07 October 2012

Renewing the Blog - another time

After a very long break - 2 1/2 years of inactivity on the blog - I feel it is now time to renew the story telling of my path into Amateur Radio and beyond !!

Let me see how it progresses!!

15 April 2010

I cleared the ASOL exam - 1986

With this history and the background, I was well on my way to become a HAM operator. 

The training classes started and was scheduled for 1 hour from 5.30 PM every week day from Monday to Friday.  Regular college classes were scheduled to close at 5.00 PM.

My sked was - Leave Home (about 5 Kms from the College - My home was in Chamarajapuram- Near Law Courts) - cycle the distance and reach the college by 5 PM.  Park the cycle adjacent to the Ganesha Temple opposite to the Main Gate.  Stand and wait for the HAM team to finish their classes - they usually went past me around 5.10 PM and would come back after aback after about 15 mins with the Power Supply, Morse Key and CPO.  This necessiated me to wait atleast 25 mins before the Ham Classes started. The wait usually meant that I STAND leaning on to my bicycle,waiting for the team to arrive.

Also see http://vu2mud.blogspot.com/2007/06/four-year-term-at-sjce.html

Classes were successful - with about 30 students and one outsider - ME - appeared for the ASOL exam in 1986.  I successfully cleared the Grade I exam. 

Next was the indefinite wait for the "critical" "Decision Letter" to arrive from the WPC - but that is a story by itself - more of it in a different post.

26 July 2008

HISTORY OF HAM RADIO ACTIVITY FROM MYSORE:

After a long hiatus – due to restrictions at the office and due to certain changes in the home front, I had been off blogging. Now that things are stablilising a little bit, continuing the memoirs. Now back to where I had left off.

Along with the new language, I also learned about the history of HAM Radio activity in Mysore.

There was supposedly a bit of HAM radio activity from in and around Mysore with Mr. George – VU2TV (I never got to meet this elderly operator – he had reportedly shifted to the Gulf with family), Mr. Sampath (VU2YZ an entrepreneur with an electronics showroom in Mandya) and his wife Hemalatha (VU2TT – a teacher by profession – who passed on recently). In fact, the credit of putting Mysore on the HAM popularity map is due mainly to Sampath and his wife. He would travel daily to Mysore to conduct the HAM radio training to a group of enthusiasts. Such was the zeal of the youngsters that they used to practice the Morse code in their regular conversations.

The enthusiastic team was not just about students, there was an enthusiastic mother too. This team consisted of Ramanujam, Satish, Sriram, Shiva Kumar, Sukhbir Singh Jolly, Yogeesh, Mrs. Loveleen Kaur Jolly, to name a few (that I remember!). The exams for the first batch were conducted at PES College, Mandya and the candidates traveled for the exam. Last minute preparations and hospitality was organized at the residence of Sampath and Hema. The result of the exam was highly encouraging and the entire team came out with flying colours.

Mrs. Loveleen Kaur Jolly, a mother and a teacher by profession, came out highly successful, in fact even better than her son and secured a higher grade of license than him. In later years the entire family took to the hobby and all the family members including a son-in-law became HAMs.

With encouragement from the management of the SJCE college and with grants from the Mysore University, the Mysore University Amateur Radio Club was set up in 1983-84 with the call sign – VU2YSG – under the Electronics and Communication Department of SJCE. The College also procured a State of the Art – wireless equipment – a Japanese Make – transmitter – cum – receiver (Transceiver). This transceiver was capable of operating on all the allowed modes of transmission (AM – Amplitude Modulation- generally used by radio broadcasters, SSB – Single Side Band – a variation of the AM transmission but using lesser bandwidth, CW – Continuous Wave or Morse Code and FM – Frequency Modulation). In an earlier post, I had mentioned about listening to a few HAMs from SJCE before I got in touch with Mr. Muthanna. It was with this equipment that they were ON THE AIR when I listened to them.
This was the background of the Amateur Radio activity from Mysore when I made my entry into the hobby.

25 June 2007

Four Year Term at SJCE

That meeting with Satish was my first solid step towards becoming a HAM.

I had just the week before been invited to join the Sunny Side Cricket Team – the junior level of the famous The Mysore Gymkhana – where my elder brother was already a well entrenched match winner. (I was a medium pace bowler with quite a bit of pace and swing myself – but that is quite a different story). Also I have a feeling (I have no confirmation on this – sorry if I am wrong) that a new comer in the same period to the team was a person who went on the achieve great laurels – Javagal Srinath.

The training class was scheduled to start at 5.30 PM on all week days. I therefore had to make a choice between two – a “hobby – cum – family tradition” – SPORTS – or a “passion” – HAM Radio. This is again a situation that makes me believe in the “Destined to be a HAM” that I have mentioned about.

I broke “tradition” and gave up sports to take up my “passion”. I joined the HAM training classes. So, on the designated date I cycled to SJCE and there I was standing in front of the Ganesha Temple (not to pray but that was where Satish had asked me to wait) at 4.55 PM (remember the class was scheduled to begin only at 5.30 PM). At 5.15 Satish and others came out of their classes and walked past me – with a “wait, we will come”. Come back, they did after about 10 minutes. Promptly at 5.30 the training did begin and off I was on my way to becoming a HAM radio operator. During this period I met the other operators from Mysore – Yogesh (VU2YSG – not much of contact with him), Anuj (VU2JUN – presently working in Bangalore), Shiv (VU2SSR – went on to become a lecturer at the same college – presently Vice President of EXCEL SOFT), etc.

I was on my way to learn a new language. MORSE CODE.

That also started my four year term at Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering – as an evening “student” – not for their Engineering Course but for their HAM course.

In fact such was my punctuality that certain ex students whom I had met only casually later used to ask if I had finished my Engineering!!!

13 May 2007

The Beginning

That meeting with Muthanna was my first step in the proper direction towards my becoming a HAM. Muthanna gave me a few books and instructions on progressing towards getting my Licence.

His first instruction was for me to learn Morse code. He asked me to build an Oscillator (I later realized he meant a Code Practice Oscillator). In the excitement of having met Muthanna, I mistook it for an Oscilloscope (an electronic measuring devise). I lost heart – how do I get an Oscilloscope costing thousands of rupees? I decided that I would take my time and manage to get that Oscilloscope. How idiotic of me.

I continued listening and my craze for the hobby started spreading among my friends. They started feeding me with information about articles, write ups, announcements etc. I was beginning to collect a fairly good quantity of information about the hobby. I had also noted a few other operators from Mysore – Yogesh (VU2YSG), Shiv (VU2SSR), Sriram (VU2BOY – he “BOY” as his radio nickname), Sat (VU2NTC), etc. I did not know where they operated from.

In 1985, Yuvaraja’s College, where I was finishing my Graduation, started a Science Club. For the inauguration, they had invited a retired engineer from the All India Radio – you should have guessed it – it was Muthanna – my dear “Old” friend. That inaugural address was about the field of radio communication and naturally to my joy mentioned about the amateur radio hobby. After the meeting I went up to Muthanna and he immediately asked about my progress in the hobby. I mentioned that I was not yet able to start learning Morse code. The Science Club, we started wallpaper for science related article. I did my first journalistic piece – if it can be called that. I cut an article on HAM Radio from an old magazine, stuck it to a sheet and submitted it for publication. It was put up. My fascination for the hobby became common knowledge among my college mates and lecturers. This was to play a vital role in my becoming a Ham.

I was still in the search for the easiest way to learn morse code – very important as in those days there was no Restricted Grade (introduced in the last decade where an enthusiast can get his licence by taking only the written test in Operating procedures and basics of electronics). With the Final year exams approaching, I packed up my trustworthy radio (I had promised my mother that I would do so!) and Ham Radio took a back seat for 3 solid months!

Then I got proof that I was “destined” to be a HAM operator.

One of my classmates, KH Manjunath (I have lost contact now – he used to reside in VV Puram) came home with the news that there was a notice put up in Yuvaraja’s College that a training class was being conducted at SJCE as part of the Mysore University Amateur Radio Club for those interested in Amateur Radio. We immediately got onto our bicycles and off we went to SJCE – of course enroute checking out the college notice board for full information. There we tracked down the Electronics Department - which was running the Amateur Radio Club – and asked for Mr. Satish, the Student Co-ordinator. It turned out that he was in the Lab undergoing his practicals and we were to wait for about 30 minutes outside the lab. Information was passed on to him that someone had come to join the training classes.

I was in for another thrill of my life! When, finally, Satish came out of the lab and met us, I introduced myself and he immediately said “Are you THE Madhukar who has been writing letters to other operators?”. I said “Yes”.
He then introduced himself as Sat – VU2NTC – I had met my second ham in person.

10 March 2007

"ON THE AIR" - as a Guest

Sorry for the long gap in between the posts. Year end peak activity at the office. Finally managed some time to put in this post.

Continuing, from where I left off, the night Mr. Muthanna visited me in my absence, I got no sleep. I was then doing my degree in Yuvaraja's College - in the first year. Mr. Muthanna had instructed that I could meet him only after my college hours - ie., after 3 PM. In my excitement of the first "eye-ball" (HAM parlance for a tete-e-tete), I rushed home at 2 PM. Had a quick wash, changed clothes and off on my trusted Raleigh bicycle (the same one that carried me on my "mad" trip looking for rain) to locate Mr. Muthanna's house. I remember reaching his locality by 2.35 PM, 5 mins later I had located his house. Thanks to the odd looking wires and poles on top of his house. I had, of course, expected to see a big rod standing on top of his house - comparing to the rod/pole/pipe? that I had seen in the compound of AIR Mysore. I went round the roads of his area spending time till the designated hour - 3 PM. 2.58 PM and I was at his gate. Promptly at 3.00PM I was ringing his doorbell.

I HAD MET MY FIRST RADIO OPERATOR IN PERSON!!!!!!

AT LAST. What a relief it was. He took me into his shack (Radio Room) behind the main house. It was filled with a rack housing a World War II Receiver - a commercial transmitter (Heathkit) - a antenna change over switch to change from the transmitter to the receiver. There was also a rack full of old magazines. There were also a few other gizmos used for testing and repairing the radio equipment.

After the initial round of introductions and my first "bringing down to earth" advice that HAM radio was not for students (reason it was not a cheap hobby), Mr. Muthanna switched on his radio and tuned around looking for activity. What luck! We heard Chak, Suri and the usual group in conversation. Muthanna joined into the group and informed the group - who already knew I was a regular listener to their conversations - that I was in the shack along with him. I remember Chak (VU2TTC), Suri (VU2NPS) and others addressing me and welcoming me to Ham Radio. Muthanna handed over the mike to me - I panicked. I realised that when it finally came down to talking to some one - some where - where I cannot see them in person - HOW & WHAT DO I TALK? With my experience of listening, I had rehearsed my conversation. But with mike in hand - I was lost for words. Muthanna had to finally put words into my mount. "Good afternoon dear Chak, Suri and others. I am happy to meet all of you. Hope to meet you on the air soon with my own call sign" - I finally managed to say. By the end of it I was sweating all over. With anxiety or with the sense of achievement of having put my voice "ON THE AIR" - I have not been able to decide.

But all in all - I HAD GONE "ON THE AIR". That was what finally mattered.

Muthanna (who became a "silent key" - Ham equivalent to breathing his last- in 1991) will forever be in my memory of being the person who brought me into this hobby that I am so passionate about.

THANKS MUTHANNA - VU2MP

09 February 2007

Hunt for the HAM in Mysore

I had caught the "HAM fever".

This started on my hunt for information to become a operator myself. As I have mentioned earlier, I had heard of a HAM Mr. Muthanna residing right here in Mysore. But how do I meet him? I badly need information and guidance. HOW DO I REACH HIM?

This was when I began to act like an addict looking for his dose - at least that is what I have heard people do.

First I wrote to "Chak" for the address of Muthanna. He was clear in his words that he could not give the information as he was not sure that Muthanna was willing to meet me. First Shot - OFF TARGET.

What do I do now? I had heard that all the licences were issued by the Department of Telecommunications. I decided that all post offices would have a record of the HAM licence holders in Mysore. This was because, in those days (1980's) all radio receiving sets needed a radio licence. The post office was maintaining a list of licences in their area and I was sure they would have a record of Muthanna who also had a transmitting licence - at least that is what I believed. This belief led me to write out a reply post card addressed to "Mr. Muthanna - VU2MP-Mysore". That was all! In it went to the post box. Anticipation. Reply on the third day!!! but not from Muthanna but from the Head Post office with the remark "Insufficient Address". It was like a bucket of ice cold water poured on my head. Madness? - what else?

My desperate hunt went on for a few more weeks. But I could not extract any further details on the whereabouts of my dear "unknown" friend Muthanna. I was beginng to panic again. The despartion was starting to creep in again. Lo! I had a thunder storm of an idea. Why thunderstorm? Read On.

One "fine" afternoon, as I was at my usual listening routine - listening to the regular group of HAMs chatting - I heard Muthanna join in to the group. During the conversation, he mentioned something about the Mysore weather that made me sit up. "It is raining in Mysore" said Muthanna. RAINING? I look out of my window in surprise! It was a FINE afternoon - no sign of any clouds - let alone rains. That gave me the thunderstorm of an idea. I quickly changed clothes - out came my bicycle - onto it I hopped - pedalling away - eyes glued to the road - NO - to the SKY. Why sky? If it was raining near Muthanna's house - all I had to do was locate the area where it was raining and I would have the territory of Muthanna's residence! That was my game plan. The route that I had decided on was Devaparthiva Road (Chamarajapuram) - Ramaswamy Circle - THEN WHERE? Looking at the sky from Ramaswamy Circle - my plans were quickly washed away in the non existant rains. There was no way I could locate the source of the rains that was mentioned by Muthanna. With a realisation that I was indeed MAD I slowly turned back home.

Finally sense prevailed. I decided to try another source to gather the information. I wrote a letter to Mr. Suri VU2NPS (mentioned in the earlier post) with a request to forward my request for contact details and my address to Muthanna. Why did I not think of this earlier - the universal million dollar question?

Within a week of this request, around 5.30 PM - while I was away playing my favourite sport of Cricket, I was later informed by my mother - Muthanna had walked into our home with my address in hand asking to meet me. A retired person had walked nearly 7 KMs to meet a youngster in his early twenties (I was then about 21) who was MAD about HAM Radio. Madness - what else?

He had given his address and appointment for me to meet him at his residence next to the Deaf and Dumb School, New Bamboo Bazaar (Thilak Nagar), Mysore. I had met my mentor - my first personal meeting with a HAM!

16 January 2007

Madness - Part 1

The Virus called "HAM BUG" is very dangerous.

The fever spread very fast. The realisation that I was listening to individuals who could build, own, operate and maintain a radio station was something I had not heard of - or for that fact imagined. I decided then that - as the saying goes - I would give my right hand to become a HAM. That put me in a odd sort of situation as the the future incidents will show. But all that a little later.

Now for some more background. After the realisation that they were down to earth individuals and not some "high flying" - I mean Pilots (Capt. Anup Murthy - no insult meant to you) - people, I got really locked on to the frequency. This was on the shortwave - just around where we had good Hindi film songs coming from Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corp. (Does any one remember listening to this station these days?). So it was easier locating these conversations at the slight touch of the tuning knob - too much movement and I would be listening to something else.

While listening, I started getting details of the hobby in detail. I learnt that the operators were - a businessman from Rajapalayam (Nickname - "handle" in HAM jargon - Suri - VU2NPS), a retired professor of Science from Salem (Vasan - full name Srinivasan - VU2NS), a retired All India Radio Installation Engineer from Mysore (Muthanna - VU2MP - the first HAM I met in person - that is a story in itself), a BLIND electronics serviceman from a small village in Tamil Nadu (Chak - full name Chakravarthy - VU2TTC - more details about him at www.qsl.net/vu2msy/chak.htm), to name a few.

It was Chak, who I take as my first "guru". It was Chak who used to talk about all topics related to the operating procedures, principles and other general details. It was also the person who encouraged listeners to send our "reception reports" to him - he always gave his address at the end of his transmission session for the day. He also gave out tips on how to send out the reception reports. I immediately sent out a post card to him giving him the details of who he was contacting and what was being discussed along with the time of the transmission.

Two days later, as was his usual habit, at 2.30 PM, he started mentioning the names of all the listeners (fondly called SWLs - Short Wave Listeners) who had sent our reception reports. It was then that I got the thrill of my life. "CHAK" CALLED OUT MY NAME!!!!!

It was the first time other than from a regular broadcast station that my name was mentioned by a person in what was a "LIVE" transmission.

The "HAM BUG" had entered my blood. I was bitten for life. This was the beginning of my "Madness".

09 January 2007

What it took me to become a HAM operator

To break the monotony of the theory part of Amateur Radio, I was adviced by my mentors to change course and share my practical experiences on how I got involved in this hobby. Hence this and a few more posts will be different.

1981 our family bought our first radio cassette player - National Panasonic - ADS 543. More for the pleasure of listening to recorded music and to record music - my father having studied Sound Engineering. My inclination was more towards the radio. This was because my elder brother Dinakar was already a well entrenched Broadcast DXer (BC DXer - a term used in radio parlance to indicate a person who keeps his/her hand on the tuning knob of the radio - those days a valve radio - trying to listen to radio signals, identifying them, noting down the programme contents and sending a reception report to the radio station - a fairly long description for a very short term). Out of sibling jealousy/ competetion, I too wanted to get into that line of radio listening. I, of course, silently wanted to get all those knick-knacks that the radio stations sent out as mementos - stickers, pens, pins, flags, cards, etc., and have my own collection. With this in mind, I started listening to the radio at all hours of the day and at odd hours of the night. I, now rather meekly, feel guilty at not having spent similar hours at my studies. This went on for a couple of years.

In the meanwhile, I had bumped into certain radio signals where I could hear people involved in informal conversation - very unlike the one sided radio programmes of Radio stations. I convinced myself that they were pilots - I had no idea how pilots communicated for that matter. As it was an informal conversation - sometimes discussing matters of personal interest - general human tendency of listening to others conversation made me look out for these groups. Little did I realise what I had stumbled into.

Further events make me realise today that I was destined to be an Amateur Radio operator. I realised that what I was listening to was not Pilots having a chat while flying through an indirect episode.

In 1983, the State science promotion group, conducted a Rubik's cube competetion in Mysore for the first time (it later turned out to be the last time too!!). I had just then learned to solve the Cube. My friend and Rubik's cube guide convinced me that I too should take part in the competetion. It turned out to be the turning point or the entry point to my life as a Amateur Radio operator. Surprisingly I WON!!!

But what did it have to do with my becoming a HAM? Everything. The sponsors were publishing a Science Magazine in Kannada - the local language and as I had won the competetion, I was given a free subscription to their magazine. Being from a English Medium of education most of the Kannada terminology for science was a little too much for me. I had not bothered to even open the books for a few months.

Then came the crucial time - my destined time. One issue of the magazine, I did open! What do I see there? On one of the pages I see terms like VU2 GX, VU2TTC, VU2 NS, etc. I had heard that before - but where? During the conversations that I was listening to - convinced that they were airline pilots. The Title of the article - AMATEUR RADIO - written by (in later years) my good friend Girimaji - VU2GX.

It then dawned on me that I was actually into AMATEUR RADIO - HAM RADIO - and that I too could one day talk to others on the radio to be heard by the world.

I WAS BITTEN BY THE "HAM BUG"

01 January 2007

Fascinating World of HAM Radio - Part 2

What it takes to be a HAM.

Any person who is above the age of 12 years can aspire to be a HAM. In addition there are certain technical requirements before one can go on the air. The aspirant needs to undergo a written test conducted by the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications, New Delhi. On successful completion of the test, an appropriate Licence is issued to own, maintain and operate a wireless radio station. The Licence is known as the Amateur Station Operator Licence (popularly called the “Ticket”)

The basic requirement to become a Radio Operator is that the individual needs to know the fundamentals of Electricity and Electronics. The level of the knowledge required as kept very simple and any one with a little effort can easily pickup the required subjects. Remember – the entry level age is just 12 years!!! Add a few topics related to the rules governing the use of the radio frequencies, operating procedures and record maintenance and you have yourself the Restricted Grade of operating Licence. Restricted in terms of the frequency range and the distance you can allow your signals to travel. It is plenty of fun and gives you a taste of the radio operation.

The next level allows you a greater are of coverage for your radio signals and more channels of the radio spectrum to use. It therefore means that the knowledge required and the proficiency needed will also be higher. For this level, a little more detail of the electrical and electronics theory is required. The topics related to the rules and regulations are basically the same. In addition, a degree of knowledge of the popular MORSE CODE is also essential. Taken as a new language, Morse code can be esily picked up within a couple of weeks. You prepare yourself for these and you are the proud possessor of a GRADE – 2 operating Licence. This level of licence allows you the luxury of operating on the Short wave frequencies with possibilities of communicating with the fellow operators on the other side of the globe!

Are you more proficient in Electronics and Electrical Theory? Can you cope with the higher levels of Morse Code? You still have to know about the rules and regulation. You can then opt for the next higher level of the Operating Licence – the GRADE – 1. This level of Licence allows you the benefits of having high-powered equipment with higher possibilities of voice communication with almost any part of globe. You can even have equipment capable of communicating with other operators using – SATELLITES. (Yes – there are satellites orbiting the globe dedicated to the use of HAM Radio Operators – More about Amateur Satellites in a later part).

Other than these three levels, there is one more level – ADVANCED GRADE - for the individuals with even higher levels of competency in the area of Electricity, Electronics and COMMUNICATION. Other criteria remains the same as in the case of GRADE – 1 operators.

In the next part I will be giving details of the operating frequencies and what exactly HAM operators do.

Keep those questions coming so that I can clarify your doubts.