It all began around 1988 when I was 7 years old, tinkering with a Tandy electronics kit bought for me as a Christmas present from my parents, I built the crystal set radio project and with a random length of wire out of my bedroom window and sitting close to the nearest earth point, my bedroom radiator, I was able to listen BBC Radio Cumbria on Medium Wave – what a buzz, instantly hooked and I can recall the sense of joy when I realised what I had achieved with such simplicity.
But that was not enough, I wanted to do more so I bought a pair of Eurosonic Mini Com walkie-talkies and began experimenting how far I could transmit, my friends could not understand the fascination of what I was doing but helped me all the same, cycling to the near by hill tops and experimenting with radio – then I wondered what else I could do, by this time I am 9 years old and learned about CB radio, I did not have much money so as any child would do I badgered my parents in to buying me a CB radio, a Midland 77-099 40 channel FM rig which I thought was the best thing I had ever seen, then the reality set in that I needed a power supply and also an antenna, I had an old model railway transformer that ran at 12V and a length of coax cable, I figured out that a random length of wire was not working very well and making the back of my radio hot – the kind breakers I was being educated by at the time told me about SWR and what I was doing to my radio was not good.
Then in my mid teens I had a part-time job, I was introduced to the world of girls and realised that I could not fund both hobbies at the same time however that did not stop me enjoying both 🙂 I was also made aware of SSB and these exotic sounding CB radios called HAM International and Cobra 148’s, illegal and expensive but that did not stop me buying a Multimode II and I still remember my first SSB contact in 1996 with a German station using a Sirio DV27 mounted on an old Quality Street sweet tin in my bedroom – what an achievement, I was now very much uninterested in the Channel 19 antics and random FM conversations now focused on working stations around the world.
This then directed me to Amateur Radio once I was told of the consequences of my illegal “pirate” activity on 26/27MHz, I joined a club and started the NRAE course finally sitting my exam in 1998 and gaining my City & Guilds Amateur Radio certificate and for some silly reason chose probably the least popular callsign available at the time – 2E1IIP.
For many years after 1998 I dipped in and out of HAM radio, never really committed to a solid station until the last two years when I returned to the hobby in order to fill a void in my life – I was bored, at the time my car was my hobby also a black hole in my finances so decided to give Amateur Radio another try.
I tried HF and was not impressed with the amount of QRM from modern technology such as Power Line Data devices and Plasma TV sets, so I decided to look at VHF and what it could offer, 50MHz was the obvious choice for DX, which was my main interest as I had no enjoyment from talking to local stations as it bored me to tears, I built a small beam – a simple HB9CV and started to hear stations up and down the UK on SSB, of course the usual European Sporadic E propagation and then I started to feel that buzz which originally got me in to radio all those years ago and I wanted to go further, what other aspects of VHF can I explore.
I read an article on Meteor Scatter, all these pictures of multi-yagi antenna arrays and big towers, there was no way I could achieve this sort of set up so started to lose interest at this point based on the fact I could not build such colossal antenna systems, that was until read beyond the headline and started looking at more conservative VHF stations and what they have achieved with QRP and small antenna systems – back in business, so I downloaded Joe Taylor’s K1JT WSJT data mode software and began playing around with JT6M on 50Mhz, I could not believe that I was having a QSO with a station in Sweden under flat band conditions using 50W and a two element home made beam antenna, listening to those pings of data in the loud speaker of my radio and seeing them appear in the waterfall in the WSJT software and my callsign being decoded from bouncing radio waves off ion trails that small rocks have created by entering the earths atmosphere at high velocity.
From that point I built a better VHF station and included 70MHz as well, installed a bigger antenna and had plans of sitting my Advanced Amateur Radio exam when things took a turn for the worst. The local authority demanded I removed my antenna system as it violated planning regulations and apply retrospectively was discouraged as it would have simply been rejected – I was gutted to say the least, so I dismantled the station and sold off most of the equipment leaving me feeling angry, upset and once again a void in my life which was very apparent.
Then I thought to myself, what can I do about it, there must be a way to still enjoy this fascinating hobby without the Gestapo interfering and then it dawned on me – Portable station, I can drive the car to a location of my choice and spend a few hours every so often doing something I enjoy. So I started costing equipment and materials for new antennas and realised it was not going to be cheap, I could save the money but what was I going to do in the meantime? Then I thought back to my passion for electronics and constructing equipment, I had an idea – why not build my own VHF SSB radio to my specification, it is a colossal project but I have the time and the interest so why not.
So this is my brief story of my journey through Amateur Radio and it continues, I hope this blog provides some inspiration to readers.