I had ‘this’ friend at the time and together we would experiment with building things, usually made from parts culled from discarded black and white television sets. Sometimes the things we made worked! We used to take it in turn to go to each other’s house. Then one evening, this friend informed me that he wasn’t coming round since he had enrolled in a class for the Radio Amateur’s Exam. ‘Thanks for telling me John!‘ I have to admit that I was a bit ‘miffed’ at first. I enquired at the college regards getting on the course, but I was a week late and besides I had missed a sizeable part of the course. My friend passed the course that winter and was good enough to lend me the RSGB publication ‘How to pass the RAE’. I read it from cover to cover, answered all the questions, signed up for the next exam and passed the following Easter. In those days it was a 3 hour written exam, not the multiple choice nonsense we have today. Although I suppose the present format makes it easier to mark, but it doesn’t encourage newcomers to understand in real depth just how a radio works.
In those days it took a long time for licenses to come through and it wasn’t until August that I received the Call GM8LWR . . . . What a mouthful! I even forgot it the first time I called CQ! I remember vividly my first QSO. Sweaty hands, dry mouth . . . . but the elation afterwards!
I still have my first transceiver . . . a modified ex police Pye Cambridge, of the portable variety. This is a 6-channel AM box, and initially I had one set of crystals installed for 145.8MHz. In 1976, there was quite a large fraternity on ‘point 8‘ . . . mostly mobiles, but everybody had a rig at home too and it soon became necessary to come up with an over-flow frequency (we didn’t like the term channel). So we came up with 145.8375MHz. This was chosen so that those using the newly available 25KHz spaced FM black boxes would not be able to listen in . . . . . Hmmm?
My first 2m SSB kit consisted of a home-brew DJ9ZR transmitter with VFO and a hugely modified Halicrafters SX24 with a 2m converter. This was then replaced with the notorious Liner-2 before I finally saved up enough cash to invest in my now trusty ICOM IC260 which has given me excellent service since 1979.
The Cambridge was ‘decommissioned’ as far back as 1983 (I think) and I haven’t been on ‘point 8‘ since then. Some of the ‘old fraternity’ have tried to entice me back onto the ‘beer phone’ as it is known, but use of that frequency for anything other than satellite work is far too contentious for me.
After 17 years as GM8LWR, I sat and passed the Morse Test (first attempt!) in 1993. I’m an HF man these days . . . although I do maintain an interest in all the other bands.
A Pye Bantam
another 2m AM rig
from the 1970s
If I were asked how I got ‘into’ Amateur Radio, I suppose that I would have to ‘blame’ my parents. I believe it was when I was 11 years old that I received an ‘Electronics Kit’ for Christmas. This ran off batteries which off course were not provided and my parents had not foreseen this either. . . . and being Christmas, all the shops were shut! Off to a right good start . . . . NOT!
Surprisingly, this kit did not include the mandatory crystal-set, but through a friend I managed to find the parts and made one anyway. In those days, most people still had ‘valve’ radios and televisions. The radios often found their way into the local church fete to be sold and I would invariably buy one. I was always on the look out for Short-Wave radios. Needless to say, quite a few receivers went through my possession.
One Saturday, I rescued an R1155, complete with bullet hole right through the chassis, from a shop in Edinburgh. Fortunately, the shell had gone through the DF circuit and the rest of the RX was coaxed back into life by comparing it with a working model and replacing the parts that appeared to be missing. This was my first genuine HF receiver and with the BFO I was now able to make sense of SSB signals.
Portable Cambridge - see text