Category Archives: Repeaters

Oh My! You’ve Asked Me to Do What?

I must say, two recent opportunities have made me wonder about the state of leadership in amateur radio. OK, that’s tongue-in-cheek and I hope to keep it that way!

My local amateur club, the Magnolia ARC, here in Starkville, MS asked me to serve as President for this year. On top of that, I have been appointed Assistant Director of the Delta Region for the Amateur Radio Relay League. I am humbled on both counts but it means that I’ve got to focus on the organizational aspects of ham radio which will take some operating time away, I am sure.

The Magnolia ARC now has a website (www.magarc.org) that I’ve assembled using Google Sites. It’s working and giving us a means to communicate and be visible to others. I took the FCC ULS data and extracted licenses to clubs and individuals in MS. It was easy to process them using SPSS software to a workable number of data fields, geocode them to their location, and embed an interactive Google Map into the Club website. Now, visitors can click and find out what clubs are nearby as well as where licensed hams are located. I found two others in my neighborhood alone, along with one who recently let his license expire due to age and infirmity. As we get more pictures of members and an agenda of programs to be presented each month, the Magnolia ARC will be in good shape.

The Club has maintained two repeaters; one on 2 meters and one of 70cm. Both are “down” and have been for a number of months. Without repeaters, nets, and good old rag-chewing, the life of a club tends to ebb away. After being a member of the Atlanta Radio Club—and still am—I learned the value of the informal group that emerges on VHF especially. The ARC repeater system is a very active one but it’s based on much larger number of hams. The MARC group has over the past few months passed the hat to raise funds for a new 2M rig, a Vertex 9000, and, last week, an Icom FR4000 for 440 mhz. These two rigs replace venerable GE Mastr II machines converted over to the respective ham bands. RF leaching tends to win over time and it’s more difficult, I’m told, to find the replacement transistors than it is to buy another similar rig on eBay. So, MARC decided to modernize a bit and donated the 2M GE Mastr II to our neighbor, W5YD at Mississippi State University. They plan to repair it and convert it into a digipeater for local APRS activity. Alas, the old CAT-1000 (not “B”) controller will not work with the Vertex 9000 so we’ve donated it to W5YD. We both win!

The 2M repeater is located on top of the Oktibbeha County Hospital on the north side of town in Starkville. One MARC member, Mark Carruth KC5AKY, used his MFJ 269 Antenna Analyzer to detect a short in the coax about 10 feed out. We will replace that coax cable with actual hard-line after testing it with a replacement length of coax. The Vertex 9000 will have to be reprogrammed to use the internal controller with a CW ID until we can purchase a new controller board. The OCH emergency response folks (Mike Shelton) are very glad to have us located there as they have a new command center and want to get a few staff members licensed as Technicians to work with us. We replaced the power supply for the Vertex with an MFJ model known for it’s stability. The 2M repeater should be back on the air, at least in rudimentary form, once we reprogram the Vertex to use the internal controller with our CW ID and replace the shorted coax.

The 70 cm machine was purchased via eBay from Dick WA6NSR who had it for three years on a project that never materialized. He had Emmett WA6COT program it for us to our 440 mhz frequency pair and tone, shipping it from California in fine shape. It arrived last Friday. Our 440 mhz repeater is located a the main tower facility of the Starkville Metrocast Cable Television company. MARC Past-President Audie Hughes KE5EXK and I recently inspected the old GE rig in the secured cabinet. We’ll just remove the power supply, repeater, and older (I mean ancient) controller board, leaving the duplexers. We’ll get a local technician to check and re-tune them if they’re off frequency. With that, we will install the Icom FR4000 440 mhz rig with it’s internal controller to get back on the air.

Job One on MARC activity is almost completed thanks to the great spirit of the Magnolia ARC membership! I am not a repeater expert but I’ve learned a bunch over this past month. I suspect that I will learn a lot more before we are on the air.

On the Delta Division ARRL activity, working with Mickey Cox K5MC, Division Director, has been super. I am helping design this year’s survey of Delta Division amateur radio members. More on that in a later post.