It was all my science teacher’s fault! In 1951 during a science class he demonstrated the magic art of crystal set making. I went home and set about building one for myself. The coil was on a toilet roll tube, the chassis was a wooden box, wires were twisted together and to my amazement it worked. There was no going back. My upstairs bedroom was transformed into a junk shop and my mother was transformed into a nervous wreck. Things got worse. While erecting an antenna, I managed to give the neighbours a fright after getting stuck in the top of the old elm tree at the end of the garden. Next day they had another fright when I climbed onto the house roof to attach the other end of my new antenna wire to the chimney. My mother let out the spare room of her house to supplement her income. One young lady lodger who worked at GCHQ spoke Russian and possessed a Hallicrafters SX28 complete with headphones. She used to let me listen in and introduced me to a whole new world of exotic sounds and voices.
I still had time to build one and two tube radios which never worked particularly well and which produced clouds of smoke from time to time. Mum managed to get me an interview with GCHQ and I started out as a Scientific Assistant. They had me building and testing all sorts of electronic stuff, all tubes of course, I think the biggest project was a 19 inch panel with about 40 tubes on it. Anyone who has built anything with 4 tubes knows how it felt wiring up 40 let alone laying it all out and then drilling all the holes! Naturally I had no idea of what I was doing, but I did learn to build things which did not smoke. I saved enough money to buy an R1155 aircraft receiver to do some serious listening with my own gear.
National Service came along and much to my surprise I was drafted into radar installation. I spent some leisure time (when not at the local) in the ham radio shack on the camp and made a resolve to obtain my ham ticket when I got out of the service. After demob, it was almost ten years before I was able to really get moving again, Married by this time with four young harmonics in the house, my pay as a radio / TV serviceman never being enough I made some pocket money restoring AR88’s for a local Government Surplus Store, and incidentally acquiring enough spares to build one of my own.
I was able to listen to the world better than ever before: I recall hearing quite a number of ZL and VK amateurs while having breakfast. Studying at LowestoftTechnicalCollege, I eventually passed the amateur exam but fate took a hand and we took the opportunity of building a new life here in New Zealand. I realised that I was entitled to apply for a NZ licence on the strength of my UKexam. So in Napier during 1976, it was along to Lew Sharman, ZL2IC for some Morse tuition. This was magic! I really enjoyed this and when the licence appeared in the mail box, I set out to do plenty of CW. The first rig was a KW Viceroy TX and a Drake SSR-1 receiver with an inverted Vee on the roof. I saved enough to buy a new TS930S I was a happy chappie!
NZART Branch 25 beckoned and I became involved in club activities. Field Days were enormous fun! Starting their ancient one cylinder generator was a challenge despite being taught to start generators in the RAF. Luckily Lew ZL2IC or Stan ZL2ST usually had some beer in the car as reward. A change in personal circumstances made a change of QTH necessary and more room on the edge of town made antenna erecting much easier, QRM became much less of a problem; TVI worries disappeared as well.
Two DXpeditions toChathamIslandwere a great experience and apart from the buzz of working pile up’s the local beer was brilliant too! After many years of good service TS 930S had to go, and was replaced by a FT1000 (Mighty machine). A change to NZART Branch 13 around this time also took place. Amateur radio has been and still is a great hobby, One never knows what is waiting out there in radio land – each day is different. Now retired and able to watch work taking place without feeling guilty. Smoke still comes out of homebrew projects – never mind – there is always something to learn. Other activities include digital photography, theatre audio and audio editing, both a challenge at times but always fun.
Peter Dingley ZL2LF