I first became interested in radio when I read some of the books in my father's library on radio theory and propogation. He had (before I was born) been a lecturer on the subject at a local technical college and later worked for the Royal Navy as an electrical engineer, fitting out the big warships and the ocean going submarines. One of the ships he worked on, HMS Belfast, is moored on the River Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. He also did a lot of work on HMS Price of Wales, which was sunk defending Singapore, so one was lucky the other not. He often talked about the work done by the British scientists Edward Appleton and Oliver Heaviside on what caused the bending of radio waves, which we use to QSO over a distance outside line of sight.
I purchased my first kit radio receiver when I was 14 (I had a paper round to make the necessary money). I build it and fired it up successfully. My father purchased the expensive HT battery needed to fire up the valve. I had hours of fun tuning around the bands listening to the continental broadcast stations and listening through the Russian radio jammers.
Having got my electrical engineering degree and my first job (amateur radio needs a job to fund it) I passed my written licence examination in 1972 but then went to work in Zambia, Africa before I had passed my morse exam, so could not apply for a reciprocal licence as you then required a morse test for this. I therefore took up short wave listening (SWL) as a pastime when I came home from work in Ndola. Initially I used a British Goodmans receiver which did not have the right bands for Africa. Later I purchased a Yaesu FRG-7, which gave me full band listening - and I could also listen to the amateurs in ZR-ZU land. When I returned to Britain in the early1980s I applied and got my VHF licence and present call sign and worked 2metres mobile, when that was very active.
I then went to work in Saudi Arabia, in the oasis city of Al Kharj, and went back to SWL with a receiver I purchased in Riyadh. On completing the two year contract I pulled the 2metre kit out of the home loft and also purchased a ICOM IC-726, which I planned to use on HF but failed to impress the morse examiner with my sending so had to continue with SWL on HF. As the QTH had a lot of restrictions on antennas I was into stealth antennas. My VHF antenna was in the loft and the HF listening antenna was hung under the guttering.
In 1996 I moved from the English midlands to the south coast to join the engineering consulting company set up by William Preece, who as Chief Engineer at the British Post Office had been instrumental in funding Guglielmo Marconi's initial work on radio in England. Subsequently I finally got my full license so can now work all bands and in honour of Marconi I now have an HF vertical.
I have now retired from full time employment and set up my own engineering company with my wife. She does most of the work while I play radio or fly or do EMC work for the RSGB.
The present QTH is some 280 ft above sea level with a good take off to the South, East and West. I have the South Downs National Park to my North, which being higher than my aerial limits any ground wave from that direction. The English Channel is to the south, about a mile in distance. The QTH also overlooks Shoreham Harbour, which is used by the local fishing fleet and sailing yachts plus commercial cargo traffic. I am running an ICOM IC-7600 into a verticla dipole or a CW 620. I recently purchased an Italian build RM BLA350 linear which is rated at 300 Watts. I have to be careful not to overdrive it.
My vertical is a Britsh designed I-PRO Home vertical dipole, shown below, which gives me 360 degree reception and a low angle of take off for DX. You can see it on www.proantennas.co.uk. Where I run this I note "vertical" in the log and the CW 620 "horizotal". I also have a MFJ 1775 mini beam in the loft, which is used as a backup. It has 6 metres on it so is also used for sporadic E horizontaly polarised contacts. I also have an MFJ 1786 super loop, which I use for short wave broadcast station listening, as it tunes from 40 m to 15 m.
A big advantage of this vertical is that it DOES NOT need an earth connection. This is important as my house mains earth connection comes from the local electricity company. If I did have to put an earth mat in I would have to cross bond it to the main earth terminal, as the coax comes back into the house, using at least 10 sq mm insulated earth cable. Apart from the cost and problems of digging up solid chalk, this would then connect the vertical to the noisy mains neutral-earth.
I-PRO Home vertical dipole antenna - really quite reception, without the ground connection.
Another antenna I recently purchased for 20 m and 15 m is the Carolina Windom CW620. This is good for local work. I use three spiderbeam masts to support it in the backgarden and as the picture below shows it is pretty unobtrusive set aganst the skyline. It is an inverted vertical with the horizontal wire being the counterpoise to the vertical and having a line choke ( line isolator) in the feed line. The horizontal part is run at 10 m (30 feet) above ground. The antenna radiates as a vertical between the choke and the balun shown in the picture. Construction is nice and rugged, which as an electrical engineer I like to see. Unfortunately, you cannot get Carolina Windom antennas anymore outside of the USA, so I was lucky to get this one - last one in stock - from a UK amateur radio dealer.
I also need to keep my private pilot's licence certificate of experience valid so will be flying when the weather permits and using my aeronautical VHF radio licence to receive a Basic Service from air trafic services, flying from Shoreham (Brighton City) Airport shown below.
Shoreham (Brighton City) Airport is the UK's oldest operating airport and often get used in films set in the early days of flying.
For those of you interested in general aviation, the following picture is of the plane I learnt to fly on when working in Afirca. Call sign 9J RGJ. It is a Cessna 172 B and is flying over the District Governors residence in Ndola on the Zambian Copperbelt around 1978.
Moving on I have now purchased an ICOM ID-5100 VHF/UHF mobile transceiver, which has D-STAR on it. I spent several evenings getting to find my way round the operating manual but in the end I got it to work okay and with two local D-STAR repeaters to chose from, Brighton City and Worthing, I am spoiled for choice. During the second day I ended up working one contact on digital voice (DV) I would not have been able to work on analogue voice (AV) due to the distence between us, so that disproved what pundits had been telling me about DV verses AV on the distance it can be worked at VHF. Approximately 200 kM in this case.
6981552 Last modified: 2016-01-04 17:14:22, 7645 bytes
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