Updated : January 28, 2016

About PA0WLB

One of my hobbies is Amateur or Ham Radio. On this page my history as a ham radio operator since 1962 in pictures. Read the full story about my ham radio and other leisure activities on the PAØWLB page.

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My "career" as a radio amateur started in seaside town Katwijk near The Hague where I, at the age of 15, became fascinated by ham radio by listening on the 40 metre amateur frequency band with my parent's broadcast radio. Soon I became a registered SWL (Short Wave Listener) as NL-898. Like many hams in those days, my first real radio equipment was an old World War II radio, the well known Wireless Set No. 19, covering the 40 and 80 metre bands. Here I'm, 17 years young, searching for DX (long distance) stations in a telt in the dunes near Katwijk during a fieldday in June 1962.

Photo 1.

Katwijk, The Netherlands

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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 I became active in May 1964 on the 2-metre band (144 MHz) with a home-brewed 10 watts crystal controlled transmitter, shown 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.

Photo 2.

Katwijk, The Netherlands

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An 8 element WISA 144 MHz antenna at an height of 16 metres above ground and sea level mounted on a 6 metre guyed tubular mast on the roof of my parental home completed my first ham radio station. The other antennae shown on this picture were used for TV and FM broadcast reception.

Photo 3.

Katwijk, The Netherlands

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While gaining my first experience as a radio amateur with above equipment I also started with the construction af a new transmitter and two years later, in 1966, all equipment was replaced. 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. A converter, with a 6CW4 nuvistor front-end, translated the two meter signals to the frequency band from 4 to 6 MHz fed into an ex-army R-107 HF receiver.

Photo 4.

Katwijk, The Netherlands

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The antenna system was further improved in 1967 by adding an identical antenna to the existing eight element WISA yagi in a stacked configuration, adding another 2.5 dB antenna gain.

Photo 5.

Katwijk, The Netherlands

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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, where I built a complete new station. With the exception of the RACAL RA17L HF receiver (in the centre of the console) all equipment was home-brewed, including an HF SSB/CW exciter, transvertors for 144 and 432 MHz, a high stability frequency standard as reference for all local oscillators and an electronic keyer. Left to the equipment console is the 144 MHz linear power amplifier with a 4CX250B ceramic radial beam power tetrode.

Photo 6.

Ter Aar, The Netherlands

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Unfortunately I haven't got any pictures left of the antennae used with above equipment in Ter Aar. But my antenna system was almost identical to the one shown on this picture, a 19 elements Tonna yagi for 432 MHz, and a 16 elements Tonna yagi for 144 MHz, respectively 22 and 20 meters AGL, mounted on a 14 metre guyed triangular lattice type mast on top of my house. Other available antennae were a 3-band 14, 21 and 28 MHz groundplane antenne and a 2x3 element 144 MHz cross yagi with a fixed elevation of 30° for satellite communication.

Photo 7.

Ter Aar, The Netherlands

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With this 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. Here I'm operating my station during the 1970's.

Photo 8.

Ter Aar, The Netherlands

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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.

Photo 9.

Zaandam, The Netherlands

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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.

Photo 10.

Rochester, NY, U.S.A.

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The saying "Old love never dies" turned out to be true in 1996 when I returned to ham radio. Early that year I bought a vintage Collins 51S-1 HF receiver mainly for sentimental reasons as a memento of the vacuum tube era. Although a 1959 design the radio was still in good working condition. After listening a couple of months on the HF bands I couldn't resist the temptation and in July 1996 I bought an Icom IC-706 all mode HF/VHF transceiver with an EP-925 power supply and an MFJ-564B iambic paddle. A couple of months later a Mirage B-310-G linear amplifier was added to boost the 706's 10 Watts barefoot power output on 144 MHz to 100 Watts.

Photo 11.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Since the owner of the apartment building I live in doesn't allow antennae on the roof the only option was to install my antennae on the balcony only 4-5 metres above ground and sea level and screened from half of the world by the 8 floors above mine.

A 3-element yagi for 144 MHz and a 2-element HB9CV for 50 MHz were installed against the balcony railing, respectively at an elevation of 4.2 and 5.5 metres, both with a fixed bearing south-east. Since there wasn't enough space for a rotating device these short antennae seemed to be the best achievable compromise between antenna gain and beamwidth.

To date I've worked 73 DXCC entities on 50 MHz and 25 on 144 MHz using these antennae. Best DX on 144 MHz so far with the small 3-element yagi only 4.2 metres above ground is 1917 kilometres.

Photo 12.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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In March 2005 I installed this ECO HF balcony antenna on the balcony railing to find out what would be possible on the HF bands within the height and space restrictions I have.

Basically this antenna is designed for the 7, 14, 21 and 28 MHz frequencybands, but with my MFJ-945E manual HF tuner it could be tuned and used on the 10 and 18 MHz WARC bands as well.

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. Between March 2005 and December 2006 I worked 139 DXCC entities on 6 continents with this antenna on the HF bands between 7 and 30 MHz, even with parts of the world on the "wrong side" of the building I live in, such as North and South America.

Photo 13.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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My shack in July 2005, nine years after my return to hamradio. Ancillary equipment added in the meantime include an MFJ-945E manual HF Tuner, MFJ-862 VHF Power/SWR Meter, an MFJ-492 Memory Keyer and an MF-1118 DC distribution panel.

Photo 14.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Although modern solid-state technology outperforms the techniques used when I started my amateur radio career in 1963, nostalgic memories linger on of those days with the home-brewed and ex-army radio equipment with vacuum tubes. To cherish these memories I still keep these old transmitter tubes as decoration in my shack.

Photo 15.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Expecting that a longer radiator would give a better efficiency on the lower band 7 MHz I replaced the ECO antenna in December 2006 as an experiment with an 8 metre wire antenna suspended outside and parallel with the balcony. Given the experimental nature initial matching was done with available components, an MTFT magnetic balun at the antenna feed point and the MFJ-945E tuner in the shack with 5 meters of coax in between. With this combination the wire antenna could be tuned on all HF bands from 1.8 to 30 MHz, giving me access to three more bands namely 1.8, 3.5 and 24 MHz and as expected a better efficiency on 7 MHz.

Photo 16.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Tuning the antenna with the MFJ-945E and a piece of 50 ohms coaxial cable in between was a practical solution during the experimental phase but can't be considered to be sound engineering practice because theoretically the tuner shall be directly at the antenna feed point.

Being pleased with the performance of the wire antenna I installed this CG-3000 automatic HF tuner outside on the balcony railing directly at the antenna feed point as a more permanent and proper technical solution.

Photo 17.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Unfortunately I couldn't use the mounting hardware supplied with the tuner because an of insufficient diameter of the round vertical members of the balcony railing. As an alternative the tuner was fixed to the balcony railing with two aluminium angle brackets and stainless steel bolts obtained from a local store.

Photo 18.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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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 this respect the purchase of this Icom IC-7400 in May 2007 was quite an improvement. I kept the IC-706 as standby radio and for local VHF chats.

Photo 19.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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With telegraphy as 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 Iambic Paddle which more stable in that respect.

Photo 20.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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From left to right IC-706, IC-7400, EP-925 Power Supply and, hardly used but still kept for sentimental reasons, the Collins Collins 51S-1 Receiver (November 2007).

Photo 21.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Close-up of my operating position with the IC-706, IC-7400, EP-925 Power Supply and the Bencher BY-1 iambic paddle. The MFJ-564B iambic paddle that served me since my return to ham radio in 1996 is here still in use with the IC-706 (November 2007).

Photo 22.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Although pleased with Bencher paddle I still wasn't sure whether I had found my perfect CW paddle. That's why I became the proud owner of a Magnetic Pro Iambic Paddle (s/n 542) in August 2008. This paddle, manufactured bij Pietro Begali, I2RTF, is a beautiful example of sound mechanical engineering with precision ball bearings, magnetic return and micro-threaded adjustments of gap spacing and magnetic tension.

Photo 23.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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In March 2010 I replaced the analog EP-925 power supply by a more efficient SPA-8230 switching mode power supply unit, which fitted quite well under the IC-706 transceiver (left on the photo). The space previously occupied by the analog power supply is now used for an Icom SP-23 speaker matching the IC-7400 radio. I also added a Remote Control Unit for the CG-3000 Automatic Antenna Tuner.

Photo 24.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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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.

Photo 25.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Living at the border of a lake gives me a good take-off to the eastern hemisphere but the the path to the opposite hemisphere, including North and South America, is fully blocked by the eight floors above my antennae. Sometimes it even seems incredible that I manage to get stations from these continents in the log.

Photo 26.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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In February 2012 the IC-7400 was replaced by an IC-7410 including the optional 3 kHz roofing filter. The IC-7410 employs a much higher speed DSP unit compared to the IC-7400's DSP unit and the DSP performance is noticeably better than what I was used to with the IC-7400. But unfortunately, unlike the IC-7400, the IC-7410 doesn't include the 144 MHz band. So I had to re-install my 100 watt Mirage B-310-G lineair amplifier and use the IC-706 in combination with this amplifier for 144 MHz operation.

Photo 27.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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My radio shack in March 2012 with from left to right IC-706, on top of the SPA-8230 power supply, IC-7410, Icom SP-23 matching speaker and, hardly used but kept for sentimental reasons, the Collins Collins 51S-1. Below the Collins receiver the MF-1118 DC distribution panel.

Also shown on this picture is the only component that survived all innovations since my early days of ham radio, my Sennheiser MD 421N broadcast quality cardioid microphone.

Photo 28.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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In close-up below the radios from left to right MFJ-482 VHF SWR/Power meter, B-310-G lineair amplifier, MFJ-1788X magnetic loop remote control unit and the Remote Control Unit for the CG-3000 Automatic Antenna Tuner. The Bencher BY-1 iambic paddle is used for CW operation with the IC-706.

Photo 29.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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With the purchase of an IC-7600 in March 2015 also an adaptation of the shack was necessary, including a tailor-made piece of furniture on my desk to accommodate the equipment.

Photo 30.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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For better access the antenna patch panels were relocated from the side to the front.

Photo 31.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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Here I am in my shack in January 2016 enjoying the great feel of the Begali Magnetic Pro Iambic Paddle which made practicising the art of morse code communication even more fun than it already was before buying this paddle in 2008. Partly visible on this photo is an HP Pavilion laptop used for logging (with UCXlog) and cluster monitoring. Not visible is my Tascam DR-07 digital audio recorder used for off-air recording.

Photo 32.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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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.

Photo 33.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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The current antenna configuration. From left to right a 3 element yagi for 144 MHz with fixed bearing SE, the CG-3000 tuner with the (hardly visible) HF wire antenna, MFJ-1788X 7-21 MHz loop and the AH-2054 21-55 Mhz loop.

Photo 34.

Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

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