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Tuning High to Low or My first Years with G3VGG.
During one “surf” of the library at Catshill Secondary Modern School, a book about simple radio receivers fell into my hand and I took it home to read.
I asked my father about building a one transistor set, he said he did not have the means to construct it, but took me to Spains in the New Road and introduced me to John Layton.
I was provided with a soldering iron, an AVO Multiminor Mk4 (that I still have), and a few other things to help me on my way.
I was also taken to a club night of the Bromsgrove Radio Club. I arrived, a quiet little 14 year old, and immediately made friends with Ken Stanton, also his first night there.
This friendship has lasted to this day. This was all in 1967, two years after G3VVG was brought into life.
The simplest way of getting to a rig was war surplus. These units were bulky, heavy and did not provide the performance expected from a modern RX.
It was, however, the way a lot of newcomers took. Richard Bourne, about the same age as Ken and me, had a 19 set in the back of his minivan, together with a war surplus telescope antenna sticking through the roof.
One highlight of my first years with the club was the regular shack evenings in Burcot (just by chance across the road from my Grandmother).
How the club arranged to use this farm outhouse on Mr. Thompson’s land I do not know.
This was lead by Jack Gwynne G2CLN.
As an employee of Eddystone Radio, there was always a decent receiver in the shack.
All our mouths dropped open when one day an EA12 appeared.
The better way, was to purchase a good RX and build a transmitter, there being very few, only very expensive commercial transceivers on the market. One evening, Jack was busy building a simple HF CW transmitter, testing each stage as he went, when suddenly a load bang was heard. A piece of swarf from drilling a mounting hole for a component had lodged itself between the 200V line and the chassis.
Luckily, no damage was done, but afterwards Jack insisted on upturning his projects and giving them a good shake before switching on.
Jack was a very keen mobile operator, and was always experimenting with aerials on his car.
One day, after checking an earth connection, he drove his car out of the garage, running over his multimeter.
A quick collection in the club enabled us to present him with a replacement within a few days.
Demonstration stations were seen as a good way to present the club to the public, Garden fetes (including Burcot) were regularly attended, and the importance of telephony – AM in those days – was stressed. CW may have created an aura of magic, but did nothing to interest new, potential members.
At one such event, a PSU blew up, distributing the contents of a smoothing capacitor all over the table. A short trip home by one of the members had it replaced without delay, and the station could continue impressing the public with contacts around Europe.
HF National Field Day was a fixed point in the club’s calendar, and this produced a good turnout of members.
One member, I cannot recall his name other than I think it was a John, worked for the local dairy.
He managed to scrounge the old accumulators from the milk floats; they were still good enough for our purposes. All I can remember is, that they were damned heavy to carry into a field!
NFD aerials were wire, beams were reserved for the very rich contestants. This entailed throwing heavy weights over tree branches to get the aerials set up. The tent had to be setup as well.
This tent, as far as I can recall, was ex-services, and had the advantage that you could comfortably stand inside it. It was also used for the fetes.
NFD brings back many memories, such as Jack Dufrane closing the boot of his car, only to realize that his jacket (with the car keys!) was in the boot. Someone had to take him home to get his spare keys. Another year, it was getting late in the evening, and we wanted to turn on the paraffin oven and brew up a pot of hot tea. Suddenly, we realized that there were no smokers on the site, and nobody had matches. A quick journey home solved this problem as well.
VHF was up and coming in those days, with semiconductors starting to reach useful frequencies. The 2N3819 FET being one example. I built a simple super-regen using one, which, unfortunately, seemed to emit as strong a signal as it received. At one rally, I was politely asked to turn it off!
For mobile work, the halo was the ideal antenna, and everyone, me included, had one on their car. My car fitted with a halo at the back Creating a stable signal on 144MHz was not an easy job in those days, and most people resorted to crystal control.
Without the possibility of changing the transmit frequency, operating was not so easy. The principle was to make a long call, closing with “tuning high to low”, “tuning low to high”, or similar instructions.
You quite simple scanned through the whole band to see if you could hear someone calling your call sign.
Receivers were made using converters down to, for example, 28-30MHz so that a standard HF RX could be used.
Valve transmitters could deliver useful powers, transistors could manage about 2W.
I took part in one VHF NFD (now with the Malvern group) on top of the Worcestershire Beacon.
The RX was a Heathkit Mohican, a convertor built into a tobacco tin, and a crystal controlled transistor TX (PCB lying on the groundsheet of the tent – no casing) giving 2W to a 4 element beam. The station was powered by a car battery. The only reason the tent did not blow away in the wind was the weight of the equipment and operators inside! Never the less, Belgium was included in our logbook.
I left the UK in 1982 to follow a career in Austria. Having entered retirement in the summer of 2014, I made the decision to visit my old club again, and was made very welcome.
These recollections are the result of a request made during this visit. One point discussed was the approaching 50th anniversary of G3VGG that will be taking place in 2015.
Almost all of the original members have passed away, and I think that I may be the only licenced member still alive.
I would be pleased to receive corrections and additions from anyone who may have recollections. This article may be reproduced in part or complete on the condition that my name or call sign is quoted as the source.
Steve Banner G8FPG / OE3SBN
Car with Halo Antenna