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Visit the QSO Today Podcast, Episode 133


Ham Radio Now Episode 74


Be sure to check out W1GCD on QRZ.com


Also, visit the Mohawk Amateur Radio Club


Like Videos?  Visit my YouTube Channel


Be sure to scoll down to see the latest shack and lab additions


Why W1SEX?


I still remember the very first time I heard the call sign W2SEX. It was Field Day 1973 at the town park in Pendleton, NY. There the Amateur Radio Association of the Tonawandas (ARATs) was setting up for the ARRL Field Day. I arrived about 18:00 on Friday, a warm summers evening with sunset still more than three hours away.


I managed to find my way to a military surplus, olive drab wall tent. My primary interest was visiting the North Tonawanda Civil Defense Agency with inquires about volunteering. Outside the tent was a twenty four foot extension ladder with a stacked pair of 5 element 2-meter Yagis and this odd looking clover leaf thing just under the beams. Inside was a gentleman by the name of Walt who had a really great call sign, K2VOX.


Inside was some neat equipment, a Regency HR-212 with a power supply and this very funny looking yellow box with a Civil Defense logo on it. To an uninitiated seventeen-year-old I thought the yellow box may have been a Geiger counter. “Not so” said Walt, as I was introduced to the Gonset Communicator, this one on six meters. Since then I’ve learned the yellow box was a long standing staple of almost every Civil Defense office in the country. Oh, the clover leaf antenna, a horizontally polarized antenna for six meters.


Walt was great and I learned much about ham radio that day. I even learned of this guy named Murphy. I heard his name a lot that weekend and I was told he was around all the time. Murphy must have been good at hiding because I never saw the man. Murphy always managed to get into a lot of trouble during field day (or any other club activity for that matter). During that Field Day, I remember a couple of old hams playing with a dipole antenna. It seemed that something called viswar was all amiss. Up and down, up and down that antenna went. By the sixth time that antenna came back down Dex, W2VCI (sk) and Ralph, W2RPO (sk) discovered that Murphy used some new fangled clothes line to support the antenna. As the story goes, ole Murph should not have used clothes line with the wire that ran through the inside of it.


At most every Field Day there seemed to be the same old pink pop-up tent camper (http://www.w2sex.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=6296). I don't remember who it belonged to but it seemed to show up about every year. Inside the trailer was the coolest radio I’d ever seen. There upon the dining table were the two black perforated cover boxes. The face plate was a two tone gray with beautiful blue glowing dials and meters. The air was thick with the smell of radio dust and you could feel the warmth emanating from the incandescence of the glowing bottles inside. The radios were a pair of Drake twins, classic then as they are now.


Of all the good times remembered and the wonderful people that have enriched my life, the only regret I have is that I never did get my license while living in the Tonawandas. None the less, after the start of a great career, a wife, family and the financial wherewithal, I did get my ticket. I said often while a member of the ARATs that if the FCC were to drop the code I would be standing on their doorstep the next day waiting to take my test.


After eighteen years of waiting for the code requirement to go away I finally capitulated and sat my lazy butt down and learned the Morse code. Just prior to Valentine’s Day in 1991 I took my Technician Class test and passed. On my code test, I missed a slant bar. By December of that year I upgraded to General and was having the time of my life with ham radio. Prior to the Advanced Class Vanity Call Sign Gate opening I passed my Advanced Class test.


Of all the new friends made and the good times had, one of my most fond memories is calling "CQ Field Day from Whiskey Two Sugar Easy X-ray." I cannot express in words the pride I have in holding a sister call to that of the ARATS. Every time I use W1SEX it reminds me of all the good hams I have met and the great times we had.


Ham Radio Interests: Public service is very high on my radio priority list. I am currently serving as the District Emergency Coordinator for Northern Worcester County. Through my Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) activities I became acquainted with the Gardner Civil Defense Agency. After serving as the Radio Officer and then Deputy Director, I am now the Agency Director. The RACES program in the City of Gardner has been re-born through the FEMA/DHS Community Emergency Response Team program.  On air interests include HF phone and RTTY. I also enjoy operating 6 Meter SSB and FM as well VHF and UHF simplex/repeaters.


With a strong technical background I really enjoy Elmering and teaching Technician and General Class licensing courses.  My current classes are structured around a blended on-line/live teaching format.  Students subscribe to HamTestOnLine which is used as the base study material.  During the week, students study the material and submit question by email.  I will answer the question (in plain english) then post the reply to the entire class.  During the weekly class session I will have demonstrations and hands-on experiments further explaining the concepts sent in during the week.  This method has proven exceedingly successful and I invite other instructors to contact me if they would like more information about my methods. 


What's New In the Shack?

The wife and I are finally empty nesting.  The last of our three children moved out this September which freed up a large bedroom.  Over the last several years the vast majority of my radios and lab equipment made their way to the Gardner EOC in support of the Technician and General Class licensing courses I have been running.  After my son moved out I refurbished this bedroom and brought my equipment home.  At this time I have a little bit more wiring to do as well as pull up some antenna wire for the HF radios.  None-the-less, the projct is coming along nicely and will soon be fully functional. 

The shack is equipped with two Kenwood TS-690s and my favorite radio, a Heathkit HW-101.  A close friend Steve Schwarm, W3EVE, gave me the 101.  Steve's father Edward, NX1V(sk) originally built the rig in the early '70s.  The HW-101 is arguably Heathkit's best selling ham radio.  More by coincidence than anything else, I have more than two dozen pieces of Heathkit ham gear and test equipment.  Heathkit rarely used custom electronic components making spare parts readily available.  That fact combined with easily availabe documentation, make Heathkit products superb candidates for restoration.  While most think Heath is dead, the equipment still serves a purpose teaching electronics.  Do a search on eBay sometime for VTVMs, I'll bet you almost half of them are Heathkits!

The lab, equipped with test gear collected as far back as my days in junior high school.  The vast majority of the Tektronix equipment was rescued from a vocational technical high school just before it hit the dumpster, saving the school (and my tax dollars) a huge disposal cost.

The main bench is 8x8 feet and based upon the design of a bench my father built for me when I was a teen.  Even back then, I had a lab at home with plenty of Heathkit and EICO equipment.  A family friend who had a relative who became ill donated most of my equipment back then.  Not all of my gear is vintage; I do use a Rigol DSO and Siglent arbitrary function generator as well as current production digital multimeters.

The equipment on the shelves are in various stages of overhaul.  Restoring old radios and test gear is one of my favorite parts of the hobby.  The scopes on the cart are some of my main line test equipment. 

These Tek 7603 mainframe scopes are on the main bench.  The 7L14 Spectrum Analyzer plug-in was purchased at the ARRL 100th Anniversary Convention in Hartford, CT for $20, along with a 7403 mainframe in which it was inserted.

The EICO 536A Multimeter (top left) was given to me by my electric shop teacher in junior high school.  I started working at a local radio and TV shop at age 16 and quickly found the limitations of a 1KΩ/V meter.  What I really wanted was a Simpson 260 like the ones I used in junior high but could not afford three weeks pay to buy one.  Instead, I purchased the Radio Shack Micronta Model 100K (second from right) for less than half the price.  The Simpson on the right is a 303-2. There are plenty of 303s that show up on eBay but the 303-2 is probably the rarest VTVM Simpson made.

The Tektronix Type 576 Curve Tracer was part of the vo-tech school rescue.  I remember a high school electronics teacher giving me a 1972 Tek catalog.  My friend Scott Malchow and I ogled over those instruments all year long.  We certainly could not afford anything from Tektronix but it is amazing what one can learn from reading catalogs. 

A give-a-way Leader scope married to a $20 ham flea market find, a Leader LTC-905 curve tracer.  Who needs this with a 576 in the lab?  Well, certainly not me, but teaching how to use a curve tracer is a lot easier on LTC-905 than the Tek.

Notice the difference between the 576 trace and that of the LTC-905.  The LTC-905 was produced in the mid '70s and sold for about $195.  The 576 produced in 1969 through 1990, cost about $4,000 in the mid ‘70s..  The mom-and-pop radio/TV shops at the time could afford the LTC-905 but the 576 was not even in the realm of reality.  B&K Precision, a division of Dynascan, was another provider of curve tracers.  Not to be left out, Heathkit and even EICO offered curve tracers.  Most transistor testers of the era would give the Beta or hFe of a transistor (out of circuit) or a go-no-go test in circuit.  Unlike the meter movement testers, the curve tracer tested the solid state device under actual operating conditions and tested a much wider range of devices.  The curve tracer will also accommodate matching of devices to be used in critical circuits.

I enjoy getting on the air and operating however, my real passion for the hobby is the technical side.  I really enjoy sharing my passion with friends, fellow radio club members, and new hams.


Paul, W1SEX

7964850 Last modified: 2017-03-14 01:35:47, 19831 bytes

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