Sunday, September 28, 2014

1296Mhz 21 element Tonna

Having given some thought about building an antenna for 23cms I decided to splash out and buy a proper yagi. So I went for the 21 element Tonna and ordered one from Radioworld which came the next day.
Yesterday I set about constructing the kit. In the box is the aluminium booms, mounting bracket, plastic element mounts and bags of colour coded copper elements. The instructions are clear and concise. It was easy to put together, the element mounts just clip onto the boom and the driven element is screwed onto the boom.

The elements themselves are all colour coded so that they are mounted in the correct position. However, you have to push the elements through the holes in the plastic mounts and it is tricky getting the elements central. Would be much better if they were already mounted. It took some time fiddling about trying to centre and line up each element. On 23cms the position of each element is critical.

The driven element has a short length of coax and an 'N' Type plug comes with the kit. Not sure why an 'N'Type Plug, surely it would be better to have an 'N' Type in line socket? In fact I decided to use one that I already had. That makes it much easier to use an 'N' Type plug to connect.

The antenna looks quite nice when it is the acid test...does it work well?
Well, now comes the problem. In North West England we are a long way from any amateur radio beacons. The nearest is GB3CL at Clee Hill in the midlands. I cannot receive it here, so unless there is a station on 23cms I can't really test the antenna until the 23cm Tuesday Activity Contest. The next one is in about 3 weeks time. So I have decided to wait until the next contest to try it out properly.

Stay tuned!

Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society Rec. Club Venue

Following on from the previous post. After the B&DARS met at the Clarence Hotel in 1975 we moved to another venue, Bolton Recreation Club on St. Georges Rd. George G3ZQS secured a room up on the top floor which was ideal for setting up a club station and storing resources and equipment. I remember spending a long time cleaning and painting the room to make it usable for meetings.
An antenna was installed on the roof of the building after taking ages to get permission from the Blind School on the left from the council.

As the Rec Club was a kind of youth club, the members also had access to the facilities such as table tennis, badminton and cafe.

The Rec Club building is still the same, but now is a dance school. The Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society later moved to Horwich Leisure Centre.

The Recreation Club on the right, now a School of Dancing the room that we used was the little window at the top. The antenna was a longwire which started at the far part of the old blind school building.

Friday, September 26, 2014

QSL Cards

In my last post I mentioned being an associate member of the RSGB when I was 15 years old and I had my own receiving station number - A6412.
Well, tonight I sifted through my hundreds of old QSL cards to find my one and only A6412 QSL card!

I spent an hour looking at some of my old cards which I keep in a special box that I have collected since 1969. Some I received for sending a report as an SWL, while others are my pride and joy confirmed contacts on VHF and UHF for DX. Looking back, I am just amazed at some of the QSL cards and the effort that operators put in including personal greetings and messages from all over the world.

I guess nowadays we rely on e-QSLs I have not received a written QSL card for years...such a pity! I loved to collect QSLs and sometimes went knocking on doors of amateurs when I was young to ask for a card for my collection.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Radcom Archives

I first joined the RSGB 45 years ago when I was 15 years old in 1969 as an associate member - A6412
Every month I received a copy of 'Radio Communication' the RSGB's magazine, often waiting for the postman to arrive. I kept every copy up until about 1990 when I lost interest in the hobby and concentrated on my new teaching career. I kept all the magazines in the attic, but in a moment of madness I decided to throw them away, thinking that I would never use them again. I remember taking them all to the recycling centre and putting them one by one into the metal skip.

Years later, when I renewed my interest in amateur radio and re-joined the RSGB, I regretted throwing those magazines away. Many of the projects that I built were in those magazines and now as I think back to those constructing days I feel at a loss.

A couple of weeks ago I bought myself a CD Rom version of the first years of my RadCom magazines from the RSGB bookstore and am now enjoying browsing through five years (1970 -75) of mags. Brings back lots of memories looking at the circuits, articles and advertisements. I remember 'sending off' orders to places like Bambers, Birkitts, Garex and Amateur Radio Bulk Buying Group. Posting the orders and waiting sometimes weeks for the goods to return! How things have changed.

I may buy the next five years of RadCom, only problem is that each CD costs around £27 and I feel a bit niffed that I have to pay all over again for the magazines. The CD's are also as old as some of the magazines in them quoting Windows 95 and Windows 2000 to run. Includes a heavily outdated copy of  Adobe reader. I wonder if the RSGB would consider offering these CD archives at a discount (or free) to amateurs like myself and others who once had a complete set of magazines, but were foolish enough to throw them away!

I sent the above text as a letter to the RSGB and received a reply:


Thanks for getting in touch and expressing your views. I am responsible for the RSGB CDs and so thought I would get back to you to outline our current plans here. Essentially as of the 1st Oct (tomorrow) we are planning to open the 10 year archive of RadCom articles. This is an online resource for members (only) that will allow you to search RadCom articles from the last 10 years in a variety of ways. This builds on the work of recent years where we have been holding a rolling year of complete RadCom magazines on our website. We will continue to offer the CDs as a more convenient way to keep the archives. As you have already surmised these are not being updated and once the existing stock is exhausted there is no plan to continue them although we may do the annual CDs for a while yet. In time we may eventually reach the point of having the entire RadCom archive available online but that is a major task with a large number of difficulties. However it is the plan to offer it all in time – free to members.

Hopefully that clarifies the situation for you and again thanks for taking the time to write to us.

Best Regards
Mark Allgar, M1MPA
Commercial & Membership Manager
Radio Society of Great Britain

A section from 1975 Radio Communication showing the Club News. At the time I was secretary of the Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society (B&DARS)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Matchmoor Lane

This has always been my haven for peace and tranquility!

When I used to be a field service engineer I would often go up Winter Hill to the top of Matchmoor Lane and enjoy time to finish my paperwork and listen on 144Mhz with my mobile set up. We often came here for contests and VHF NFD back in the 70's and 80's with the Bolton and District Amateur Radio Society.

Now that I am partially retired it is nice to take my handheld and listen around on 144Mhz and 432Mhz FM and just enjoy the tranquility and view from here.

The view from here is stunning on a sunny day in Autumn!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

1296Mhz transverter revived

Many years ago I built a 1296Mhz transverter using the DF8QK design from VHF/UHF Communications magazine. It took me quite a while to build and setting up and aligning was very tricky. After lots of patience, I managed to get the main part of the transverter working with an output of only about 100mw. Later, I built a three stage receive pre-amp with three BFR34 transistors and also added a single transistor BFQ34 power amplifier to increase the output to around 1watt.
The whole of the transverter was enclosed in fibre glass copper clad boards and as they were all built in separate modules, I assembled them all together, with the pre-amp and P.A. mounted separately inside a box.

I built a 10 over 10 slot fed yagi as per Radio Communication handbook (P13.25) using plumbing pipe and brass rods. This together with the transverter worked well. Unfortunately, back in the early 1980's there was little activity on 1296Mhz, so I hardly heard anything! When I took my shack apart and kind of 'gave up' amateur radio the transverter has stayed in the attic. The antenna gradually fell apart.

Since I have returned to amateur radio again I have taken part in the Tuesday evening activity contests. In fact, I have operated on all the contest bands, except 1296Mhz and above. I felt a bit left out with 23cms, surely there must be activity on these nights?  Several times I have brought down my old transverter and connected it to my Yaesu FT101E, but heard nothing and have not even been sure whether the transverter even works any more. It got to the stage where I was about to throw it out because it I really couldn't be bothered trying to fix and align it all again after all the problems that I had initially.

Then earlier this year I got a SDR receiver which works happily on 1296Mhz. So on the contest nights I tried it out to see if I could hear anything on 1296Mhz. I was quite amazed to find that I could hear several stations with just my 70cm antenna connected!
On Tuesday this week I decided to try just once more to see if I could hear anything on my old transverter. I put in all the plugs and checked all the connections then switched on - nothing! I stood staring at the little beast scatching my head. Then suddenly I had a thought...I wonder if the oscillator crystal is working? I flicked the crystal a few times then with my fingers turned the core of the coil a turn.

OMG! It burst into life! I tuned and heard several stations in the contest...I was amazed! I listened for a while and wondered if the transmit part works. I found a strong station and called him...I works!!
The station I called was G4NTY/P and he came back with a 5-3 report although he was 5-9 with me.
I was so pleased that after all these years the transverter still works! I carried on working some more stations with the transverter connected to the 70cm antenna (No antenna for 1296Mhz)

My log now shows:


Not bad for a home made transverter built back in 1980!

Now I need an I build another 10 over 10 or should I splash out and buy myself a 1296Mhz Tonna?  Watch this space!