good it would be to have a CB again. And then it happened my parents help me buy one. It was Tedelix TE4000 AM CB I got for my birthday. With a centre loaded antenna on the house gutter I was in heaven. My first experience was channel 11 call channel. What a shocker, all sorts of colourful language. Im sure my father though this may have been a mistake. I think I listen on the air for a few months till I had the courage to call breaker. I made lots of friends and learnt so much about radio related stuff. Over time I discovered the SSB mode, A friend on air told me how easy it was to talk long distances compared to AM. My next dream is a SSB radio but it was so expensive back then.
Single Side Band
MY uncle loved caravanning. I use to go with him when I could in school holidays. I told him all about CB radio and how good Single Side Band was. My uncle purchased a Hornet Mk2 SSB CB from Dick Smith. I helped him install the radio in his new Toyota Landcruiser. On a trip to the Flinders Rangers I got to used his CB every day. My god I need a SSB radio soon, I was amazed to be hearing USA, New Caledonia and ever state in Australia. The sun spots must of been nuts back then. Some time we could not find a clear channel to talk on.
Again I asked my parents about a SSB CB and they said no. I asked my grandparents to help me out, the deal is I sell my old AM radio to make up the money. A good reason I gave was I can talk to my uncle 🙂 I got my Hornet II SSB CB just like my Uncle and I worked plenty of DX. I ended up getting a 3 element yagi second hand. It was home made for a local CBer. I made a tower out of a pipe that was held up by a swing in the back yard. Funny thing is I never sold the AM CB, it was swapped for a computer.
With the DX QSO’s filling up my little log book and lost friends on air, I started to hear about ham radio. I did plenty of reading and dreaming about ham radio.
I now so badly wanted a ham radio but the license requirement scared me. We use to go into Dick Smith and see the Ham radios on display. The time signal was tuned on the FRG7700 and it was my dream radio. ham radio seemed an impossible thing to get at the time. But my friend and I learnt from others on the CB radio, an second hand RSGB and ARRL book I got cheap from Dick Smith, the other book was a exam study book called 1000 and 1 ham radio questions and answers, we learnt this parrot fashion.
I got my ham radio licence with Ashley when we were 17 years old in 1987, it took us three attempts over 3 years. Ashley and I had no mentors so learning was really hard and slow. We use to quiz each other on 55.050 Tandy walkie talkie frequency each night.
The crazy bit was about the ham radio exam was we knew the answers to the exam questions but had no idea why. We passed and we still were not wiser.
Theses were the fun years, we made most of our radio stuff from anything we could get our hands on and it it was so much fun. We made a quad antenna for 55MHz from bamboo and string. The string was wrapped in al-foil as we run out of money for wire.
My first ham radio was a IC02A, I used all my first pay to buy it. The funny thing was we were both too shy to talk on the radio for the first 6 months. So we continued to use our 55MHz Tandy radios. The hams all seems to be very serious and not inviting to young people.
My second career choice was a National Parks Ranger. Mid way through high school I did 3 years in agriculture subjects. The other career choice that I didn’t think of was was electronics, to me it was just a hobby. I was given advise to leave school and go to TAFE in a prevocational electronics to workout what I wanted to do.
This year in TAFE really helped give me basic electronics knowledge, part of this was sending us to 4 places to work for 10 days in different electronic industries to see what I liked. I didn’t like TV servicing, I loved two way radio. I still remember the first week they show us a circuit diagram, it look so foreign to me, The lecture said by the end of this year you will understand this like reading a book. He was right!.
I managed to get a job in radio servicing of taxies at RW electronics through TAFE. Did this for a while and learnt a lots in a short time. By chance I got an apprenticeship in radio trades with a big establishment that I applied for 6 months before and forgot about. This was word of mouth job and a bit of a lucky chance. I was sad to leave RW electronics, they encourage me to move on.
I did more studies when I finished my apprenticeship in advance communications mainly to learn more about ham radio. We actually did SSB radio as a topic, at last I understood how it worked. I had quite a few good mentors to teach me over the years which I thank. My main duties is the maintenance of the HF radio, satellite telephone, CB radio and marine communications. With this job I got to travel a lot around my state of South Australia, I reckon I have been to most towns and area’s, especially in the far North out back.
I met a good core of ham radio friends at the South Coast Radio Club. We got into radio direction finding together, this is another story!
In 1994 on a service trip my work college Rod VK5ZFQ at the time were in Woomera. We were brain storming about amateur satellites and balloons as you would in a rocket town. This is when we first came up with with let’s start a ham radio club that does this sort of thing. The idea sort of died till 1996, I think by this time none of the clubs were interested in what we wanted to do. With the same close ham friends we started a club together call the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group, AREG. A much better name than ARSE! (Amateur Radio Satellite Experimenters). The new club together started to make all sort of things. Our biggest interest was repeaters for 2m and 70cm, we made every thing from the filters to the interfacing, controllers and antennas. It’s amazing when you get like mind people together what can be accomplished.
Time moves on
Over time I slowly build up my test equipment and workshop. My goal was always to be able to make anything and do it my self.
A big change was getting married and having a kid, a nice change of family life.
I still enjoy restoring old radios and building antennas. The sounds of HF are still amazing, technology marches on and its actually getting easier to make things.
CNC engraving / milling, 3d printing have become cheap enough to be done at home. No more tool cost etc. PCB can be made for $2 and electronic parts are cheaper making the building of projects so much easier. The biggest change is the internet, you can buy stuff from any where in the world these day with a click of a key. Then there’s good old YouTube one of the best learning tools around. Years ago I remember writing letters or ringing another country trying to get parts. Trying to learn how to do something from over priced out of date books. The online forums and information available on the net, its still amazing. I would have never imagined this was possible when I was a kid.
Im still learning every day and discovering new things.
Im sort of glad I didn’t get into computing, I think I would have gone around the bend doing it as a job.
Thanks for reading