The FM Chronicles

Welcome to my ‘portal’ for sharing and capturing the history, technologies, products, projects, anecdotes, and honoring the people who started a growth spurt in amateur radio and technology by introducing Frequency Modulation (FM) operations to the community and expanding capabilities, coverage and support around the world.

As much as Marconi, Edison, Bell, Faraday, Voltaire, Tesla, Hertz et al have contributed to the existence and evolution of radio technology, there are equal and greater contributors to the growth, success and positive effects of ham radio – spark gap, CW, AM, SSB, FM, ‘digital’, digital and more.

First, foremost and only I want to chronicle solutions, successes, growth, benefits, contributions specific to FM, repeaters and subsequent new FM and FM-/repeater-related technologies and systems.  The core of this hobby aside from the human spirit is based on technology – science, physics, bounded and proven principles, cause and effect.  We won’t argue the merits of CW, SSB, AM or whether ham radio should or should not be used for CERT, Red Cross, family events, etc.

There are a few things I want to collect information about, to be sorted and arranged to create a time and story line about the FM evolution in ham radio – statistics, details and lessons-learned:

  • Who – the people who introduced and implemented new and novel FM systems, our mentors, our students
  • What – the equipment used, from early Motorola and GE to Kaar to Yaesu, including radios, duplexers, control systems, antennas, creative power schemes – wind, solar…
  • Where – the first FM systems went on the air – region, city, state, hilltop or rooftop
  • When – date project started, date system in the air, other notable occassions
  • Why – experimentation? public service need? to fill a void in communications services?
  • Pictures – I want rig pics, antenna party picks, controller building pics, equipment racks then and now, novel mobile installs, novel repeater site installs (yes, there are a few in working refrigerators chained to trees on remote hilltops!), how-to, how-NOT-to
  • Anecdotes – whether it is a story about mosquitoes, rodents, reptiles, humans, lightning, snow, rain, earthquake, flood, burgers and fries, coffee, 807s (beer)… whatever has made the hobby fun, essential, uniquely valuable, teachable and learn-able moments.

I do ask that you enroll, sign up, register and otherwise make yourself known to credit your contribution and follow-up with any questions.

Please, feel free to contribute, interact, share, question and help document and memorialize the past 50 or so years of amateur radio.

Thank you in advance for your contributions.

73, de Jim, NO1PC

Posted in History of FM and Repeaters | 1 Comment

‘OnStar’ via APRS and HF Mobile

Easter Weekend 2014

Captain MarshMellow (my faithful sidekick mini-Aussie) and I packed up and headed out from Silicon Valley, Billings.MT-or-Bust, to check out and possibly purchase and tow back our now-present 2004 30 foot Airstream Classic.   Our second unit to replace our ’86 Excella.  ‘Cappy’ had his stash of “bully sticks” and chew toys, me with jerky and fiber bars…

Departing home I checked in with my friends on a 440-repeater system and advised of the trip. Two questions came back:  “Do you have APRS? Do you have HF?”

Yes and yes.

“Good, we’ll follow you and let’s arrange calling frequencies.  We’ve (Ralph, AF7DX and Bill, W6CBS) been on that route many times.”

And there it was – APRS tracking confirmed. 40, 20 and 17 meter frequencies and schedule laid-out.  Positive contact acquired on 20m and we were good to go.

Once I drove out of UHF-linked-system coverage going over the Sierras, HF and cellular were our only contact with the “real world.”

Prior to and as we cleared Wells, NV the shortcut route was determined – Hwy 93. Next stop per fuel and driver stamina was Twin Falls, ID.  I needed a puppy-friendly place to stay. Ralph checked two options, called ahead and reserved me one of them. Kewl

Enroute I was informed of a couple of places to stop for coffee – one probably not suitable for families.  😉  A good night’s rest and then travels and HF contact resumed.

Out of Twin Falls and further suggested route instructions. Spot on.  Approaching Billings, MT I confirmed location of the Airstream, invited to late Easter dinner leftovers and staying overnight in the trailer. Score 2!

The HF banter turned ‘dark’ – what if we had traveled all this way and there wasn’t really an Airstream at the other end?  What if the deal couldn’t be made?  Thanks guys!

I should not leave out the parts about encountering some of the most awesome scenery, especially once departing I-80.  Dang there’s a lot of nothing PLUS very impressive mountain ranges along the way.

Arrived at “the location.” Indeed there really was a shiny Airstream in the driveway, for sale, and good, nice, honest people at the end of the journey. A quick inspection of the Airstream then leftover ham and beans for dinner. We were set.

After dinner more Airstream discussion, inspection, worked out the deal, plans for the morning, bank, hitch up, make yourself comfy on the bunk, grabbed sleeping bag. ALl good.

Up early the next AM, found coffee, headed to the bank, completed the deal, back to the trailer to hitch up. Learned about the included Hensley Hitch. Lights work. Off we go.

APRS and HF contact confirmed.  Next stop was Idaho Falls, first Lowe’s for some hardware, grocery for food, then a nice campground.  I was stuck on a remote-work conference call for too many hours Tuesday AM and hit the road as a storm was coming in. The trailer and Hensley hitch held through the gusts and rain – impressive.

Made it to a camp along I-80 in the dark, rested and off again, still APRS-tracked and HF for company along the way on the last part of the route back through Reno to Sacramento adding UHF system communications to the mix and on to home.

Quite a trip. Two Airstreams at home. Time to clean up #1 and sell – and it was snatched up by a couple in Australia with an equally interesting tale and long-trip getting the Excella to a new home.

Cannot say enough in favor of having APRS running, VHF/UHF for local comms, and HF for “no place like home” contact with familiars.  Ham radio and RV-ing are meant for each other!


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Antennas and Counterpoise

I just posted the first draft (subject to peer review) of an illustrated narration through RF+antenna ‘circuit’ basics and the essentials of deliberate counterpoise to complete the circuit and avoid stray RF.

Some parts of the circuit are depicted figuratively vs. literally because the focus is on what happens with RF and return currents in various implementations.

My goal, in this web site, blog and Facebook group

is to offer and substantiate as simply as reasonably possible the facts and science of various aspects of this hobby, from power systems to antennas, mitigating interference and safety risk, and making our activities as efficient and effective as possible.

Constructive discussion and contribution is always welcome.

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