Title Block for W4TI

Diehl Martin
PO Box 1192
Guntersville, Alabama
35976-7992
USA
Home
Station

Projects:
Installing the Utility Pole
Installing the Rotator
Installing the HexBeam  
Building a Go-Kit
Build an Antenna Switch

Radio Reviews:
FT-1000MP Mk. V Field
TS-830S
IC-735
FT-857D
FT-2800M
LDG Z-11 Pro
Logikey K-5 Keyer
Ameritron AL-80BQ

The Family Business:
Photography Business

Pancreatic Cancer:
The Cancer Blog

QSL card

Diehl has been licensed since 1963, and has held various calls:  WN6MTT, WB6UUB, WD5CYZ, N5AQ, and finally W4TI.

Update
Diehl Martin passed away in October 2007. If you need to contact someone, please contact Monica Martin.

W4TI antenna farm
The extensive antenna farm at W4TI is shown here.  There is an HX-B5i HexBeam mounted up 13 meters (40 ft.) on a wooden utility pole, and a 40 meter (135 ft.) long flat top antenna just below it.  

Some Thoughts on Ham Radio

I was eleven years old when I decided to get my ham radio license. I wanted to operate radio-controlled (RC) model airplanes, and to get a normal license for an RC transmitter required the applicant to be 18 years of age. Since I was eleven, I did not qualify. However, I could also do this with a ham radio license, with no age requirement, as long as I could pass a test or two. So, I got started in ham radio with no desire to talk to anyone anywhere.

In 1963, I succeeded in passing my novice class license test. My five word-per-minute Morse code ability was marginal, but at the grand old age of twelve I was very good at memorizing and understanding the rules and regulations, and enjoyed studying the electronic theory. The Woodland Hills Library had a series of U.S Navy electronics technician training manuals, and I dutifully worked my way through the entire set. In this way I actually built a foundation which led eventually to my career, but without thinking of it in that way. It was fun, I was interested, and thus it was, by definition, no big deal.

Getting the license was the easy part. The difficult part was setting up a station and operating it, since I was a twelve year old, with zero financial resources for this, and parents with no particular interest in ham radio. I succeeded in putting together a marginal station, based upon a National NC-88 receiver that my dad found for me in the want ads in the company newspaper. The receiver was as broad as a barn, which made CW reception in a busy band exceedingly difficult, and my home-built transmitter never worked right. The design was straight out of the ARRL Handbook, and I built it very carefully, but it put out very nearly no power whatsoever. The output was insufficient to light up a seven watt Christmas tree bulb at all. My Elmer was an appliance operator, and was absolutely clueless in helping me get it working. Dad was of no help either. So I spent my entire term as novice talking to no one, because my transmitter did not work. For a young teenager on a 25 cent per week allowance, this was a real problem. Nevertheless, I worked diligently at getting my general class license, which might not solve my problem, but seemed achievable.

Somewhere I succeeded in obtaining an Instructograph, which was a mechanical Morse code sending machine. I had ten double-sided paper tapes, each with a different set of messages in plain test or random five letter groups. I worked with this machine for more than a year before reaching ten words per minute. Morse code was my nemesis, the one thing I had tried which seemed to be completely impossible. To reach the required thirteen words per minute to get a general class license seemed to be the unachievable dream. Somewhere in here, the FCC decided that it would now be possible to apply for and get another novice license (up to this time, the novice license had been a one-time, one year, non-renewable license). So I applied for a second novice license, and kept working on my code speed to get that coveted general class license. My new novice call was WN6MTT.

We moved from Woodland Hills to Fullerton, California, and I was able to obtain the two things which were needed to actually talk on the radio. Henry Radio (in Anaheim, California) had an old Hammarlund HQ-140XA receiver on display, for which I paid the princely sum of $125, the proceeds from yard work, washing windows, and any other way I could use as a teenager to feed my terribly expensive hobby. I also was able to buy a used Eico 720 transmitter, which was a real beauty. The combination made it possible to make perhaps ten contacts before my second novice license expired.

I continued to study and to use the old Instructograph, and my code speed continued to increase, and I decided to take the general class test. Now this was a major event, as it required for me to go in to Los Angeles, to the federal building, to the FCC office to take the test. I was not old enough to drive, and my dad had to take off work to take me to the FCC office. Over the period of a year, I failed that test three times. It was frustrating for everyone concerned. Finally, on the fourth try, I passed the code test, and had a chance to take the theory test, which I passed on the first try. So I finally got my general class license in 1966, at the age of fifteen. It took me four years to achieve that required thirteen words per minute code speed, and as such, was undoubtedly the most difficult thing I had ever attempted up to that point. And up to then I had made only about ten contacts.

I passed that test in July of 1966, and the license did not arrive until November. This was when I learned to never, ever bother a bureaucrat. When the license did not come in six weeks, I wrote a polite letter to the FCC asking what had happened. There was, of course, no reply. In another six weeks, I wrote another letter asking what had happened, and once again there was no reply. So in another month I wrote a letter to the ARRL, and told them of my plight. I soon received a letter stating that each time I had written the FCC, that they had dutifully pulled my paperwork out and checked it, and put it back at the end of the line. What they said was that I should never write the FCC, but just let the process proceed at its normal breakneck speed. So in a few more weeks, I received my new callsign, WB6UUB.

I was a member of the Fullerton Radio Club, and they had a few pieces of loaner ham equipment for folks like me. So I asked to use one of their loaner radios, and they provided me a Swan 140 SSB transceiver, a single band transceiver which operated between 7.200 and 7.300 MHz. I made more contacts on that radio in the first day than I had made in total up to that time.

When I got my general class license, it allowed me to use every legal mode on every legal ham radio frequency. It was great. The general class license was the key to the entire ham radio experience. That changed the next year, when the ARRL-proposed “Incentive Licensing Program” took the bottom 25 KHz of all of the CW bands, and approximately the bottom half of all of the voice bands for the higher class licenses. It has been nearly forty years since then, and it still hurts. I took and passed my amateur extra class license test in 1976, and won back all of those privileges. Nevertheless, I still think that the “Incentive Licensing Program” was one of the worst-thought out programs ever to have been proposed by the ARRL, or passed by the FCC. It was wrong then, and it continues to this day.

I Used the Swan 140 on SSB, and the combination of the Hammarlund 140XA and Eico 720 on CW until I left for college. I had to return the Swan to the Fullerton Radio club, and sold the rest, as it was too large for a dorm room. I replaced it with a much smaller setup, based on a military surplus ARC-5 transmitter and receiver, with a home-built power supply. So I had a single band (80 meter) CW rig with a VFO and about 50 watts output, which served me well for a couple of years. It worked well from dorm rooms, with random wire antennas, and was very affordable. This was supplemented with the use of the club station at UC Santa Barbara. They had a Swan 350 transceiver with remote VFO and a HyGain TH6dxx beam on a 50 foot crank-up tower. There were only a few of us who used the club station, and so it was usually available when I wanted to use it.

During my senior year at UCSB, I had friends who got me interested in 2 meter FM. They were all using surplus radios which had been used in anything from police cars to taxi cabs. These were typically massive metal boxes with forty or more vacuum tubes, powered by dynamotor or vibrator power supplies. I bought one from a surplus dealer in Los Angeles, and converted it to work on AC power. It was a Motorola “80D,” which put out 30 watts from a push-pull 832 dual-tetrode. I stripped the power supply chassis clean of its dynamotor and ancillary components, and replaced them with a power supply of my own design, using a pair of power transformers which I had found surplus. I bought two sets of crystals for the two frequencies in use there at the time, 146.94 MHz simplex, and the 146.16/76 repeater in Ventura. It was ugly, and it worked very well.

During this time I built a complete 75-meter SSB transceiver. It was based loosely on a design in the ARRL Handbook, with various modifications to make it do what I wanted to do. This was the first major RF project I built from scratch which worked successfully. I did all of the sheet metal work myself, and it was a beauty. This project encouraged me to build more equipment as time progressed, which has become one of the major parts of my interest in ham radio.

During 1972, at the end of my senior year, I knew I would soon end up in the military, and so I traded off my Motorola 80D for a more convenient and conventional piece of HF equipment, a Swan 350, along with its matching power supply. This was a nicely built SSB and CW transceiver which covered the 80-10 meter ham bands. I carried this radio throughout my time in the U.S. Navy, along with a home-built L-match antenna tuner, which allowed me to easily use any end-fed wire of more than a quarter wavelength as an effective radiator.

After the time in the Navy, I went back for more college, this time at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. I took the opportunity to also upgrade my ham radio license, first to an advanced class, and then to the amateur extra class license. The Morse code, which had been my absolute nemesis as a teenager had become a much more achievable goal. Using the on-the-air code practice sessions, I was able to consistently handle 25 word-per-minute code in practice, which was good enough to make it plausible to pass the 20 word per minute test at the FCC office. On the last Wednesday in 1975 I passed the amateur extra test at the FCC office in the Federal Building on Spring Street in Los Angeles, California. I finally had the privileges back which incentive licensing had taken from me eight years before. I graduated from Cal Poly in December of 1976, and we moved to Texas.

During 1977, I taught a series of ham radio classes at the Weslaco, Texas Public Library. More than a dozen people got their ham licenses from those classes, including my wife, Monica (now N6PSD). We continued the classes until about half of the class got either their technician or general class licenses. I ended up helping form and be the first president of the Magic Valley Amateur Radio Club. While we lived in Weslaco, I worked with the TV station chief engineer, Tom Perryman, and we put up Weslaco's first repeater, which at the time had the call WR5AUV. The repeater was another Motorola boat anchor, which had approximately 50 vacuum tubes. It had a push-pull 5894 dual-tetrode in the final amplifier, and put out 60 watts. The price was right, we financed it all ourselves, and installed it with the help of a local crew of a dozen ham volunteers who pulled on the ropes to pull the DB Products 224 antenna and 7/8 inch Heliax feedline into place at the 125 foot level on the KRGV studio tower. It worked very well, and although it took a lot of time to maintain, was a great experience.

While we lived in Texas, I got a new call, WD5CYZ. At the time there was a requirement to change calls when moving to a new radio district. It was, perhaps, the worst CW call of all time. Since I was eligible, I applied for one of the newly available 1X2 calls. I qualified on the basis of my amateur extra license for a 1x2 call, and N5AQ came up in sequence as the next available call. I held this call for the next 25 years. At this time I also applied for a life membership in the ARRL. By now I am sure that I have gotten my money's worth out of that, as I paid far less than it would have to have paid yearly since then.

After two years in Texas, we moved back to Fullerton, California, so I could take a job as an electronics design engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company. Once again, I was a member of the Fullerton Radio Club, and this time spent two years as president. It was time to repay the big favors that the club had done for me while I was a teenager. I taught a couple more ham radio classes during this time, including one where our daughter Marie (KA6YHS) got her first ham license. This time we stayed in Fullerton for ten years

In 1988 we moved from Fullerton, California to Alabama. Since we determined that the move to Alabama was a permanent one, I applied for and received the vanity call W4TI. This is a truly great CW call, and one which I intend to hold on to forever. After all these years, I have come to very much enjoy CW. It started out as the great obstacle to my becoming a ham radio operator, and has become my favorite mode.

For a number of years after moving to Alabama, I was relatively inactive. Life was very busy, and there was little time to spend on it. A nearly-fatal bout with pancreatic cancer changed that, as ham radio was one of the few things I could do which could be done without having to go somewhere else to do it. I could participate fully, even though I was largely home-bound.

73

Diehl Martin
W4TI


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Last changed 02 July 2007

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