Tag Archives: HF

The history of Rugby radio station

This is a fascinating book about the history of Rugby radio station. It was a huge TX site, part of the HF point to point system and with the well-known LF, MSF transmitters. Now the site has been flattened ready for a housing estate. Why have we not preserved at least some of the HF comms system?

Bearley RX station was paired with Rugby although I never got to visit when it was operational. I vaguely remember the author of the book, he would have been at the Leafield training school at the same time.

Order the book here  (I have no connection with the book or its publishers.)

A lost age – marine HF radio

My first job was as an apprentice at a Post Office HF radio station, Bearley near Stratford-upon-Avon. It was part of the HF point-to-point system that provided worldwide telecommunications. It was state of the art in 1967 and scrapped in 1980.

The station had 50 of the first professional, transistorised communications receivers,  Plessey PVR800s. The early versions had some germanium transistors which proved to be unreliable. They were replaced by the ultra modern silicon types!

They were used for telephony, 4 voice channels on double side band reduced carrier. The audio was inverted so that short wave listeners could not eaves drop.

There were also 50 Marconi HR11, valve telegraphy receivers. Each had the capability running 48 telex services on one radio channel using time division multiplex.

As services were transferred to satellites the station took over the maintenance of UK coast stations used for marine communications. They also suffered the same fate. Eventually all HF communications was taken over by satellites and the point-to-point and coast station were closed down. This Post Office film from 1979 shows something of what HF coastal communications in the “good old days”.

It was then end of an era and still saddens me to think that all the old skills have been lost, particularly commercial Morse.

If you want to read more about the HF point-to-point HF radio network, then see this book by Paul Hawkins who worked at the Dorchester TX station. (click the image >)

Remember, radio amateurs still use Morse!

Also see the Radio Officers Association

Can we talk?

After 6 years away from the radio what is different? Everything and nothing. Still the same camaraderie and immense kindness in the hobby. That has not changed. The difference is there seems to be a growing reluctance to actually talk to each other on the air.

What has become apparent is the reliance of the internet. I saw a message on the net recently from a VHF op who said he had spent a long time calling CQ with no response. The reply was that he needed a ‘spot’ on the ON4KST site and then people would know he was there. I assume from that nobody turns on the radio and tunes around anymore.

Then there is ‘the HF bands are dead’ mantra usually followed by it’s not worth turning on the radio as there is nothing much on the DX cluster. Again, it looks as if ops are sitting in front of their computers waiting for to see something happen instead of using their radios.

And the automated digital QSOs, jt8? And digital propagation checking where you don’t even need to contact another human being to know how far you signal has travelled.

Is that what it is all about now? Only operate when there is DX around? Never call CQ because nobody is listening?  But what gets me most is never ‘talk’ (voice or CW) to another human being? Have radio amateurs lost the ability/desire to speak to each other?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for using the latest technology and moving with the times but if we insist on removing the human element or reducing it to the shortest possible exchange for the points or to bag another country then we lose the very basis of the hobby. There must still be a place to rag chew on 160m or 80m or 2m, I want to talk to another human being and not a computer.

To talk or not to talk?

After being away from the hobby for around 5 years I am surprised by the uptake of digital modes. I wonder what this means and where it is going.

It is not that I have not used them in the past, in the early 1970s I had a Creed 7B teleprinter connected to a home brew terminal unit taking audio from a modified Pye base station on 2m. It was part of a local net and was left on standby a lot of the time. I would come home from work and find a few feet of paper on the floor. RTTY using the computer is not the same. No smell of 3in1 oil or the noise of the motors and clatter of the mechanics.

Video of a Creed 7B

 

I also found WSPR to be useful to test antennas and tried a few other data modes but frankly I found them to be boring. Yes, they can establish a 2 way connection where other modes cannot but so what? It is machines talking to machines. There is no experience of making contact with a human being, no suppleties of voice or ‘fist’ in CW. Nothing to personalise the contact and gain some idea of who you are connected to.

For me radio is about connecting, communicating with another person using voice or Morse. It is about recognising that there is a human being operating the equipment, making the connection, the contact. And I mean ‘contact’ in both the human communication sense as well as the technical sense.

I fear that digital modes are being pushed hard as a way of interesting younger people in the hobby. I must ask why? Why do something in a more expensive and complicated way that can be and is done by Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram etc?

A few years back when Internet linked repeaters started I remember having a conversation with a newcomer who was excited about ‘working’ a VK via the local repeater. In fact, he worked the repeater a couple from miles from his house but was under the impression he could get DXCC and other awards easily. That is the problem, the quick and easy fix appealed but took him nowhere.

I still believe that if you show a real contact on a radio with someone in a far-off place it will be more exciting and more attractive than dangling the instant hook of digital communication. Kids do that on their phones every day, why would they bother doing it via radio?