Memberships : FISTS #17686, G-QRP-Club #2377, SKCC #3214, RSGB, ARRL
I got into radio as a schoolboy in the North East of England, spending several years as a SWL on the HF bands. I took the RAE in December 1982 and the morse test (at Cullercoats Radio / GCC) on February 21st 1983.
I was issued with G4SLV in March 1983, while still at school.
I've dabbled in radio (mainly HF and mostly CW or digimodes) on and off since then (is it really over 30 years ago!?)
After a degree in Physics and Electronics at UMIST I joined the BBC Transmitter Dept. in 1988 as a TX Engineer and have worked at several TX stations in the UK. I moved from Holme Moss in Yorkshire up to Wick, in the far north of Scotland in 1995, and then made the final leap off-shore to Shetland in 1999. I was largely inactive on Amateur Radio between 1988 and 1999, although I always had my faithful AR88D (now sadly in need of a lot of TLC) with me.
After moving to Shetland I took up the hobby again, firstly with an Electraft K1, and had a great time with HF CW QRP.
I was involved with the initial experimental access to the 600m (500kHz) band in the UK between July 2007 and November 2011 and I worked most of the active 600m experimental stations in the UK and also many European stations (either in-band where possible or cross-band to 80m or 160m). I've crossed the Atlantic on 600m using WSPR too! My 600m TX was a simple converter (10MHz IF) and Class-E MOSFET PA capable of 120W. Most of my QSOs were using hand-sent CW, and with the low ERP and low S/N ratios, were all rather sedately paced.
Here's Mr FT Ping helping me tune the 600m ATU....
After this period on 600m I spent a lot of time using digimodes on 60m, observing the performance of various modes (Olivia, MFSK16, Thor etc) over mainly inter-UK paths. I monitored the 5MHz beacons for several years (before and after my time on 600m), providing data to the RSGB 5MHz experimental database and also in real time to the website of Nick G4IRX : http://g4irx.nowindows.net/fivemegs/comparison.php but in late 2015 / early 2016 the beacon project seemed to have run its course, with GB3RAL firstly going QRT followed by GB3ORK. There seems no need to contribute to the monitoring project any longer. 5MHz is now a "normal" amateur band and the special experimental aspect has gone. I still enjoy using 5MHz, but its place as a quiet haven for tests and experiments is ended as more European countries gain access, without the channel restrictions of the UK.
I still enjoy SWLing - and spend much more time listening/watching than I spend on the air. I run a SWL website collecting, in real time, MF/HF DSC messages from a network of listeners around the UK (and beyond) using the YaDD (Yet Another DSC Decoder) software. The database is here : http://gm4slv.plus.com/index.php
The magic of CW has never left me. I was mentored as a young SWL back in my schooldays by Ernie, G3KRG, who had been a sea-going Radio Officer and who made it his mission to ensure newcomers were given every encouragement and help to learn the code. Spending time on 600m in 2007-11 gave me a real insight into the history of marine radio and CW in particular, and I'm grateful that Ernie gave me such a firm grounding in CW back when I was first starting out. I missed out on SWLing the old days of MF/HF marine CW, spending my time in those days listening on the amateur bands, and now it's all gone. It's up to the amateurs to keep the magic of hand-sent CW alive and even when I'm dabbling in other aspects of this wide-ranging hobby I always come back to CW, and usually with a straight key. I still have, and use, my old Hi-Mound HK-708 that I bought in 1982.
Finbar EI0CF sent me a Malin Head Radio / EJM cap, after our collaboration in the early days of 600m in the UK, and it is worn during the brief Shetland summer each year.
June 2016 update
After a few months away from the radio I have been refreshing my CW. When I've had periods of activity over the last several years most of my operating has been using digimodes, mainly on 60m, and I thought it was time to get back to basics and play radio without the need of a computer.
I have been using my FT817 and external 30W linear amp or my IC7200 (when I need better RX filtering since the FT817 has no extra filters) for working some CW on HF.
The FT817 is along with MX-P50M amplifier and LDG Z-817H auto-atu is meant for portable operation and, weather permitting, I might get out with it this summer. I have experimented with kite antennas and I hope to have some CW QSOs from the field using this setup.
I've been playing with "Sideswiper" keying - initially using a Bencher paddle with the dot/dash posts wired together and now with a homebrew Cootie Key in the traditional manner, using a hacksaw blade. It's taking a bit of getting used to, but it's much more "personal" than an electronic keyer and it's easier to loaf along at 20wpm compared to a normal hand key.
I am trying to improve my sending on the electronic keyer / paddles too, but I still prefer the old straight key for rag chewing. My sending is slowly getting back to speed, but I apologise if occasionally I seem to go hawyire at times. I often begin a QSO on the paddles at 20wpm but then swap to the straight key if my paddling error rate gets out of hand - and then of course my speed drops. Practice Practice Practice. I'm a long way from reaching the "10,000 hours" supposedly needed to make one an expert.
My Shack is in a shed in the garden. Everyone should have a shed!
Run down of my gear:
Mobile in Landrover:
Follow my journeys around Shetland via APRS : GM4SLV-9
Various short You Tube clips of some of my projects & investigations etc.
7466891 Last modified: 2016-07-26 09:54:36, 10555 bytes
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