On the Air

Back to the Future

Somewhere back in my long ago the local ham radio group conducted a Sunday night 6-meter AM net. I joined the fray when I upgraded to Technician. That began a period of radio woes for me that included neighbors complaining to my Dad that my antennas were attracting lightning to the neighborhood, and that I interfered with their television programs when transmitting during the AM net. Fortunately, my Dad ignored the lightning nonsense, but I did have to curtail the 6M activity until after the TV stations went off the air around midnight. Yes, TV stations used to shut down after the late-night news and the national anthem.

Gonset G-50 6 Meter Communicator (1958)

It wasn’t long until the net moved to the new two-meter FM repeater and TVI complaints disappeared. Fast-forward forty-years and another local fellow and I were discussing the old 6-meter net and decided to do something about it. We’ve been meeting at 8pm local on 50.400 MHz AM for weeks now and have managed to attract a small following. Last night I counted eight total check-ins all from around town. A few weeks ago, we had two stations check-in from Indianapolis (50 miles).

Signal strength has been a bit of a problem because few of us have decent six-meter antennas. I’m just using a dipole that I had available. The tuner likes it well enough, but I can’t imagine it’s terribly efficient. A few of the guys have much better signals since adding new 50MHz antennas. The rest of us will likely suffer a little longer until the weather cheers up enough for some outdoor work. A three-element beam is typically a nice choice for this band, however, it’s directivity isn’t welcome when working others in the area who are scattered about town. An omni-directional would be a better choice for our net operation. One fellow recently installed this 6M horizontal antenna with great results and now we all want one.

One of the guys who checked in last night lives across town from me. He talked for a few minutes about the success he had the night before using meteor scatter on two-meters. This weekend was the big Geminids meteor shower and he reported contacts with stations in Texas, Florida, Michigan, Wyoming, and Canada. It was encouraging to hear from a local who was having success bouncing VHF radio signals off the ionized trails of falling rocks using a modest setup. I’m anxious to give that a try and pleased as punch to know there’s a local ham who can help me get started.