My history in radio

My involvement with radio started when at the age of ten or eleven my Father gave me one of the crystal sets he had built before the second world war. I still remember well the day when Father and I caught the tram into the city to buy this new detector to replace the cats whisker, a Germanium Diode. I lived close the transmitting site for radio stations 5CL and 5AN and one of my Fathers work mates suggested I should be able to listen to these stations with a loud speaker. This fellow sold us a four inch speaker which had a speaker transformer attached so it was high impedance. Tthe sound level was still a bit low to be heard and not to be beaten by technology, Father built a wood box with a tin plate horn and when this was hung on the cupboard beside by bead I could listen to the radio at a comfortable volume. Prior to that my eldest Sister used to sneak into my room and remove the headphones from my head most nights. I suspect the forced choice of radio station influenced my interest to this day in classical music.

My Brothers neighbour had a radio shop and was in the process of selling it and the new owners did not want all the “old junk” in the shop. So, at the age of sixteen I was given most of the contents of the radio shop in the suburb of Hilton and I still have much of this stuff to this day. To further seal my fate, my best friends brother was interested in radio and had a good collection of magazines and books and so my friend and I were soon studying from this wonderful resource.

When it came time to leave school and get a job I saw Philips were advertising for Radio Apprentices and so I applied and before I knew it I was working at the Hendon Works and studying at the Radio Trade School. During the four years of my apprenticeship I was an active one metre pirate and built numerous super regenerative receivers with 955 and 958 valves and a lot of transmitters with 7193 or 6J6 vales in the finals and a carbon telephone microphone in the cathode of a 6V6 for the modulator. I melted the glass envelopes of my fair share of these poor old valves. The biggest problem with this equipment was getting it on the same frequency as your mates equipment and so I built a mobile rig for my 1940 Morris 840 and then I could drive around to a friends place, we could “net” our equipment, and I could drive off into the sunset making two way contact until I ran out of range or a few big bumps in the road put the equipment off frequency.

During these years I also destroyed a number of very nice old multiband and second world war communications radios by improving them, usually to a point where they become unstable. I also studied Morse Code and got to about eight words per minute but my quest for Ham licence was interrupted by me enrolling in a B. Tech course at the Institute Of Technology and the need to study.

When I finished my apprenticeship I worked in each of these three laboratories at Philips Hendon, the radio lab, the communications lab (TCA) and then the television lab at a time when televisions were becoming transistorised and we were experimenting with colour television. By this time the Radio Trade School was undergoing a vast expansion as it was to take over the technician courses from the Institute of Technology and I was one of fourteen new staff that swelled the staff numbers from about eight “Trade Teachers” to twenty two in January 1972. During my early years at the school I taught a lot of subjects ranging from hand skills to transistor television and radio and I even used some Ham Radio equipment with the schools call sign when teaching radio communications. I do not remember who actually owned the trasmission equipment and what it was but I do remember there were a couple of each B28 (CR100) and AT7 communications receivers. These are now in my collection to this day. Although I still continued to collect old radio and test equipment my getting involved in Ham radio for real had to wait another 40 years for me to think about retirement and have some time to devote to this hobby.

When I was teaching radio servicing and radio communications, I did get serious about getting a Ham Radio Licence again but having to study a Diploma of Teaching and preparing a new subject almost every year the time to get back to Morse Code was just not available. I had forgotten most of what I had learnt ten years earlier. By the time my teaching studies were finished I had been lured away from radio by the digital and computing world and although I still continued to collect old radios, I did not have the interest in going any further with radio. My return to radio had to wait until I had retired from TAFE, as it was called by then, and had gone back to working at a bench on real electronic equipment.

February 2001 changed my life once again. I was offered a job as a Technician/Engineer at Geoscience Associates Australia (now called GAA Wireline), a Bore Hole Logging company that has been operating in Australia since 1972. I accepted the job and I maintained, redesigned and rebuild a wide range of electronic equipment used in this industry. I was back where I started my working life, working at a bench. The equipment ranged from twenty year old analogue technology to state of the art digital and computer technology. It took quite a few years but I did eventually get rid of the old analogue equipment and the DOS computer systems as I worked with a fellow in Texas on joint projects of new more modern equipment. Another interesting facet of this was travel to the "back blocks" of Australia to maintain equipment in the field, and to setup a regional offices in Central Queensland. I also had to learn to use the equipment so I know what it does and when it is not working. My introduction to real Bore Hole Logging happened just seven days after I joined the company. I was sent to Blackwater to fix some equipment I had never seen and did not know what it did. I first thought it would take me about a week and I would get back to civilisation soon. I did not count on the Queensland way of life, what should take a week or two turned into five weeks.

Life in the outback can be boring and on my second trip north I took my trusty Sony 7600D radio and I soon discovered Ham Radio again and the various overseas services that sadly have almost vanished from the air waves by now. I had no problem stringing up antenna and once back in Adelaide I could surf the net and learn about the next chapter in my existence. Before long the 7600D started to give problems, it motor boated when the batteries started to age a bit but for some time I kept this problem under control by replacing the batteries almost every night, bought new ones on my expenses. Eventually I found a web site that explained the problem was the early surface mount capacitors used in these radios and even went on to show how to get the radio apart and fix it. Since then I have fixed three 7600D with the same problem.

Travelling round the mine sites and the little outback towns I started to see bush HF radio equipment and some of it was at disposal prices in junk stores. I just had to collect this stuff to add to my collection of domestic and communications receivers. To put icing on the cake I was given a collection of marine HF radios that can only be described as BoatAnchors and soon found even more that no one wanted at Radio Club auctions and "Buy and Sells".

During 2009, while thinking about retiring soon, I decided to sit for an AROCPA and so I joined the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society to see what it was all about. On 13th July 2012 was issued with the call sign VK5SRP after a brief study of antenna and propagation theory and the regulations. I went ahead with retirement and since the first of February 2011 I do not know how I ever had time to go to work. I am a member of AHARS, NERC, AREG and the VK-QRP and G-QRP clubs.

Most of my Ham rigs and communication receivers have come to me either not working or with problems. This was often caused by a "Harry the Ham" or a "Charlie Baker the CBer" and I am having a lot of fun getting old radio equipment working again and fixing rigs for friends. I am at present helping a friend in Brisbane (a long way from my QTH) get into the hobby now he has retired and he thinks he has time on his hands. I also run technical sessions and projects for NERC and AHARS. Some of the notes from the technical sessions are on this web site.

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Written by and Copyright, Phil. Storr © Last updated 26th November 2015