Updated : May 4, 2016

About PA0WLB

My name is William Dekker and I'm presently living in Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands. You may find my QTH (location) on this map. Since 1963 I'm a licensed Radio Amateur, operating with call sign PAØWLB using both telephony and telegraphy (morse code). Telegraphy is my favourite mode of operation. See also the PAØWLB Photo Page with pictures of the equipment used since the my early days as a ham radio operator.

CQ de PA0WLB in morse code

But apart from being a ham operator as a hobby, I was also professionally involved in radio communication as a radio system design engineer responsible for the design of radio networks ranging from systems operating in the medium frequency bands up to the higher microwave frequencies. Since January 2007 I'm retired and, apart from occasional consultancy jobs, almost a full time ham radio operator. For many years most of my professional activities concentrated on systems operating in Latin America and Africa. The following pictures were taken during site surveys in Central America. The left picture shows me (sitting on the right) flying over Honduras in Central America in 1985 searching for suitable locations for mountain top repeaters.

Click to view full size image Site survey in El Salvador

Aerial Survey, Honduras, 1985

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Site Survey, El Boqueron, 1987

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The picture on the right was taken a bit closer to sea level and shows me during a site survey on top of volcano El Boqueron (1840 m.a.s.l.) near San Salvador in May 1987. This survey was undertaken as part of the design of a Microwave Network linking all the major airports in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize.

However since the liberalization of the Telecom market in The Netherlands my professional activities were mainly limited to the design of microwave transmission networks in The Netherlands, including the design of three SDH STM-1 2x155 Mb/s Microwave transmission networks operating in the 6.7, 7.5, 13 and 18 GHz bands each linking the major cities in the western part of The Netherlands in a ring configuration. Some of the antennae installed as part of these networks are shown on the following photographs.

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Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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Gouda, The Netherlands

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View my photos taken while at work
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My "career" as a radio amateur started in Katwijk, a small town located at the North Sea Coast approximately 15 kilometres north of The Hague. At the age of 15 years I became fascinated by Ham Radio by listening on the 7 MHz (40 meters) amateur frequency band on my parent's broadcast radio. Soon I became a registered SWL (Short Wave Listener) as NL898. Like many other radio amateurs that time my first real radio equipment was an old World War II radio, the well known Wireless Set No. 19, covering both the 3.5 and 7 MHz bands (respectively 80 and 40 meters). After passing the amateur radio exam in 1963 I got the call sign PAØWLB assigned. With the confined budget of a student I had to build my own equipment and, with solid-state technology still in it's infancy, entirely based on vacuum tubes.

Shack PA0WLB in 1966
Shack PAØWLB - Katwijk - 1964

Following approval of the transmitting equipment by the licencing authority in May 1964 I became active on the 144-146 MHz (2 meter) VHF band with a home brew 10 watts crystal controlled transmitter, shown above on the right, equipped with a double tetrode QQE03/12 as final amplifier, amplitude modulated with a pair of EL84 pentode tubes. A converter using a double triode 6J6 as variable oscillator and mixer was built to feed into the Marconi CR-100 surplus HF receiver. An eight element WISA yagi antenna at an height of 16 meters above ground and sea level completed my first ham radio station.

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While gaining my first experience as a radio amateur with this equipment I also started with the construction af a new transmitter and two years later, in 1966, all equipment was replaced.

Shack PA0WLB in 1966

Shown on the right is the home brew 50 watts crystal controlled transmitter equipped with a double tetrode QQE06/40 as final amplifier, amplitude modulated with a pair of 807 beam power tetrodes.

Next to the transmitter the ex- army R-107 HF receiver. A converter in front of the receiver translated the two meter signals to the frequency band from 4 to 6 MHz. The converter front-end consisted of a 6CW4 nuvistor, a thimble-sized vacuum tube, in miniature metal enclosure rather than glass, that time in terms of noise performance the latest development in vacuum tube technology but soon after its introduction surpassed by the performance of solid-state technology.

Shack PAØWLB - Katwijk - 1966

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Also the antenna system was further improved by adding an identical antenna to the existing eight element WISA yagi in a stacked configuration as shown on the right photo below, adding another 2.5 dB antenna gain.

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Fieldday 1967
PAøTO/P - Field Day 1967

Antenna PA 0 WLB 1967
Antenna PAØWLB - 1967

During the 1960's I also used to participate in the annual Field Day, an event during which radio operators and clubs compete among each other under simulated emergency conditions, usually using field erected radio stations, temporary antennae and emergency power sources, such as batteries and generators. Quite a challenge in those days with power consuming vacuum tube transmitters and receivers. The left picture above shows me, sitting right in the background, operating from a telt in the dunes near Katwijk during the 1967 Field Day. Fellow hams in the foreground are Hanno, PA0EPS (left) and Loek, PA0LVV (right).

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Contacts between radio amateurs are usually confirmed by sending each other a so-called QSL card. QSL is an abbreviated radio code which means confirmation (of a radio contact or QSO). Below my QSL Card during the late 60's and a few samples from my present collection of QSL Cards received from other radio amateurs I've been in contact with. More samples from my collection can be found on the QSL Card pages.

Various QSL Cards
Various QSL-Cards from my collection

My QSL card in 1967
My own QSL card in 1967

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In de early 70's I moved to another location in Ter Aar, a small village about 5 kilometres north of my present location. Here I built a complete new station, shown on the following picture.

Shack PA0WLB in 1975
Shack PAØWLB - Ter Aar - 1975

With the exception of the RACAL RA17L HF receiver (in the centre of the console) all equipment was homebuild, including an HF SSB/CW exciter, transvertors for 144 and 432 MHz, a high stability frequency standard as reference for all local oscillators, electronic keyer and switching equipment, all mounted in the main equipment rack. Left to the equipment console is the 144 MHz linear power amplifier with a 4CX250B ceramic radial beam power tetrode. The antenna system consisted of a 19 elements Tonna yagi for 432 MHz, a 16 elements Tonna yagi for 144 MHz, respectively 22 and 20 meters AGL, and a three band groundplane antenna for reception on the 14, 21 and 28 MHz bands.

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With above equipment numerous contacts have been made, mainly using telegraphy, via the early generation of Amateur Communication Satellites, the AMSAT-OSCAR 6 & 7, resulting in the first Satellite DX Achievement Award issued to a Dutch ham operator.

In June 1973 I demonstrated the feasibility of Amateur Satellite Communication with my equipment on a Radio Communication Exhibition in Zaandam from where I made numerous satellite contacts using the special call sign PA6ZAZ/A.

To listen to a two-way telegraphy contact made from my home location in 1973 via the AMSAT-OSCAR-6 satellite with Bulgarian ham operator LZ2FA click here.

Operating as PA6ZAZ/A
Shack PA6ZAZ/A - Zaandam - 1973

Note the manual frequency corrections needed during the QSO to compensate for the doppler shift. View some of the QSL cards confirming contacts made via the AMSAT-OSCAR-6 which are included on my QSL card sample page:

View some samples from my QSL Collection
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Three years earlier, in August 1970, I was also professionally involved in satellite communications participating in tests via the geostationairy satellite ATS-3 with the objective to explore the feasibility of Maritime Satellite Communications. Listen to voice contacts between some of the participants in these trials, Mojave ATS control centre, Dutch liner SS "Nieuw-Amsterdam", British container vessel "Atlantic Causeway" and Radio Holland Laboratory in Amsterdam with myself as the operator. The equipment used in Amsterdam for these trials consisted partly of my ham radio equipment, including the 4CX250B RF Power Amplifier and the 16 elements 2 meter Tonna antenna, both with minor modifications to cover the ATS-3 uplink frequencies, slightly below the two meter amateur band.

Visiting WB2PSI

Probably because of the resemblance between my leisure and professional activities, my activity as a ham operator faded gradually during the early 80's and finally PAØWLB ceased operation in 1982, but only for the time being as turned out in 1996.

Meanwhile I didn't loose interest in ham radio as appears evident from a visit to club radio station WB2PSI (later changed to W2RFC) in Rochester, NY, USA during a business trip in February 1984.

Visiting WB2PSI, Rochester, USA - February 1984

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Coaxial Cable
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My temporal withdrawal from the ham bands between 1982 and 1996 didn't mean being short of hobbies. Among my other areas of interest are aviation, photography, radio broadcasting, music, audio processing and writing software. A certain degree of fanaticism in whatever I'm doing as well as time constraints, made it practically impossible to explore all these areas of interest, including ham radio, simultaneously. Because of my interest in aviation I signed up in 1978 for a training to become a glider pilot. However the time required to achieve that goal turned out to be incompatible with my other hobbies and unfortunately I had to give up after 34 training flights and a total of 6 hours in the air.

1978: As a trainee in a Twin Astir glider plane preparing for take off.

Twin Astir
Alpheo Studio

In the studio presenting a radio programme (mid 80's).

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That time I was also heavily involved, as a volunteer, with the local hospital radio station Alpheo in Alphen aan den Rijn, initially in 1974 just as an engineer but gradually I became more and more involved. From 1975 until 1990 I also presented a weekly request program for listeners in hospital Rijnoord and nursing home Oudshoorn, both in my present place of residence. Alpheo also initiated the foundation of a local radio station and initially also produced the radio programs for the local community. During that period I presented a weekly news program.

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Writing software, mainly radio engineering tools for my professional activities, is one of my other time consuming activities. I created my very first application on an HP41CV programmable calculator in the early 80's. It was a simplified HF prediction program based on the classic MiniMuf3 model first published in 1978. With the arrival of the first IBM PC's around the same time I started programming in Basic and QBasic.

Via other high level languages like Turbo Pascal and Turbo C and, as mentioned before, a certain degree of fanaticism in whatever I'm doing, I finally ended up creating DOS applications in assembly. To move with times I started to familiarize myself with Windows programming in August 2004 and, as a former die-hard DOS assembly programmer, using Win32 assembly. While learning to master Win32 assembly programming I've created various ham radio utilities such as WWLoc, a utility to convert the classical latitude/longitude coordinates to a WW Locator Square and vice versa, HamLoc, a program to keep track of worked and confirmed WW Locator squares and HamBeacon, a data base to store ham radio beacons. HamBeacon also includes a visual NCDXF beacon tracker showing the active NCDXF HF beacon as well as the great circle path, on a world map.

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HamLoc Version 4.00

Visit the Programming page for more information about these Amateur Radio utilities and other applications created by me. These 3 ham radio utilities are also available as free downloads from the Download page

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The saying "Old love never dies" turned out to be true in 1996 when I became active again as a ham radio operator. Meanwhile, in 1991, I had moved to another location, an apartment very close to the border of the lake Zegerplas in the eastern part of my hometown Alphen aan den Rijn. At that time I still didn't have a possible revival as a ham radio operator in mind, the decisive factor then was the beautiful view from the living room (and later my shack) over the lake as shown below and on the "Where I Live" photo page.

Zegerplas, Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

After getting myself an IC-706 HF/VHF transceiver in 1996 it turned out that my present location definitely wasn't a radio amateur's dream. My apartment is on the first floor of a nine-storeyed apartment building and the owner of the building doesn't allow antennae on the roof (+35 meters). The only alternative left was to install the antennae on my balcony at an height of only 4-5 meters above ground/sea level and, since the eight storeys above me improve the front-to-back ratio of the antennae considerably, screened from half of the world. The bright side though is the unobstructed take-off in SE direction as well as the fairly low "man-made" noise level and short feeder runs between radio and antennae.

Antennae PA0WLB January 2007

Initial operation from my present location started in June 1996 on the 2 and 6 meter VHF bands with antennae supported outside the balcony. As a compromise between antenna gain and beam width relatively short and small antennae were chosen for these VHF bands. A 3-element 2 meter antenna is mounted only 4 meter above ground (and sea) level while the 2-element HB9CV antenna for 6 meters is mounted at 5.5 meters above ground.

In spite of the limitations imposed by the use of balcony mounted antennae just a few metres above ground, quite a number of "impossible" contacts were established on 6 meters with hams in directions that are not "visible" from my balcony and even completely blocked by the apartment building I live in. Probably that's why the 6 meter band is often refered to as "The Magic Band". Since my comeback on the ham bands in 1996, contacts were made with 75 different DXCC entities on 6 meters.

Also on 2 meters the results were beyond my (low) expectations. So far I worked 25 DXCC entities with the small 3-el antenna. Best DX (long distance) on that band is a QSO (contact) with a ham in European Russia at a distance of 1917 kilometres.

While on the air again I gradually started to see the space and height restrictions I have as a challenge rather than a handicap. Working 1600 kilometers on 2 metres with a 16-el yagi as I did in the past was already exciting but doing the same now with a small 3-el yagi only 4 metres above ground and sea level is even much more rewarding.

Antennae PAØWLB

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As of March 2005 I'm also QRV on the HF Bands after installing an ECO 73 balcony antenna. Basically this antenna is designed for the 7, 14, 21 and 28 MHz frequencybands, but with my MF-945E tuner it could be tuned and used on the 10 and 18 MHz WARC bands as well. Also on the HF bands results with this antenna were beyond initial expectations considering the small size of the antenna and the proximity of reinforced concrete, effectively screening the antenna in most directions. With the ECO 73 balcony antenna contacts were made on the HF bands between 7 and 30 MHz with 139 DXCC entities in 6 continents, even with parts of the world on the "wrong side" of the building I live in, such as North and South America.

In december 2006 I replaced, initially as an experiment, the ECO antenna by an 8 meter wire antenna. To get a bit more clearance from the reinforced concrete of the balcony above mine the wire antenna was suspended outside and in parallel to the balcony. Initially matching was done with an MTFT magnetic balun at the feed point and the MFJ-945E tuner in the shack. As can be expected with twice the radiator length the efficiency was noticeably higher in the 7 MHz band while performance on the higher frequency bands seemed to be comparable with the performance of the ECO antenna. Further the antenna could also be used on the 3.5 and 24 MHz bands. Convinced by the results I replaced the MTFT/MFJ-945E combination a couple of weeks later with a CG-3000 automatic HF antenna tuner installed outside on the balcony railing. This tuner perfectly matches the wire antenna over the entire frequency range between 1.8 and 30 MHz. Consequently since January 2007 I'm QRV with my balcony antenna arrrangement from 2 meters down to top band.

HF Antenna Support

HF Antenna Support

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CG-3000 Automatic Tuner

CG-3000 Automatic HF Tuner

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MFJ-1786X Magnetic Loop Antenna - PA0WLB

Since April 2011 I also have an MFJ Magnetic Loop Antenna in addition to the HF wire antenna on my balcony. Initially I used the high frequency version MFJ-1786X covering the bands between 10 and 30 MHz. Practical experience revealed that loop antenna outperforned the wire antenna on the lower bands while above 18 MHz the wire antenna performed equally well or sometimes even better than the loop. That's why I replaced the MFJ-1786X in September 2013 by the low frequency version MFJ-1788X (7-21 MHz) giving me also a better performance on the 7 MHz band compared to the wire antenna.

In April 2016 the 2 elements 50 MHz HB9CV antenna, used since 1996, was removed from my balcony and replaced by an INAC AH-2054 loop antenna covering the frequency bands between 20.9 and 55 MHz. In combination with the MFJ-1788X I have access to all ham bands between 7 and 50 MHz with the 2 loop antennae. The wire antenna with CG-3000 tuner is retained for occasional operation on 1.8 and 3.5 MHz.

AH 2054 Loop Antenna - PA0WLB
HF Dipole

Although the antennae are one and certainly the most important part of the story, my shack (view close up) is the other part. When I returned to ham radio in 1996 I got myself an IC-706 because I didn't have a shack yet and I needed a compact radio that would fit on my desk and, although initial activities were limited to VHF operation on the 2 and 6 metre bands, preferably cover all amateur radio frequency bands. In the course of time while setting up a shack ancillary equipment was added such as an MFJ-492 memory keyer and a Mirage B-310-G linear amplifier to boost the 706's 10 Watts barefoot power output on 144 MHz to 100 Watts. During 11 years of operation the IC-706 turned out to be an excellent and reliable radio.

However with my entrance on the HF bands and getting more and more interested in DX-ing I gradually felt the need for a radio with DSP capability and a better ergonomy i.e. dedicated buttons for important functions like changing CW keyer speed, receiver bandwidth, setting split frequency offset etc. instead of having to go through a menu structure as is customary with compact radios like the IC-706. In that respect the purchase of an Icom IC-7400 in May 2007 was quite an improvement. Nevertheless I kept the IC-706 as stand-by radio and for local VHF chats.

Begali Magnetic Pro

Since telegraphy is my favourite mode of operation the morse key is one of the most impotant tools in my shack. When I returned to ham radio in 1996 I got myself an MFJ-564B Iambic Paddle. Since this paddle needed frequent adjustments I changed in November 2007 to a Bencher BY-1 which was more stable in that respect. Since August 2008 I'm the proud owner of a Magnetic Pro Iambic Paddle (s/n 542), manufactured bij Pietro Begali, I2RTF, a beautiful example of sound mechanical engineering with precision ball bearings, magnetic return and micro-threaded adjustments of gap spacing and magnetic tension.

In February 2012, after almost 5 years of operation, the IC-7400 was replaced by an IC-7410. The IC-7410 employs a much higher speed DSP unit compared to the IC-7400's DSP unit. But unfortunately, unlike the IC-7400, the IC-7410 doesn't include the 144 MHz band. So I had to re-install my 100 Watts Mirage B-310-G linear amplifier and use the IC-706 in combination with this amplifier for 2 meter operation.

In may 2015 I purchased an IC-7600. Since I wanted to keep the IC-7410 as a stand-by radio it was necessary to adapt the shack, including a tailor-made piece of furniture on my desk, to accommodate all the equipment. In practice the IC-7600 is mainly used with the MFJ magnetic loop on the bands between 7 and 21 MHz while the IC-7410 is used for the the higher bands in combination with the CG-3000 tuner/HF wire antenna and the 6 metre HB9CV antenna.

Further ancillary equipment include an SPA-8230 13.8 VDC switching mode power supply unit, an MF-1118 DC distribution panel, an MFJ-862 VHF Power/SWR meter and a Tascam DR-07 digital audio recorder.

Shack PA0WLB 2008
IC-7600 HF/50 Mhz Transceiver

Icom IC-7600 HF/50 MHz Transceiver

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Icom IC-7410 HF/50 MHz Transceiver

Shack PAØWLB (January, 2016)

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Icom IC-7410 HF/50 MHz Transceiver

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Looking forward to meet you
Best wishes and see you again, William, PA0WLB View my QSL info at QRZ.COM Send me an email William Dekker
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