My Amateur Radio History

50MHz Yagi
50MHz yagi on the Clarkes mast

I gained my amateur radio license at the age of 17 and held the call sign G8DFG, this was back in the days of 2m AM, tuning high to low etc, FM hadn't taken off then and there were not too many people that could afford an SSB rig and valve transvertor! To start with I had a 25W converted AM radio telephone base station, an 10 element yagi at 10m and a home built convertor with Codar CR70 receiver. A Trio JR500 replaced the Codar later.
A year or so later I took the morse test down in London and failed. I passed on the second attempt but I just could not read mixed letters and number so I never really got going on the HF bands, I could not read all those strange call signs.
Over the years my interest has been operating on the 2m and 23cm bands dx chasing, contesting and building equipment but this all stopped back in the 1990's when I got married and moved to our current home in Nottinghamshire. My QTH is at 87m AGL but it is in a slight hole. When I moved I decided amateur radio would be a no go'er and my wife was not happy with any aerials (are they ever?), at the time I had recently learnt to fly so amateur radio was booted into touch.
After a break of 15 year I bought an IC201 vintage rig on Ebay, it was one of the earlier 2m all mode rigs on the UK market, I had always wanted one when they first appeared but could not afford it. I purchased it as a collectorís item, but to my surprise it seemed to work when powered up. I connected it to my old mag mount and to my surprise the 2m RSGB UKAC contest was in full swing. After Googling to find my QRA locator I managed to work six stations with the 1/4 wave mag mount inside the house ! In the following months I acquired a 9 element Tonna yagi, a 4m pole and a vintage Microwave Modules 100W linear. Oh yes, the 'boss' like the local planners is still not happy with any outdoor aerials so the Tonna only appears on contests or openings. Well that was two years ago I still have no fixed outdoor aerial. I use a second hand Clarkes mast the type that you see on the back of Police incident vans, itís about 8m and is still only out for contests and when thereís a lift on. To be honest it is slim, light weight and all my antennas only weight a couple of Kg. but against the back drop of our bungalow it still looks well out of place. The top section is only 1 inch diameter and is not guyed so in a breeze the top section is not extended. When fully extended the mast is not tall enough to clear the local ridge to the south 500m away and in the direction of the continent Broughton Hill 8 Km away is 200m higher, despite this I have managed to work stations in Spain, Poland and Slovenia on 2m SSB with 80W. I now have a 144MHz double quad loop in the attic at 4m high which is ok for monitoring the band, itís fixed pointing north/south I have worked most of the UK on it. Also in the attic I also have a 50Mhz dipole this is ok for working most of Europe during sporadic E lifts and a 10-15-20m trap wire dipole at 4m, it a bit of a cloud warmer, great for working Europe but no low angle radiation, I have yet to work any VKs or ZLs.
Forty plus years on, I have a renewed interest in CW (morse) following an article in RadCom Magazine last year about learning the code. I am still a novice and my sending is somewhat erratic but I quite like slow CW QRP on 20m. My problem with call sign recognition is much better since using the Rufz web site call sign morse program, it could have been written by the devil himself, itís can be very frustrating but very addictive, every time you get a call sign correct it speeds up until you make a mistake and then it steps back so no matter how good you are you will eventually end up getting half of them wrong. A Ďtotal pointsí score at the end of fifty call signs is recorded so you can judge your performance. Well done chaps, a brilliant program I can thoroughly recommend this teaching aid.