The “Old” Days

09 Apr

I wandered out to the shack this morning and did the usual. Switched to 40 M CW and retuned my antenna tuner and amp to 40 M. I posted to Fists Asia that I was QRV on a frequency and for how long. This AM I heard a new sound on 40 M. It brought back memories of the “Woodpecker” of the late seventies and eighties. This was a wide band version though. I could see spikes for what seemed like miles up and down the band. At that point I somehow I got to remembering my early radios. I don’t know what took me back there, but I soon realized how spoiled we are with today’s technology. I was not around for the real early days but I managed to make a dent in the fifties. I got my license in 1959. My first transmitter was a Hallicrafters HT-40 and my first receiver was an S-38E-a terrible receiver for a beginner or any other ham. But we hung in there and made some CW QSO’s.. . Later, I managed to help a friend build a DX-100 and his parents bought him a very nice National receiver of some sort. Memory fails me now. In any event all the stuff was made from tubes. Tubes meant heat. Heat meant drift and so on. Compare that with today’s radios that just turn on and stay put with no movement in frequency at all. Great filtering, stability, sipping power in a lot of cases and just plain fun to use. Wow! What a change. When I was much younger I worked on Navy aircraft carriers. In the beginning of my Naval career we had R-390 receivers. I recall that on the Kitty Hawk in 1965 we had 52 R-390 receivers. The Navy had a program called POMSE (or something like that) which was a preventive measures program. We had to do repair, realignment and testing of each receiver once per cycle or once per month. That fell to the night crew-which I was one of, of course. Now an R-390 weighed in at about 50-75 pounds. Maybe more. I know it felt like a lot more when I had one hoisted up on my back as I trudged across the flight deck between flight operations trying to avoid aircraft chain tie downs. 1100 feet across a flight deck is a very long walk at night with a R-390 on your back. It is very dark on an aircraft carrier at night while at sea if you have no moon to guide your path. The alternative was to walk through the Knee Knockers. (See my post on finding my way to the Ham Shack). Much later the R-390’s were replaced with R-1051 radios which were synthesized. They were solid state and required almost no maintenance. That left a lot more time to work on the transmitters which were mostly still tubes. We used AN/URC-32 (solid state synthesized) 500 watt transmitters in some cases, but the load was carried by An/WRT-2, 2-30 Mhz transmitters which were capable of about 500 watts out.Both transmitters mentioned stood in 6 foot tall racks that were about 22 inches wide. In those days we still communicated by HF but mostly used rtty in a multichannel setup. Those were called Terminations and mostly were high priority circuits and commanded a lot of radioman time. 500 Khz circuits were still monitored but not by a radioman  sitting on them 24X7. 500 KHz was always playing in the background in Radio Central but never had an operator sitting at its key unless a civilian ship came up on frequency and was in some sort of distress. In 10 years of working in Radio Central I can remember at most 2 instances of this happening. Once was a civilian cruise ship caught in a typhoon in the pacific near Taiwan or the Philippines . By the late sixties most circuits were some form of early digital (RTTY) and CW was a formality. The volume of data sent to an aircraft carrier was enormous and not something that CW was adept at handling.

Radio and electronics has been good to me. It has provided me employment for 50 years. It has been my constant hobby for even longer. And yet, it still fascinates. The ability to communicate with no infrastructure over thousands of miles and meet another like interested person is still amazing to me. Getting to know a like minded individual all that way is wonderful. It still is all about the people and the technology just facilitates the connection.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W7MAP/5

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Posted by on April 9, 2009 in Radio


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