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History 4

The NJDXA Repeater

club-qsl-card.gif DXers in Northern New Jersey, and who later were members of the NJDXA, operated on two meters for the exchange of DX information. This operation was in the late nineteen forties and thereafter, several of those who were active on a fixed channel of 147.6 kHz, widely known as "Channel A." After formation of the NJDXA in 1957, several additional stations became active on Channel A. Operation on Channel A was usually with equipment such as army surplus SCR-522 transceiver, or a Gonset Communicator running 5 to 10 watts of AM into a multi-element Yagi antenna. Polarization originally was vertical but in later years was changed to horizontal with evidence that greater distance and better coverage in the hills of northern New Jersey was possible in this manner.

In the late 1960s, there were developments destined to have a profound effect on the two-meter band. Frequency modulated surplus equipment, previously used by emergency services (police and fire), and became available at surplus prices. This equipment began to be used by knowledgeable amateur groups to provide better and wider area communications service on the VHF bands, especially two meters. Range enhancement was accomplished by establishing moderately powered transmitter, coupled with a sensitive receiver at a high location as a repeater station for other less favorably sited stations. The transmitter was arranged to be automatically turned on when the receiver picked up a signal, and the incoming signal was then retransmitted with the higher power and coverage of the repeater.

The possibility of a repeater, to improve communications between members of the NJDXA and to replace Channel A was discussed at meetings in early 1971. At the May 1971 meeting, action was taken to establish an NJDXA Repeater at the location of Leo Cunniff, W2OEH in Cedar Grove, New Jersey at a cost not to exceed $1000. The primary purpose of the repeater was to” facilitate and improve communications between fixed locations of members of the Association." By August 1971, major items of equipment for the repeater had been acquired, and several members had ordered new FM transistor type transceivers. Channel frequencies had been assigned and registered by the Northeast Repeater Association as 147.18 MHz in, and 147.78 MHz out. The initial repeater equipment was a General Electric Progress Line unit with two 6146 tubes in the final amplifier, feeding a vertical antenna mounted on a pole in the back yard of W2OEH. Results of first tests in December 1971 were encouraging but not as good as had been hoped for.

The repeater used the club call sign W2JT and was controlled by a time clock to be active from 6 AM until 12 Midnight, as an open repeater. There was controversy as to whether the upper megahertz of the two meter band (147 tro 148 MHz) should be based on a band plan similar to that of the then more popular portion 146 to 147 MHz, or whether the relative position of repeater inputs and outputs should be reversed. This, for our repeater, became a real issue, when another repeater came on the channel at Naugatuck, Connecticut with input-output reversed with respect to Cedar Grove. The result was a feedback howl when both repeaters were operating. After much correspondence with the Northeast Repeater Association, the ARRL, and the operators of the Naugatuck station, it was determined that the standard for the 147 - 148 MHz spectrum was to be the reverse of that initially authorized for and used by Cedar Grove. Accordingly, in June of 1973, crystals were installed in the repeater and in the transceivers of NJDXA members reversing the repeater to 147.78 MHz input - 147.18 MHz output. With this change, another problem was encountered in the form of interference to and from a Bergenfield, New Jersey Civil Defense net operating on 147.18 MHz. Shutting off the repeater on Wednesday evenings for an hour relieved the problem. With the development and use of more repeaters, this problem soon vanished.

Since the primary purpose of the NJDXA Repeater was intercommunication between members from their home locations, rather than mobile, the antenna was changed from the initially installed vertical to a horizontally polarized array with perhaps 3 dB higher gain. This provided better coverage for the more distant stations and had the further advantage of minimizing interference from the vertically polarized Naugatuck station.

Effective early in 1973, new licensing requirements for amateur repeaters was established by the FCC. Detailed data was prepared and a repeater license application was files in April for a station at the W2OEH location in Cedar Grove. In June, 1973, a new license was received with the call WR2ABJ. Steps were taken at once to provide the necessary control and automatic identification equipment. It is interesting to note that after creating rules and licensing requirements closely paralleling those of commercial FM broadcasting stations, the FCC relaxed the rules the following year to essentially those the Amateur Service had originally recommended.

An excellent intercommunication service for members of the NJDXA was established. The original repeater equipment has been replaced with a new and more reliable transmitter and receiver as well as a new antenna (designed by W2LV and constructed by W2OEH). While the NJDXA Repeater has had its share of technical difficulties, it has provided and continues to provide an excellent means of communications between the members and other DXers who come upon our frequency.

Satellite Operation

In order to maintain some sense of scale, the rather long historical descriptions that were included in the documentation by Bob Morris, W2LV will be paraphrased and shortened. Ed.

The first NJDXA member to attempt satellite communication was Richard Wujciak, K2OJD. Rich had just arrived in St. Pierre (FP). On October 23, operating as FP0CA, Rich worked K6QEH via satellite. The following day, he received a new license (FP8AA) and made several more satellite contacts using that new call. Incidentally, On 6 August 1971, Rich made the first contact from FP on two meters, reaching K1HTV in Connecticut.

The second member of the NJDXA to become active on the satellite was Hayden Evans, K2BZT. On 23 April 1973, Hayden made his first satellite contact with W1FTX. Hayden's activity stimulated a few more NJDXA members to get involved with satellite communications. In late February of 1974, Bob Morris, W2LV made his first satellite contact through Oscar 6 with K2BZT. This was followed in less than a week by W2BXA making his first satellite contacts.

In November 1974, Oscar 7 was launched. This added new incentive and reason for more members to get involved. In May, 1975, Ray Soifer, K2QBW (now W2RS) a Director of AMSAT and ardent proponent of satellite operation, joined NJDXA. Ray is the #1 recipient of CQ Magazine's Satellite DX Award. He is also the author of several papers and monographs published in QST, IEEE Spectrum, Orbit Magazine, and others, dealing with satellite communications. In November 1978, Ray put 4U1UN, the United Nations Station, on the air via Oscar 8 satellite, for a new DXCC country. Subsequent operation by Hans Meurer, W2TO from the UN station gave that new country on satellite to numerous other hams in the US. In May, 1978, W2BXA succeeded in working and getting a QSL from his 100th country. The QSLs were immediately forwarded to Newington and thus Ben received the first DXCC via satellite issued by ARRL. Bob Morris, W2LV obtained the necessary QSLs and received DXCC #2 in February 1979 In February 1979. NJDXA member Ed Bizub, WA2CBB received Satellite DXCC #5 on January 15, 1980. Five members have achieved WAS via satellite. These are WA2CBB, W2BXA, W2YY, W2LV and W2RS.

ARRL DX Advisory Committee

Effective January 1974, a DX Advisory Committee was established by the ARRL. The purpose of this committee was to improve liaison between DXers and League Headquarters. The committee would consist of members appointed by the president of ARRL, one from each of the various radio districts. The first member appointed from the Second District was Ted Marks, WA2FQG (now W2FG), who lived in Long Island at the time. He moved to New Jersey and became a member of the NJDXA before his term on the DXAC expired. The second member of the committee, appointed January 1, 1976, was Hayden Evans, K2BZT. Bob Scully, W2XN who was a member of NJDXA since 1961, in turn, followed him. On January 1, 1980, Dave Beckwith, W2QM was appointed to the DXAC by the Hudson Division Director for a term of two years. This was extended to January 1, 1983, to make the term of appointment concurrent with that of the Director.

It should be noted that until recently, all appointed members of the DXAC have been NJDXA members. It is believed that the DX Advisory Committee has rendered a very valuable and worthwhile service to DXers and NJDXA is happy to have been a participant in this work. More recently, with the changes in the DXCC Rules and with the changes in ARRL personnel, the powers of the DXAC have been all but totally eviscerated. Therefore, the NJDXA no longer pursues these appointments. This was proven with the acceptance of Scarborough Reef as a DXCC entity in spite of the fact that it was too small to qualify under the new rules. The "powers that be" over-rode the decision of the DXAC and decided to make a DXCC entity out of a small rock sticking out of the South China Sea. Apparently, the underlying purpose was politically motivated. The NJDXA believes that political issues and amateur radio should not mix. Other NJDXA members who served on the DX Advisory Committee were Bill Hellman, NA2M and Rich Wujciak, K2RW.

Future DX Hardware and Software

In 1978, Arnie Freeman, W2YD and Ben Stevenson, W2BXA returned from Dayton with several kits of parts for a device known as an Accu-Keyer. It was supposed to be a great help in contest operation since it had a memory for short messages which could be used repeatedly in the contest. At least six of these units were constructed and used by NJDXA members including W2YD, W2BXA, W2AGW, W2OEH, and K2AIO. To call this the beginning of the computer age in DX would be presumptuous, yet this relatively simple aid to operation does have two of the important elements of modern computers; programming and memory recall. Many of these devices, in improved form, are currently being sold and used. One popular type uses a typewriter keyboard, which permits programming and transmission in International Morse, ASCII or Baudot codes.

Apparently, we are rapidly moving into an era of keyboards and programming, memory and readout as a routine part of our DX operation. The digital frequency readout has become especially popular. A number of NJDXA members have purchased microcomputers with the hope of interfacing them with their radio equipment. There are even programs for keeping your log. The major advantage of the computerized log book is the retrieval of data. The reports can be customized to fit the individual's needs. With the creativity and ingenuity of our members and our colleagues, the future should certainly be interesting.

Editorial Comments
Robert M. Morris became a silent key in 1997. He was 96 years of age. This man was a pioneer in radio and even had the forethought of the coming age of computerization. He was one of the first NJDXA members to embrace digital technology and to recognize that the digital age was dawning. He participated in the early use of satellites for amateur radio communications. He had a computer and a TNC as soon as packet radio became a reality. He was a brilliant teacher and mentor, frequently assisting the younger NJDXA members in making contacts with DX stations. Bob Morris gave his time and his knowledge freely to his colleagues and made a lasting contribution to the art of amateur radio and to commercial radio and television in general. In order to memorialize him, the Sussex Radio Club applied for and was granted Bob's call sign, W2LV.

NJDXA Dolphins

In the late 1970s and continuing to the present, groups of intrepid travelers and dedicated DXpeditioners made irregular journeys to a Caribbean island. Anguilla was the host island of some of the early Dolphin operations but soon the venue was changed to French St. Martin. Among the founders of this sub group of the NJDXA were, Howard Wolfe, W2AGW, Wil Angermeier, W2MJ, Ed Chinnock, W2FZY, Elliot Shwartz, W2DIE, John Burgio, W2JB, Dave Beckwith, W2QM Leo Cunniff, W2OEH, and Stan Owens, W2MT. These men would pack two complete stations including antennas, some bathing trunks and warm weather clothing, and fly off to an island paradise. They rented villas with every amenity known to man. This was pure luxury. It also afforded plenty of operating time and St. Martin was activated for those DXers throughout the world who needed that entity for DXCC.

As the years passed, the NJDXA Dolphins, as they were called, continued to visit St. Martin every 2 or 3 years. The composition of the group changed. Ron Levy, K2CO joined the Dolphins in 1990. Gene Ingraham, N2BIM joined in 1996. In the later 1990s and up to the present, a diverse and changing group try to keep the legends of the Dolphins alive.

The Last Decade of the Millenium

The 1990s was a decade in which many changes occurred within the NJDXA. Some members became SKs, others moved away from the area, and new ones joined our ranks. Meeting location became a point of discussion once more. Our focus and purpose was restated and our leadership continued to uphold the traditions and standards of our founders. All in all, the turmoil left the NJDXA in a relatively stable position both as a DX-oriented organization and as the Second District QSL Bureau.

For at least ten years, NJDXA meetings wqere held in the Music Room at Paramus Catholic High School in Paramus, NJ. Thanks to Brother Patrick Dowd W2GK, the science teacher at the school. The club made annual donations to the school as a way of thanking the Diocese for allowing us to meet in thisr facility. Once Brother Pat retired, we no longer had access to the building. A site search committee was formed consisting of John Burgio W2JB, Ron Levy K2AIO and Dave Beckwith W2QM. One of the first possibilities was the red Cross Building in Nutley, NJ. We held a few meeting in that facility but it had an echo that was annoying and made it difficult for people to hear what was going on. Eventually, Ron contacted Vinny Palazzo K2GDD who was the Radio Officer for the Morris County Office of Emergency Management. Vinny was in charge of a new facility that was specifically built for this organization as part of the Morris County Police and Firefighters Academy. It lended itself perfectly to the needs of the NJDXA for meetings. It even boasted audio-visual equipment that we could use. The NJDXA was welcomed to the OEM and enjoyed the hospitality of Morris County for a number of years. When Vinny retired and moved to North Carolina, Ben Friedland, K2BF (formerly K2PBP), an NJDXA member, became the Radio Officer for Morris County. Naturally, the NJDXA continued to use the OEM for meetings but when Ben died suddenly in 1998, changes were imminent. The position of county Radio Officer was taken over by Harvey Klein, WS2Q. Harvey was quite cooperative with our club in assuring us of a continued welcome. The events of 9-11-2001 changed that forever. OEMs across the nation suddenly took on a seriousness of purpose that heretofore had not existed. Outside organizations were prohibited from using the facility so once more, the NJDXA was in the search mode for a meeting place. For a year or so, we were meeting in a classroom at the Police and Firefighters Academy but it became a chore to book this room on a month to month basis. Some investigation revealed that the Morris School District would allow use of a classroom in a school as long as we paid a custodial fee for cleanup. Thanks to Bill Hudzik W2UDT, arrangements were made and the NJDXA began meeting at the Frelinghuysen Middle School on Hanover Avenue in Morris Township. The school offered us its cafeteria which was large and allowed us to bring in refreshments. However, the school was closed on certain occasions that included our meeting nights. In 2008, the members arrived at the school for a meeting only to find that the school was closed for teachers convention. We held our meeting under the portico of the entrance to the building but there were calls for a more reliable meeting place. Once more, Harvey Klein WS2Q was contacted. Harvey made arrangements through the administration of the Police and Firefighters Academy and once more we were able to meet in a classroom of their building.