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Author Topic: Early days of repeater use  (Read 21550 times)
NO2A
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« on: March 10, 2012, 11:54:52 AM »

I know for most of us repeater use came to be in the 70`s. That`s when it really was popular. Recently I read that Steve,WB2WIK had a repeater set up in 1966. For anyone that operated back then what was it like? How many machines/people were on then? Was it just 2m? Thanks,Mike.
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N5VTU
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2012, 03:16:41 PM »

If you can find a copy of it (now out of print), The Practical Handbook of Amateur Radio FM & Repeaters, by Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF and Mike Morris, WA6ILQ is a great way to see how it all started.

Stephen
N5VTU
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K9KJM
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2012, 09:25:35 PM »

I think the 1970's were the real "heyday" of ham repeaters.   There seemed to be about 100 active users for every repeater, All having a great time, Including fooling with autopatch, Allowing telephone calls from your mobil!  LONG before the days of cellphones!

Nowadays it seems there are about 100 repeaters for every user, And no one has fun anymore.

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K1ZJH
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 07:28:30 PM »

FM caught on a bit quicker on the west coast then up here in New England. We had a few machines,
but the mode really blossomed during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a lot more fun when hams
were using converted AM rigs or modifying cast off commercial two-way stuff. Since the late '80s
activity has been falling into a death spiral in this area.

Pete
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AA4PB
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2012, 05:23:48 AM »

I visited California in 1960 and remember hearing repeaters running AM (in lieu of FM).
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2012, 11:35:08 AM »

I visited California in 1960 and remember hearing repeaters running AM (in lieu of FM).


That there were.  One of the first repeaters ever operated by a ham was W6MEP's machine (Art's SK now) and it was AM.

I liked the "early days" of FM repeater operation, it was a real tinkerer's dream.  Lots of homebrewing and lots of experimentation.  When small crystal controlled rigs that were small and light enough to be mounted under dashboards came to market -- finally! -- it took off like a rocket and became enormously popular.  Even then, lots of experimenting: People building frequency synthesizers to replace the crystals and all sorts of cool stuff.

I think it all crashed and burned in the late 1980s or so when it all became too easy and just wasn't interesting anymore.  Of course, cell phones became popular then, too, so there was no need for autopatches anymore.  Without technical stuff to talk about ("hey, I just hooked up a touch tone pad to my rig and am adjusting its output level...can someone tell me if the tones all sound about the right deviation?") we literally ran out of anything interesting to talk about and I kind of abandoned it, as did many.
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NA4IT
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2012, 01:26:06 PM »

2 HR2B Regency radios located in an old refrigerator... now that is an early repeater!
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NO2A
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« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2012, 11:10:16 AM »

Thanks for the info!
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AA4PB
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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2012, 05:55:58 PM »

"Without technical stuff to talk about ("hey, I just hooked up a touch tone pad to my rig and am adjusting its output level...can someone tell me if the tones all sound about the right deviation?") we literally ran out of anything interesting to talk about and I kind of abandoned it, as did many."

I think you hit the nail on the head there. At least that is exactly my experience.
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ONAIR
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« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2012, 06:43:06 PM »

It was kind of crazy in the beginning.  Lots of people using a relatively small number of repeaters.  People with Yagis trying to hit repeaters long distances away.  Many conversations happening day and night, and almost always people on the air to chat with!  Where did all those operators go?  Those certainly were the days.
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K1ZJH
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« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2012, 06:55:23 PM »

I remember when the MTARA repeaters, especially the one on Mt. Tom, in Holyoke MA, were active 24 hours a day. There was always someone on the machine. Today, you'd be lucky to find activity during the commuting hours.  Where the activity went is a mystery.  Many of the most active users retired, moved away, or passed away. Repeaters don't have the draw they did back in the 70s. For one thing, modern technology, such as cell phones has made many aspects of FM repeaters obsolete. How many machines still bother offering autopatches?

Pete
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ONAIR
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« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2012, 07:10:11 PM »

I remember when the MTARA repeaters, especially the one on Mt. Tom, in Holyoke MA, were active 24 hours a day. There was always someone on the machine. Today, you'd be lucky to find activity during the commuting hours.  Where the activity went is a mystery.  Many of the most active users retired, moved away, or passed away. Repeaters don't have the draw they did back in the 70s. For one thing, modern technology, such as cell phones has made many aspects of FM repeaters obsolete. How many machines still bother offering autopatches?

Pete
  It could have a lot to do with the rise in cell phone use.  What happened to 2 meters is similar to what happened on the 11 meter band.  When I was a kid, the CB band in my area was just jammed with locals.  I could talk day and night to different people, most of whom were within only a few miles of me!  There was so much activity, the FCC actually had to expand the band from 23 to 40 channels.   Today, the activity level on both bands has significantly diminished.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2012, 08:45:30 AM »

I remember when the MTARA repeaters, especially the one on Mt. Tom, in Holyoke MA, were active 24 hours a day. There was always someone on the machine. Today, you'd be lucky to find activity during the commuting hours.  Where the activity went is a mystery.  Many of the most active users retired, moved away, or passed away. Repeaters don't have the draw they did back in the 70s. For one thing, modern technology, such as cell phones has made many aspects of FM repeaters obsolete. How many machines still bother offering autopatches?

Pete

I used the Mt. Tom machine hundreds of times during my commutes from NNJ to Boston.  Lots of nice people.

Re autopatches, "probably not many."  No need, with cell phones.  Here in CA most of our repeaters are at commercial sites on mountaintops where a land line is commercial rate, so you can pay $90 a month if absolutely nobody ever uses it.  Not worth it.

Residential rates are much cheaper, but "home" repeaters don't do well -- they're not on nearly inaccessible mountaintops. Wink

I think the early days were great because of all the experimenting going on.  My first several 2m FM rigs were trunk mount "taxicab" radios with huge cables going to the battery up front and to the control head under the dash, and they took some serious effort to install, tune up, and get working.  When it finally all worked it was an accomplishment and half the conversations were comparing notes about what the other guy did.

That's all gone and not coming back.
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KG4NEL
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« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2012, 02:22:31 PM »

Couldn't you make the same case for HF, though? You can get on 20 meters completely "off-the-shelf", too, and have little to talk about from a technical standpoint. Doesn't stop people there Smiley
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AA4PB
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« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2012, 08:25:44 AM »

With HF you have the ability to talk to a wide range of people located all over the world. In addition, working DX and contests successfuly takes some degree of skill. HF can offer the challenge that is missing in 2M repeaters. IMHO it's not much of a challenge to press the PTT button and say "AA4PB listening". In the early days when you had to cobble togther your own equipment for 2M it offered a technical challenge that kept things interesting.
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