The creator and maintainer of this web site Tony Sanderson died in June 2006. This web site is being maintained in his memory by others.
As a result information on this web site IS NOT CURRENT OR ACCURATE and should not be relied upon at all.

Multimedia Chapter 3 - 160 metre ham radio crossbands in Oz

View from bottom of VK3AML aerial mast in Elsternwick, Victoria. Bottom half was originally a 40' windmill tower. We extended this to 58' and then added a 15 foot pole for the capacity top hat.

Okay, now this nonsense (my Ham Radio archives) probably shouldn't be here at all, but I had a request to put some representative material up back in August 2002 by one of the original participants (at that stage working at CNN over in Hong Kong). It was at that point that this page suddenly sprang into existence.

In fact, the intention was to remove it after a few weeks, but several months down the track it still seems to get between two and three hits a day, so I may as well leave it up for a while.

Now the Internet is an enormous amount of fun, but Ham Radio (or Amateur Radio) can be even more so. Amateur Radio is generally more personal, immediate, friendly and relaxed. As well, you can build your own equipment if you have the interest, and you don't need an expensive Telco connection with all the massive infrastructure behind it to keep yourself "on the air"

Full-duplex operation is also straightforward to organise. This allows you to indulge in multi-way live conversations for hours on end - just for the cost of a bit of electricity.

So it's quite a different experience. Ham Radio is quite immediate and in many ways more exciting than the 'net. Sitting down in front of a microphone, you can make your comments and get feedback instantly. A bit like comparing "talk radio" with a daily newspaper or a magazine. The latter are great for including pictures and long, one-sided articles but they're more distant, less personal.

By the way, Ham Radio is not the same thing as CB radio. CB radio requires no technical expertise at all. Anyone can buy a CB tranceiver and go "on the air", either using a simple handheld or a full-blown desktop rig. Unfortunately though, the equipment is fairly low powered, won't operate on the medium wave, short-wave or VHF bands, and is not "user adjustable" (you take what you get).

View from out the front of the house on the other side of the street. The capacity top-hat tuning unit is just visible near the top. Standard view when arriving back from our corner shop.
Ham Radio, on the other hand, requires users to pass both a technical radio exam and a regulations exam. There even used to be a pre-requisite for knowing morse-code if one wanted an un-restricted licence (allowing operation in the short-wave bands between 1.8MHz and 30MHz), but this requirement was finally dropped at the end of 2003.

So there's considerably more effort required to become a 'Ham. Essentially, by the time you get issued with a licence, you're expected to know what you're doing. The upside (dare I say it here) is that the average "IQ" level in the Ham Radio fraternity is quite a bit higher than it is in the world of CB Radio, and "flaming" (threats and abuse) is quite rare. Similar in some ways to the sort of difference you find in Internet News Groups between the various "alt." groups and (eg) the various "comp." or "rec." groups. And studying for the exam is lots of fun anyway; you learn about different sorts of aerials, how radio receivers and transmitters work ... in short, it's a hoot!

I've had an enormous amount of fun with Amateur Radio over the years, building transmitters and receivers, antennas and aerial masts, audio mixers, peak limiters, tape machines, and even hauling the equipment out to various "outside broadcast" locations and trying out special antennas hanging from balloons or kites (see bottom of Chapter 2). A lot of work, but you get to have an enormous amount of fun in all sorts of weird and wonderful places - and meet with lots of fun people.

A few of my Amateur Radio contacts were also "logged" onto tape, either by myself or by listeners, and I'd occasionally use these as "filler" whilst doing extended antenna or transmitter adjustments. Sometimes this even involved jumping into the car and driving off to different spots around Melbourne to get an idea of signal propagation.

In fact, I must admit, the destination for such trips was often just George's hamburger shop near Caulfield railway station. If it was a pleasant, warm night, I'd head off over there for a 1 AM snack to eliminate the tummy rumbles. (And, yes - okay, the replayed program material wasn't always just archived "radio contacts" ... sometimes I'd put on a bit of a music compilation instead, but shhhh ... :-)

The main transmitter that I constructed to support these various activities was fairly powerful (for Oz, anyway - where an AM transmitter is only allowed to run 150 watts), and more importantly, the aerial was quite efficient for a medium-wave band like 160 metres. This is 1.8MHz, just above the AM broadcast band. The aerial was a directly excited, free-standing vertical steel tower, 60 feet (18 metres) high, and with a properly designed resonant top load. The efficiency was around 30%. This may not sound much, but the systems used by most Amateurs on this band have efficiencies of less than 1%.

Getting good audio with this system was always a top priority, and I set the system up along similar lines to AM broadcast stations. I used a multi-channel mixer, reasonable quality low-Z microphones, fairly good tape (and disc) equipment (!), and a properly designed peak-limiting amplifier to keep the modulation right up to 100% at all times. The transmitter's modulator had 811-A triodes in the output, and being cleanly driven by EL34 cathode-followers, it could deliver 350 watts of clean audio to the 813 RF final. (I may put up another page with the circuits of this stuff at some stage - I'm sure there'd be one or two people interested).

Unfortunately, these (and many other) sorts of impromptu transmissions had me running foul of the authorities on many occasions during the 1970s. A number of other Radio Hams felt that I was a bad influence and not at all good for the hobby, and complaints were often filed for these sorts of "unorthodox" (to many) transmissions.

Most people who "listened in" to these radio contacts during 1970s and 80s did so using ordinary portable AM radios that had been "adjusted" (tweaked) by the simple expedient of undoing the main oscillator trimmer a half a turn or so and then adjusting the aerial trimmer to match. This then allowed the radio to tune the AM broadcast band and continue on up to 1850 KHz as well. I have no real idea as to how many people did listen in, of course, but I had reports from most states in Oz at various times - I even have recordings of some of them. So considering that the 160 metre band isn't really "short wave" as such (it's officially listed as "medium wave" only), this was quite interesting too.

Anyway - to some replays. I should warn you at the outset that unless you're a fan of late-night silly transmissions on the 160 metre AM band in Australia, this stuff may not mean too much to you. And most of the contacts were pretty long too, so I certainly wouldn't recommend that you try to listen to them "sitting at your PC". You'll do much better (if you do want to listen to the longer ones) copying the MP3 onto a tape or a CD and using it for a bit of late-night amusement as you lie back in bed trying to get to sleep. That is after all how they were originally heard by most people!

Streaming MP3s

If you want to stream the MP3 files, you can. Just right-click on the desired URL below and select "Copy link location" (Netscape) or "Copy shortcut" (Internet Exploder).

Then start up a player - preferably Winamp (or Media Player), and paste the URL into that using its File -> Location/URL menu.

Note though that you'll almost certainly get interruptions trying to stream MP3s from Bluehaze. They're about 10 times larger than the RealBadAudio versions, and the (ADSL) bandwidth out of the site is strictly limited.

The Stu' Bombing

This one didn't emanate from me (VK3AML) but rather from Dave (the Stu' - VK3ASE), and I just happened to record it off air on the night. However, I did help to plant the fireworks (as supplied by Mark, VK3ZMM as he was then) after carefully setting up a log tape.

The Stu' was operating on 160 metres, and he had a couple of visitors - Mark (the Bes', VK3ZNN), and the Murray River (whose callsign I forget). Dave was in contact with the spotty Bek-features (then VK3BEK (but now VK3EN)) on 6 metres, and also with Dallas ('3ZQL) on 2 metres.

During the 10 minutes after "the bombing", Dave, Mark, and Son of Tuttle were running around in the street with 'Number 10' sets interviewing the neighbours, who "all came out in their dressing gowns".

Running time approx 30 minutes.

Choose from Streaming RealAudio (immediate), or RealAudio download (to play locally), or MP3 ('fi quality).

The Stu's American Trip

Another ancient Stu' crossband. Most of the 'missions group set off to have a look at the US of A at some time or other in the 1970s and 80s. This is a short extract from the 3ASE trip.

Dave was talking to the spotty 'bek features on 6 metres. The original goes for a cupla hours but I've only been able to find this 30 minute cut. The tape was also a bit stuffed on this one - lots of dropouts.

For some reason, this one also has "flutter" on the RealAudio encoded version, so go for the MP3 if you have the bandwidth. Running time approx 30 minutes.

Choose from Streaming RealAudio (immediate), or RealAudio download (to play locally), or MP3 ('fi quality).

Lifts (with the Stu' and the Bek)

I'm not quite sure why we all got such a buzz from raving on about lifts and trains, but we did. What's even more interesting about listening to this conversation now is the references to various buildings around Melbourne in 1975 ... boy, things change fast.

Incidentally, I was in the process of changing from Monash to Latrobe Uni at this stage, and after I finally finished doing science over at Latrobe (in 1979), I got a job as a software programmer at Johns and Waygood - an Australian Lift manufacturer. I then spent the next 13 years of my life writing programmes (in Assembler) for controlling lifts. So I have to admit that this particular contact between the Stu and the Bek has always had a particular interest for me. But it was thoroughly entertaining anyway (especially if you happen to live in Melbourne, Australia).

It was recorded just after the Bek finished year 12 at Caulfield Grammar, as far I remember. Anyway, if you find lifts (both old and new) interesting, mysterious, and amusing, you'll probably enjoy listening to this one ...

Running time (edited down from 75 mins) is 47 minutes.

Choose from Streaming RealAudio (immediate), or RealAudio download (to play locally), or MP3 ('fi quality).

Death via light-beam

From the hot summer of 1974, this short excerpt is from a contact between myself (VK3AML) on 1840 Khz (160 metres AM) and John the Egg (VK3ZGJ - now VK3EGG) on 6 metres FM.

The Egg' was at this stage also playing with lightbeam communications between himself and the Long (Chris), and so he often had Chris on the line (from about 5Km away) as well. And that's who you'll hear in this excerpt.

Chris is the one who sounds rather muffled - this was mainly because the light-sources they were using back in 1974 were mercury-vapour lamps from street lights which had been set up in front of semi-parabolic silvered mirrors that we'd purloined out of traffic lights. These massive lamps produce their light via a phosphour coating and the "frequency response" acted like a low-pass filter with a high-frequency roll-off that began at about 50Hz.

This particular excerpt just happens to be about death - hence the title. Running time is only about 7 minutes (but that's quite enough, I suspect :-)

Choose from Streaming RealAudio or MP3 (semi-fi quality ... as good as the log anyway).

The BEK and the Branch (discussing University life, etc)

This was one of those quiet, early morning discussions that one occasionally has. We had raved on from around 1am until around 5am, and this particular excerpt was from quite close to the end. We were discussing being at University, what our separate initial experiences had been like, and meeting (or not meeting) girls and so on.

I was 10 years older than most of them when I finally went to Uni, and had thought I'd just be ignored re the social scene, but with one or two exceptions, that turned out to be quite wrong. I had no idea as to just how much fun Uni could be.

One interesting aspect of this one was it was about the only long crossband contact that the BEK and I ever had. Paul would often rave on with the Stu', the Head, the Bes, the Tynes and others at great length. And similarly, I had various groups of people that I used to 'hang out with' on the air waves over the years - but these groups were pretty much quite separate. So even though we knew of each other and shared the same bands, the BEK and I rarely ended up talking to each other directly via a crossband.

This particular excerpt is around 16 minutes.

Choose from Streaming RealBadAudio or MP3 (Fi quality)

Monash Uni Elec Eng faculty discussion (from Friday Jan 18, 1980)

(VK3AML pic courtesy of the Long)

Mainly Ralph ("The K", VK3ZZC) and myself (VK3AML), but with occasional comments from BEK (by then working at 3MP), the Stu (working at the ABC), Mr Whippy, and (a bit later) the Lizard. During this particular contact, I was using narrow-band FM in lieu of the usual AM (fairly uncommon on these MF frequencies), and this had a few people confused as they initially tuned in.

The "discussion" (more of a knock, really) concerned the fact that all of us who'd begun doing Elec Engineering at Monash Uni at various times during the mid-1970s had by now been chucked out for various reasons - usually as a result of inadaquate Exam results, but not always, as you'll hear. All a bit libellous at the time, but probably safe enough to include now - I'm sure the faculty attitude has changed since then (hopefully for the better).

It would certainly want to improve ... at that stage, it was Fail one subject and you're out, or even We don't like you and you're out. (BTW, if you really only want to listen to this aspect of the discussion, maybe even just start with Part 3 :-)

All sorts of other contemporary nonsense was discussed, as usual. A long and rambling session, as was not uncommon on a Friday or Saturday night in these days. The "RealBadAudio" encoding on this one sounds horrible for some reason.

Monash Elec Eng course discussion, part 1 of 3 - approx 48 minutes.
Choose from the RealBadAudio (swishy) streaming version - or - the more 'fi MP3 version (48 minutes, 23Mb)

Monash Elec Eng course discussion, part 2 of 3 - 95 minutes - now discussing Afganistan, Russia, US, etc ...
Choose from the RealBadAudio (swishy) streaming version - or - the more 'fi MP3 version (95 minutes, 44Mb)

Monash Elec Eng course discussion, part 3 of 3 - 95 minutes, 45Mb - and back onto the Monash Uni knock ...
Choose from the RealBadAudio (swishy) streaming version - or - the more 'fi MP3 version (95 minutes, 44Mb)

Confused by this page?

If you've tried listening to one or more of the above radio logs and concluded that the language being used is somewhat obscure, you may need to consult the 'missionish dictionary for further illumination. Just go to page 27 of Contronics Australia and you may be enlightened (although you'll probably just get more confused than ever). Incidentally, that's the Bek and the Stu on the front cover, with yours truly just below (circa 1980, that is!). This (and other 'zines) were produced by MUREC - the Monash University Radio and Electronics Club.

You can also check out the Stu's own web pages, which include a short history. Or you can listen on any Saturday night (in Victoria, Australia) to the 160m band or the 2m FM band (147.475MHz) and hear the bilge live from around 10:30pm ...

Another good promotional link (for 160 metres and all things experimental) is Peter VK3YE's, here.

And finally - someone you may hear on the occasional log tape via this page, Les, VK3SL (ex 3YDL) is over here.

Back to Multimedia Chap 2 (Radio Shows)
Back to Multimedia Chap 1

Last update to this page (by Tony, VK3AML): Mon 31-May-2004