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Friends Remembered Home | Friends Detail

Alan Burgstahler (N7BF-EX-WA6AWD)

august 19, 2008

I was just informed that an old friend Alan Burgstahler, N7BF, ex-WA6AWD has passed away. I first met Alan in 1971 when he came to work at the FBI radio shop in Los Angeles. Prior to that he had worked in the engineering section of KABC-TV in Los Angeles. Alan was deeply involved in the old Southern California Remote Base Association, which has evolved into the present multi-state Cactus Network. Alan had retired from the FBI in Seattle after more than 30 years. RIP old friend. Ray, W5XE El Paso, Tx

Contributed by: William R. (Ray) Colbert (W5XE)

I have known Alan since the 60's when we were both in San Diego. He was a whiz with the teletype machines we had in our civil defense radio room. He did most of the early control system design for Cactus and was one of the founders. We last communicated in 2005 and he mentioned some cancer they had found, was undergoing treatment, and thought he might have it beaten. Tragically, it appears otherwise. He was a great asset to the amateur radio community and we will miss him. Ben

Contributed by: Ben Hatheway (N6FM)

Alan was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He was passionate about digital modes and was glad to help anyone interested in them. Just three weeks ago he spent about 30 minutes coaching me at the Northwest DX Convention in Portland. He was always quite to make a person feel welcome and wanted in Amateur radio. I will miss him!

Contributed by: James Melvyn Ming (N7GCO)

I met Alan when I enrolled at Palm Springs High School in my Sophmore year in December of 1959. Although I wasn't licensed at the time, our common interest in amateur radio made us instant friends. Since I wasn't licensed, Alan kinda took me under his wing becoming my "Elmer". Between, Alan and our electronics shop instructor, I soon learned the code (the right way) and obtained my Novice license, WV6LXW, joining the amateur radio community at PSHS. Alan was living with his parents in Desert Hot Springs. I believe his ham shack was a converted garage, or a portion of the garage. In addition to his operating desk, there were two back-to-back desks in the middle of the room for doing projects and two single beds on opposite sides of the room. His equipment consisted of a Hammarlund HQ-100 receiver, Heath DX-20 CW transmitter, and a Heath VF-1 VFO. Alan's code-speed was always better than mine. There were many a weekend evening or early morning that I was operating Alan's station when I would awake Alan out of a sound sleep to copy code that was too fast for me. I'm sure that this annoyed the crap out of Alan, but I honestly don't remember him ever complaining about it.. Component parts to build amateur radio equipment was plentiful during the early sixties. Whether from "junk" TV's, war surplus, or the parts from PSHS's Electronic Shop, everyone was building "homebrew" equipment. Even at age 16, my building habits were starting to solidify. I drew the schematic, located every part, drilled every hole, and tried to use the best cosmetic parts I could lay my hands on. Alan, on the other hand, just wasn't that concerned about "looks". In fact, I would accuse him of just "throwing his stuff together". What was always aggravating to me though, is that most of the time his projects "worked". Notice that I didn't say "worked better". The one-tube 6DQ6 transmitters that I built were my nemesis. I can't count how many just plain didn't work right. It was so frustrating!!! Alan's projects on the other hand, looking like they were built with parts that a TV shop had thrown away, usually worked like a charm!!! In truth, it probably wasn't that black 'n white, but that's the way I remember it… It's just incredible how much stuff we built. I didn't have my own receiver, so Alan loaned me his war surplus converted BC-454 SCR-274N (3 - 6 MHz) “command set”. That was the only receiver I ever used at home in Palm Springs!!! My transmitters were always a one-tube "homebrew" crystal-controlled 6DQ6 transmitter. Even when I didn’t have a working transmitter, Alan would get up early while living in Desert Hot Springs, before school, and send me code practice sessions that I received on his BC-454. Once a month, Alan would use the family's 1956 Oldsmobile, and we would drive to Indio up Hwy 111 to the Indio Amateur Radio Club. After more lessons, lots of help, and code practice sessions, I passed my Conditional exam. I now had the call WA6LXW. The Electronic Shop had a radio room where the hams at PSHS would operate the equipment – a Hammarlund HQ-170 receiver, Johnson Viking Valiant transmitter, and a Thunderbird tri-band beam w/rotator. In fact, we had a regular schedule with Argentina for one of our foreign-exchange students. I think that Alan and I took Electronic Shop every semester at PSHS. In the beginning, we would build “the kit of the week”. The classroom lecture would involve the theory of operation for that particular kit and then each of us would check ours out for functionality and do any troubleshooting necessary to get it to work. At the end of that process, the kit would then be disassembled for the next class, and we would move on to the next “kit of the week”. In time, the instructor had us “veterans” doing special projects in the rear of the classroom as he was instructing the class. By the time Alan moved to Palm Springs, his ham shack was now in the garage. His equipment now included a "homebrew" 813 amplifier modulated by a pair of 811A's, all housed in a 6’ rack cabinet. The amplifier was driven by his Heath DX-20/VF-1 combo. The design of the amplifier came right out of the pages of the ARRL The Radio Amateur’s Handbook (ref 38th-Edition, 1961, pgs.191-193). We would check into the AM Golden Bear Amateur Radio Net (GBN) on 80M at 3.975 MHz almost nightly. Occasionally, we would blow the breakers in the garage on voice-peaks and would make a mad-dash to the breaker box to reset those breakers, and then wait for the equipment to warm back up. For spending money, Alan and I would build kits for the various hams in the Palm Spring's area. In one particular case, we never did get one of the more complicated kit transmitters to work. I think it was a 6M/2M Heathkit Seneca. Alan and I went over the assembly instructions as a team one step at a time. Finally, we had to just "throw in the towel". The owner was not happy (but paid us) and had to return the unit to Heath for repair. We also did yard work, painted, raised antennas, etc. Anything to make a buck or two for more radio parts!! PSHS also had an Electronics Club that both Alan and I were active members. Many of the hams, including Alan, were interested in careers in the commercial broadcast industry. Many were working on their FCC 1st-Class Phone license. There was an AM radio station in Palm Springs, whose call letters I have long-forgotten (KCMJ or KPAL???), that we used to literally hang out at for hours at a time pestering the Chief Engineer. He let us make hot cocoa, etc., and we just “bent his ears” for hours as he DJ’d the station playing records and reading commercials. When Alan was still living in Desert Hot Springs, he had designed and built a very professional looking audio control panel, so his interest went well beyond a hobby. I don't remember Alan being much of a prankster, but there was one very memorable practical joke!!! Alan modified his HQ-100, DX-20, and VF-1 to work off of a large battery-powered dynamotor. He added a cathode-modulator to the DX-20 for phone operation. Then everything was loaded into the rear seat of the family's '56 Olds including a mobile 80M antenna, and off we went to Los Angeles. We parked around the corner from Frank/W6PFF's house in Rosemead, the GBN net-control, and checked into the net at the appropriate time, approx. 7:30pm. It was dark by then. A few minutes later, Frank was tapping his flashlight on the car's window. Even with that puny signal from the DX-20, Frank knew something "fishy" was going on and "tracked us down". We all had a good laugh over Alan's prank. Both Alan and I had other interests than just “radio”. While I was trying to letter in track, Alan was involved in the Senior play Amahl And The Night Visitors or performing as Drum Major for the band. Alan was also involved in Senior plays behind the scenes such as responsible for the audio in another Senior play The King And I . Alan taped that entire play on a reel-to-reel recorder. Two months before graduation, my folks were moving out of the area, so I was faced with moving to the Los Angeles area to finish my Senior year. Instead, I stayed with Alan and his family in their home in Palm Springs, easy walking distance from PSHS. I graduated from PSHS in June '62. I really enjoyed the time that I stayed with Alan and his family those two months and Alan's Mom and Dad were very kind to me. My last contact using Alan’s station was June 7th, 1962. After graduation, I moved with my folks to Canoga Park, and later to Costa Mesa. Alan and I have pretty much stayed in contact ever since and have been involved in each other's project as time and distance permitted. Alan has been a very good friend for close to fifty years and I will miss him. Dave – WA6VVL

Contributed by: David W. Ishmael (WA6VVL)

Met Alan on my return from duty to Palm Springs about 1965, both of us were in radio and TV broadcast and 2-way radio. Held Alan in very high regard, both recommended the other to public service. Played with some of his early Cactus toys in PS and later shared quarters in SF Valley. Last saw Alan and Mady in Prim, NV, at Cactus. For a few other links to Alan at top of page. RIP brother.

Contributed by: Everett F Batey II (WA6CRE)

Alan Burgstahler (N7BF)   I first met Alan about 1996 at Seaside. Our wives had just met at a “Women's event” and escaped that together. He did not get interested in getting back on HF until 2003, when he bought an IC-730 at Puyallup. That gave way to the Yaesu FT-920 which was the result of one of his voluminous research projects. Most of those projects are still in the files at the house.   Originally a 20 wpm Extra, in his teens, he felt that he needed some brush-up for cw contesting and proceeded on that. He commuted to downtown Seattle on the Sounder train from Sumner each weekday. He recorded the ARRL code practice sessions on MP3 and listened to those each way each day. I am sure if anyone overheard it and asked him what he was doing, he would have told them more than they wanted to know about code and ham radio. He did additional training for pileups with “Morse Runner” from Ve3nea.   He plunged into CW, RTTY and some SSB contesting with both feet. The SSB was so infrequent that he got a comment from another frequent contester of “So, you do have a microphone”(AL1G). He chuckled about that. In the 5 years and two weeks that he operated, he contacted 34,029 stations. That is an average of 6805.8 contacts per year. Anyone that operated with him soon realized that they needed another radio since his passion kept him in the seat, operating. He also explored other digital modes, OLIVIA, Hellscheiber, etc.   At some point he decided that he wanted to go to the WWDXC meeting and I picked him up downtown to take him and introduce him. He also plunged in there wholeheartedly as the Secretary for the past few years.   He did DXCC then went on for 40m, 20m 15m, CW, RTTY, SSB. Did an easy 100 countries per year for one of the WWDXC awards, repeatedly. Rookie of the year in 04, NAANY award holder also. Won the 7th call area in Japanese amateur radioteletype league annual contest. Various other plaques adorn the walls of his garage shack where he lived some weekends.   He discovered N1MM software and turned me on to it one November. I called to see if he was really going to do CW Sweepstakes on paper. He got me going on it, away from NA, as a result. He soon figured out how to modify the Macros for each individual contest and passed that on. His attention to the fine details of contesting kept him constantly revising the files to better operate each contest. He found the DXLAB suite of free software and also passed that on.   The Cancer came in 05 and he fought it valiantly for the past three years until there was no more Chemo that would help him and it finally won over his seemingly indomitable spirit. He was a large but gentle man that was always willing to share what he had discovered, we will miss him

Contributed by: Rick Smith (KT7G)

His home page is still up, today. His call has been reissued. I am still getting cards from those 34k contacts, many with condolences. My web stuff with more links is at: The picture is from 02, pre cancer. Still miss him.

Contributed by: Rick Smith (KT7G)

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