Hi, this is me, KA6BFB standing next to a full functioned
radio remote of my own design on one of the highest peaks in the
Over the years, I have involved myself in many facets of radio. I am still active in some radio related pursuits to this day, and I hope to chronicle those on this page in the future. I have managed to talk to all 50 states, and proudly hold the ARRL Worked All States (WAS) award. Over the years I became proficient at T-Hunting (Radio Direction Finding), Morse Code, and building, designing, and repairing all sorts of radio equipment and antennas. I even played with Amateur Television and built a couple repeaters and other clandestine equipment that I will not mention here.
My desire to make even better equipment pushed me to teaching myself electronics. I eventually went on to get the degree in college, but it was my interest in radio that really drove me, and by the time I got to college I was pretty well prepared because of my interest in amateur radio.
There were several generations since the '20s of kids that cut their teeth on radio and went on to make a career out of electronics that started from tinkering with Ham Radio. Ham radio used to be considered on the cutting edge of technology with the advancements they would bring to the radio art. Hams were also looked upon fondly for the unique ability they had to provide communications during a disaster when nobody else could. Ham radio was strongly endorsed by the Boy Scouts and merit badges available for Morse Code.
Sadly, I think ham radio has seen it best days. I suspect that , at least in
Computers do not require metal structures on the roof (antennas) that annoy neighbors. Computers don't come through the neighbors radios, phones, and TVs. Most newer neighborhoods these days virtually outlaw the ham radio hobby because the CC&Rs (Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions) forbid outside antennas. Almost all of the American manufacturers of equipment have disappeared or got out of the Ham sector. Many of the Ham stores are drying up because of mail order competition. I am a fierce capitalist and I sympathize, but the lack of a place for youngsters to gravitate to and seek advice from Elmers (mentors) is sad. I guess I caught the tail end of this phenomenon, and thinking back on the help I got as a child is like looking a Norman Rockwell paintings of a bygone era.
Most new recruits to the hobby are non technical, and I am not complaining about that. In the era of microprocessors and surface mounted components, building your own equipment is ridiculous when a new radio is many times less expensive than you could buy the parts for. Of course you can build some of the accessories still, but a minority seem to anymore. Most people have become "appliance operators". The actual test to become an amateur has been watered down to the point of simplicity, you can get some class licenses without Morse Code, the FCC does not even administer the tests anymore, and all the questions and answers are published and available for $5.00 There have been some dirty scandals where licenses have been bought and sold without any test being taken.
It is getting more and more difficult to interest people in radio. Why should anybody put the expense and effort in the radio hobby when computers can do seemingly so much more, and all the new software is made to hold your hand and be utilized with a minimum of effort? You can talk to people with your computer on the internet through email or chat rooms, and even with voice if you buy one of the internet phone programs. With a computer you don't have to get licensed, wait for the right sunspot and ionospheric conditions, put up with static, or share frequencies. With the increasing reliability and coverage, as well as declining costs of cellular phones, I think the final nail is being pounded in Ham Radios coffin.
I think this decline in ham radio is a symptom of a bigger situation in
I really have no solutions. I would not trade in my computer or other modern conveniences for the back breaking work of a farm boy. It is just sad to see the dissolution of an institution in front of your eyes like ham radio that has had such a positive impact on this country and your own personal life. The majority of my acquaintances have come from radio, as well as my profession. Even my nickname Tinkyr came from the fact that I was a tinkerer. I don't think the virtual world of software provides the same ability that radio does to pick up a soldering iron and make things work and gather and intuitive understanding of electronics.
I am not a hypocrite in this manner, and I am working on some very interesting cutting edge applications of ham radio that I hope to display here in the near future. I have been tinkering with some interesting remote control applications using the Internet. I have also been playing a lot with AM and have some interesting circuits for that allegedly antique mode of communicating. I also have some direction finding circuitry and software I have developed that I would like to share someday. I am also interested in playing with Software defined radios (SDR) and I may combine all of the interests with SDR and have a really interesting package. Some of my projects are shown below in the projects section
In closing, I hope that I am wrong about the above demise of Ham Radio, and I welcome your efforts to cheer me up and disproving my point of view in email.
Here is the existing shack. The left hand side is the more modern half, with an Icom 706 for HF operation and the FT-736 for VHF/UHF operation. The equipment on the left is for my HF AM operation. The receiver is an R390A and the transmitter is a Johnson Valiant. The microphone on the boom is the case of an old RCA 77DX with condenser microphone installed. This shack should undergo a major renovation in the next year as a build a new console that will also accommodate my test equipment and computers.
I also have a second op at the station. That would be my cat Reagan with the call sign K1TTY
I have recently become interested in PSK31 and JT-65. This interest has resulted in me joining Logbook of the World and printing up QSL cards for the first time since I got licensed. I hope to work you there. Here is my current card. Get your very own when you work me on the air.
Here are some pictures of the last remote station. We unfortunately lost this site, but a new one is in the works. When we have the new site, we will put my repeater there, which is on 146.175 MHz, as well as a full function HF/VHF/UHF remote, accessible thru RF or the internet.
The Early Years
This is a faded picture of me at a much earlier shack in 1976 when I was 13. This was when I was messing with CB, but notice the WWII Surplus signal generator. I was already starting to tinker. My first ham station was a one tube 6L6 home brew transmitter. Without a buffer stage, there was some serious chirp if I loaded it too heavy. My receiver was a WWII BC-348. I still have the 7.120 MHz crystal I used for the home brew transmitter and I just acquired another BC-348 receiver, and I will eventually reconstruct my original novice station from 1977.
Tape Measure Yagi Antenna A new version of a classic antenna
Original Screamer circuit with dead bug construction An audible S meter for the Puxing 777
Icom 706MKIIG S meter Zeroizer circuit. The Zeroizer takes an S meter voltage range that is not zero based and makes it go to zero for external meters etc.
Nerd Box. A t hunting accessory for mobile work.
Silly video showing the Screamer and Zeroizer in one external meter
Vintage Icom Projects
Ham Radio Deluxe Interface for Vintage Icoms This interface allows computer control of pre-CIV capable Icom radios that did provide computer interface control
Rotary relay replacement for the 720A My implementation of the often performed modification with notes and pictures.
Hall of Shame
The Getoutometer on the ARRL website (April 1 2011)